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  • Writer's pictureChelsea Joy Arganbright

Rediscovering True Selfhood in a Narcissistic Age


In today's digital age, we are constantly bombarded with messages and images that encourage us to focus on the self. Social media platforms, in particular, have created a culture where external validation and superficial self-presentation are highly valued. However, this intense focus on the external self often comes at the expense of neglecting our inner Self. This distinction is crucial, as understanding and nurturing our true Self can lead to a more fulfilling and authentic life.

The Narcissistic Self

The rise of social media has given birth to what many describe as a generation of narcissists. The term "narcissism" refers to an excessive preoccupation with oneself, often manifested through a constant need for admiration and validation from others. This behaviour is characterised by a focus on how we appear to the outside world, rather than on our internal state.

In this context, the "self" becomes a persona we project, shaped by likes, comments, and followers. This external focus can lead to a fragile sense of self-worth, reliant on the approval of others rather than a stable, internal foundation. As a result, many people feel disconnected from their true selves, experiencing anxiety, insecurity, and a lack of genuine fulfilment.

The Self in Internal Family Systems (IFS)

Contrasting sharply with this superficial focus on the self is the concept of the Self in the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model. IFS, developed by Richard C. Schwartz, Ph.D., is a therapeutic approach that views the mind as a system of parts, each with its own roles and functions. At the core of this system is the Self, which is characterised by qualities such as calmness, curiosity, compassion, and clarity.

In IFS, the Self is seen as the natural leader of the internal system. Unlike the narcissistic self, which is preoccupied with external validation and appearances, the Self is inherently balanced and grounded. It is not swayed by external opinions or superficial markers of success. Instead, it provides a stable and compassionate presence that can guide and harmonise the various parts of our psyche.

Understanding the Parts

IFS identifies different parts within our psyche, each with its own perspectives and motivations. These parts are often categorised into three main types: Exiles, Managers, and Firefighters.

    1.    Exiles: These are the parts that hold our most painful emotions and memories, often from past traumas. They are called Exiles because they are typically suppressed or “exiled” from our conscious awareness to protect us from experiencing overwhelming pain.

    2.    Managers: These parts work proactively to keep our Exiles suppressed. They manage our daily lives, striving to maintain control and prevent any emotional pain from surfacing. This can manifest as perfectionism, people-pleasing, or other controlling behaviours.

    3.    Firefighters: These parts act reactively when Exiles break through the Managers’ defences. Firefighters seek to extinguish the emotional pain through various means, which can include addictive or destructive behaviours.

The goal of IFS therapy is to create a harmonious internal system where the Self takes the lead. By engaging with each part from a place of curiosity and compassion, we can heal past wounds and integrate these parts into a balanced whole.

The Importance of Focusing Inward

Shifting our focus from the narcissistic self to the true Self requires a conscious effort to look inward. This inward journey involves self-reflection, mindfulness, and practices that help us connect with our inner world. By doing so, we can cultivate a deeper understanding of who we are, independent of external influences.

Here are some steps to help you begin this journey:

1. Practice Mindfulness: Engage in regular mindfulness practices, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, to quiet the mind and create space for self-awareness.

2. Journal: Writing about your thoughts and feelings can help you explore your inner world and connect with your true Self.

3. Seek Therapy: Working with a therapist trained in IFS or other self-focused therapies can provide valuable guidance and support.

4. Limit Social Media Use: Reduce your exposure to social media and other platforms that promote superficial self-presentation. Focus on activities that nourish your soul and promote genuine self-connection. 5. Consider engaging with a knowledgeable IFS practitioner to support you on your journey to Self leadership.

In a world that often prioritises the superficial self, it's essential to remember the importance of the true Self. By turning our focus inward and nurturing our inner essence, we can lead more authentic, fulfilling lives. Embracing the principles of IFS and other self-awareness practices can help us move beyond narcissism and towards a deeper, more meaningful connection with ourselves and others.

Let's make a conscious effort to focus on our true Self, cultivating inner peace and genuine self-worth. After all, the journey inward is where we discover the essence of who we truly are.

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