The Ninth Letter Syndrome : Shades of Narcissism

The Ninth Letter Syndrome : Shades of Narcissism

The Ninth Letter Syndrome: Shades of Narcissism has been edited by Abha Mehra.


Ever heard or said the following?

“Hey, did you check out my new hairdo?”

“Do you know about my pay package?”

“Did you hear how I completely broke all the rules because they are meant for that?”

“Hey, it was because of me, that our team won!”

“Look at how pathetic she is, I would have done much better on that test.”

“I am not being argumentative, I am being logical, why don’t you understand?”

Above are a few expressions that you might have come across at some time or another, from some person or another. These people—not quite so—fondly known as narcissists, are the ones who love talking about themselves. Well, if you did not already know, they think everything is about them. Being cynosure is a must, it is their birthright. The ninth letter of the English alphabet, the letter “I” is their favourite. “I” am the one.

Narcissism is classified as an actual mental disorder, and people do get therapy for it. It’s a socially accepted and believed doctrine that anyone who likes to talk about themselves is a bad person. The moment you mention a narcissistic person, people start turning their heads. People start labelling them as attention seekers, or like whores in social media lingo.

It does seem ironic, then, that anyone carrying the label of “narcissist” in day-to-day life elicits a curiously different reaction than in fiction. Steve Stifler (American Pie), Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother), Tony Stark, and even Sherlock Holmes (from the BBC series) are some of the greatest narcissists on screen. For them, everything is always about them. And we tend to love them, don’t we? Maybe because they represent something that we want to be from within. They are what we imagine we would be like in a perfect world. They are what we imagine we would be happy as.

This is where some may ask about what stops a person from being so. There is no one answer to that. Sometimes, one aspires too high. Sometimes, one does not even try to work for it. But quite often it happens to be that a person aspires to be exactly the opposite of what they are. And the shy and introverted are the most affected here, having played a silent spectator with no opinions for much of their social life. They end up bound to the image they ended up with.

And if they choose to break out, to talk and do so about themselves, they are judged the quickest and harshest, by the society that played no small role in casting them shy in the first place. Because society has put them in these shackles, they refrain from being that. Perhaps because they fear being judged, or maybe just out of fear in general.

My question is, who draws that line? Who decides when one becomes a patient of, well, the ninth letter syndrome? Let’s face it, everyone loves attention coming their way. Who decided the line between attention seeker and not an attention seeker? Where is the point where one is not looking for appreciation, but sycophancy? Do you not know?

When a person receives a compliment, their first response is usually not a ‘thank you’. It tends to be a seemingly questioning “oh, really?”. It usually is because one wishes to hear more, an elaborate answer. The human tendency to ask for a hand when you get a finger prevails here. And honestly, the human in question is not to blame. Even the most introverted of people do have a need to be acknowledged, to be seen, and to be appreciated. On what basis, on what authority must one judge where this need ends? How do you decide if a person is narcissistic or otherwise? Who has the authority to make that call? Is there an absolute standard? Would that not reduce us down to some sort of machine?

There is really no single answer to that, and the usual answers are quite arguable. The point I am trying to make is, it is okay to love a little attention. I am not here to justify egotism or being a narcissist. I am only saying that it is okay to wish to be liked, to want a little “I” moment or two.

It really is quite easy to mistake narcissism with careless selfishness, and those two with justified self-indulgence. Who are you to judge when you do not know where the lines between are drawn? And even when you know the lines, you might make a mistake. So, why bother to judge?

Ending on a perhaps simple metaphor:

The appeal of narcissism is simple. You go to a restaurant, order a pizza. You love your pizza, and you think it is the best on the menu. Everything else on the menu might as well be crap. You are extremely content with your one and you do not give a flying firetruck about which pizzas other people love. Everyone else probably thinks you’re obsessed with yours. But you do not give a damn. Unlimited self-satisfaction.


To read more by the author of The Ninth Letter Syndrome: Shades of Narcissism, click here.

Rushi Joshi

I judge people based on what their favourite movie is.