:: WHY WE BE ::

Boo to false, self-imposed limits, we say. These champion oracles want to live enthusiastically. Follow our trip through projects that challenge, frustrate, and/or scare us. In the end (which is really the middle) we want to live like big bright free and authentically awesome people.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Unflattering Angles.... So I Will Find Better Mirrors (Tanya)

“Narcissism: Mental disorder characterized by extreme self-absorption, an exaggerated sense of self-importance, and a need for attention and admiration from others. First identified by Havelock Ellis in 1898, the disorder is named for the mythological Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection. In addition to an inflated self-image and addiction to fantasy, narcissism is characterized by an unusual coolness and composure, which is shaken only when the narcissistic confidence is threatened, and by the tendency to take others for granted or to exploit them. According to Sigmund Freud, narcissism is a normal stage in children's development, but it is considered a disorder when it occurs after puberty.” (www.answers.com)

So why am I defining narcissism? Well lately, I have been wondering if I have been living in a very narcissistic fashion, very orderly to the likes of me. Do I think I have Narcissistic Personality Disorder? Well, no(ish), hopefully not, please no. However, recently, I was watching this documentary, and I was SO struck on how much I resonated with the person highlighted in the story (I never intend to reveal the documentary by the way, no way Jose). Then, while watching, the expert psychologist on the show explained the person as having very narcissistic traits. My heart sank, and then I found myself crying, the kind where the tears roll down the face. I believe at that moment, I cried for many of the things in life I should have been more aware of but that I have been TOO self-absorbed to even notice. I should mention, I am not opposed to crying, I am all for emotional expression, but I am not one to do this so randomly. Yes, I will cry at the Hallmark commercials, or watching the Nicholas Sparks love story, or of course watching the powerful gut wrenching “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch, but this crying incident was RANDOM. This was a wake up. A sad but much needed wake up. I have been really caught up in me. No, I don’t need a lot of worldly praise, but if I’m honest, I don’t mind it. I don’t exploit others (I HOPE I DON’T), but I am certain I have not been honoring and truly nurturing my relationships. I have not appreciated the authenticity of all the awesome relationships in my life and all around me. And yet, I have been eons about me me me. Me.

So, I started thinking of the COFFEE project. I thought, okay, I need to do something about this, do something wonderful, make use of these tears. REALLY make a difference in this world no matter how minute the difference or silly I feel right-at-this-moment. Really change who I am for the better because this silly stupid documentary just made me cry! Screw embarrassment. Although, I will also take this opportunity to apologize a bit for my posts (1, 2, 3) being all over the universe, but I figure, that’s okay, right? That’s the point right? To be figuring it all out as we go. Take off the make-up, wear your hair down with no hair product, be bare bones… this is me, Scary Spice even more scary. Yikes!

Now, back to personalities and selfishness, and taking off the layers. I am very aware what Narcissistic Personality Disorder is. I work with people all the time who have this or strong characteristics, and there is a difference between a little healthy narcissism versus unhealthy narcissism. The healthy kind is good, and we need it sometimes for our own security and mind’s good health, the kind when you love yourself for who YOU REALLY ARE and assert yourself when necessary. On the other ugly hand, the unhealthy kind sucks the life straight out of you, and makes it impossible to love, express feelings, and you end up hurting a lot of people in very sucky ways, basically everyone in your path, and everyone thinks you’re a big fat moron (i.e. Mel Gibson, bless his heart….). Healthy narcissism is something that you can turn on sometimes for your own security and happy sanity, the kind that has you dancing alone in front of hundreds of people at a concert and only caring about the music’s beat, certainly not caring if you’re blocking the cranky old lady’s view. The bad kind is when you only love the IMAGE of yourself that you want people to believe but that’s totally bogus. And, we all have both kinds. BOTH kinds. Lately, this is what has me worried, and I find myself speculating interactions with new vigor. Have I been having the wrong kind more often than not with me being heavy sided on me? The more focused on success and all the time I spend so independent and more often alone (or working), am I turning into something a little cold and detached? A little stinky and yucko? Somebody who will start to lose people and feel unfamiliar with authentic relationships and eventually forget how to nurture these relationships? Sadly, I think a little bit. I can be very much about me. I don’t like that. I don’t like that at all. Except, sometimes, I do because it’s easier. Yuck.

