Superiority complexes

Some people have a life-long love affair with themselves.

It is hard for anyone with normal self-doubt, who is aware of their shortcomings and vulnerabilities to understand how someone could have total and unquestioning belief in their own perfection, superiority and greatness.

 It is this difficulty that leads to the assumption that problem behaviour is caused by low self-esteem. It is hard to understand that any fallible human could think they are faultless. Some people though, have a grandiose sense of self, a false feeling of power, mastery and ascendancy. This grandiose self is an obsession and compulsion. Maintaining and enhancing it is his/her driving motive so that there is no balance in his or her personality or life. The rest of their character atrophies and narcissism dominates.

The essence of narcissism is self-inflation. Just as we may see ourselves blown up to giant size in the distorting mirrors at a carnival, the narcissist sees himself magnified, as bigger, better, more important than he actually is. The narcissist loves himself but the self he sees and loves is a false image, a false belief about the self. What he sees is an illusion, not the reality of himself. He loves, adores and promotes the image of a self that is not real.

The narcissist may have talent and ability, but never as much as he thinks he has. He exaggerates the smallest asset, and if he doesn’t have some quality he will create it in his imagination. He may be the most ordinary of men, or even far below the average, yet still believe himself to be superior to almost everyone. Normal people adjust their self image and test it against reality so that it changes and matches, more or less, the person’s true state. The narcissist’s self-image however is stuck, immoveable, unchanging and unexamined.

The philosopher Bertrand Russell was perhaps only slightly exaggerating when he claimed that all men (and presumably some women) want to be God, and that some can’t believe they are not. History is littered with ‘leaders’ who proclaimed themselves gods (and acted as if they were) and countless dictators and tyrants who wanted to control and dominate the world or at least the hapless subjects who could not escape them. Narcissists may not be potential dictators, believing they have an inalienable right to have things their way (although some are) but their self-images are not poles apart.

The narcissist truly believes he is more important than others, that he is powerful, brilliant, gifted, talented, a genius. If he doesn’t quite reach the heights of believing he is a god, he at least believes he is God’s gift. He is the best, the first, the winner at everything—in his mind at least. He thinks highly of himself whether there is any evidence or not to back up his opinion. He is ruled by the unreality of his false self-image and is consequently out of touch with his true self and true needs.

By association, any person or thing that is ‘his’ must also be perfect. His make of car is the best, his family is without fault, his job is the best job in the world, his ideas are right, and his friends a select elite.

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