Meghan Daum hit the nail on the head when she wrote “Narcissist–give it a rest.”:
“At any given moment a whole lot of people are accusing a whole lot of other people of being narcissists. In recent years, the term for a self-destructive “personality disorder” has become the insult of choice for almost anyone doing almost anything.” -Source
Narcissist is the word of choice when wanting to offend someone. Why? Well, because it can pertain to any human being doing anything, just like Daum points out. You don’t actually need to back up your statement with any articulation of the accusation. It is a self-explanatory slur for someone who exists on planet earth.
Dr. Susan Jaffe puts it like this, “It sounds more impressive to say that someone is narcissistic rather than a jerk.” It is doubtful that people even know what Narcissistic Personality Disorder is. Many people using “narcissist” in every day speech seemed to be confused it with Antisocial personality disorder, which is in the “cluster” of personality disorders with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Should we be concerned with the long-term effects of the frivolous use of this fashionable slur?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder that is so frequently misused, even by Psychologists, that they removed it from the DSM-V in 2013. Many have voiced concerns with the future of care of patients with true NPD due to the change.
The problem with the overuse and misuse of a term specifically linked to association with perceived mental illness is that it perpetuates the stigma attached to mental illness as well as confuses the public about the true definition of the term. (Important to note: Personality disorders most-likely are not true mental illnesses. -Source: KENDELL,R.E. The distinction between personality disorder and mental illness The British Journal of Psychiatry (2002) 180: 110-115 doi: 10.1192/bjp.180.2.110)
This new social revival of the word has, of course, made its way into parenting discussion as well. Bloggers are having a field day accusing widely varying parenting practices they either don’t understand or don’t follow themselves as being the means of raising narcissistic human beings.
Also, social movements to better oneself have been labeled the downfall of our society, making everyone in our culture a narcissist. When in reality NPD should be less than 1% of people in the general population (most are male- ½ to about ¾).
What people don’t understand is that narcissism is not so simplistic.
NPD sufferers lack empathy, are categorized as impaired, and are rarely successful. These are highly concerning traits which is different from the idea that narcissism merely means someone who appears self-absorbed. Specific narcissistic traits have been considered healthy. Even Freud claimed that narcissism had the potential to be positive, specifically in early childhood development. Adaptive narcissism has been identified by researchers as an aid to self-sufficiency, leadership, self-confidence and a lower rate of anxiety in social situations. I think it is important to note that there is a spectrum of narcissism with high being considered self-destructive and unhealthy, and a moderate to low level being considered more of a positive trait. (It is also important to note there is a spectrum of all personality traits and all characteristics which we might think of as pertaining to mental illness. So much so that even the NIMH has decided that they are going to support research that discusses traits on dimensions, not categories.)
The Leading Role Concept
We are all supposed to have leading roles in our own life stories and be supporting characters in the stories of others. If you think about it in that way, it levels the playing field. We are not “more” special than anyone else, except in our own life story. This idea helps put into perspective the healthy mindset of being self-aware, self-reflective, and ultimately having love for oneself and finding ourselves worthy of that love from others. The leading role concept is one, it seems, our children innately know, but as parents with shifting priorities this seems to be something with which many struggle. Nevertheless, most will come to terms with the fact that a healthy well-cared for self taking a leading role can help empower our children to understand their leading roles in their own life and uplift them to be well-rounded individuals. Another aspect of the leading role idea is that there can be social barriers that prohibit equal growth for this leading role concept. For instance, a Caucasian child in the U.S. would have little difficulty finding similar looking children’s characters and role models with whom to identify and see himself becoming. An African-American child, however, may have trouble finding a leading black character with whom to identify and help shape his own idea of a leading role in his life (even if it is just for fun or play at this stage of development). This is one of the many reasons that people need to be aware and make a conscious effort to address issues we see our children facing that may hinder their development in our society.
The Drum Major Instinct
If I haven’t lost you yet, I’m going to throw this out there by Martin Luther King Jr. “The Drum Major Instinct.” You can listen to his whole sermon here.