Side note. There was a time in my life a few years ago, 2008-2009, where I was put-in-my-place. I shall never forget this time. During the time I was going through the biggest transition of my life, aka getting ready for “single-doom,” something strange and nightmarish started happening in my everyday existence called panic. I began to have moments in my daily routines and responsibilities that would actually debilitate me by full-blown panic. You know, the kind of things you hear about….. I would sweat profusely, black out, cry at inappropriate moments, experience heart rates so rapid that there was no doubt at that moment that a heart attack was happening. The moments where I found myself jetting out of a room, a grocery store, a mall, a restaurant, just about anywhere was fair game, and I would run for dear life to a bathroom, my car, the fresh air, whatever and wherever I could go to get away. Moments where I would get sick at work. Moments that ultimately I decided were unacceptable and stupid. So here’s what I did. Well, first, I should admit I decided that I had diabetes. Yes, I actually convinced myself that I had diabetes (however, there was that sneaking suspicion something was a little amiss with my self diagnosis). Anyway, I told just about nobody of my panic. I mean, HOW EMBARRASSING, right? I treat panic for the love of Pete’s therapist! So, I finally sought out help through a few sessions with the likes of my people. I never told that therapist about my panic symptoms, but just talking helped immensely. I don’t know why I didn’t tell her about the panic, but I did start facing my anxiety head on and never backed down. I did all the things that I advise people to do to work through it, AND IT WORKED! Nobody nobody nobody knew at my job. I continued to do presentations, run meetings, and see clients (and treat their panic). I never missed a day of work due to it. I continued to act like my transition was smooth sailing and that I had so much support that I couldn’t be bothered by stress of transition. Well, in fact, nobody at my job (except one person) even knew about my transition until a year and six months into it. So, I guess, maybe, all that was a little healthy narcissism, yes? And, perchance, my panic was quite apropos.

So, here’s the dealio. I have been reading all of these fantastic awe-inspiring posts that have been making me want to be OUT THERE. BE A YAY ME for above average reasons. I want to be a B++ student. Not worry about the image or constantly striving for the perfect A. Not worry about being perfect or scared of looking stupid or not knowing something or just whatever. There are A LOT of whatevers. But mostly, I will work on being less absorbed and all about me. I will work on perspective, and I will work on empathy. Empathy is everything. I will like people that I don’t want to or at least be more tolerable. I will be less rigid and more flexible (of course this may be more Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, but I will include it here for now). I will be more about other people because that is who I want to be. That is love defined for me, and if I am to be honest and love myself in healthy happy rock star B++ ways, I will strive to love unconditionally and show respect and genuine interest in a more global way. I will be hopeful.

So….. I am going to follow suit, march behind my COFFEE warriors and talented hot tamale sisters, and make another list. This list will be how I am not going to be the bad kind of narcissist sucko (I stole the word “sucko” from Russell Parks fyi… he will likely never read this but word to you Russell!!).

1. I am going to be okay with my feelings, and when I feel bad or inadequate or a sucko, I am going to express these feelings openly and then get over it.

2. I am going to smile more at people that annoy me, especially the people who instantly annoy me (and consider the possibility that I instantly annoy them too).

3. I am going to donate more money and trust in God that it will all work out (and I will shop less for me).
*** Since I wrote #3 (as a I wrote this post a few days before my “scheduled” posting date), I have had to follow up on my big words noted by the following instances:
A) I was at church, and the money I normally give in the offering isn’t necessarily the “biggest” bill in my wallet (you know, in case I need some cash for Sonic or whatever), but this past Mass, I decided to start practicing what I preached and gave it all (and resisted the urge to leap over the pew and grab it back from the usher once he’d passed).
B) I went to a benefit concert solely for the purpose of the listening to an amazing band but while there, actually learned what I was benefiting and now plan to do more, which I WILL figure out what because it’s been IDENTIFIED (and I still REALLY enjoyed listening to the music of The Elders and now I want to go to Ireland on tour with them in May!!).

4. I am going to speak up more when I think something sounds goofy. If I’m wrong, well then I will learn that I am wrong, and if someone thinks I’m a turd, then, well that keeps things interesting. “Interesting” is actually quite versatile.

5. I am going to put myself in more time-outs before I speak when I’m mad, terse, or believe that I was just insulted or slighted, and I will take this time to GENUINELY consider if that person has a point and if I am the above turd.

