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The Impacts of Narcissism on Mental Health by Loyiso Lindani South Africa

Updated: Sep 30, 2022

I looked up the meaning of narcissism on Google and it said “narcissism -noun excessive interest in or admiration of oneself and one's physical appearance.

Similar: Vanity, self-love, self-admiration, self-adulation, self-absorption, self-obsession, conceit, self-conceit, self-centredness, self-regard, egotism, egoism, egocentricity, egomania.

PSYCHOLOGY: selfishness, involving a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy, and a need for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.

PSYCHOANALYSIS: self-centredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as a feature of mental disorder.”

In the South African Black community, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are seen as “White people illness” so in most cases, if you’re suicidal you’re seen as looking for attention mostly and most people do use it as a way of getting attention because sometimes it’s the only way they’ll get an act of love and kindness to show that they matter because we don’t love each other.

It’s easier for us to continue this way to the extent of making it normal to endure pain and suffering because sometimes the abuse is not loud, you might not get physical scars but you’ll have the emotional and mental ones. It makes you feel worthless, like you’re a bad person who deserves bad things which keeps you enduring your trauma.

I also believe our native languages don’t have explanation for things as conveniently as the English language. There are so many words that are easier to say in English that sound harsh in my language, such as how easy it is to say the word ‘vagina' and yet in my language it is ‘ibhentse' or ‘isinene' which sound crude and are often used as curse words.

We also do not have a direct translation of words from English to our own which I believe further perpetuates the narrative even because if you don’t know you have toxic behavioural patterns, how will you fix it? How do we deal with patriarchy when it is at the core of cultural practices? Does that mean it’s okay for toxic masculinity to exist?

I don’t know why we as humans do harm, I’m not sure if it’s part of our DNA as so many people are doing it. The world is so full of people who advocate for mental health matters, we are aware that abusive behavioural patterns are one of the major causes yet I’m sure that right at this moment there’s a person experiencing anxiety and depression due to abuse, trauma, victimization or all of it caused in large parts by an abusive behaviour.

A discussion with a narcissist turns into an argument, you’ll most likely never earn their respect and they’ll exert power on you using money, talking down to you, making you feel small and sometimes beating you. It’s difficult to talk about the painful parts because we don’t have such platforms in most of the Black community and family structure. You have to be strong and find ways to deal with your pain in a way that doesn’t inconvenience others. Who is ever, always just fine?

Narcissism plays a big role in mental health because I understood mental health as something for “crazy people”, it never did occur to me that it creates a stain in the mind that makes you feel hurt and numbness.

We don’t talk about how narcissism is one of the causes of suicides and how we lack support structured in our families and communities. It’s become so normal to bring each other down and most likely get respect either by showing off of materialistic gains or getting support from allies if you can find them because activism is also 9h00-17h00 nowadays so if you’re need help beyond that, you’ll really need to think on your feet.

Narcissism invalidates you, it insults your intelligence and it imposes self doubt where a person can dilapidate mentally. We don’t talk enough about the psychological impact of how our societies sets up women and children to fail. Women and children are not objects to be used for the pleasure of men. We deserve equal rights and not just in legislation but as part of our daily lives.

I talk a lot about the struggle of the Black person in South Africa because that’s what I know, it’s my reality and these are the things I must talk about to help bring about positive change. There’s a lot going on in the Black community that disempowers us, we hate each other sometimes for absolutely no reason, we don’t celebrate each other’s achievements, there’s a lot of jealousy, negativity, judgements and stereotypes that don’t promote growth.

So, where does one begin to find solutions and what kind of support goes towards people living with HIV in such environments? Is this an African problem? Well, it’s hard to answer that because Africa is diverse and what might be viewed as oppressive to some, may be seen as liberation to some such as religion, politics and gender matters.

We have different views and experiences that are unique to our lived experiences, our analysis of it is mostly based on what we believe to be either good or bad. Perhaps in medical terms it can be diagnosed, given a name and explanation but I am baffled as to why we don’t support each other more often.

The rules have been rewritten, men are no longer providers as more women have started to go get their own bread. There’s a lot of inspired women to look up to who work for positive change and for any change to come into effect one must want it to be otherwise the same narrative will keep repeating and our children will adopt narcissistic behaviours that they learn from us.

We need to be able to identify toxic behaviours within ourselves that need to be rooted out. Every individual needs to do the work and make changes no matter how small those changes may be.

The narcissist needs to acknowledge their behaviours as an illness that needs to be uprooted and addressed and the survivor needs to acknowledge and accept that the narcissism was not their fault for healing to happen yet somehow it’s not that easy.


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