The Drum Major instinct is more or less a sermon on positive and negative aspects of innate narcissism. Dr. King brilliantly points out the unhealthy aspects of the drive he believes all men have for greatness. Using Mark chapter ten from the bible as the start of his sermon, he points out how the disciples desired greatness and glory, asking to sit on the right and left side of Jesus. Rather than chastise the disciples or call out “narcissist!” Jesus goes on to help guide this desire for greatness to what is worth true glory: having a servant’s heart. Dr. King points out that the desire for greatness isn’t wrong, but the belief most humans have on how to achieve greatness is. He then continues with how the process of climbing the social ladder for glory can lead to exclusivity or hurting others.
I think the key for us as parents is to not oppress our children’s desire for greatness. These qualities are wonderful, if understood properly. Rather, we need to help guide them into adulthood with concepts of what true greatness is because this is polar opposite with what our society believes. We are a society that yells “narcissist” at the drop of a hat, while also holding on to idea that success and greatness are connected to accolades, education, finances, celebrity, and material possessions- all connected to oneself. No, I would rather take note from Dr. King and, when discussing greatness with my children, let his prophetic words speak clearly as to what is great:
If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. (Yes) And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize—that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards—that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school. (Yes)
I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. (Yes)
I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.
I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. (Amen)
I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. (Yes)
And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. (Yes)
I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. (Lord)
I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity. (Yes)
Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. (Amen) Say that I was a drum major for peace. (Yes) I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. (Yes) I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. (Amen) And that’s all I want to say.
Yes, Jesus, I want to be on your right or your left side, (Yes) not for any selfish reason. I want to be on your right or your left side, not in terms of some political kingdom or ambition. But I just want to be there in love and in justice and in truth and in commitment to others, so that we can make of this old world a new world.
by Rachel Garlinghouse
While I was waiting to adopt my first child, I spent a lot of time imagining what I thought would be the high points: the day we would get THE call stating we had been chosen, meeting our baby for the first time, our first family photo session, the child’s first birthday…
Each of these moments would be monumental if not divine. Cloud 9, the “Halleluiah” chorus, slow motion movements. Smiles, laughter, hugs. Perfect. Straight out of a Nicholas Sparks’ novel.
We waited fourteen torturous months for our first child. On a sunny November weekend, we were painting our kitchen when my husband’s cell phone rang. Chosen. Baby girl. Already here. Come.
What I felt at times, while rocking my daughter in her softly-lit nursery, were waves of guilt, sympathy, confusion, and heartache. This wasn’t how adoption looked on the front of the agency brochures or in the Hallmark movies.
Guilt. My joy was stemming from another mother’s loss and pain. How could I have willingly participated in such a severance?
Sympathy. I couldn’t imagine my life without my child. Yet someone was living her life without her child.
Confusion. Why must someone else’s loss be my gain? How can I be happy when I know my child’s first mother is broken?
Heartache. Why did my child have to lose her biological mother through adoption? Would my daughter grow to resent me?
Most days were as a lovely as I had imagined. My daughter’s mocha skin, coffee-colored eyes surrounded by an abundance of dark lashes, and her perfect, rounded afro accessorized by tiny bows were the center of attention from family, friends, and strangers. My husband and I marveled at her every yawn, smile, and sneeze. She had enough outfits to go without doing laundry for three weeks. She was loved, no, adored.
But without warning, the feelings of guilt, sympathy, confusion, and heartache would snake into my soul. It was crushing, knowing that I had “won” at the expense of someone else.
The first time it happened was about a week after my daughter was born. My husband and I were standing in the waiting area of the courthouse, just a few minutes before our appointed court time where a judge would award us custody. Standing right next to us was our daughter’s biological mother, whom we were meeting for the first time. Strangers, yet soon to be forever united by a child, we listened carefully to the biological mother’s hopes for the child. With each sentence, I felt myself wanting to scream, “Are you sure you wish to give her to us? Are you sure you can’t parent her? She’s yours. She looks like you. She needs you. You are all she has ever known.” Our conversation was cut short when the biological mother’s lawyer alerted her that it was her turn to meet with the judge. And just like that, she was swallowed up by two heavy brown doors. When she emerged minutes later, she hugged us, told us to take care of the baby, and was gone. And immediately, we were ushered into the court room for our turn. With my heart in my throat, I listened to the judged, answered questions from the lawyer, and promised to take care of the little girl as if she were born to us.
About six months later, my first Mother’s Day dawned sunny and warm. I smiled for the camera while holding my daughter close, breathing in her milky scent, her sticky fingers on my cheek. I accepted cards and gifts, meanwhile hoping that the card I had sent my child’s first mother had arrived on time and was well-received. I hadn’t forgotten her. With each card I picked up at the store, I felt more and more heaviness in my heart. No card was appropriate for the occasion. There were no cards to express the bittersweet reality.
