I was what is known as a "White Knight Narcissist." A phrase coined by , Psychologist.The definition of Narcissism according to The American Heritage Medical Dictionary is a personality disorder characterized by an exaggerated sense of self-importance, need for admiration, and lack of empathy.
Those definitions fit the old me perfectly. I cared only about the potential positive result to me for being kind. I wanted others to think of me as “a good person.”
Baking For All The Wrong Reasons
When my child needed a treat for teacher appreciation week, instead of buying brownies from the grocery store, I sent in two homemade lemon meringue pies. I couldn't let my contribution get lost among all the other desserts. It was all about the applause for me and the recognition that I was a wonderful human being. I would count the compliments as they poured in.
Labeling Myself As A Good Person
My addiction to doing good deeds came to an end when I heard an Al-Anon conference speaker say, “You tell yourself that you are a nice person. That is just a story you tell yourself.” That simple sentence made me think. If my being a nice person was only a story I told myself and not a label I was awarded by others, what was my motive?
What About Me?
If I was being truthful, my good deeds were all about what I was getting out of it. I had a case of the “What about me’s?” Everything in my world was focused on me being congratulated for being such a nice person. I wanted to be “the white knight.” The Al-Anon conference speaker's words challenged me. I had to look at the idea that maybe I wasn’t so fabulous. Maybe my motives were purely self-centered. That hurt my ego. I wasn’t happy about losing my white knight status and "nice person" label that I had worked years to earn. My true motive was simply to make me look like the hero in every story. I didn’t do anything without others knowing. I had done nothing selfless to benefit my fellowman.
Being Anonymous Was Important
Al-Anon's “Just for Today” bookmark states:
"Just for today I will exercise my soul in three ways: I will do somebody a good turn, and not get found out; if anybody knows of it, it will not count. I will do at least two things I don’t want to do—just for exercise, I will not show anyone that my feelings are hurt; they may be hurt, but today I will not show it.”
I wanted to challenge myself to do something for someone else without any reward for myself. At first I didn’t have any motivation to do it. I met with my sponsor, I was honest with her. “No one is going to do anything good for anyone else when they don't any credit for it.” She laughed and said if I was willing to try it I would soon find a far greater reward than another person's approval. She encouraged me to give it a try for two weeks and see what happened.
What I found was amazing. Maybe not on the first or the second time of being anonymous when helping, but by the third time I started to feel something deep and sacred. I had a friend going through a tough financial time after she lost her job due to health issues. In the past I would have arrived waving an envelope with my cash donation around for the family to see. This time I tried something new; I slipped my donation into a collection plate being passed around for her. No one knew how much or even if I was helping this friend at all. That is when the miracle happened. I was no longer the first person I thought of. I thought of her and how tough it must be to lose a job with a family to support. I felt content knowing she was getting help whether anyone knew I had contributed or not. I didn't think about my self once. This was a whole new way of giving. It was as though my Higher Power was pouring light into my soul as I gave to others. I was getting fueled by something far better than other’s approval or compliments. I felt amazing and happy.
While I am still in recovery from wanting other's approval, I am better at meeting others' needs silently. The reward is so much better when my Higher Power gives me a pat on the back.
A Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By: Madeline Schloop