Random Thoughts

The Narcissism Of “What Would You Like Written On Your Tombstone”

I had a boss once who asked this question at job interviews:

What would you like written on your tombstone?

He liked to ask it, he said, because the answer to that question tells you a lot about people.
“It’s important to want a great legacy”, he opined, so every “good” candidate should want a great legacy, he implied.

Well, he was right.
What people want written on their tombstones does tell you a lot indeed, and it’s a great question to ask people.

However, not in the sense that my former boss believed.

Because, think about it.
If you truly cared about the people reading your tombstone, what would you say to them?

Because there’s a million way to write an epitath that makes someone sounds great.
But there’s only one way to write an epitaph that is good for the reader.

If You Cared About Those Reading Your Epitaph…

… You’d write this:

What the fuck are you doing here, go live and enjoy your life

OK, may be you’d want to avoid swearwords and a bit a bit more tactful.
So you’d say something like:

Thank you for your visit and thoughts, it warms my heart.
Don’t be sorry for me: I had a great time while walking the earth. And that’s the biggest thing you can do for me as well: go on, take care of yourself, and make the most of your time.
Be advised life is short, but if you live it right, it’s enough.
However, it’s all up to you not to waste that time, and make the most out of it.
Starting from… Now :).
Don’t waste too much of your time on me, on celebs, or on people who aren’t giving back to you (and I can’t from here :).
So go live your life, make the most out of it, and I’ll be happy with you 🙂

Of course, that’s not what my boss had in mind.

My boss’ idea of a great tombstone was the narcissist idea of a great tombstone.

So any answer of not really caring about epitaphs, focusing on the present, or of doing one’s best in life and then letting others come up with their own epitaphs -which are actually great and smart answer-, are met with incredulous scorn by the narcissist.

“How can you fail to make your last big impact on others”, they think?

Being high in dark triad, my boss was looking for big claims to occupy everyone’s minds, “impactful words” that make future generations take their hats off, and (made up) virtues that make all those fortunate visitors stand in awe -may be with feelings of inferiority, the true narcissist’s secret dream-.

The Narcissist’s Epititath Goal

Most people miss the narcissism of the epitaph question because it’s covert.

Yes, in a way the deceased narcissist is caring about you, and about having a positive legacy.
But he only cares about you and what you think in relation to him.

In brief, the narcissist is only concerned about the reader being concerned about him.

As a matter of fact, there’s only one goal for the narcissist’s epitaph:

To occupy your thoughts with the images of his grandeur, genius, and… Bigger than life existence.

That “bigger than life is crucial” because the epitaph is exactly that for the narcissist: the epitath is an instrument to defy death and live forever.
To keep on living and populating people’s minds and lives with the images of his genius.
God forbid one were to focus on himself, and forget about him -the true narcissist’s nightmare-.

“To be remembered” is the narcissist’s goal.
For many narcissists, that’s even more important then being remembered positively.
Being remember for their mischief is even better than being forgotten.
And being remembered for invading nations and slaying millions is a testament to his power.

In either case, as long as it’s big, positive or negative, his reputation still serves the narcissist’s same goal: to keep breaking your balls about how great he was (sure 🙂 ) and live vicariously through you.

All A Vain Attempt, Anyway

A vain attempt, anyway.

I won’t dwell on how useless that goal is.
But one reason suffice:

On a long enough timeline, all “remembers” disappear.

In front of of the eternity of time, or even simply by enlarging our views into the billions of years, even the narcissist’s biggest success, realistically that of “being remembered for millennia” is exactly the same as never being noticed.

That’s only painful to those who tie their happiness, self-esteem, and ego to being important and remembered.

But if you can let go of that need, it’s so empowering.

So chill out, and don’t stress too much about “legacy”.
In front of eternity, you’re exactly the same as the biggest of the biggest figures your read in your history books.

Now go on, and keep on living your life.

And stop reading this blog, too.
Posts are exactly like tombstones: the writer’s way to make you think of them 🙂

By Lucio Buffalmano

Lucio Buffalmano is a social scientist, learner, and free spirit of many disparate interests.
While on The Power Moves Lucio follows its mission and focuses on practical issues and individual self-development, he uses this space for unbound, free mental roaming.

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