The term “narcissist” has become popular in our culture and is often over-utilized to describe people we simply don’t like. But someone who is overly confident or even selfish is not necessarily a narcissist, even if they may be unpopular. In its truest form, narcissism is a personality disorder marked by evident characteristics.
According to experts, the following nine traits are used to define a narcissist – and at least five must be present for the disorder to be diagnosed.
- Grandiose self-importance: Narcissists often believe that their presence is essential for the happiness of the people in their life or the success of a business project. Characteristic statement: “They would be nothing without me.”
- Preoccupation with thoughts of unlimited success, power, intelligence, or beauty: A narcissist may believe that they can achieve extraordinary things even when there is no accurate indication that these things are possible. Characteristic statement: “Even though I’m entry-level now, I should be in management within six months – I already know more than my boss!”
- Belief that they are unique and better than others: Narcissists believe that they should be able to talk with a top-level person in any situation and often namedrop to make themselves seem more influential than they really are. Characteristic statement: “I don’t deal with anyone but the company owner – they know me by name.”
- Need for excessive admiration: The narcissist isn’t looking for acknowledgment or a pat on the back; they seek esteem and honor over and above normal levels. They may “fish for compliments” until others comment on and admire their looks, clothes, or accomplishments. Bragging is natural for narcissists as well. Characteristic statement: “Don’t you love how I look in this outfit?”
- Sense of entitlement: Narcissists believe they deserve the best jobs, the nicest car, or the best seat at the ballgame – and their actions and achievements are often out of line with their sense of entitlement. Characteristic statement: “That promotion belonged to me! I deserved it more than he did.”
- Behavior that exploits relationships: Narcissists see other people as a means to an end, exhibiting a lack of awareness that other individuals have desires, emotions, and goals of their own. Whatever they pursue is to further their own interest – and they expect others to move out of the way for them. If others suffer or lose out, it does not bother them. Characteristic statement: “Get out of my way! I’m in a hurry!”
- Lack of empathy: Narcissists lack the emotional awareness to appropriately recognize how other people feel. Contrary to popular belief, it is not that narcissists don’t “care” about someone’s feelings; it is more that they are completely unaware that other people even have those feelings at all. Characteristic statement: “They don’t mind that I took their place; they know I deserve it.”
- Belief that others are envious of them: Narcissists constantly compare themselves to others and believe that everyone around them is jealous of their stature. Being considered “ordinary” or “typical” would be a massive blow to their ego – one they could not accept. Characteristic statement: ”Everyone looks to me for advice and guidance.”
- Demonstration of arrogant attitudes: Conceit and arrogance are often the first things you notice about a narcissist. They will expect – or even demand – that others act as they want them to. While this is often evidenced in condescending statements, the behavior may also manifest in confident or rude actions, such as placing themselves at the front of a line.
While these behaviors are characteristic of a narcissist, not every confident or ambitious person is necessarily suffering from the disorder. This is a condition most successfully diagnosed by a mental health professional.
If you live with a true narcissist, the relationship may have caused profound emotional harm. While it is rare for narcissists to seek help, those in a relationship with them often do. If you would like to learn more about healing from this and other types of abusive relationships, call Denise Schonwald for a consultation.