(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Narcissism is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. The “selfie society” that exists in a world of social media has some people saying we are more concerned with ourselves than ever. The new heightened sense of self-promotion causes many to feel we have become less interested in true connection with others. The truth is, there is nothing wrong with healthy self-love. Some may see it as simply embarking on self-exploration and celebration. Others may see it as self-seeking and being conceded. Are you more conscious, or are you pretentious? Are you introspective or disconnected?
At times the distinction becomes blurred, and that might not be your fault. Sometimes others will perceive us differently and it’s not our responsibility to change their minds. Sometimes people are afraid to give themselves the self-love they need because they don’t want to seem self-centered, but isn’t there a strong difference between self-love and narcissism?
Let us be clear; narcissists seem to love themselves to an extreme, with the exclusion of others. This is often considered as a feature of a mental health disorder and includes an excessive interest in one’s self, especially physical appearances. It is the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes.
If you were to look up the definition of narcissism, you would probably find it also described as a social or cultural problem. It is a factor in trait theory used in various self-report inventories of personality.
Narcissism is most typically considered an issue in an individual’s or group’s relationships with self and others.
Let us also be clear that narcissism is not the same as egocentrism. It is true that both egocentrism and narcissism appear comparable. However there is a distinct difference.
Much like a narcissist, a person who is egocentric believes they are the center of attention. However, this individual does not receive gratification by one’s own admiration, as the narcissist does. In other words, the egocentric individual must receive validation and admiration from outside itself, so the self-love aspect is not so much an issue from the egocentric perspective.
Self-love is being more subject to the broad-stroke of “narcissism” over time, but should be viewed in a different light. For example, two forms of narcissism are not considered to be as detrimental:
Freud suggested that, simply put, the desire and energy that drives one’s instinct to survive is something he dubbed primary narcissism. This sense of self-preservation is supposedly ingrained in everyone as a sense of self that protects us, without abandoning empathy or loving others.
The “healthy narcissist” can be characterized as possessing realistic self-esteem without being cut off from a shared emotional life. This expression of self-love, or “health narcissism,” is about having a honest appraisal of ones worth, and still valuing others.
All of this brings us back to the question; How can we love ourselves in a way that feels good and enhances the quality of our lives, but isn’t narcissistic?
Research finds four consistent differences between healthy self-love and narcissistic love. Take a look at these 4 questions that can help you with self-love vs narcissism.
Do I need to be validated by others?
Narcissists need the validation of others; it is a primary motive for a lot of their actions. A true narcissist craves constant affirmation. They need to be verified by others because they haven’t created a self-sustaining sense of worthiness or self-compassion. They may seem to hold themselves highly, however they have no genuine instinct of high self-regard.
The narcissist will do things to win praise and recognition. They seek materials as tools to measure their own worthiness. Even the people they develop relationships with are possessions they use as a means of validation.
Healthy self-love is fundamentally different in the sense of measuring self-worth. With health self-love, an individual’s internal values are a primary influence of their actions. They behave in a way that is consistent with those values, and these convictions help to sustain their good feelings about themselves.
In other words, basing your self-worth on your beliefs, instead of what others may believe about you, is self-love.
Am I focusing on my appearance or my performance?
This isn’t just for the sake of aesthetics either. It ties right into the last question.
A true narcissist will often make a great actor. They play many parts, such as:
- Caring friend
- Devoted lover
- Good employee
But they are better at keeping up appearances than actually performing the role with expertise and aptitude. Like when an action movie hero does well at looking like they beat up a room full of ninjas, but in reality they have CGI and stunt doubles.
A narcissist doesn’t invest too much emotionally in the actual quality of their performance. They don’t mind how their role as a friend or lover actually impact the other person, they just want to make it look good, especially if other people are looking. It is another form of validation.
People with authentic self-love take real care in doing a good job and taking responsibility for their part in things, particularly in relationships. So it is very acceptable to be concerned with your contribution to relationships and how you impact others, because in a way you earn your own self-love from the way you treat others.
Am I focusing on comparison or compassion?
Another huge piece of this puzzle is comparison. How do you perceive others in contrast to yourself?
