Q&A with Dr. Happy

Q&A with Dr. Happy

Each week, in my eNewsletter, I choose a question from one reader and do my best to answer it.

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Anyway, this week’s question comes from Alicia who asks …

Is there such a thing as a healthy level of narcissism? Or how does one foster a healthy and positive “ego” without being a “bad person”?

Let’s begin with a definition of narcissism which according to one source means … selfishness, involving a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy, and a need for admiration, as characterising a personality type.

I’m not sure too many people would think this is a good or healthy way to be or to live!

But if we look at the second part of Alicia’s question I think we can see that she’s really asking something else, which I’m going to take a guess might be something more like … how do we balance selfishness with selflessness and / or how do we feel good about ourselves without being bad to others?

And within that question lies the answer.

To begin with, many of these quandaries come down to definitions; how you ascribe meaning to any of these words will affect the way you use them and/or answer these types of questions.

Keeping this in mind, if the goal is to be healthy and happy then I’d suggest we DEFINITELY need to take care of ourselves and we DEFINITELY want to feel good about ourselves BUT THAT NEITHER OF THESE REQUIRE thinking we’re better than others or that our happiness need come at the expense of others.

It’s here I’d suggest consideration be given to a few different constructs, such as self-confidence, self-love and self-compassion, rather than narcissism or even ego.

Without going into any great detail about each of these important concepts, research suggests that those who’re kind to themselves and those who’re confident in their abilities without being arrogant, are more likely to be happy. None of this requires looking down upon or being unkind to others.

Selfishness, in the sense of self-care, can be practised AT THE SAME TIME AS selflessness, in the sense of being kind and generous and good to others.

If any of these lead you to being a “bad person”, as you hint at in the question, then I’d suggest REAL happiness will be elusive.

Ultimately, I’d encourage people to frame the question in terms of what works for you, in a deep sense and in the long term, whilst also working for those around you. After all, we’re all connected and our happiness depends, at least in part, on the happiness of those around us.