Shrinking Yourself And Having A Fear Of Being Seen Are Signs Of This Response To Narcissism
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Shrinking Yourself And Having A Fear Of Being Seen Are Signs Of This Response To Narcissism

Decisiveness is arguably a trait of nature vs. nurture. When you’ve been brought up in an environment that penalizes children for taking pride in themselves, it can manifest in your adult life in ways that fly under the radar. You may find yourself avoiding the spotlight, having the fear of being the center of attention, or shrinking yourself to make others feel more comfortable.

If you’ve found yourself adopting an agreeable, self-sacrificing personality, there may be a psychological reason behind it, and it’s called “echoism.”

What Is Echoism?

Echoism refers to a concept in psychology related to the patterns of behavior and traits exhibited by individuals who may be on the opposite end of the spectrum from narcissism. While narcissism is characterized by an excessive focus on oneself and a desire for admiration, echoism is considered the opposite, where individuals tend to be excessively focused on others, often at the expense of their own needs and desires.

The term was introduced by clinical psychologist, Craig Malkin, in his book Rethinking Narcissism and delved into the topic through additional articles for Psychology Today. As the author explains, “Where narcissists are addicted to feeling special, echoists are afraid of it. In the myth of Narcissus, Echo, the nymph who eventually falls madly in love with Narcissus, has been cursed to repeat back the last few words she hears. Like their namesake, echoists definitely struggle to have a voice of their own.”

People who exhibit echoist traits often prioritize the needs and feelings of others over their own to an extreme degree and can struggle with asserting themselves, setting boundaries, and may be overly accommodating to others.

Traits of an Echoist

The fear of coming off as “too needy” or expecting too much are driving forces in an echoist’s life. Echoists may go to great lengths to avoid conflict, even if it means suppressing their opinions. This can result in the individual having low self-esteem and regularly downplaying their own worth since they may not feel deserving of attention or recognition.

According to Healthline, individuals with elevated levels of echoism may:

  • Prioritize meeting the needs of others while neglecting their own
  • Believe conforming to others' desires will secure affection
  • Strive to avoid burdening others
  • Harbor a tendency towards self-blame and engage in regular self-criticism
  • Make minimal demands of others
  • Demonstrate high levels of empathy

How To Heal and Work Through Echoism

Identifying the cause of one’s echoism is an important step to healing the behavior. Experts say that this trait can develop in childhood when dealing with parents who struggle with emotional regulation or pass down their self-effacing values to their children.

In your early years, you may have coped with stress by soothing your parents at the expense of expressing your own needs. The constant focus on meeting others' needs could then leave little room to voice their own desires, leading to a loss of connection with one’s own aspirations.

Fearful that asking for things might upset the parents, young echoists may have found that avoiding burdening their parents was the best course of action, even at their own expense.

Taking the necessary action to heal echoism means developing a more balanced and assertive approach to relationships, where you prioritize your own needs without completely sacrificing your consideration for others. While it may take time to adjust to the change in behavior, there are steps to take in the process:

1. Set Healthy Boundaries

There’s nothing fun about setting boundaries, but they’re necessary to determine what is and is not okay in our relationship. When you set boundaries, we’re nothing just teaching others how to treat us, we’re teaching ourselves what we deserve. Practice saying "no" as a complete sentence and learn to establish and communicate healthy boundaries with those around you.

2. Practice Being Assertive

Take small moments throughout your daily interaction to practice speaking up for yourself and expressing your opinions and needs in an assertive, yet respectful way. Put your communication skills to the test and work to effectively convey your thoughts and feelings with close friends, family, or even co-workers when the situation presents itself.

3. Embody A “Star” Mentality

Going years denying yourself the joy of prioritizing your own needs and desires can take time to correct. Through your process to heal your echoism, remember that you are worthy of being seen and having your needs and desires heard. Gradually expose yourself to positive and affirming attention. When someone pays you compliments, hold it and say thank you without feeling the need to diminish it.

4. Learn To Love What You Like

An aspect of echoism is adopting people-pleasing tendencies, but it’s okay to be disagreed with if your preferences don’t match those around you. Our differences are what makes us who we are, and altering that to appease others only makes us feel smaller in the long run. Take time to identify and pursue your own personal goals, and have fun exploring your own interests and passions.

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Featured image by David-Prado/Getty Images



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