Am I raising a narcissist, folks?
It’s funny how as well as you think you know your children, you really start to see their personalities as they start to relate to people outside of your home. Take my Samara for example. By now she’s pretty much used to not being the center of attention. Her big sister tends to always find a way to do that and my poor little second born goes along with it. However, I notice that when she meets someone new, Samara is the type of child to shower others with compliments. “I like your hair.” “I like your shirt.” “I like your shoes.” Yes, Samara is the type to compliment you from head to toe and for that, you will remember her.
Then there’s Leila at the other end of the spectrum. Leila meets someone new and plays coy until some unsuspecting outsider tries to get her attention with some sort of compliment. “Hi Leila. I like your earrings.” That immediately warms her up and her reply is usually just more fishing for compliments. “Thanks. Now look at my matching bracelet.”
My husband and I noticed this behavior a while ago and it wasn’t until recently when I came across this article and had to ask myself, “Am I raising a narcissist?”
The article defines narcissism as the following:
“Narcissism refers to the feeling of being better than others and the feeling of being more entitled than others and creating admiration from others, but self-esteem is more a genuine feeling of being worthy,”
So then I asked myself, “Have we taught our children that they are somehow better than others?” Well…maybe a little. Not making any excuses, but I’ve always felt an added pressure raising not just girls, but black girls in particular, and making sure they are equipped with the confidence needed to survive in a world that will not be as kind. Since the very beginning, I’ve ingrained in my girls’ minds (more so Leila since she was the first), “You are so beautiful…you have beautiful hair…I love your complexion…you are perfect!” Since Leila and I share the same slightly darker complexion than Samara and my husband, my message to her is often something to the effect of…”I love our skin, it’s so beautiful, don’t you agree Leila?” When she was younger, I held brown dolls to her repeatedly and remarked on how incredibly beautiful those dolls were. Seemed fine to me until my sister pointed out, “So what are you saying…the white dolls aren’t pretty?” Of course that’s not what I was getting at, but I see how that can be misconstrued.
So fast forward to just a few days ago, I took part in the following dialog:
Me: Samara, you and Leila are so, so beautiful!
Samara: Nope, I’m not beautiful.
Me: What do you mean, baby? You are beautiful!
Samara: Nope. Only you and Leila are beautiful.
Me: Only me and Leila are beautiful? And not you?
Samara: Uh huh
Me: Well then, what are you?
Samara: I’m smart.
I didn’t know what to say to that. In so many words, Samara’s basically telling me that Leila and I can have the monopoly on “beautiful” and she’ll just go ahead and claim another attribute. Funny…but not.
So where do I go from here? Here I was just trying to raise little girls who are confident and strong and will not feel the impact of others putting them down or telling them they aren’t good enough or pretty enough or smart enough. Meanwhile, I very well might be raising a narcissist who, however unintentional, may impart those same feelings of inadequacies to others.
What do you all think? Is there a fine line between raising a strong and confident kid and raising a narcissist? If so, how should we, as parents, discern the difference?