Self-acceptance and the Legend of Narcissus

January 14, 2022

Susan Turi (she/her/hers), Low Entropy Volunteer Writer


O’ glass-eyed pond off the wild beaten track, 

from where clouds abscond on days overcast 

along furrowed path, carved stone-cold black 

wherein hoof and foot print in iron cast- 

like a coin you lie forgotten yet bright 

dropped by a God out his pocket of tweed, 

smothered by heather and rimm’d in twilight 

stumbling upon you in moments of need. 

Tho’ rains have stayed and left like a rude guest 

gouging deeper your fossil-d peat-grave, 

mud-eyed, and still’d in cosmic reflect, 

I kneel at the orbits of heaven’s gaze; 

for even in doubt and lost opportunes 

the glass-eyed pond shall reveal my fortunes. 




The legend of Narcissus is a well-known Greek myth that many are familiar with. Narcissus, the handsome son of a river god and a nymph, allegedly spurned the advances of the goddess Echo, and came across a lake or a pond while out hunting. Upon catching his own reflection in it, he falls in love with himself. Doomed until death to never love anyone but himself, a daffodil blooming on the edges of the pond where he once stood is a reminder of this curse.


But wait a minute. Why a beautiful daffodil — a joyful reminder of summer on its way — and not a weed? And how did Narcissus come across this pond in his wanderings? Gazing into the mirrored pond, did he not also admire the vast sky filled with swallows reflected behind his silhouetted form, or the bulrushes shivering at the pond’s edge? This is one of the reasons I find this legend fascinating, as there are so many questions about how and why Narcissus came to this pond and what happened after he stared at his own reflection. One thing is certain though, the legend of Narcissus is a lesson about the relationship, or lack thereof, with one’s inner self, and accepting who one really is. By falling in love with his reflected image, Narcissus was doomed to negate the unique myriad textures and hues within himself, which exist at the core of everyone and are explored and tested through our interpersonal relationships. 


It’s true that we all have our narcissistic tendencies, to varying degrees. This was encouraged, as it is today, in ancient Greece, with pressure to conform to stereotypical standards of status and beauty. Yet believing that who we see reflected back at us via a mirror — or society — is all that we are is what the legend of Narcissus warns us about. Focusing on cultivating a facade acceptable to society in denial of one’s own unique qualities can only lead to long-term disillusionment, as one’s facade also encompasses popular tastes in fashion, career choices and goals, and one’s own ambition and extroversion.


Knowing who you are as a person is integral to your mental health and self-acceptance. One’s first steps towards self-knowledge is universal — seeing ourselves reflected in our mother’s eyes. We feel acknowledged and realise our importance. She is the pond to our Narcissus. But as we mature, we develop awareness of others beyond our reflection. We understand that the pond has not been created in the forest for us, but for the deer to drink from, for the fish and frogs to make their home therein. We learn that during dry spells the pond may recede, and that during wet weather it may breach its rim and flood the surrounding meadow. Once we have realized that we have no control over nature’s instincts to evolve, we realize that change happens to us, whether we want it or not. To remain in this limbo state, in the first stage of development — like Narcissus did — to fall in love with one’s own reflection, is a refusal of a natural tendency to grow into ourselves and discover our complexities. A question we may ask of ourselves in difficult moments, when driven by negative emotions, is whether it is okay to stay who we are, with our self-perceived contradictions and weaknesses. But this question is dependent on whether who you are as a person — your persona — serves your inner self and is not a manufactured facade to satisfy external expectations. Which brings me back to the legend of Narcissus. 


A particular variation on the legend that I like is that Narcissus was led to the pond by Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, who wanted to punish him for rejecting Echo by bewitching him into falling in love with himself. I like this version, as it suggests that Narcissus was duped into being fatally attracted to himself. After a day of hunting, after all, it would have been more likely that Narcissus would have been tired, with little energy for admiring his own reflection. He may have examined his gaunt reflection in the quietude of the pond and its surroundings, and pondered upon his furrowed brow and lined face, and instead of falling in love with a shallow, idealized self, he may have contemplated the reflected cosmos and then asked of himself, “Who am I, really?” Perhaps the daffodil that grows on the banks of rivers and lakes, or at the sides of ponds, is an optimistic reminder to get to know and accept one’s true self — including one’s darker self — to be one’s own compass, resisting the urge to believe in a superficial facade, and to embrace the unique person that blooms inside every one of us. 





I am a writer, illustrator and painter living in Montreal, Canada with a degree in fine arts. I began my career as a production artist for design studios and ad agencies, before deciding to devote myself  purely to self-expression through writing and painting. I am currently at Concordia University majoring in creative writing and English literature.

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