On the day my daughter turned ten months old, it hit me that she had been with me the same amount of time she had been with her biological mother. 40 weeks. 280 days. I loved my daughter with such depth. To lose her would devastate me. Break me. She was my world. The thought of not having her in my life, which I could barely approach, took my breath away. I remember holding my sleeping infant against my chest and quietly singing to her the alphabet, while praying for the woman who gave her life and praying I could be the mother my daughter needed.
A few weeks later, my daughter looked at me and uttered the words every mother longs to hear: “Mama.” When we clapped and cheered and jumped around, she repeated it over and over and over. The word is sacred. Reserved for the woman who wipes runny noses, prepares food, cuddles and caresses, bathes, and plays pat-a-cake and peek-a-boo dozens of times in a day. But sometimes the word felt like it should belong to someone else, or at minimum, should be shared.
On the day my little girl turned one, I was busy and blissfully happy. We threw her a pumpkin-themed birthday party with many guests who snacked on s’mores and hot chocolate and cupcakes. There were mountains of gifts. Cameras flashed left and right. My daughter waddled around in her multicolored tutu, soaking up the attention. As we drove home from the party, our car full of streamers and gifts and food, my daughter napping in her car seat, I thought about the significance of this day one year ago. The day she was born, the day her first mother called the agency, the day she chose a family from amongst the profile books, the day we got the call, the day our new life began.
Meanwhile, throughout the first days and months of my new role as mom, people (some I knew, some I didn’t) would “affirm” our choice to adopt with exclamations of “Oh, there are so many kids who need good homes!” and “God bless you!” and “She’s one lucky little girl!” And then there were the questions: “How could someone give her away?” and “How old was her mom?” It was all so overwhelming to process: my own emotions, the questions and assumptions from others, and, most of all, my tiny daughter’s huge brown, imploring eyes, reminding us that she was the innocent party, hopelessly reliant on adults to make the right choices for her.
Agencies and attorneys and even the general public tell us that birth parents often place and “more on with their lives” or “get over” or “move past” the placement. Do they say these things to help us feel better about adopting? Do they say these things to grant themselves false peace about the complexities of adoption? Or is that most of us don’t want to stop and think about how heartbreaking it must be to carry a child and give him or her away, forever?
When I am faced, as I still am five years later, with guilt, sympathy, confusion, and heartache, I stop, I breathe, and I embrace these. These feelings are not to be feared or ignored. They are part of the journey. This bittersweet adoption path has conditioned me to see with clarity, respond with love, and simmer in possibility.
Rachel Garlinghouse is the author of Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parent’s Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children. She’s mothering three brown babies, baking without ceasing, and in her “spare” time, writing and talking about transracial adoption. She’s been on MSNB’s Melissa-Harris Perry, The Daily Drum national radio show, and her family has been featured in Essence magazine. Her articles have been published by MyBrownBaby.com, Madame Noire, and Adoptive Families. Keep up with Rachel on her blog at www.whitesugarbrownsugar.com
Dear MSN Entertainment,
I know you have a job to do and the “Where are they now?” slide show is a great way to bring traffic and searches over to Bing.
I see that whoever was assigned to do a quick search for me and the others decided to add “Pathways To Family Wellness” instead of the most current events. It was a great issue, and we were given creative control over it and deconstruct the original cover. We posed about a week after the Time cover came out, and we felt it served as an important message while media firestorm was still misinforming people about child-led weaning. Pathways is a quarterly magazine, so it couldn’t be released until the beginning of September 2012. Regardless, June or September of 2012 is by no means current…
Since you seem to have brought a substantial amount of curious people over to my blog, let me tell you what we have really been doing.
1. In December, we had our last US “media” appearance on the Today Show.
We were able to let people know that, because of the Time cover, we were given the opportunity to build relationships with people like Waves for Water and bring clean water to 8,000 people in Ethiopia.
2. Our children are now old enough to make it possible for us to travel regularly to various developing areas of the world.
Not only are various healthy parenting styles celebrated in these areas, but community is celebrated most of all. I feel that through conventional and social media there is a deep desire to connect with one another, but it seems like in the West we’ve fallen a bit short. We’ll get there, I have no doubt.