Typically, narcissists are not self-loving or secure in their worth. Because of this, they often seek to compare ourselves with others. Now this isn’t especially exclusive to full-blown narcissism, because we all have a tendency to try and measure up.
But the narcissist will thrive on the belief that they are better than, or even the best. We all feel better about ourselves when we are accomplished or exceptional at something, but to require to always outshine others is a little more relevant to narcissism. The focus here isn’t so much on us being able to appreciate our own achievement as much as it is the need for other people to be less. In order for a narcissist to be more, other people have to be beneath them. It isn’t self-worth; it is self-inflation through the dispossession of others.
Healthy self-love and self-esteem is based on believing that we have a number of positive qualities, and that other people have such qualities. It puts us on a more level playing field and allows us to be compassionate whether or not someone is as accomplished in something as we are. So it is OK to excel at something, as long as you don’t make it about other people being less.
Do emotions and attitudes seem “black and white?”
We have mentioned before the real dangers of black and white thinking. In the words of the great Obi-Wan Kenobi,
“Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”
Basically, the issue is that some people only let it be one of two ways. It has to be black or white, no room for grey area or compromise.
Research indicates a narcissists tends to either love or hate things. They don’t to tolerate the middle ground. Usually, something with themselves or others is either preferable and exceptional or totally unacceptable. They are either everything or nothing, instead of just letting it be.
As a result, when we can’t abide our own uncomfortable feelings, we’re more likely to project them onto others. Once we force those feelings onto others we create conflict, isolation, and self-disillusionment.
Healthy self-love allows us to tolerate uncertainty. It is important to have self-love because with a strong sense of self-love we have the ability to experience our own vulnerability. Where a narcissist feels angry or intolerant of their own vulnerability, a healthy, self-loving person will naturally resort to self-compassion. This same compassion for ourselves gives us a chance to feel more connected to others.
So don’t look at self-compassion as “letting yourself off the hook,” look at it as accepting your imperfections with humility.
Recovery is Self-Love
At the end of the day, what is the moral of the story here?
Is it OK to just assume that people who have a high opinion of themselves, who believe in their own capacity to be unique and successful, and who value and respect their own impact on other people should be considered narcissists? Should the term “healthy narcissist” be something we swap for self-love once in a while to consider it as a virtue?
In recovery we hear a lot about how addicts and alcoholics are especially selfish. As often as we are told this, should we also be reminded to use our own nature as selfish people in recovery to shape that sense of self into something more constructive and empowering instead of thinking we need to abandon it completely?
Let us not be so quick to label one another as narcissists, and learn to love ourselves thoroughly as we learn again to love each other.
Mental health and self-esteem is extremely important in regards to addiction recovery. Holistic treatment programs like Palm Partners are specifically designed to address unique issues in unique ways. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Wednesday evening, 9 Frederick County residents in Area 31 in downtown Frederick went in front of a camera. But this wasn’t any ordinary photo shoot. Not some promotion for a new shoe or the next big diet plan. These 9 brave individuals went under the spotlight to divulge some of their darkest memories of addiction, to spread home for recovery.
The filming is for a new video on recovery awareness. Stories like these of struggles and survival are incredibly powerful.
The Face of Addiction
The project has the title “I Am the Face of Addiction.” This in-depth film is intended to showcase progressive and empowering narratives from individuals in recovery. Ultimately, the hope is to inspire other residents of the area struggling with substance abuse.
The dream behind the film and a lot of the work put into it comes from Pam Knight, a Libertytown resident. When talking about how the project came to be, Knight stated:
“We just want to break the stigma of the term ‘drug addict,’…This is a major epidemic, but there are still so many people who are too ashamed or too embarrassed to admit ‘my life is out of control.’”
Knight, a former special education teaching assistant at Linganore High School, has her own history with addiction. That history puts her in a unique position to know the power of perspective.
In active addiction, at face-value Knight’s life seemed flawless. Her husband, Daniel, owns a successful hair salon in Frederick. The couple has three adult children and three grandchildren. To some this sounds like the American dream, but many wouldn’t know there could be nightmares behind the scenes.
