A spoonful of narcissism

Last week I saw my shiney digital entrepreneur non-mentor. He’s doing great and I mean that. As the poster boy for self-confidence dripping with a healthy sense of himself I look upon him with genuine awe, as a creature from a different gene pool. I offer that “I’m doing good”, attempting to emulate an essential workplace skill of being able to play nicely with the other children. Despite the absence of capitals and sweating as these words leave my mouth the waitress lets out a snort.

There appears to be something up with my self-esteem.

After a lifetime of wearing a Team Neurotic away kit I’m ready to move beyond a bit of neuro-linguistic programming and say those words with feeling. The gag effect of saying the word ‘good’ in relationship to myself is the fear of evoking a structural tsunami of narcissism. There’s a lot of new research about the growth of narcissism in our culture, the tectonic fall-out when capitalism starts to go wrong. Statistically underpinned claims that we’re all narcissists, brought up on a diet of celebrity culture and easy credit allowing even people like me, from a field outside Swindon, to feel more successful than we actually are.

J’accuse a culture that thinks that self-love is a seismic disaster and introduce you to the Geordie Buddha.

On a purely day release basis Surviving Work has been travelling around the UK asking people how they survive work. As someone whose self-esteem default position ranges from ‘I’m not-that-into-me’ to being exiled off the evolutionary scale that’s not a rhetorical question. Just as well then that last week I met Mary. To save you the train fare Buddha is a cleaner in Newcastle. Despite hiding from education for most of her life because of chronic dyslexia, Mary has cracked self-esteem. She didn’t know this until she sat in an adult education class and realised that the glossy young man sitting next to her couldn’t spell any better than her. She’s not a vindictive type but she understood that she’d become so attached to her underdog credentials she’d conceded defeat to anyone with a nice line in bravado. Having sussed this she tried on a bit of narcissism for size, and ended up after 9 months with a powerful sense of self-esteem. Sniffing out my gaping chasm of self-love she gave me a squeeze and said “if you spend too much time with the underdogs you become one. Get out more.”

Mary’s still a cleaner, but not an underdog. In fact she’s doing great, without the capitals or sweating.

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