The Faeries' Revenge
A healthy Narcissus
Profesora Patricia Pedroza is a genius. In discussion
of 17th Mexican poet Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, the subject
came up over whether Sor Juana was too self absorbed or
not. Patricia coined a phrase my new favorite phrase: "She
had a healthy narcisism." In other words, she valued her
mind and development of intellect, which is "narcisistic"
because it is an appreciation of the self, but this is what
she needed in order to be happy and content with herself.
Too often women are taught that we must sacrifice our
own happiness and healthiness. If someone needs something
from us, we are supposed to put our own needs aside and
sacrifice ourself for the other person. This leads to some
very twisted relationships, and even more twisted
friendships between women: in order to repay a friend for
putting her own needs aside out of deference to her friend,
a woman will find some way to sacrifice herself for her in
turn. Even when the two would both be better off taking
care of themselves and then benefitting each other in ways
that they needn't sacrifice, they will choose to sacrifice
over the healthier alternative. Why? Because God forbid
we be "selfish" and have the stigma attached. Because a
woman who values her own health and happiness is by default
a selfish, narcisistic bitch.
The need to avoid this title escalates so badly that
it has evolved into a new form of narcisism. Women are
obsessed with being the best martyr. For example, when I
was sick I had a friend who made a huge deal about how much
she wanted to help me. She started hovering around and
obsessing over how she could cure me with Reiki (a hands-on
healing technique). I said I wasn't that sick and I was
fine and more comfortable without help.
I was partly hesitant because I just wanted to get to
sleep--the healthiest thing I could have done for myself at
the time--and partly because I do not believe in Reiki.
I've had this discussion with her, including my explanation
that her complete lack of Reiki training, thus resulting in
her belief that Reiki "pulls the bad energy out" of the
hurt person and into herself, thus (not) "transfering" the
pain out of the injured party (and creating psychosomatic
symptoms in her), leads me to feel that she shouldn't
practice it at all, and at least DEFINATELY not on me.
However, she was so upset and fussy over her need
to "sacrifice" for me that I put up with it, pretending
that I felt better, before she finally let me go to sleep.
I've seen this happen time and again, with the same
friend, with others. It's almost always women. On the
rare occasion a man acts the same way, he's usually try to
pick a woman up.
So in the end, martyrdom--self-sacrificing--is all
counterproductive. Hurting yourself for no reason, or no
good reason, is ridiculous. Not just that, but the person
you're "helping" gets stuck with the guilt and aggravation
of knowing that you hurt yourself because of them, even if
they tried to stop you from doing it. You end up not only
hurting yourself and not helping the person you were
supposedly helping, but *hurting* them instead of helping
The solution? Healthy Narcisism! Value your health
and happiness, and look for ways that you can share health
and happiness without sacrificing it. Some of the best
things you can do for a friend benefit you too. I'm
thinking of starting a campaign. Watch for me: I'll be
the one wearing the "Why Martyr?" t-shirt.
Wow. That rant was only meant to be one paragraph long...