3. We are not attachment parenting advocates.
That is a complete fabrication by the media. It is the nature of the beast to fabricate or confuse stories, and it really is useless to try to correct errors. However, since it has been a year and this randomly popped up, it’s probably fair that people know. We are not promoting one style of parenting. Our goal is to relieve the stigma attached to healthy parenting options in the West (and there are many).
4. We are human rights advocates.
Human beings have immeasurable value, and when rights or worth is taken away, that is when we as a community need to step in. The Fayye Foundation and DSA Pays it Forward are merging to create a community-centered foundation. We will work towards sustainable quality of life for local communities around the world.
5. We are happy.
The media attention of the cover died down within a few weeks and has stayed down. Unless you’re genuinely interested in what we are doing, why don’t you keep it there? We will use every opportunity we are given with the media to promote our projects in places like Ethiopia and South Africa, but given that that is (as you have shown by your lack of Bing searches for it) not sensational or interesting enough to make news- then perhaps you should just allow us to fade into the background.
I don’t think the latest feature was in any way intending to be malicious or inaccurate. I understand the goal is to promote your own business, and even though I don’t think focusing on me personally (especially now) is going to be helping you out- I understand you need to do whatever you think will work. However, at this point, since we are working very hard on our projects with various altruistic organizations, I do feel the need to point out when something is not entirely accurate. It would be one thing if we were constantly in the media promoting one style of parenting, but the truth is it was one picture that ended up unexpectedly becoming a very popular conversation starter, we did our best to try to explain the normalcy of how we parent, and now that is in the past as we are moving forward. We hope you understand.
All the best,
Oh, I remember the days when everyone and their mother was writing articles about this blog without actually reading it. A total lack of understanding for the term “attachment parenting” caused very odd outbursts from journalists against my blog’s name. It was very creepy how they described it as some sort of weird mantra we “attachment parents” *must* have because *all* AP mothers ”must stay home” and “refuse childcare”…
Except, the name behind my blog is meant to be a joke, but the reason it was named I Am Not the Babysitter is not funny at all. Actually, it has become a real issue lately. I was never mistaken for my child’s nanny or babysitter before we adopted Samuel. When Samuel came into our family, that instantly changed. No one ever thought I was either one of the boys’ mother. I have some other adoptive parents who have either been mistaken for their child’s nanny or grandparent. I have never been mistaken for a sister or aunt, but babysitter happens on a daily basis.
I understand that people get confused because the boys are clearly two different races. However, that, by no means, should be a green light for strangers to make assumptions and start addressing us like they understand the dynamic of our relationships.
This was less of a problem when the boys were younger, but now that they are older and extremely perceptive, they are constantly watching and absorbing information, even if they aren’t involved in the conversations around them, and therein lies the problem. When people start speaking to me like the babysitter of my children or ask about the boys’ parents, Samuel and Aram take note and start asking me why they don’t think I’m their mom. It hurts the boys. The issue I have is that it tries to diminish my role as their parent, and that is exactly how the boys have been receiving it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being the nanny or babysitter of children, but that role is different than a parent, and my children know their babysitters and love them, but they also know there is a huge difference between mom and dad and the people who watch them while we are not there.
I don’t mind when people ask if the boys are my children, especially if it is relevant to our conversation. However, that rarely happens. Here are some recent scenarios that have made the boys start asking a lot of questions about our relationship and why people don’t understand I’m their mom:
Shopping at a different Whole Foods than normal-
Grocery store clerk: “Do you also cook for the family you work for?”
Me: “Excuse me?”
GSC: (looking at the boys and back at me) ”Your job, do you cook for the family, too?”
Lady at the park: “Do you work weekends? And how much do you charge per hour? I’d love for you to watch my kids.”
Lady at a different park: “You are so attentive, the families you work for are lucky to have found you.”
Lady at the beach (said half-joking- we were talking for a few minutes about the boys and she still had no clue I was their mom): “I mean this as a compliment, but I would never hire you, I make sure the women watching my kids are old and fat.”
…And because she said this in front of Samuel, he then asked me why the lady only wanted “old fat people” to work for her. *shaking my head*
Anyway, you get the idea.
The message I want to get across to people is that it is normal to try to categorize and compartmentalize what we see, including people and their relationships. However, it is wrong to make assumptions and then express them openly (especially in front of children) before verifying if your assumptions, are in fact, accurate.
