Having a good level of self-esteem is vital in today’s world. Knowing who we are, what we are worth and demanding to be treated fairly are ways to rise up to our true potential, engage in satisfying work and enjoy healthy relationships. However, there are people who seem to put themselves above everyone else – they are usually labeled as “narcissists”. While for some learning to believe in themselves might be a life-long challenge, narcissists seem to excel when it comes to self-confidence. The reality is that they are not doing as well as they seem to… Here’s the main characteristics of narcissism and why it can be a huge a burden:
Signs of narcissism
While all of us might have some of these features or act this way occasionally, narcissist systematically tend to:
Show an exaggerated feeling of self-worth – they believe they are better than anyone else and often pass as very arrogant.
Do anything to win, at the expense of others’ feelings, as power is their main drive.
Be competitive rather than cooperative, and find it extremely difficult to deal with rejection, failure and criticism.
Exaggerate their accomplishments and would do anything for extra-points in popularity.
Require constant praise, admiration and compliance from others. If these are not given, they can get aggressive, loud and vengeful.
Blame others for their mistakes – they feel like they are always right and if things go bad it’s never their fault.
Display a sense of entitlement and expect to be treated preferentially.
Lie, bully, threaten, manipulate and will have no problem hurting others in order to get their needs satisfied.
See things in black and white, always judging people and situations based on what they can gain from them.
Lack empathy, kindness and consideration for others – it’s all about them, all the time.
Possible causes for pathological narcissism
There is a difference in symptom intensity between having narcissistic traits and a narcissistic personality disorder. About 6% of the USA suffer with narcissistic personality disorder, more than half of those diagnosed being men. It is difficult to assign a clear cause and most mental health experts argue for a combination of factors that can lead to developing such pathological traits. While there might be a genetical predisposition to develop it, narcissistic personality disorder seems to be often related to style of parenting.
Parents who are too indulgent, allowing their children to act as if they are entitled to everything they want, will raise an adult who will continue such behaviours later in life. It is usually a symptom of the whole family, many times specialists talking about “golden child syndrome”, a child who is seen as perfect, always praised and lavished with compliments for everything.
At the other end of the spectrum and also more often seen, it is the narcissistic personality that developed due to a parenting style that is rather neglectful or authoritarian. Constantly doubted and put down, a child will have to over-compensate in the exterior for the lack of self-belief they host on the inside. They will grow up to be megalomaniac, self-obsessed adults, unable to see themselves without the shiny mask they have had to entertain for so long.
It is worth noting that all narcissists shelter very deep unconscious insecurities and self-doubt that cause them to artificially inflate their egos. No matter how much praise, power and popularity they might get, they will never feel happy with what they have and who they are.
Although contemporary society seems to encourage narcissistic values and generously rewards those narcissists who end up becoming public figures, the effects on them and those around them are far from glamourous.
Narcissists can be very abusive, mischievous, manipulative and able to hurt people, including the ones who love them. Working with them can be difficult if one dares to differ in their opinion or refuses to metaphorically bow their knee in front of the narcissist. They can be very controlling, dominating and can create a lot of pain in the life of those they love. As parents, they can be extremely damaging to their children, often depriving their offspring from the chance to become who they want – their children must fit a role the narcissist decided for them, they must remain a simple extension of their parents, with no will, personality or life of their own. Finally, they will experience various levels of personal unhappiness and discomfort – having to repress any personal doubts and negative thoughts about oneself, while feeding the monster of grandiosity every minute is a very consuming job. By being a narcissist, they miss the chance to experience one of the most beautiful givens of being a human being: authentic relationships.
Unable to see others and themselves the way they are, narcissists are always alone, locked up in their own fantasy – a world where everything is perfectly polished, but ultimately fake.
Talk therapy can help people dealing with narcissistic disorder, as well as their friends and family. Feel free to get in touch if you or someone you know is affected by narcissism disorder and would like to receive confidential support from our experienced psychotherapists.