Loving the one in the mirror.

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What does the world’s only consulting detective and highly functioning sociopath Sherlock Holmes have in common with our beloved psychopath Patrick Bateman from ‘American Pyscho’, except for the fact that they are both pretty insane? Narcissism.

Is pride good or bad? It’s not a complicated question. Immoderate pride is obviously bad. But certain characters from books and movies, are often misjudged for their apparent narcissism. People in reality are misunderstood too. Narcissism is not good. It’s annoying to be around a narcissist and so that trait is clearly not excusable. But there’s a thin line that differentiates pride from immoderate pride. Is pride a sin?

Narcissus was a hunter who ignored the advances of a nymph called Echo. Nemesis, the Goddess of revenge, tricked him into looking at his own reflection in the still water. He fell in love with the reflection not knowing that it was himself that he was looking at. He was so enamoured with the face that he saw in the river, that he couldn’t move. The true tragedy was that he couldn’t consummate his love either.

In Paradise Lost, Eve was stunned by her own beauty when she saw her reflection in the water. She too bowed down and worshipped what she saw until she was lead away to meet Adam. No one had ever praised her beauty, she was the first one to understand what an exquisite creature she was. Both these entities are still looked down upon for falling in love with themselves. But why is that a crime? According to me, Narcissus was not really a true narcissist, at least by the present day definition, neither was Eve.

But another character outshines both Narcissus and Eve- Belinda from Alexander Pope’s ‘Rape of the Lock’. Her militant egotism is way stronger than that of any of the above characters. She knows that she is beautiful and she is not afraid of being in love with herself. In the eighteenth century, Pride was considered to be a primary sin and Pope himself agreed with this concept. Respect should be reserved for a higher entity like God and not for one’s own self. But even he is amused and slightly carried away by Belinda’s morning ritual of dressing herself. This scene represents the epic arming of the Hero in this mock-epic.

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The line “Puffs, Powders, Patches, Bible, Billet-doux” describes the moral chaos that rules over entire poem. These items lie scattered over her dressing table. The real question is- does Belinda bring down the status of the Bible or does she heighten the importance of the equipments of make-up so that they equal the importance of religion in her life? Knowing Belinda, it’s probably the latter. Religion does not have a significance in her life. Religion does not help her to win the battle against the beau-monde. Religion does not enable her to raise her status in the sophisticated society and command the attention of the lords and ladies. Cosmetics, on the other hand, transform her into a Goddess from a common mortal, every single day. She creates a deity worth worshipping right at her dressing table.

So is it truly wrong for her to worship the image of herself instead of worshipping God? Was it a crime for Eve to find herself more beautiful than the creatures she had seen before, which included Adam? Is is wrong to believe that we are beautiful? Why so? As long as pride does not overflow it’s boundaries and starts to choke other people, it is not necessarily a sin.

The initial levels of narcissism are not really harmful when we think about it. Narcissistic people can come across as extremely irritating personalities but they do not bring down our own self-esteem. It’s not really right to ostracise them for loving themselves.

You are supposed to be in love with yourself. You must find yourself beautiful. That will not stop you from finding beauty in someone else. It’s not selfish. I’ve seen enough narcissistic people to know that they are harmless and that they are really good people too. The right balance between having self-confidence (which is often mistaken for over-confidence, pride and what not) and being humble- is almost impossible, a very few people can pull that off. Most often, the scales dip on either side and an unhealthy attitude is born.

God complex and egocentrism are obviously the negative aspects of pride. They are not directly harmful to anyone but it’s not a desirable trait in a person. He puts himself on a pedestal and looks down on the others. Belinda does have a God Complex to a certain level but then the reason she raises herself to a place where no emotions can touch her is different She’s a coquette and she cannot afford to fall in love with a mortal so easily. It’s impossible to say whether Belinda’s pride is healthy or not because it’s a complicated question. When we ask ourselves if she is a good person, that has no answer either because in the entire book Pope hardly cares about a primary virtue like goodness even though chastity is considered an important attribute.

Coming back to the main topic, I want to quote the words of a very wise man called Jeff Winger who is ‘narcissistic to the point of near delusion':

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“We are the only species on Earth that observe “Shark Week”. Sharks don’t even observe “Shark Week” but we do. For the same reason I can pick this pencil, tell you its name is Steve and go like this (breaks pencil) and part of you dies just a little bit on the inside because people can connect with anything. We can sympathize with a pencil, we can forgive a shark, and we can give Ben Affleck an academy award for Screenwriting. People can find the good in just about anything but themselves. Look at me, it’s clear to all of you that I am awesome but I could never admit that because that would make me an ass…”

Then he proceeded to tell everyone of his study group what made them awesome. By the end of it, everyone in that room and the audience, felt a little bit better about themselves. But what if I tell you that knowing what makes you awesome, does not make you a bad person. So I’ll just go ahead and say, I love narcissists- more often than not, they are the most effective people in the world who get the job done.

Well, even if you don’t love a narcissist, it hardly matters- they love themselves quite enough.

  • http://adaring.com/author/ankitagupta Ankita Gupta

    This is one of the best articles I’ve read on this website. Narcissism, the concept itself, and narcissists are often misunderstood simply because they are aware of their own worth, and beauty (may or may not be physical). In some cases however, self-love to the point of being delusional is a bane, it is not a very healthy thing. However, one may not be overtly be overtly narcissistic, nor full of pride, but everybody asks for opinions about themselves. Just like John Steinbeck has said – “For the most part people are not curious except about themselves.”

  • Nupur Chowdhury

    There is nothing wrong with thinking that you are better than everyone else. As long as you don’t feel the need to share that opinion with everyone else.

    That’s the secret. Love yourself all you want, but don’t let anyone else know that you love yourself all that much. Modesty, after all, can only come from a place of great confidence.