Be considerate and go ahead and ask a question if it is will help you communicate better with the person you are speaking with. Building relationships does require an exchange of personal information and you shouldn’t be scared to ask questions in a manner that is not invasive or offensive.
….And always remember it is never okay to speak to someone like you understand their life or family situation prior to getting to know them.
“Stereotypes are devices for saving a biased person the trouble of learning.”
Thanks to everyone reading, this is the message I am able to deliver to you:
By the end of this week, Argisa, Ethiopia will have clean water!
Most of you know that you all raised, over the course of one week, the money we needed for our first phase of the Ethiopia project. That, in and of itself, was a miracle.
Jack, from Waves for Water, boarded a plan on December 12, and I have just been informed he has landed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Jack will be bringing 80 Sawyer filters to the rural village of Argisa, Ethiopia on Lake Awassa. This is where Sister Donna Frances has been living for the past decade. She lives in an area with an extremely high malaria rate, flooding, famine, and drought and is committed to living with the people without bringing in too much western influence.
Water has been a huge stress on Sister, but no longer. Everyone in the village will now have an overabundance of safe drinking water.
I was excited to also hear from Sister Donna today. I had written her quickly to let her know Jack was on his way, and was worried she would not receive my email before he arrived.
What I love about this letter is how genuinely surprised and excited she is by all the different kind of cloth diapers that the village received from you guys:
“Hi Jamie, wow, I just arrived in Awassa and read your Email. Today is the 12th of December, so they will arrive tomorrow. WOW, really exciting…Do you have a phone number for them? I will wait for them here in Awassa, they will arrive on which day do you know? Exciting, exciting.
We started this in October. It is now December, and in that time frame you all have single-handedly made a tremendous impact in a small village thousands of miles away from where most of you call home. Instead of water that brings death, you have provided water that gives life. You have also met the needs of the area with cloth diapers! While we have a long-term goal of bringing out an EC expert (still need to find someone willing to come with us in March), for now you are meeting the immediate need with hygiene and comfort.
Way to go, guys! I can’t wait to update you more with Jack’s pictures!
Did you know? $1 can give clean water to one person for over a decade.
Why is water life-altering?
- Unsterile water is the number two killer amongst children. Around the world, fetching water is a woman’s task. Thus, one of the most crucial health issues for women in Africa is the clean water shortage. 1 in 5 children worldwide dies of a water-related disease.
- Water is a women’s issue. In order to get access to clean water, women and girls must carry up to 50lbs of water every day over typically 5 miles or more. Carrying this water has shown to stunt growth in young girls which has contributed to the extremely high maternal mortality rate in these areas, but girls and women also face dangers along their way to a water source.
- Water improves education and economy. Education has been proven to be the greatest way to improve a community. When kids get sick from water-borne diseases, they can’t attend classes – then fall behind, then drop out. Most students suffer from severe dehydration because they try to drink as little bad water as possible. When the brain is dehydrated, it has a very hard time focusing on tasks such as school work, and chances of success are greatly diminished. There are some children who walk daily to get water and are unable to attend school, and the adults are unable to put hours into a paying vocation. When children have the opportunity to be educated, they can become problem solving members of the community and have a hope of contributing to their society.
Fayye Foundation has teamed up with Waves for Water to pursue a series of clean water projects throughout Africa. The filters that will be installed use the highest filtration rates available, can provide clean water for an entire village for pennies a day, and have a high flow rate which eliminates the need to store water. The filters are self-sustaining and easy to maintain. If cared for, each $50 filter lasts for many years, providing clean water for up to 100 people a day.
waterlink Africa: a chain of friends, spanning generations, from Africa to America and back to Africa. Donor, healer, helper – each link is necessary. Waterlink Africa delivers solutions from inventors to people in need of safe drinking water in every faraway corner of Africa.
Waves for Water and Fayye Foundation are certain that everyone who lacks clean water deserves to have unlimited access via an endless chain of caring, of which each of us is a single link. Experts are confident that the water crisis will be completely eradicated in our lifetime, but the only way we can do that is by every person in the link working towards this cause.
To donate to our first Waterlink project (Waves for Awassa/Project Ethiopia) you can go here. Your tax-deductible donation has the potential to give 20,000 people access to clean water. Every dollar counts.