How To Unlearn Narcissism

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 Step into this scene:

You walk into a crowded party and are greeted by a sea of faces—most of them beaming smiles. But instead of a surge of curiosity, you feel an overwhelming sense of pressure. Then you imagine, “Are they thinking about me? Am I pretty enough? Are they looking at someone more beautiful than me? How can I appear more desirable? Please look at me. You don’t want to look at me? Well, you’re ugly.”

Now you know what it’s like to think like a narcissist. I do, too. Because that person used to be me.

A balanced human would think something along the lines of, “She’s beautiful–He looks fun–I want to get to know this person.” But then again, most people don’t have an enormous hole where their self-worth should be. Narcissists do.

The making of a narcissist:

Narcissists are usually talented and attractive people who skipped over one small detail in their formation: that life is about serving others. The satisfaction of knowing that our actions create value for others is what fills us with self-worth. Those who give freely have the most to give. Narcissists, on the other hand, feel the need to constantly take.
They think their self-worth is a result of what others give them. As a reformed narcissist, I grew up thinking that what I had to offer wasn’t good enough. So when I was called handsome or intelligent, I clung to those compliments as life preservers. And I did everything to perpetuate that image.

I pursued sexual relationships to feel validated. Instead of finding my worth and joy in the things I gave to others, I was entirely dependent on the praise of my natural endowments. I was powerless—jumping from one relationship to the next, sucking up as much pleasure as I could and bailing when things got rocky. And I exited each relationship with less confidence and sanity than I had to begin with.

The cycle drove me nuts. After my third live-in relationship, I seriously considered whether life was worth living. That’s when I knew I needed a serious change.

The unmaking of a narcissist:

I’d heard from famous speakers like Zig Ziglar that happiness lies in the giving. “You’ll get what you want if you just help enough other people get what they want,” he said. I was lucky enough to have been exposed to Zig’s messages when I was at rock bottom, living with my parents, jobless, and broken. Otherwise, I don’t know if I would’ve made it.

As it was, I took Zig’s messages to heart. A complete 180 was my only option, so I started helping others through the written word. But in order to stick with the whole “living for others” bit, I had to unlearn the selfish habits that had made me behave like a narcissist. It started with giving up porn.

Porn had always been my biggest crutch. Whenever I was bored, anxious, nervous, or unsure, I turned to porn. The dopamine release was like crack, which distracted me from any uncomfortable feelings I had. But there was one hitch: In all of that self-pleasure, I never actually learned a thing about myself—and I sure as hell didn’t think about making life better for others. It had to go.

The next thing I nixed was casual dating.

My friends and family had described me as a hopeless romantic because I was never happy out of love. As long as I was in a relationship, I didn’t have to shoulder the responsibility of fulfilling myself—I didn’t have to think about how I was making life better for others. If I was giving my girlfriend wild sex, and if the relationship was entertaining, I could lose myself till it ended, which it always did. And when it did, I focused on getting into another one so that I didn’t have to be lonely—so that I could lose myself. Giving wasn’t part of the equation, so I had to let the casual relationships go.

Finally, I gave up dependency.

Your life heads in the direction of your thoughts. When my habitual thoughts were about others serving me—like my mom and dad cooking, cleaning, and providing shelter for me—it was impossible to break out of my selfish patterns. But as I cured myself of narcissism, as I helped others through my writing, and as I grew my profession, I started thinking more about providing for myself. And then one day, I made the leap.

I had to think about myself to survive. I worked hard and improved as a writer so that I could eat, but the motivation wasn’t just for me. I wanted to eat so that I could write, and I wanted to write so that I could help others improve their lives. The better I got at providing for myself, the more valuable my messages became. And after one full year of living solo, I’d left narcissism in the mirror.

These three habits helped me transform:

1. Journaling was instrumental in my transformation.

I didn’t notice my thought patterns until I wrote them down day after day. When I started journaling, I could finally see those selfish thoughts and behaviors, plain as day. Then I’d replace the old thoughts and habits with better ones.

2. Planning out each day was another important step.

If I didn’t plan on being a better me after my journaling sessions, I wouldn’t have gotten very far. So I made concrete action steps that would make me a more confident, generous, selfless, and useful person, day after day. For instance: through journaling, I’d notice that I felt hopelessly dependent on other’s opinions of me when I spent too much time on Facebook. So, the next day, I’d plan to not use Facebook at all, opting for a self-improvement activity like reading or writing.