6. I’m going to say something nice to each person I encounter each day. Yes. And I’m going to try to be a mirror of hope. Cheesy, yes, but this is who I want to be. I would rather be called a stupid moldy cheese ball than a buzz kill narcissist-y person, which again, I fear can be my twin.

7. I’m going to text less, call more, and spend more time with people face to face in personal ways. And gossip less.

8. I’m going to ask people more questions about them and really listen without composing in my brain what I’m going to say next.

9. I’m going to be intentionally nicer to my mother.

10. I will pray more. And I will learn to pray better, starting with The Rosary.

11. I will finish reading The Kindness of Strangers (which is still not a fiction (another goal) but it’s not a work book… wooo yah!). Oh Tawni, Sister, I wish I had your "reading too many books" issue instead of "plopped down in front of the t.v. " issue. :)

And…………………dot dot dot………………more cool things. I will be like an open window to more really cool un-narcissistic things. Thanks for reading. Yizers.


Katie said...

Oh TANYA. I so enjoyed this post - mostly because I recognized myself in so many sentences and insights you shared. Really - at some point it became painfully obvious that I pretty much only cared about me memememememe. It was most obvious when I met my husband, who while demanding and impatient, is also extremely observant and articulate. I see him as my surefire way to get knocked off my pedestal regular-like. He is able to support me without false inflation, and that helps me see myself more acurately.

I admire that you are undertaking this with the kind of objectivity that is often so hard to achieve. I also think it is so healthy that you are including other people in this, because as I found out the hard way even the most professional and objective judgment can be skewed when there is no counterpoint. And I love all your goals!!! Being A Better Person is a work in progress for me too, and I'm so excited to support you in making the effort. I especially like 1,2 and 8. Definetely 8.

Ohhhh.... this a-gonna be fun. How many people have you smiled at so far today?

amy said...

Tanya, I loved this. It was deeply honest, sweet, and funny. Which is exactly how you've come across to me in all my interactions with you since we've met (and not once have I ever said: Man! That Tanya! What a frickin' narcissist!)(but I have said: Man! I hope there's some kind of COFFEE project meetup one day because that Tanya seems really cool.)

I totally get where you're coming from--I could totally relate to all of it, right down to the put-in-my-place period. I wouldn't say I've had to talk to an objective, highly trained therapist about panic, but I've had so many other issues for someone who knows how to deal with people like me to help me work on, panic was probably the least of them.

Also, I'm a sibling, yet for some odd reason I seem to suffer from Only Child Disorder. I know about this disorder because I'm friends with an Only Child and she has it. Like, I'll get a fork for me but nobody else. I'll get up to get myself a glass of water and not ask if anyone else wants one. I really have to focus to think about other people's needs sometimes--I get wound up in my own head occasionally.

And so I love your goals. Love! Them! I really admire people who are good at your Goal #4...you are my new hero for tackling it. Also, Goals #7 and 8 are things I need to work on myself.

Hooray Tanya!

Steph said...

Tannerya... girlfriend, I so love and respect you! Your brutal honesty and your easy way of telling that truth is so incredible. It takes guts to tell that truth, and you got the guts - for real.
I absolutely relate to your thoughts about being too self-absorbed... it was a little uncomfortable to read much of this, frankly, but that's just because you hit a little close to home a little too often! For goodness' sake, I'm a mom, but I think about myself first way too often... definitely something else to add to my list of projects!
I love your goals, and I think they get right to the heart of YOU. They deal with being authentic and positive and kind and upright and loving and giving and respectful and a good person all the way around... (If you haven't, read Li'l P's comment about my post, please do so. Read what she wrote about becoming more of your true self... I think it speaks to where you are, too. True stuff.) And I can't help but respect you even more for wanting to do better with this stuff. Kudos, my dear, kudos! Just don't quit lovin' you altogether! Love ya, T!

patresa said...

t dawg! these are big tall orders. aim high much???? ahhhh!

know you didn't want to hear too much praise, but i will say that you are one of the most relentlessly positive and "benefit-of-the-doubt" giving people i know. the fact that it bothers you to observe any kind of selfishness in yourself, i think says you're already leaps above most. so i hope you'll add yourself to the list of all the people you're going to be kind to and smile at when they annoy you. :)

THE ROSARY! i'm not catholic. i don't know the rosary. but my uncle grew up catholic, and at his funeral, his family recited the rosary for… i don't know how long. an hour? it was a long time. it became a sort of chant. and it was beautiful and meditative and very calming. it really reminded me of a meditation chant. so i think that's really cool.

