Constantly deepening our self-awareness is critical to grow as a person and as a leader. But to achieve this there are many barriers we need to overcome. We have been told not to be self-centred and to combat our weaknesses, which leads to a certain denial of who we are. Instead, we need to learn to be vulnerable and to observe ourselves with a lot more clemency and… narcissism!
In this article I would like to explore this slightly provocative title: be narcissistic and love your weaknesses., because I believe that these are very important ingredients to grow as a person and to develop the self-awareness that is so important, especially in leadership positions.
But our education and our environment have very often told us exactly the opposite. We have been told not to be self-centred. We have also been told to overcome our weaknesses in order to become a better person. We have been told to change ourselves where we have these areas for development.
I believe that this is actually creating certain barriers that we need to unlearn. We actually need to spend a lot of time observing ourselves in certain situations as well as through introspection. And I also believe that we need to accept our weaknesses. We need to accept ourselves the way we are. Very often a weakness is the flip side of a strength. And combatting that “weakness” is actually a form of denial of who we are – or who others are if we judge them. I believe that we need to have a bit more clemency related to our weaknesses.
And when we observe ourselves once again what might be so typical for some of our weaknesses, then we should observe that with a smile and not with this severe judgement that we have so often about ourselves. Because this is otherwise stopping or inhibiting our ability to learn more about ourselves.
All of that is connected to this negative image that Narcissus has in our culture. We consider Narcissus to be selfish, to be ego-centric, to be even arrogant or to lack of empathy and the ability to engage with others.
Now there are certain form of extreme narcissism and related personality disorders that go into that direction. I am of course not talking about that. I am talking about this part of narcissism that we all should actually cultivate and nurture, because it is how we can learn more about ourselves and grow.
I believe that this beautiful painting of Caravaggio is very interesting because throughs a different light on Narcissus. What you see here is that Narcissus forms a circle with his reflection in the water. What Caravaggio wants to tell us here is that self-awareness is actually an integral part of who we are if we take a more holistic perspective of ourselves.
I also believe that there is a lot of vulnerability that is expressed in this painting and not at all the arrogance that we sometimes think Narcissus has. Quite the contrary!
Being willing to learn more about ourselves, being in this learning spirit, being willing also to get feedback including of course feedback from others but also feedback through our self-observation is that vulnerability that I believe is also really helping us to grow self-awareness and to become a better person.
More information in my book:
Sven Sommerlatte : Successful Career Strategy – An HR Practitioner’s Guide to Reach Your Dream Job (Springer, June 2023). ISBN: 978-3-662-66790-3