A beautiful nine-year-old Calgary girl, Amal Alshteiwi, took her own life on March 6, 2019. Amal arrived in Canada with her family from Syria as refugees nearly three years ago. Information regarding the girl's death was not reported in the news until after mid-April. It is almost impossible to conceive that a young child could feel so hopeless that suicide seemed to be a solution.
What is even more shocking is the fact that this little girl escaped the bombs and bullets in Syria...but she couldn't escape the relentless bullying she was experiencing as she attended school. Amal's mother contacted the school, then made arrangements for her daughter to attend another school. Just four days after that move she took her own life. It seems the bullies told her she would be bullied no matter where she went to school. Amal's father indicated that he didn't believe the taunting was racially motivated since at least one of her tormentors was also Arabic.
She was being taunted because of her looks. The news photos of Amal show a slender girl with long dark hair, beautiful eyes, a lovely smile, and quite perfect features. Sadly, this is often why and how bullies operate. Victims are often attractive and intelligent. Jealousy, a sense of entitlement, and more than a little narcissism may well be factors in those situations.
Psychologists Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell wrote about the role of narcissism in bullying in their book, The Narcissism Epidemic – Living in the Age of Entitlement. They believe the cultural shift to “greater focus on self-admiration,” along with “the self-esteem movement” and less authoritative parenting has resulted in many very self-absorbed young people who lack empathy. A good indication of the increase in narcissism in young people would be the occurrence of self-postings on sites like MySpace...scantily clad with provocative posturing. There may also be postings by young fellows “sharing” intimate photos of his girlfriend. The new normal is quite narcissistic.
Dr.'s Twenge and Campbell believe it is a mistake to blame low self-esteem for the occurrence of school bullies. In fact, school programs to build self-esteem might have unintended consequences. Rather, “Bullies need to learn respect for others. They already have too much respect for themselves.”
The leader of a group of bullies is a great manipulator. Manipulation is one of the talents of the narcissist.
The description of a narcissism is grandiosity, belief that he or she is “special,”has a sense of entitlement, is inter-personally exploitative, lacks empathy, is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her. One might assume that a person with excessively high self-esteem would not be prone to jealousy. That is not the case.
However, we may have noted that some individuals who heap praise on themselves regarding their brilliant minds, their incredible business success, along with their insistence on elaborate hair comb-overs... also tend strike out at anyone who is critical of them or anyone who might be seen as very capable. Years ago this type of behaviour would have been totally out of place within society. Today there seems to be a good portion of the population who accept this as “the new normal.”
The reality is that we must take a good hard look at whether narcissism has infiltrated our way of living. We see adult bullies every day. The nasty boss...ready to put people down, the abusive spouse, or the leader of a country who puts down allies. We need to stand up to those bullies. Even more important...we must quickly and firmly correct the unacceptable behaviour of school bullies. The loss of a beautiful child because of the cruelty of other children is absolutely unacceptable. We are the adults in the room.
Shirley Hallee is a freelance writer living in Amherst. Her column appears weekly.