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Mental Health, Pole and Narcissism


Our current culture tosses around the term narcissist flippantly, pointing out self-absorbed or selfish behaviors and then quickly labeling them as narcissistic. With the rise of social media we are frequently barraged by a deplorable amount of Instagram selfies, Facebook statuses and pole videos. There needs to be further exploration into what is healthy behavior on social media and what is not. This is particularly important for pole, which has both grown and thrived as a community in part thanks to social media.


Woman taking selfie while boyfriend is kissing her.

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Narcissistic personality disorder(NPD) is a real diagnosis used by mental health clinicians, it’s officially in the gold standard of psychiatric medicine the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) now in its fifth edition. NPD involves a person who has these difficulties: a grandiose sense of self-importance, preoccupation with fantasies of wealth, success, beauty and/or fame, belief that they are “special” and should associate with high-status people, a demand for excessive attention, a sense of entitlement, a willingness to exploit other people, a lack empathy toward others, easy jealous or envy of others and often accompanied with haughty or arrogant attitudes. There are many qualifying factors and several different personality types that immerge from this disorder. Obviously, a qualified clinician has to diagnosis this in a person. However, like other personality disorders treatment is difficult because most people with this disorder are unaware that they have it.


The issue with people who suffer from NPD is that they will often mercilessly use and abuse other people with absolutely no care of the costs as long as they get what they want. The abuse survivors are generally left devastated and destroyed, this is a very destructive disorder.


Social media allows for a bit of narcissism in all of us, we post photos and videos of ourselves – which is self-promotion. We video a move we finally got, cool choreo we learned and for most polers this is pole life and culture. This doesn’t mean that because you post videos from your pole class that you have NPD.



What Does NPD look like?

Social media offers people with NPD the opportunity to engage in attention-seeking, self-endorsing and exhibitionistic behavior. Several studies have concluded that NPD social users have a few things in common. Often they have more followers then average, the average being around 300 and they post more frequently. The posts are frequently selfies, or photos and videos that show the NPD user alone more than in photos with people. The meta-analysis of 57 studies on narcissism and social media concluded that the NPD user spends more time on social media then the average person and there is a specific set of behaviors that they exhibit. Their posts are often exhibitionistic and frequently in revealing clothing.


Yes, that definition pretty much summed up every pole video ever. In pole, most posts are of a poler alone practicing a move, she is also in revealing shorts and sports bras, and the average poler spends a lot of time on social media watching pole videos. Before finding this alarming, there is a difference between NPD, but those three things can make it easy for someone with NPD to hide amongst the tribe. Studies have proven that most of us already know on a gut level who has NPD on social media. What this all comes down to is healthy posting versus unhealthy posting.




Pay Attention to Behaviors

With my encounters as a clinician and poler on social media with NPD users I can sense desperation in the videos. Desperation for admiration and likes, and don’t get me wrong, social media is designed to activate the pleasure centers of the brain ( it’s called “brain hacking”,it’s why you can’t stop checking your phone) and create a desire for more likes and interactions, but NPD on social is beyond that. NPD users are seeking approval and willing to get it in unhealthy displays of behavior. The behavior is an attempt to show off talent (often stolen talent from someone else), success, ideal love or fame and to elicit likes and admiration.

Another standard is that NPD users frequently engage with strangers and seek out shallow connections but with lots of people. They will actually obsessively cultivate their online image usually demonstrating success or the charade of talent, and they are constantly seeking more followers. This is not the same as a poler promoting a business and trying to build a large fan base for business purposes, however running a business is a great excuse for a narcissist to hide behind.