Under it all, Knight was hid a pill addiction for years. She says it began in 2011 after falling off the bleachers at her son’s high school football game. After she was prescribed Vicodin for pain, she began taking more and more. While in the beginning she said the pills made her feel “like Superwoman,” she later describes the experience of addiction as “purgatory.” Knight stated,
“Towards the end, there was no high anymore. You have to have it to make your brain feel normal. The first thing I would do in the morning is pop my pills.”
It didn’t take long before Knight graduated from Vicodin to Percocet. After experimenting with opiates she began doctor-shopping to obtain prescriptions. She admits that her final years of addiction she found herself buying pills off the street.
Her drug of choice was Roxicodone — known as “Roxys” on the street — an opioid-based painkiller. She would purchase quantities of 30 milligram tablets and take multiple doses at a time. Knight said,
“If I didn’t have them, I would get horrible shakes.”
Seeing the Signs
Knight’s husband and her oldest daughter, Loren Maxwell, admit that Knight’s gradual descent into addiction was easy to brush off in the beginning. The signs were somewhat there, but not easy for her family to see for what they were.
Her husband Daniel said he would notice days when she seemed especially manic or sweaty, but Knight always had an explanation.
Maxwell said her mother’s ability to function made her addiction harder to spot. Many people don’t acknowledge the dangers of ‘functioning addiction’ because they don’t understand it.
During this time the family said the signs were simple to dismiss unknowingly or miss altogether. Now that Pam Knight has gone through recovery, Daniel Knight said,
“I see them everywhere.”
Family Fight Knight
Like many people have experienced, the fight with addiction can often be a family affair.
Knight’s youngest son, Connor, was also struggling with addiction at the same time as his mother. Like Pam Knight, Connor said his problems started with the opioid painkillers prescribed for his football injuries. His struggles with opiates graduated much quicker. At 17 years old, Connor first snorted heroin with a bandmate, and his progressive addiction took off.
After years, both Pam and Connor finally found a new chance through rehabilitation at treatment centers in Florida.
Pam has been sober for three years; Connor for 11 months.
Pam Knight’s motivation for sharing the gritty details of her experience for this film is to show that recovery is possible. Knight currently speaks in Frederick County Public Schools as an advocate for addiction recovery. She says she hopes to screen the finished video for these audiences to spread more of this story.
Other participants in the film also hope their contribution will inspire recovering addicts. A huge part of inspiring others is to help overcome addiction stigma. Statistically we know that far too many addicts prolong their suffering and lose their lives because they don’t know of a better option, or because they are afraid of the assumptions and stereotypes attached to addiction. Breaking those stereotypes is exactly why we need such powerful stories, such as Pam Knights. A mother, a wife and a miracle who has persevered through a great deal of difficulty. We celebrate her and the others involved in this project helping to reach out and change lives by showing people the true face of addiction is not always what you would expect.
Sharing your story isn’t always easy, but once you have a chance to rewrite your story it can be more powerful than you can imagine. It isn’t always easy to change that story, but it is always possible. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
As hard as it is to admit, that’s the first step.
Once upon a time the forces of evil gave us this great conspiracy that we are separate; the truth is we never were. We have been lied to long enough that we are defined by our differences. We were told the borders mankind created for each other are valid reasons to hate and hurt one another. They said the shades in our skin and the climates and economic categories we live in made some of us better or worse… and the greatest tragedy is- we believed it.
The 12 Steps and the ‘anonymous fellowship’ model of recovery are actively used all over the world for those looking to recover from drug or alcohol addiction. There are even other addictions such as gambling or over-eating that people use the 12 Steps’ strategies to overcome. Anonymous support groups meet to work with one another to fight the obsessions that rule over their lives.
While some debate the effectiveness of groups like AA or NA, thousands upon thousands of people in over 150 countries all over the world have found their salvation from substance abuse through 12 Steps.
So, the question is… will it work for racism?
Some would insist that to even suggest racism is still a reality in America is to contribute to the race-baiting that drives division. However, the truth is no matter how far we like to think we have come- racism is still real. Now, Racists Anonymous (RA) aims to help those struggling with their own prejudices to overcome them.
