Recently there was a rare request from an honest reader who felt they have narcissistic tendencies but couldn’t find any guidelines on how to reduce these habits. I commend this reader for being aware enough to realize this and also for taking steps to ask for help!
There isn’t any behavioral malady that can’t be corrected, especially if you are aware of it. One can usually integrate opposite behaviors to remedy the imbalance.
In the case of narcissism, when someone feels like they are operating with self-serving behaviors more often than not, it’s good to check your motives before you act. If you find that the motive is to get something without giving something back, you will experience problems in your relationships. Becoming aware of these motives will help you re-direct to ask yourself questions and over time to be able to self-correct to act less selfish.
Integrating empathy is one way to become less selfish.
Start to observe the world through opened eyes and stay curious about the emotional well-being of people. Either by observing real life situations “live” or through documentaries and films, focus on their non-verbal cues, their facial expressions, and not just what they’re saying. If you are with them, ask questions about how someone is feeling. Ask them why they are feeling this way. Listen intently to what they list as causes for the feelings. Echo back what you heard so that they know you understand what they’re sharing.
If you are watching a second hand account through film, practice noticing the stories of people who are enduring difficult hardships. What is causing the emotions? Ask yourself how might you be feeling if these situations happened to you. Imagine yourself in their place. Try to name all the emotions that might be going on inside the person, whether you see them visually displayed or not. If you don’t have enough emotional vocabulary to describe feelings, you may want to use the Emotional Description Word Wheel pictured below. It’s a great tool to growing in emotional intelligence and understanding feelings.
After you observe and put yourself in these scenarios, there will be a paradigm shift of how you look at the world. You may even start desiring to alleviate some of the pain people are experiencing and ask people how you can help.
So thank you for your question. It’s wonderful when we can identify hindrances in ourselves, want to gain more skills and tools to further our mental health. You will become more valuable and likable to others, and to yourself!