I Googled myself today.
No, I’m not proud of it. It’s probably the most narcissistic thing a person can do. It’s the online equivalent of standing in front of a mirror at the gym, kissing your own bicep, and flexing until you pop a vein in your forehead. Which, incidentally, I may have done this morning while in an exercise-induced stupor. My sincerest apologies to the patrons of the Williamson Country Recreation Center.
Anyway, back to the Googling. I was curious to see if anyone had posted a recent review of my book. One of the first links that caught my eye was labeled “Scott Dannemiller Quotes.” My heart raced as I pondered the notion that someone in the universe might find me quotable. My glee was tempered when I clicked the link and found the page to be blank, save for one poorly worded sentence that I probably never said in the first place.
The next link that drew my attention was called “Authors like Scott Dannemiller.” As I prepped my finger for the mouse click, I hoped this page would be completely empty, proving that I am one-of-a-kind. However, what I saw on the screen was a list of dozens of names, and all but three of them had either a) written more books than me, or b) had more followers than me. One writer named Chip Ingram has authored 122 books. Which makes him 121 better than me. And I’ve never even heard of him.
Licking my wounds, I ventured over to my Amazon page, where a glowing review of my book sat alongside another that was simply titled, “Ummm… No.”
So, what started as a harmless online query landed me in a steaming pile of disappointment. I wish I could say it’s the first time, but it’s not. What the heck did I think I would accomplish by looking for myself on the internet?
Dr. Jean Twenge, Professor of Psychology at the University of San Diego believes we are in the midst of a “narcissism epidemic.” In her book by the same name, she and her colleague Dr. Keith Campbell demonstrate that, since the 1980’s, people are gradually becoming more self-centered, individualistic, materialistic, and entitlement-minded. I may as well be Exhibit A.
“It’s all about me.”
The funny thing is, I frequently join in the chorus that calls this kind of behavior selfish, egotistical and childish. But when I dive into the reasons behind my own actions, I’m finding an uncomfortable truth.
This brand of narcissism isn’t self-serving. It’s self-seeking.
It’s easy to feel empty these days, losing yourself in a barrage of “ought to’s” and “should be’s.”. Just this morning, I received emails telling me I need to shrink some things (my waistline, my debt, and my carbon footprint) and make some other things bigger (my bank account, my home, and my wiener). Catalogs filled my mailbox, displaying all of the things I lack in life. I didn’t even have to solicit this advice. It just came to me. Free of charge. Like a digital friend who feels compelled to tell you that you have a booger on your cheek and corn stuck in your teeth. Still, all of these messages bury into my subconscious, creating a made up version of myself that just doesn’t measure up.
So I check Facebook to boost my mood.
There, I see people I know – real people – living amazing lives. They are eating fabulous food. Sticking their toes in the sand. Winning awards. Meanwhile, I am sitting on a worn-out couch trying to drown out the sounds of my kids fighting, silently wondering if that lump on my shoulder is a potentially cancerous cyst or just a sub-surface zit that’s been lying dormant since junior high (should I Google that?). It’s no wonder that research shows that surfing social media tends to bring about feelings of mild depression. Comparison can be a dangerous thing.
But still I share on Facebook. Deep down, I honestly think there’s a healthy aspect of this. It’s the way we remind ourselves of the blessings of life. When I yell at my kids , snap at my wife, or do what I want to do instead of doing what’s right, it leaves an aftertaste that’s hard to shake. And who wants to share that with the world? Could you imagine?
So I edit out the guilty, shameful parts of my life. And maybe you do, too. Hiding the junk we think others might find unacceptable. Putting our best selves on display and hoping others will like what they see. Fishing for compliments in a world of comparison. And we’re not being fake. The smiles in the vacation photos are real. Our pride in our kids’ accomplishments is genuine. And we truly love our spouses.
Unfortunately, when we edit out the truth, we’re denying one of the most wonderful truths of all.
God is the original narcissist. (well… not really… but follow me here)
If we trace narcissism back to it’s source, we find that the term originated with a story from Greek mythology of a hunter named Narcissus who was known for his incredible beauty. Unfortunately, Narcissus met an untimely demise. One day, while seated at the edge of a pristine body of water, the hunter looked down and saw his reflection on the still pool below. Narcissus was so taken with the glory of his own image that he fell in love with it. And the love was so deep, that he could think of nothing else, denying himself even food and drink, until he eventually died, his gaze forever fixed on the image he created.
*Narcissus, by Caravaggio
It does to me.
No matter how much guilt and shame and emptiness we feel, we cannot deny the truth that we were all created in the image of God. And that same God looks at His image reflected in us and loves us deeply. To the point that he would lay down his life.
And this is the good news. God is not only in love with the pretty parts. No. He loves every last ounce of our being. Our faults and our failures. Our sins and our struggles. And while many will say that our God loves us in spite of all these things, I would suggest that he loves us because of all these things. Because the feelings of emptiness that come from our lowest of lows reminds us that He is still God, and we are still dust. Incapable of going it alone.
And for this reason, I shall go on searching. Hoping to find myself in both the happy and the hopeless. To finally see myself as God sees me.
Broken and blessed.
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