Karma is a bitch. One of my most recent posts was directed at writers who take to their keyboards to bitch and moan about their lives as artists, and their struggles with financial hardship or whatever the hell else they have to complain about. The post was dripping in narcissism and self-indulgence. I claimed that I could bring a better class of post to my readers, and that I would do exactly that. I would not be one of those artists who turn their weblog into a soapbox from which to complain… Then everything fell apart again. Someone pulled back the thin veneer of narcissism that protects me and discovered a soul warped with depression and fear underneath.
Before we go any further I feel that I need to detail exactly what a narcissist is for those of you who may not be aware. Narcissism is most commonly described as follows:
The erotic gratification derived from admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes.
And if I’m going to be honest, that does kind of sound like me. I do thoroughly enjoy the admiration of my own mental attributes (not so much the physical), and I do tend to consider myself to be better or more intelligent than my peers. I have created this whole persona for myself where I am Chris Nicholas: the self-indulgent, slightly arrogant writer who cares very little about the opinions or merits of those around him. I write what I want to write, and I associate with who I choose to, meaning that I often forcibly alienate myself from everyone simply because mankind baffles me and I can’t be bothered to change who I am in order to fit in. I’ve established myself as a lone wolf, with a head full of stories and a tongue laced with acid. My opinions mean more to me than anything and I will literally screw myself out of a promotion/friendship/whatever else, simply because I’d rather be brutally honest with people than kiss arse and do what is socially acceptable.
But like I said, this whole narcissist veneer is nothing more than a ruse. It’s a coping mechanism to hide myself from the world and prevent anyone from discovering just how afraid and alone I can sometimes be. By slipping on my mask of confidence and assertiveness I have learned how to parade myself through life as a normal functioning member of society who suffers from nothing worse than a slight attitude problem. People often comment on my characteristics, hint at my charm, and admire my ability to remain fluid and adaptable to almost any situation. But rather than feel pride in the kindness of their words, I feel a deep sense of sorrow and regret. I am now hidden so far beneath this false surface that no one can even recognise when I am struggling and when I truly need somebody to save me from the torment of my own vicious mind.
I’ve been through depression a few times now, and I can recognise the signs of an oncoming wave of apathy and self-loathing long before it arrives. But what I still can’t seem to do is find a way to actually prevent the self-destructive mindset that becomes all-consuming, threatening to derail my life. I still can’t find a way to stop my soul from becoming increasingly twisted and warped beneath the smooth veneer that shields it. When these waves of indifference wash through my head I throw away everything that I love. I stop writing, I shut out anyone who is close to me, and I batten down the hatches to weather the storm. It’s why I’m often alone. I have a partner, but she can’t ever possibly understand the depths of my despair when it hits. So she watches from a distance, revolted at the sight of a mind quite literally tearing itself in two, purging everything it has previously worked so hard to create.
I’m like this because I create such unrealistic expectations of myself. Although I call my narcissistic streak a veneer, there is a touch of the bastard gene cursing through my weakened flesh and soul. Pride means everything to me and whenever I take to my keyboard I do so with the intention of being the best writer the world has ever seen. When I submit enquiries to agents and publishers I assume that I am guaranteed a contract and that my work is infallible, leaving me vulnerable and distraught if they don’t share my unrelenting enthusiasm for my work. When I started writing at the age of eighteen I just assumed that I would have something in print just as soon as I finished my first manuscript. Now seven years later I’ve failed to achieve that rather ambitious goal, and a piece of me dies with every single rejection letter that I receive.
So why do I continue to torture myself like this? Because I feel that I have to. I don’t feel like I’m normal. I have an innate disconnection from the reality that everyone else seems so willing to accept. That is normality. I can’t see myself doing anything other than writing, and as each day passes and I fail again and again, finding myself perpetually stuck in the world of conventional employment, I grow increasingly distant from those around me. At my peak, I am a knowledge hungry aspiring writer with the world in front of me. At my lowest, I’m a boy lost and alone within a world that he struggles to connect with. Right now I’m feeling more like the latter and my writing is suffering greatly. But with a little positivity and a load of baby steps I’m hoping that I can survive this most recent purge and return to my writing with the narcissistic vigour that has gotten me as far as I have already.
Until then my faithful readers, I apologise for the lapse back into whiney writing that I so often condemn.
One thought on “The Narcissist Veneer”
I’m betting you’ll bounce back. It’s hard not to when the narcissism is well founded. I like you’re writing, enough that if I saw a book with your name on it in a bookstore I’d probably buy it. I’ll grant, I’m a fellow narcissist (with similar bouts of self loathing and lows), so anything I have to say about this should be taken with a grain of salt, but when to my way of thinking if you’ve got admirable attributes, skills, or talent then there’s nothing wrong then a sense of gratification only makes sense when someone admires them. Even at my lowest, it seems I’m eventually driven to do something that leads back to a bit of narcissism, something that reassures me, and then I’m back up again. Easier said than done of course, but in a nutshell… I think that about sums it up. When narcissism is more or less justifiable by something real, something of substance, chances are good that the self loathing will pass, swept away by the next satisfying or gratifying experience.
At least until the next time. Seems like the ups and downs never end, but I think the high points (almost?) make it all worthwhile.