3. Affirmations were the third critical step in unlearning my narcissistic tendencies.

People who describe themselves as narcissists have an unedited mind that keeps spewing selfish and disempowering thoughts. Ick. When you hear a lie once, it’s just a lie. But when it’s repeated over and over and over and over, you’ll believe just about anything—no matter how insane it is. I believed I was worth nothing because that’s what I kept telling myself.

When I began making affirmations, I thought I was repeating lies. “I am beautiful, I am worthy, I am generous, I am capable, I am independent…” Bullshit, I thought. But as I stuck with the habit, I started believing in them. Then I started acting like I believed them. And then I was them. I realized I’d actually been those good things all along—it’s just that my mind was so programmed with junk that I couldn’t see the truth before.

We are all good—even those of us who behave narcissistically, like I did. If you find yourself in a relationship with someone who behaves narcissistically, even if that person is you, it’s best to go solo and to focus on thinking and behaving like the intelligent and inspiring person you were born to be. Affirmations, journaling, and daily planners helped me make the change. So did giving up porn, casual relationships, and being dependent.

Article originally appeared on MindBodyGreen.com

I Was Addicted to Porn

My Addiction to Pornography

Porn picture

My Addiction to Pornography

( Click to visit the page on Mind Body Green)

I’m 25 and I used to have a severe addiction to porn. I grew up in an Orthodox Catholic household where private parts weren’t even mentioned, let alone discussed. It wasn’t until my late teens that I stopped feeling like a criminal for saying words like “penis” or “vagina.”

The only thing I ever heard about sex was, “Don’t do it!” Sex simply was never discussed in my house, so I didn’t know the first thing about it. I discovered what sex was while reading Michael Crichton’s novel, ‘Jurassic World’ in the third grade, and even then it was talking about alligators. So, instead of developing a healthy sexual identity, I was taught to fear the very thing that drives our existence.

Rather than learning about responsible sexuality from the adults in my life, my first ideas about sex came from a horn-ball teenage cousin named Nick during a family vacation. He told me about how much fun porn was, how good it felt, and what I should do when I watched it. I was 12 years old, curious, and couldn’t wait to see more about the woman in my cousin’s magazines.

After that vacation I began a life of covert obsession with internet pornography. I started looking forward to my family leaving so that I could be alone on the computer. I came to care more about getting off to porn than playing with my friends or even reading, which was my first love. The feeling of pornography was so significant that I couldn’t imagine it not being important.

Within the first year I was devoting 5 hours a week to getting high off of porn. And when I didn’t have access to porn, I would focus my imagination on recreating the images in the movies. The eager and curious boy I was became less concerned about play and more about playboy. After my Dad found my porn stash, he quipped to my Mom, ” Is Dan preparing to be a gynecologist?”

After years of watching porn obsessively, my perception of women began to shift. I stopped caring about their innermost as my focus gravitated to their cup size and willingness to engage sexually. If a girl thought too much of herself to fool around with me, I didn’t have time for her. I thought if the women in the movies did everything I ever wanted them to without having to ask twice, what was the point of wasting time with real girls?

My subconscious thoughts began eating away my future. Every time I engaged in porn I was reinforcing thoughts like, “Take! Take! Look at the outside! She’s here to please you!”, which didn’t prepare me to respect women and to contribute. I didn’t realize that all of the energy I was putting into porn and casual sex was energy that I could have been investing in my future. I wasn’t even aware that I had a future because I was so focused on getting sexual fixes.

Needless to say, I didn’t have good relationships with women. I went from one relationship to the next, wondering why none of them had meaning.  When I watched porn I had unlimited access to the most beautiful women you could imagine, but I trained myself to become bored with their beauty in a matter of minutes. Not shockingly that same behavior manifested in real life, but instead of throwing away pixels, I threw away women with futures and feelings.

I had beautiful girlfriends that I would cheat on because I was too bored and afraid to commit to deeper meaning, but I played like I practiced. It wasn’t pretty, but I was okay with it because it was normal for male culture. One frightening aspect is that because of habituating myself to pornography, I battled erectile dysfunction at the tender age of 17, which is becoming increasingly common as males become trained with porn.

Because I hadn’t learned how to channel sexual desire into my dream life, I continued to dump that energy into outlets like porn and casual sex. Instead of learning more about the innermost parts of myself and the people I was with, I completely focused on the external. I let all thoughts of growing as a person and building a career fade while I was content to float between dead end jobs and relationships. As long as I could keep the pleasure flowing, nothing really mattered to me.