Racism in America
While it may be hard in a politically-correct America to understand the gravity of it, racism is not extinct. No one likes to admit they are racist, especially in the modern society that preaches tolerance and acceptance. It is probably much easier for some to admit to their innermost self they’re an alcoholic or an addict than it is to admit they suffer from a serious racial bias.
Today we are still bombarded with police-related shootings involving young black men and women in the media. Meanwhile, we have the biggest protest by Native Americans in our history happening right now, and the brutality being inflicted on these people is truly deplorable.
Regardless of whether or not you believe that race is responsible for these injustices, the nature of these events leads some to think discrimination is the only explanation. The way these events are shown impacts the country, also driving a wedge between its people, inspiring even more division. Tragically, despite having an African American president, many insist this is the most racially divided we have been in decades.
One pastor in Sunnyvale, California is so concerned with the status of stigma and racial tension he is taking the unlikely step of offering a 12-step program for people who wish to heal from racism.
Pastor Ron Buford of the Congregational Community Church knows well that the first step of basically every recovery fellowship is to acknowledging the problem. He stated,
“That is something that we as Americans don’t want to do. We all swim in this culture of racism. It’s impossible to not be racist to some degree.”
Pastor Buford, who is himself an African American, makes no effort to point the finger and say this is a problem unique to one race or another. Back in 2015 Pastor Buford began to host meetings of the newly formed Racists Anonymous in what he says was a response to the police shootings all over America, exacerbated by the shooting rampage of Dylan Roof at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Slowly but surely the fellowship of Racists Anonymous did actually grow! Since its conception, at least a dozen people regularly attend the weekly Racists Anonymous meetings. The RA meetings host a majority of Caucasian members, but also various other races are adamant attendants. Seems like having members who would not normally mix is a big understatement here.
Still, the Racists Anonymous fellowship follows the path set out by the original 12 Steps. For example:
- Making a list of people they have harmed
- Making amends to those they have hurt
- Taking personal inventory
- Admitting and recognizing racist behaviors
RA meetings also include sharing experiences and feelings regarding race.
One thing very different about RA from most 12 Step fellowships is these meetings is the mediator. RA meetings have someone working to directly confront members with scenarios. The mediator, typically Pastor Buford, then challenges members to explore their attitudes and actions concerning other races. This kind of mediation is not the norm for many 12 Step meetings. What many might call “cross-talking” seems to be acceptable in the RA format.
Expanding the Fellowship
Beyond the reach of Congregational Community Church, over 30 other churches across the country are in the process of establishing Racists Anonymous groups. Buford says he hopes to make RA just as available as AA or NA all over the U.S. of A. Still there are many hurdles to overcome before this fellowship can hope to grow.
A large obstacle is that not many people are willing to admit they are racist to a group of strangers. Reverend Nathan King of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Concord, North Carolina, introduced the meetings to a mostly white congregation. Reverend King said,
“People are in different places. Some say, ‘I’m a racist.’ Or they say, ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m not sure.’”
Some would protest the comparison between alcoholics and racists. One might say that one is a choice and the other is a disease. But then again, some people still claim alcoholism or addiction is a choice, but anyone who has been there or been on the frontlines in fighting addiction knows better than that. So, is it fair to say that the idea of supporting people in recovering from racism is not a worthy task?
Stephen Mosier, a 74-year-old RA member is a retired college administrator who stated,
“We have all got some residual racism in us no matter how good we think we are at it,”
Pastor Buford believes that racism could very well be a lifelong issue one struggles with. Whether you believe people choose racism or not, the hope is to eliminate the spread of racism for future generations. Either way, this seems like as good a reason as any to try and make a change.
Racism is an Addiction
In the end if we are all as introspective as we can be, we will see that as imperfect people we have a tendency to make assumptions or misconceptions based on the ideas we were conditioned with throughout life. In a combination of our environment and the more drastic experiences we have, we can subconsciously create stereotypes or expectations, and our culture may only feed these beliefs. But it is our responsibility to fight back and grow out of these lies.
