Narcissism prevails against common sense

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Illustration by Izzy Zavareei

I live in an unpoppable bubble of narcissism. When each new edition of The Pitch comes out, I stagger like a junkie through the hallways seeking out feel-good bromides and hollow praise. Just as junkies need their fix, I need my fragile ego stroked. 

Yet every once in a while I come face to face with a scathing critique of my work. My opinions on school spirit are Orwellian and “borderline absurd,” my writing pretentious, convoluted. Sawtooth blades cutting through my pride.

And here we come to a problem. Should I do the mature thing and use this criticism constructively? Or should I reject it all with godly impunity? Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I—I took the one more travelled.

I laugh at criticism. I relentlessly mock it, even if it’s insightful and judicious. I remain insular and ignorant as my self-absorption escalates.

At least I’m not alone. In whichever theater of life you choose to pull back the curtain and take a peek, you’ll see, narcissism abounds.

Donald Trump is perhaps the most apt symbol of our society’s rampant self-centeredness. Leading our nation is a man who is unable to accept even an iota of criticism. His ego is as big and bloated as he. Any time he faces the slightest rebuke, he resorts to braying like a donkey. And what’s that got him? Disdain from other world leaders and the fathomless contempt of millions of people around the globe.

This is just one man, but his symptoms resemble a plague pandemic to our society—including WJ.

Why are we so quick to dismiss criticism? Why does administration pin racism on a few tarnished tomatoes rather than take efforts to educate the population? Why do teachers with a class average of 61.3% blame their students’ inability to learn and not their subpar teaching skills? And by the same token, why are students so quick to blame their academic failures on bad teachers? In this era of affluence and limitless information, we have no excuse.

I’m not exonerating myself from this. I insist on making contentious quips about Jeffrey “Murdered Guy” Epstein despite objections from The Pitch’s higher-ups. Can’t they see I’m above reproach? In fact, somebody will oppose the junkie comparison I made earlier. It’s staying, though. My narcissism drills itself so deeply into my core, I take any and all advice as a personal attack.

Constructive criticism is good criticism. At the heart of all good criticism lies one crucial factor: the desire for improvement. Constructive criticism is the result of careful examination reinforced by objectivity and balanced feedback.

Personal attacks are poor criticism. They’re vapid tongue-lashings that seek only to belittle and humiliate. Unfortunately, as constructive criticism is often stern, it’s easy to conflate it with pointed diatribe.

Therein, as the bard would say, lies the rub. We’re so myopic that to us, constructive and personal criticism are indistinguishable. It’s all just haze and a dimming horizon as we’re riding against the setting sun. We must learn to differentiate between worthy critiques and vitriolic harangues. Take the former in your stride. Discard the latter; it will only impede you.

It’s not easy to accept criticism. But our inability to do so is sure to be our downfall. We’ll limp down a devious path of regression and desolation. Our narcissism manacles any drive for improvement. Let us break free from our restraints, face the rigors of the world unchained. Let’s see how far we can go unencumbered.

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