Self-Expression or Narcissism?

10 Sep

I find the moment an infant discovers the sound of her own voice fascinating; that instant when a baby makes a high pitched squeal and realizes her voice created the sound. Clapping her hands and smiling, she grows even more excited if an adult happens to react, either positively or negatively. Delighted by her own power to stimulate the the attention of others, you can guarantee she’ll keep squealing while intensifying the high pitch. Until she is met with rejection, punishment or some type of negative consequence, she will keep pushing the territory.

This initial act of expression and its resultant joy affirms to me what I already know at the core of my being. We humans long to express ourselves and to be recognized for that expression. Related, a colleague of mine once said, “Theatre. Therapy. They’re the same. We all want to be seen and applauded.”

But where does narcissism creep into this? Or exhibitionism for that matter? Where is the line drawn between healthy self-expression and a more pathological need for validation and attention?

Albeit, we all need validation and attention and it only becomes pathological when we either didn’t get enough recognition for our authentic selves in our formative years and/or if haven’t learned to get our needs met through Sources other than ego driven tendencies or the energy of others. But where is the line between expression and an agenda? The pure joy of the expression and shameless self-promotion?

I’m not sure. I only know that since being on FB and keeping a blog, I’ve been walking a tightrope between the two. Navigating between my innate delight of expression and my repulsion of my own ego. Likewise, I’ve been trying to ascertain what types of connections we have with those who witness our creations. Is this real intimacy or a poor substitution for it? And while there is a gift in being seen and recognized at what point does it feel overwhelming – having left oneself wide open for criticism, rejection or fantasy and projection?

I don’t know. I don’t know the answers to any of these questions.

Because in the end, I think we’re all perilously navigating the line between self and other, boundaries and no boundaries. The need to be accepted and the need to be separate.

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