Her entire life revolved around eliciting positive attention from others, and she succeededmagnificently -- but always insufficiently. Being praised launched her briefly into manicgiddiness, then dropped her into troughs of depression that made King Lear look like HowdyDoody. You may have some experience with this particular addiction. And your backgroundmay have put you at risk.If your parents linked their acceptance to your achievements, if you were educated in acompetitive system, if you ever participated in sports, theater, a job, motherhood -- in short, if you live in this world -- then you've been set up to get hooked on praise. Now, you may be the unusual individual who's untouched by praise addiction. You may savor compliments without wanting them, enjoy performing well even if no one notices, loveworking whether or not you're succeeding. If so, you have my deepest respect (and you don'treally care).But if you ever walk in Sarah's fashionable, excruciating shoes -- seeking approval obsessively,riding increasingly painful waves of hollow elation and overwhelming despair -- it's time tosober up.Oprah.com: How to find your emotional balance
Appraise the praise: Are you an addict?
Separating malignant narcissistic supply from healthy human interaction is an uncertain business, but if you have the following symptoms, pay attention.
Sign #1: Infinite praise tolerance.
Everyone likes praise, up to a point. "The normal person,"writes Sam Vaknin, PhD, in his book "Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited", "is likely towelcome a moderate amount of attention -- verbal and nonverbal -- in the form of affirmation,approval, or admiration. Too much attention, though, is perceived as onerous and is avoided."I feel this way when kindly strangers introduce me as a public speaker; they cite jobs I held 20years ago, quote complimentary bloggers who've confused me with Martha Stewart, throw outwild ad libs to disguise the fact that no one present has ever heard of me. This evokes in me theweird blend of pleasure, gratitude, and revulsion I'd feel if the emcee publicly fondled my toes.If you feel this way when someone really pours on the praise, you're probably not a true praiseaddict. A worst-case user has absolutely no upper limit on praise tolerance; such a person, asVaknin puts it, "is insatiable.He directs his whole behavior, in fact his life, to obtaining pleasurable tidbits of attention." I'veseen this with many clients like Sarah. They can absorb astonishing amounts of praise,quantities that would make most people deeply suspicious and slightly nauseous.They often have friends who feed them narcissistic supply when they run out; suchrelationships are another symptom of praise addiction.
Sign #2: A flattering sidekick.
Sarah, for example, had a best friend named Mona who, inexchange for reflected glory, continually reminded Sarah of her every conquest, achievement,and victory.