The importance of being full of yourself

Children often seem to have boundless energy and, if they’re lucky enough to feel securely loved, boundless belief in how lovable they are. 

As adults this kind of boundless belief is regarded as odd, as ‘vain’ or ‘narcissistic’, being ‘too full of yourself’. (This is a curious phrase in itself; how can someone be ‘too’ full of themselves? Whom else are they supposed to be full of?)

There tends to be an ongoing confusion between self-love and narcissism, however they are quite different. If we can define self-love as being full of love for oneself, then narcissism is the opposite of this; a core lack of self-love and belief in one’s lovability – an emptiness rather than a fullness.

Narcissism can be seen as a sort of impersonation of self-love and often involves exaggerated or inflated behaviour and beliefs to compensate for a core lack of security also known as the ‘narcissistic wound’. A wound is something to be defended against all costs; by presenting a protective, indomitable version of oneself to the world and relying on the world to reflect this back.

If we can define self-love as being full of love for oneself, then narcissism is the opposite of this; a core lack of self-love and belief in one’s lovability – an emptiness rather than a fullness.

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Narcissism is not unusual, in fact in our social media age, presenting contrived, idealised versions of ourselves and our lives – a sort of digital age narcissism – tend to be the rule rather than the exception.

But relying on the external world to fuel a sense of security is precarious because the world is ever-changing, unreliable and not in our control. If we depend solely on it as a resource it can fuel feelings of alienation from ourselves and others.

The core lack of self or security at the heart of narcissism can be seen through other therapeutic and healing traditions. In Shamanism, it is understood that mental, emotional and physical problems are the result of not being full of your whole self or soul, your own vitality and energy.

Retrieving missing parts of our self, is a process known as soul retrieval in shamanic work. These missing parts or ‘self-states’, often relate back to childhood when we had to give up aspects of our vital selves in order to feel loved or accepted or cope with difficult circumstances or events.

Learning to become full of oneself again is often a process of connecting with and integrating these missing parts, and then embarking on a conscious relationship with them. A good start might be to do something as an adult that you liked to do as a child. Shamanically this is seen as a process of ‘calling’ the part of the soul back home. It might also be a good deal of fun too.