Have you ever met someone who seems to think more highly of themselves than they should? They may tell you how wonderful they are, but when their actions are put to the test, it seems they talk the talk more than they walk the walk.
One thing I have learned about individuals who spend much of their time self-promoting is that, to quote a proverb of whose origin I am not familiar, “Shallow waters babble loudly.” (A similar proverb is quoted as saying, “Still waters run deep.”) I have found this to be the case with my employees. The individuals who are often my most solid employees, the ones with strong talent and dedication, are usually not the ones who feel the need to self-promote.
In some cases, individuals who exude a grandiose sense of self have significant personality disorders. Among them are borderline personality disorder: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borderline_personality_disorder and narcissistic personality disorder: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissistic_personality_disorder.
The question is, what do you do, when you encounter one of these personalities?
First of all, you need to protect yourself. There are some steps you can take in order to assure that you are able to keep yourself emotionally and physically safe.
- Read the descriptions of borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. Do you recognize the behaviors in yourself or a spouse/parter, or other individual you are close to?
- Do not attempt to convince the person close to you that they have a disorder, they are likely to become defensive. These disorders are VERY HARD to treat, even for the most seasoned psychiatric professionals.
- If you recognize yourself in the description, do you want help? If so, reach out to a qualified mental health professional.
- If you recognize a close friend or relative in these descriptions, do you want to assist them in getting help? Are you in danger, do you need help or support too? Contact a qualified mental health professional. The first step is for you to consult with them to determine the proper course of action. Sometimes the only way to get a client with a personality disorder into therapy (i.e. your spouse) is to convince them they are going to therapy to help you (as opposed to the real client, themselves).
- If you are in an abusive relationship with an individual with a personality disorder, get help quickly! Contact your local women’s shelter, or domestic violence hotline (verbal abuse also counts as domestic violence). They will provide you with the support you need to protect yourself and your family and will give you guidance through the steps towards freedom.
I personally believe the hardest challenge with working with individuals with personality disorders is their unwillingness to see their weaknesses. Of course, this is because of their own low self-esteem and very weak character. I imagine many experienced very rough childhoods and life traumas that molded them into individuals who are not grounded in reality. Their perceptions and interpretations of the reality around them often differ greatly from those of reasonable adults in similar situations. Unfortunately, it is often unproductive to engage in dialogue with people who have these disorders – conversing with them can often feel like trying to reason with someone who is inebriated.
Set very firm boundaries with these individuals and do not let them bully you into giving up what you know to be an accurate accounting of reality. Often people with personality disorders are very insistent that you believe and accept their distorted reality. This makes sense as they have a lot at stake – their self-esteem and self-definition rests on the world joining them in their fallacy. Refusal to partake will anger them, but will also empower you as you take a stand for truth and honesty. People with personality disorders who do heal are those who are able to eventually come face to face with their truth and begin to live genuine lives. This is a very painful process for them, but I believe it is less painful than living an illusion of a life.
If you cannot live your truth, you are not living.
As I approach 40, I want to live my truth every day – and my hope for you is that you will too.