Understanding Echoism and how it impacts your life

27 June 2024

Have you ever found yourself constantly putting others’ needs before your own? Do you shy away from the spotlight and feel uncomfortable with praise? If so, you might be exhibiting traits of echoism, a personality trait that is the quiet, self-effacing counterpart to narcissism. Let’s explore what echoism is, where it comes from, and how it might be impacting your life.

What is Echoism?

Echoism is characterized by a profound fear of being a burden, an excessive focus on others’ needs, and an aversion to attention. If you often struggle to assert yourself, find it difficult to set boundaries, or feel uncomfortable receiving praise, you might be echoistic. This term was popularized by Dr. Craig Malkin, a clinical psychologist, who described echoism as being the opposite of narcissism.

The Myth of Echo

The origins of echoism are rooted in Greek mythology. Echo was a nymph cursed to only repeat the last words spoken to her. She fell in love with Narcissus, who was so absorbed in his own reflection that he paid no attention to her. This myth highlights the dynamic between these two opposing traits: the self-absorbed narcissist and the self-effacing echoist.

Characteristics of Echoism

Do any of these sound familiar to you?

  1. Fear of Burdening Others: You might constantly worry about imposing on others, often going out of your way to avoid being seen as a burden.
  2. Difficulty with Self-Assertion: Perhaps you find it challenging to voice your own opinions and desires, frequently putting others’ needs ahead of your own.
  3. Aversion to Praise and Attention: Unlike narcissists who crave admiration, you might feel uncomfortable when the spotlight is on you and often downplay your achievements.
  4. Sensitivity to Criticism: You might be highly sensitive to criticism and rejection, internalizing negative feedback and experiencing deep feelings of shame and inadequacy.
  5. Strong Empathy for Others: You likely have a heightened sense of empathy, being attuned to others’ emotions. While this is a strength, it can sometimes come at the expense of your own well-being.

Origins of Echoism

Echoism often develops in childhood, especially if you grew up in an environment where your needs and feelings were consistently overshadowed by those of a narcissistic parent or caregiver. You might have learned to minimize your own needs to avoid conflict or rejection. While this behavior might have protected you as a child, it can become problematic in adulthood.

The Impact of Echoism

Living with echoism can be challenging. You might find yourself in unbalanced relationships where your needs are overlooked. Your reluctance to assert yourself can lead to burnout, resentment, and a diminished sense of self-worth. You are also at risk of being exploited by narcissistic individuals who take advantage of your selflessness.

Overcoming Echoism

Here are some steps you can take to overcome echoism:

  1. Self-Awareness: Start by recognizing your echoistic tendencies. Understanding the root causes of your behavior can help you see how it impacts your life.
  2. Setting Boundaries: Learn to set healthy boundaries. This means asserting your own needs and desires and learning to say “no” without feeling guilty.
  3. Self-Compassion: Practice self-compassion. Acknowledge your own worth, celebrate your achievements, and allow yourself to receive praise and attention.
  4. Therapy: Consider seeking professional therapy. A therapist can provide guidance on developing assertiveness, improving self-esteem, and navigating relationships.
  5. Building Supportive Relationships: Surround yourself with supportive and understanding individuals. Positive relationships can help you feel valued and respected, reinforcing the importance of mutual respect and balance.


Echoism, though less recognized than narcissism, plays a significant role in the dynamics of human relationships. By understanding and addressing your echoistic tendencies, you can foster healthy self-esteem and balanced interactions. Recognize your own worth, assert your needs, and seek support to lead a more fulfilling life.

If you see yourself in these descriptions, know that change is possible. With self-awareness, support, and professional help, you can learn to embrace your own worth and find harmony in your relationships.

If you are looking for a therapist who can support you, I would love to get to know you in a free call and see if we are a fit for each other. Book your 30-minute free consultation below.

Miriam Rachel is a writer out of Toronto Canada who is also a mental health advocate. Due to extreme scapegoating and bullying, she became a pathological people pleaser, also called an echoist.

However, that came to an end when she had no other option than to surrender one of her children with complex special needs to a therapeutic environment in 2017 at the age of 13. She is healing but struggles with depression and C-PTSD.

Listen to her story and share some love with her!

Miriam wrote a book about Echoism that you can buy here

Visit Miriam’s website  Mental Health by Miriam and The Expressive Mom.