Am I a Narcissist? Or Just a Self-Absorbed Hypochondriac?

narcissist photo by snickclunk

I never considered myself that self-centered until I started writing all about me.

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I’m like the farthest thing I could think of from a hypochondriac (ok, so last week I might’ve convinced myself that I was suffering from asthma because I was dehydrated all week, but I swear it was a one-time thing). And yet—I don’t know that there’s a term for it but I definitely have some sort of hypochondria about two things: cars and my mind.

Let’s take cars. I always think my car is making a funny sound or smells like it’s burning or I am convinced that the bumps I feel are my axles leaving the frame rather than just unmaintained roadways. I pull my car over on the side of the highway to check my tires at least once a week and frequently make passengers be quiet so they can “listen for the sound.” I’ve been right once or twice which only exacerbates this behavior.

I also convince myself that there’s something wrong with my mind on a regular basis. It’s weird. In general I don’t actually think I’m crazy but I’ll read an article, usually one of those mindless ones you get sucked into on Yahoo when you’re trying to check your email. They have titles such as “10 Signs You’re An Introvert.” I then proceed to convince myself that they apply to me. During a college class I remember actually wondering whether or not I was on the autism spectrum as a child (for like five minutes, then I came to) and adult ADD commercials habitually make me think I’ve been missing out on a beautiful working relationship with Ritalin. I recently dabbled in whether or not I was a sociopath (sometimes I don’t have many feelings and the rate and ease at which I could slip into a lie is scary). I wouldn’t be able to kill someone though so that leaves me in the clear.

The one thing I’ve yet to dissuade myself of is that I might be a raging narcissist.

Despite doubting myself once in a while and being confused about the direction I’m going in, generally I’ve always liked myself. I believe that I’m smart. I think I’m funny and if I wasn’t me, I think I’d be friends with me. This is all good and healthy behavior.

I’ve also never thought that appearance-wise I was god’s gift to women. I don’t hate the way I look, I’m just being realistic. That being said, here is where I start veering onto the I-love-me highway. I’ve been known to wear things I know will garnish me some attention and my friends have joked that I can’t pass a mirror (or a plate glass window) without mugging out my best blue steel.

I never worried much because so far, for every check, there’s always been a balance. I don’t love being the center of attention and if I had the choice 8 out of 10 times would rather blend into the crowd. I’m definitely not one of those people that makes everything all about them because I usually loathe those people and let’s face it, as a teacher I’m in a pretty selfless occupation. At work I always have to think of what would be more beneficial for the students and learned quickly that being the uncool teacher meant you were doing a good job.

So while narcissism was always lurking below the surface it never really came out to play.

Then came the internet. Everything could be about you all the time.

It started small. I’m a pretty religious Facebook user and I’ll be honest: nothing makes me feel better than getting a whole ton of likes on a status or photo I put up. I live for that stuff and am guilty of trying to outshine friends with competing statuses. At the same time I’m proud to say that I’ve only ever taken one selfie ever (and it was in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, totally warranted).

Then came this gig and the discovery of an article entitled (paraphrasing here) “Is Social Media Making Us Narcissists?”  I was immediately researching whether or not I fell under this label.

The dictionary definition of narcissism said that it was the sexual desire for one’s own body. There was a time this definitely could have applied but I’ve been hitting the beer and wings train pretty hard this summer so for the present it’s out. I also learned the dictionary definition is not the psychological definition which is an egotistical preoccupation with oneself, needs, success, problems and how others perceive them. Now it’s starting to look familiar.

I write about me. I write about my thoughts, my opinions and what’s going on in my life. If social media is the start of the slippery slope, then blogging is the deep end. I write about what I feel. I write about how I’m perceived. I write about what I’m worrying about. I write about whether or not I’m obsessed with myself.

It’s not just my writing. I’m being doing a lot of self-reflection lately, wondering if I’m at the place in life that I want to be. I worry about myself and where I’m going. My impending happiness seems to always be on my mind. My life has been consumed with me and I’m not even that sick of me yet.

I guess my question would be, is this healthy? Does worrying and thinking about yourself take away the ability to be selfless and live in the moment, qualities I always thought I held dear? Should I stop worrying so much about myself and try worrying about others? I’ve recently kicked back and forth the idea of volunteering, probably at a local literacy center. I have the skills and it’d probably make me feel good to be giving back. And there you see it. Even my well-meaning plans to do some good are to make me feel good.

Then I pulled myself out of the rabbit hole of hyperlinks I’d fallen into and finished reading the rest of the psychological definition of narcissism. In order to be a full-fledged narcissist I had to become so engrossed in myself that I never did anything kind for anyone and cut most of my relationships off because they would get in the way of the primary one I had with me. I recently threw my parents a surprise 30th anniversary party so I’m still capable of selfless acts and I’m going to the beach this weekend with a bunch of friends.  I guess I’m in the clear.

Then again, go ahead and count how many times I’ve used “I” or “me.” I don’t know if I could win this one.

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photo: snickclunk / flickr

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About Pat Brothwell

Pat Brothwell is a high school English teacher who’s doing his best to complete the cliché by also being an aspiring novelist.  He documents that journey (as well as other useless information) on his personal blog http://brothwellwriting.wordpress.com/. Pat also oversees www.paweekendfun.com, a travel blog advocating for weekend adventures in and around the Keystone State. You can follow him on twitter @patb130.

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