We become addicted to these stereotypes and presumptions. We may even realize we are wrong, but somehow we cannot let go of the crutch of our conditioning. The truth is, no one is born racist. Racism is taught. So love and tolerance must be learned in order to escape these archaic lessons. RA may not be the only way to teach love, but it’s an interesting take on an old way of working for an awakening.
While many are far from able to take that first step, others who have fought to overcome drugs and alcohol already know just how difficult of a step that can be. Having that clarity isn’t always easy, but once you see the problem for what it is you have a window of opportunity to get the help you truly need to change. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now!
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
As tragically contrite as it may seem to say, racism is still a thing. Many would argue that as long as there are different races, it will exist because people will always find a reason to hate or resent those who are different from them. In 2016 we should hope we have come a long way from the days of belligerent racism. Still the media is filled with claims of racism running rampant. Some still dispute that this is all contrived by the propaganda machine turning people against one another. Others actively protest it in the streets and on every public forum, calling it a hidden truth that governs our world.
It is true that we have left behind the era that gave us slavery, the Civil War and the Holocaust. However, pretending this infirmity has vanished completely is irresponsible. Of course we all have the nature to be judgmental or intolerant, but how far does it take us?
Some of us may only ever experience racism first-hand a few times in our lives. Several studies have already shown that racial discrimination can be linked to poor mental and physical health. Now new data suggests that not only is racism still real, but that repeated racism over time has an increased impact on mental health.
Accumulation of Racist Experiences
The recent data comes from a study by Dr. Laia Becares, Research Fellow in the University’s School of Social Sciences and in the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity, and her colleagues looking into the accumulation of experiences involving racially motivated attacks over time. This included instances of:
- Being shouted at with prejudice
- Being physically assaulted
- Avoiding a place because or ones race
- Feeling unsafe because of one’s ethnicity
Dr. Becares’s study was published in the American Journal of Public Health. The ethnicity sample of Understanding Society is the primary source of a lot of information for this study. This is actually a dataset used to examine research questions with participants over time. It allowed the researchers to add up all experiences of racial discrimination that people have had over a five year span to find out whether these were associated with changes in mental health.
Dealing with the Data
Dr. Becares’s research shows that increased mental health problems for racial minorities who’ve experienced repeated incidents of discrimination are shown to be significantly higher than those who do not report any experience of racism.
The study found that the biggest cumulative impact on mental health was attributed to the intense fear of avoiding places and feeling unsafe due to discrimination. In Dr. Becares own words,
“This finding would suggest that previous exposure to racial discrimination over the life course, or awareness of racial discrimination experienced by others, can continue to affect the mental health of ethnic minority people, even after the initial exposure to racial discrimination.”
Which sounds like it actually sends shock-waves of impact, especially today! Every time you log online there are videos of shootings or attacks involving police and other incidences which are labeled as racially motivated, fueling division in communities. Then the floodgates of online harassment and rants echoing intolerance open up and spill out. The internet being over-saturated with “hate speech” has become the norm. Extremes vary from insisting racism doesn’t exist, to people encouraging racial tensions. At a time where this issue is increasingly publicized and political, it is important to be compassionate and self-aware.
It’s not just one sided either. People from all races have proven to be guilty of discrimination. Some will even criticize another for being a racist, and follow it with racist remarks! It is maddening sometimes to think of how simple minded statements are so openly thrown around, and how we don’t even realize the impact this kind of behavior has on our mental health.
Shades of Grey
Personally, as a biracial man, I can say that my entire life I’ve experienced the most subtle shades of racism. I’ve been told more times than I could ever possibly recount how I am “not really black” or I “act too white” because people on both sides of the discussion, including my own family don’t realize the true weight in those words or the mental conditioning it creates.
I’ve experienced the outright indecency of aggressive racism. For a time I lived in a farm town with hardly any other minorities in the area and felt first-hand what it’s like to be given a vulgar name that I should never feel obligated to wear.