(and i loved your collection plate story. ha!) and important. i respect this a lot.

looking forward to your book report! and to seeing you next!

i already think you're awesome, and this is awesome, too.

[my word verification is "haranist." haranist? "Don't be such a haranist!]

Wendy Jans said...

Tanya, I'm with Stephany, this post took guts! I can imagine that being a mental health therapist, there must be at least some pressure to appear "together", so it's doubly gutsy to lay it all out there about your panic attacks and such. The truth is, nobody, not one, has it together.
I love the story about you watching the documentary and crying because you recognized yourself in a person you didn't want to identify with. Let me tell you, the narcissistic people that I know would NEVER have that ephiphany because they don't let themselves identify anything difficult in themselves and they certainly don't look inward in a less-than flattering way. Infact, conversations with them go something like this "I've noticed that you seem really angry and are taking this out on other people". Their reaction "You're a real jerk for attacking me. You're not so perfect yourself..." Narcissists don't know how to apply the negative aspects of the world to themselves.
So anyway, all that to say, you seem very opposite of narcissists because you are inward-reaching (and not always in a flattering way) and you see your foibles with clarity. And, one step further, you are taking concrete steps to be a better person. I really admire this!
I am rambling at this point. But my point is - I love that you are seeking a better you in tangible ways that are brimming with humility.

Tanner May (Tanya) said...

Hey thanks Sisters! I really enjoyed reading your comments.... I am always so taken with all the funny, genuine, profound, and creative comments, AND frankly, just the general awesomeness of you all.

I have self diagnosed myself with many things over the years, but "diabetes" was the biggest smokescreen yet that I got some giggles out of with my cool cat friend "Delish" who had concurrently dx herself with osteoarthritis. Those giggles also really helped me get through my "Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety" (aka laced with panic symptoms). :) I also feel compelled to state here that I do not in any way think that someone who deals with diabetes on a daily basis is funny or not important.... just the way I was "diagnosing" myself was goofball-ish.

Thx again COFFEEs! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! And one more thing, I have smiled at approximately 7.8 people this week on purpose and found it helped! One gal, by the way, was not an easy sell but I think eventually she actually got less irritated AND ANNOYED with me too and smiled back. YAY!

I also have some new prayer cards (thanks to my extremely caring boyfriend who I didn't even tell about this), and the Rosary is becoming more and more familiar. P, you're right, it is pretty amazing.

Onward we go..............

T-Free said...

I like that you define Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and acknowledge that it can be a good thing to have in some ways, because when I read your first paragraph, I thought, "Couldn't we all use a little of that?" And I had to wonder if someone so sweet and concerned with being a good person, concerned enough to cry tears over perceived possible selfishness, could actually be a narcissist. I have so much respect for your ability to be honest with yourself. You are so brave. Rock on with your self-analyzing self!

I LOVE your list. LOVE LOVE LOVE. I could use a heapin' helping of this one especially: "I am going to be okay with my feelings, and when I feel bad or inadequate or a sucko, I am going to express these feelings openly and then get over it."

I am a feeling-squasher from waaaaaaay back. I shove feelings of insecurity or inadequacy inside and let them fester and grow until they're one hundred times the size at which they started, and waiting to pop out at the most inappropriate time possible. I know it would be so much easier to just say something, but it's just not my go-to modus operandi. I have to almost physically, painfully force myself to just spit it out when something bugs me. I'm working on that one too, my COFFEE sister.

I think smiling and acting like someone annoying isn't annoying is a great way to diffuse them, or annoy them. Win-win either way, yes? :)

There is nothing cheesy about being a friendly mirror of hope! Nothing! I love that! I am a greeter-smiler-waver person, and firmly believe in the power of those "I'm okay, you're okay" moments of reassuring humanity among strangers. I've learned to let it roll off my back when people don't respond, because when people do give it back, it feels so good. Totally worth it.

I loved this post. Go, Tanya!

Tanner May (Tanya) said...

Yes Tawni, I like it. Win-win! I also completely AHH-gree with your "I'm okay, your okay" moments. I really like that a lot. It's so amazing how much perspective changes just about everything under the rug.

Holla to you Tawni! :)