Talking about yourself: Narcissism or a Need to be "seen"?

For years you can get me to blow a gasket by suggesting that psychology encourages "navel gazing", makes people "inwardly focussed" instead of "outwardly focussed" and nonsense like that.  Granted, balance is needed.  One thing I've realised since entering the helping profession is that some people LOOOOVE talking about themselves and will do so without problem if they here you are a psychologist.  I have plenty of sympathy for doctors because I think the same happens to them at  random social events.
New person I meet for the 1st time: "So, what do you do for a living?"
Unsuspecting me:  "I'm a psychologist".
New person [with interest]:  "Really!  What am I thinking right now? [In joking manner, but with a look that tells you they're not sure it's really a joke]
Moedelose me:   "No, I bunked the mind-reading class, sorry. [trying to smile but looks like pain grimmace]"
New person [relieved but trying to appear unaffected]:  "hehe.  Well, I'm so glad I met you because I wanted to ask you this about my sister/friend/uncle/son's girlfriend/[insert any fictional relation here]...and then they precede to talk about themselves.

I'm getting better and better in dodging the inevitable "I wanted to ask you..." or "I have been wondering..." but sometimes I'm just not vigilant enough and I still get caught!  I really don't mind being pulled into this type of conversation with friends, but with strangers - Come On People! 

This has made me wonder about our need to talk about ourselves.  When I think about it from my compassionate, empathetic side, I recognise that anyone willing to attempt connection with a (hopefully) trustworthy stranger are in need for connection.  For being seen.  Recently a client told me she missed "being seen" as a child in a busy household where people were happy when the children were seen and not heard.  What she meant was that she wanted an adult to come sit with her, make eye contact and being interested in what she did that day, what she experienced, what she was thinking and what she needed to say.  It didn't happen and today it is very hard for her to trust that people really are interested in "her".  I can relate to that.  I think maybe most of us can.  And I think it's those unmet needs that makes strangers attempt connection with the psychologist-me.  We all just want to connect and be "seen".  It's a human need and it's not being narcissistic and selfish if it's done with at least some self-awareness and willingness to reciprocate.  That's what I think anyway. 

I love this little narcissist test.  Check it out and see if your need to connect is a burden to others or is a legitimate need to be a real person. 

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