In my days of active addiction, even in my days of recovery, I’ve experienced racism. Sometimes the worst part is people think they are being racist with good intentions. If I were to be transparently introspective I can honestly say that discrimination long enough based on something that was never up to you to being with can have long term effects on the way you cope with your world.
I may not be black. I may not be white. But every day I’m grateful to find the shades of grey where I fit. This is the truth we should all face.
No matter where your ancestors came from or how much pigment you have in the skin wrapped around your bones, you are a person. We all have to take responsibility for the contributions we make to this conversation. No one is to blame. Therefore, we all have to be accountable to change. Mentally, emotionally, physically we suffer from our inaction, and our inaction makes us complicit in the culture of racial and religious division that is devastating mental health for us all.
Mental health, substance abuse and addiction are all commonly connected. People with substance abuse and addiction issues more often than not struggle with some degree of trauma or mental health disorder. The more we pay attention to mental health, the more likely we will be able to fight back against addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Mental and emotional strength and stability are not always easy to develop, although many would say it is easier to fake. While some people do legitimately have a stronger sense of self naturally, others will live off a pattern of protecting themselves mentally and emotionally through acting tough. Acting tough may meet your needs as far as a quick fix, boosting the ego as a defense mechanism. Still, the tough act is not a strategy that is sustainable.
Mental strength is not to say you are stronger or smarter than anyone. Lacking in mental strength does not mean you don’t have the same capacity for thought and understanding, it just means when the pressure is potently applied there is more of a chance that you will suffer. Some people think that the tough act will help them improve their mental strength. However acting tough just fakes strength while not allowing people to grow.
Here are some differences between mental strength and putting on a tough act.
The tough act typically has that element of outward ego that proclaims the individual as the best thing breathing. The person will have an overcompensating confidence that insists upon itself. However the truth behind it is the person is overrun with their insecurities. They refuse to expose any weakness, which hinders connection with others.
People with mental strength will actually admit to their faults and invest energy and time into self-improvement. These people realize that while they may fall, they are still able to grow.
When it comes to falling down, the person using the tough act will insist that failure is not an option. They will never surrender or accept defeat, which means they cannot learn from their losses. The irony is that this attitude rarely prevents people from losing. Meanwhile it blocks them off from trying something new later because the ego fears the loss.
People who have mental strength understand that every failure is just a stepping stone to greatness. Mentally strong individuals view every shortcoming as an opportunity to learn what doesn’t work and build off their new perspective. These people know they fall so they can learn how to get back up.
- Denying the Self
The tough act has a pretty recognizable symptom in most cases- the individual only expresses their emotions when it comes to anger. This person will deny their pain, sadness, fear and even excitement. When it comes to pain they would rather grit and bear it then let anyone see them sweat. This again prevents them from growing through their pain and even from setting boundaries.
Mental strength will show itself for what it is. When this person feels fear or sadness they will be honest with others and with themselves. But just because they express these feelings doesn’t mean they let them dictate their lives. Their ability to be self-aware and expressive lets them monitor how their emotions impact their behaviors and their relationships.
This is probably one of the most common traits of people who try to act tough as oppose to actually having mental strength. The tough act will have someone trying to appear as if they are in control, having power over others and dominion over any situation. They try to force their will onto people and circumstances to make sure things go their way because it creates an illusion of strength and superiority.
However, true mental strength comes from having self-control, not controlling others. This individual wants to understand and manage their emotions by directing their own thoughts and perspective because they understand that they are only responsible for their own reaction to any given situation. They know their strength comes from their ability to adapt, not from trying to force life to go their way.
For people who rely on the tough act, it is not to say you have no mental strength, it just means you could build on it holistically to determine where you rely on a misguided ego instead of developing your mental and emotional muscles. The more practice you actually put into exercising mental strength the more you will let go of the act. By changing your strategy and adopting a new attitude toward these feelings you actually better prepare yourself for the journey ahead. When the tough gets going, the tough act doesn’t cut it without the mind to follow through.
In recovery from drugs and alcohol, mental strength is something we have to learn in order to grow and flourish. It is not always easy to break these habits, but if we can separate from the substance and get the foundation we need we have a great shot at becoming stronger than we ever thought possible. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135