By the time I was 21, and after another major relationship had crashed and burned, I decided to stop doing everything that was holding me back; I couldn’t take the pain I was experiencing any longer. I quit porn cold turkey after a decade of daily use when I learned that many of the actresses are graduates from child sex slavery. I even quit casual sex because I didn’t want a child until I could be a dad I’d be proud of.

I observed that when I had sex without commitment, honesty, faith and trust, (which was every time) my relationships dissolved for a lack of intimacy. If sex was where my future children were to come from, I wanted to make sure I associated it with qualities that supported my children’s need for security, happiness and love.

But even though I quit my unhealthy habits, I hadn’t filled my life with positivity from the inside. Because I still hadn’t taken control of my thoughts, I hadn’t yet learned how to channel my sexual desire. Think about how boring it would be to go to a party and meet someone who described himself by who he wasn’t and what he didn’t do. Well, that joker was me!

When I quit porn and casual sex without healthy outlets for sexual desire, my energy stagnated. I lost my health, and even had trouble controlling my thoughts about sex. Instead of being open and vulnerable to sexuality, I had come to despise it for the pain I experienced, so, I repressed it. At that point I didn’t know that sexual desire could be the inspiration for my greatest achievements, so I did what a lot of people do and labeled it a bad guy. My mistake.

After so many months of repression, I realize that we humans wouldn’t be alive without sex, and that sex was in fact a good thing. (Novel idea, huh?) Then I started to take full responsibility for how I responded to my sexual desire. By coming across a Zig Ziglar motivational cd, I learned about how our lives are mostly controlled by thoughts we don’t know we have. After only a few weeks of practicing affirmations and meditation, I became conscious of the limiting beliefs that had kept me from achieving my best. When I learned to control my thoughts I became empowered to channel my energy wherever I desired, like my personal development, my career, and my future. Instead of looking for the right woman, I focused on being the right man.

For the first time in my life I began to make plans for the life I actually wanted.  I knew that empty relationships hadn’t brought me happiness, so I focused on creating a fulfilled and happy me to give towards a lasting relationship. That was the beginning of my plan, and from there I discovered so many secrets about relationships and intimacy that I couldn’t keep them for myself, so I began a writing career.

I endeavored to learn everything about my inner world so I could share deep intimacy with my future wife. I began a daily journal where I recorded my thoughts and feelings, and how my actions were contributing to my goals. When I established daily journaling, all of the patterns and habits that had evaded my awareness became as clear as the writing in front of me. Through consistent journaling I opened myself up to the most rapid growth I had ever known.

When I would see a pretty girl, I would think about how lucky I was to have the beautiful wife I had yet to meet. Instead of objectifying women, I was inspired to create value that would help her future husband get to know her innermost parts. Instead of thinking about what I couldn’t do with all of these gorgeous women, I thought about what I could do to bring out the man I wanted to give to my wife. I was so busy with the adventure of my life that I didn’t have a moment to think of what I wasn’t doing, like porn or casual sex. (** I kept valuable parts of my experiences in observing woman because men honestly don’t know that there is a respectful way to look at them)

I began writing articles and books on self-improvement. I achieved the highest level of fitness I ever had by stretching myself with new sports like rock climbing and beach volleyball. When I payed attention to my inner world, I discovered so many hopes, dreams and interests that I never knew I had. My whole life changed. After three years into my transformation I even built a coaching career to help others thrive in their relationships.

Suddenly my life had meaning. Everything I did had a purpose because my actions were connected to my dreams. Rather than hurting myself and others by blindly searching for pleasure, my holistic plans transformed the way I lived. I became a giver, and I took pride in the new ability I had to help others. I don’t take a single day for granted because having value to give is not easy; I had to struggle hard to make a man I was happy to share.

When I learned how to respond positively to my sexual desire, I began the adventure of a lifetime and haven’t regretted a day since. If you’ve struggled with sexual desire and have felt hopeless in relationships, think about how you can give back to the community through your talents and passions. Think about the type of person you’d like to be and the relationship you’d like to have. Take charge of your thoughts and put your desire towards the life of your dreams. Affirmations and daily journaling have been so invaluable to me that I recommend them to anybody.

What are some of the ways you have achieved personal fulfillment? How have you improved your relationships? I’m always learning, so I’d love to hear about your experience too– join the discussion in the comments section!