The myth of Narcissus is one of self-inflicted tragedy. The tale of a boy so absorbed in himself that he drowns in a watery reflection. Today we use his namesake to describe the overtly selfish, those who deserve whatever ill fate their flawed character brings them. But here I'd like to present a retelling of Narcissus’s story, turning it from one of caution into one of overcoming.
Let me begin with a question: Who among you is not compelled by their reflection? By this I do not mean an image projected on a mirror or captured in photograph, but rather I speak of the inward reflection; the self-regard that molds and morphs as moments bleed together. Every day we tell ourselves a story about ourselves, one of stepping stones and a brave hero’s trek to his mountain’s peak. The corporate climb, the house on the hill, power, success, status. But has an awareness ever risen within you to question your hero? To ask where they derived their bravery? To wonder why it is this mountain they’ve chosen and not another? Perhaps the hero of your story has much in common with poor Narcissus, and perhaps their bravery and the peak they long for are their illusions; their reflection.
To believe our stories are written only by us is folly, and wears an irony resemblant to Narcissism. Our identity is endlessly influenced by the external; by observations of our parents, by friends, by the social environment we exist in, by groups and ideologies subscribed to. Each externality holds a pen and scribbles lines in our story while we’re looking away. Then the story itself—the reflection (though not an honest reflection)—becomes obsession. It entangles in the very essence of what we believe ourselves to be and corrupts future projections, trapping us in a cage of false self, of Sartre's bad faith. The paradox of identity is that we exist in a permanent state of flux, acknowledged or not. You are never one thing, never a singular story. You are a multitude, an ever-changing anthology. If you believe what I've written to be true then the arising question is how we are to break from these cages? How can we dispel the influence of externalities when they hang about in perpetual ubiquity? How do we become our true selves?
The answer is individuated and only exhumed once our hero has shattered his reflection, a task requiring the coalescence of courage and honest self-analysis. First, he must stare his reflection in the eyes and condemn it for what it is, a ghost. Then he must sift through the essence of his ghost, scrutinizing each grain. This is no easy undertaking, for the ghost will rebel every step of the way, begging and clawing to stay intact. It will attempt to frighten him, to say he is only safe as he is, that change will destroy him. Our hero must summon every fiber of his courage to defeat the ghost, for it knows him well and contains fragments of his soul. He must look deep within himself, to a time he can barely recall, in order to succeed without suppressing those pieces of himself that are true. It is the hardest battle one can fight. But if the hero is victorious his prize is much greater than any mountaintop view. His prize is self-discovery, and overcoming. It is the freedom to construct your world anew with joyous fidelity. When the reflection is conquered you will find, as it was for Narcissus, that a bright flower sprouts from the remains.