The Original Self is authentic, alive, spontaneous. It is a great joy to be in the presence and to share our lives with a person who is genuine—always himself or herself regardless of the occasion. I know a few of these individuals and feel an acceptance, calming, openness and hopefulness with them that is healing. These people are no frills–come as you are. They look into your eyes and you engage with them on a deep level.
Narcissists are disingenuous and false. They play roles–give premiere performances that are believable to many people. Often they are very successful, especially during this time–a new age of narcissism. For the narcissist, image is reality. He or she must project the perfect image–physical attractiveness and beauty, youth, extravagance, elitism, wielding worldly power that spells personal superiority to others. Narcissists exploit and look down on those who are not at their level of success. (Being successful is a positive pursuit. I am talking about those who use their ruthless climb to the top as a way to make others feel small and worthless and to control them by intimidation.) Narcissists often insist that their spouses and children be externally perfect as well. This level of perfectionism is very extreme. Personal looks must be just right–literally one hair out of place, a tiny wrinkle in a shirt, makeup that is not exquisitely matched, a small facial asymmetry–any visual flaw of person or possession is sharply ridiculed.
If you have been raised by a narcissist or married to one, you know how difficult this obsessive focus on image and the lack of substance and authenticity. Narcissists try to hijack our genuineness. They make fun of our spontaneity, our mistakes, our human emotions. Living with a narcissist we are imprisoned by their strict sense of image—turning true reality inside out.
When you break free from them, you breathe deeply and begin to feel the stirrings of the real self that you had to leave behind long ago. You find yourself remembering who you really are. You begin to feel entitled, sometimes for the first time, to express yourself fully–emotionally, creatively, intellectually and spiritually. Celebrate Your Authenticity. You are alive, in the moment, feeling the gusts of freedom’s winds at your back.
Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.