IF YOU IGNORE ME, YOU'LL LIKE ME MORE!
Remember that time in high school or university when you were assigned group members for a specific project and you quickly ‘scoped out the scene’ to determine who would take on what role? Eventually, you delegated the tasks to each individual, but your fear of failure, embarrassment, etc. made you stay up all night and complete everyone’s part: “Don’t worry guys, I’ll just do it; it’s okay”. You’d be damned if anyone messes with your marks, right? On the day of the presentation, your group got the highest mark, but you stood back and accepted very little credit.
I am sure this sounds familiar—perhaps we can even call it a rite of passage in the world of academia. What’s problematic about scenarios like this however, is how quickly we normalize a strong aversion to attention.
Generally speaking, we detest narcissism and frown upon self-praise… and we should! Unfortunately, the extent to which we have demonized those labels has created within us a form of denial of attention or adulation. Clinical Psychologist, Craig Malkin calls this personality trait echoism. Its defining characteristic is a fear of seeming narcissistic in any way. While Malkin cautions us to refrain from prematurely diagnosing ourselves as echoists because of its complexity, I cannot help but to ponder how prima facieechoism has hindered our growth in the spaces we occupy, particularly in the legal sphere.
How many times have you worked really hard on a matter and denied yourself any recognition because you didn’t want to seem too full of yourself? How often have you allowed senior counsel to take full credit for your research and discovery in the interest of being in a better position for a promotion? How have we allowed not feeling special to be the status quo for success? Think about that; the less special you are, the more you qualify as special. Malkin expounds on this paradox stating, “By taking on the role of a low-maintenance [employee], extreme echoists rarely feel special—and they suffer for that, privately becoming anxious or depressed”. What Malkin’s statement reveals is that some form of trade off occurs during the process of echoism. If you commit to your stance on not being treated special, standing out in the workplace, and graciously accepting credit for the things you’ve accomplished, you risk losing a true essence of yourself and ultimately, how is that better for you? How can you value external approval and dispose of your own so recklessly.
The key then, is to find a middle ground wherein you are not “sucking all the air out of the room”, but you are still acknowledging your role in your success and the success of others. According to Malkin, “a dose of self-enhancement or a slightly inflated self-image helps people persist in the face of failure, dream bigger, and maybe even live a little bit longer.” Avoid extremes in every direction. Your happiness is grounded in moderation. So maybe you don’t have to post about every single time you win a case, but a small brag on a major one is totally worth talking about!
Do you think you’re an echoist? Share your thoughts below.
*This post is inspired by “Listening to Echoism” in Psychology Today June 2019, “by Craig Malkin, PH.D.