Simply put, it’s the tendency to think very highly of yourself and to have little or no regard for others. A narcissist is selfish, vain, and a glutton for attention. But there’s a range. Just because you have some of the traits doesn’t mean you’re mentally unhealthy.
When Is Narcissism a Problem?
Experts might say it’s when those traits start to hurt your relationships and distort your sense of self. Extreme narcissism can cross over to a mental illness called narcissistic personality disorder. Your life revolves around your need for approval. You don’t understand or care about others’ feelings. You’re convinced you’re special, and you need others to acknowledge it.
The word narcissism comes from a mythical Greek youth who couldn’t pull himself away from his own reflection. Narcissus was beautiful. Narcissists, on the other hand, don’t have to be beautiful to believe they are. They’re convinced that they’re superior, even when it’s not the reality.
Praise. That’s what a narcissist wants from you. All the time. Their appetite for it is unlimited. And it goes in only one direction, so don’t expect any in return. And if that constant stream of flattery and admiration stops even for a second, they can turn hostile or aggressive very quickly.
They Don’t Care
Really, they don’t. Other people’s feelings aren’t on a narcissist’s radar. They usually never grow any empathy. They see you as a tool to get what they want, or an obstacle in their way. Sometimes, they don’t mean to be jerks. They’re simply blind to how they affect you.
A narcissist’s puffed-up self-image often masks a fear that they don’t measure up. When someone punctures their ego or insults them, narcissists can lash out. They demean, belittle, and intimidate. Many studies have linked narcissism with higher levels of aggression and violence.
Romance With a Narcissist
You might not see the red flags at first. Narcissists are often charming and popular. But over time, they may become cold, manipulative, and cruel. And they are often unfaithful, always on the lookout for a more impressive or better-looking partner.
Like Attracts Like?
You’d think narcissists would favor partners who feed their egos or who put up with their insensitivity. But that’s usually not the case. Narcissists hook up with all personality types. Still, they’re a bit more likely to end up in a relationship with another narcissist.
Narcissists as Co-Workers
They make good first impressions and excel in job interviews. But they can be lousy hires. Narcissists overestimate their own skills and put yours down. They’ll do whatever it takes to impress. They’ll barge into private conversations, give unwanted advice, and shamelessly steal ideas. They’re also rated worse by the employees they manage, except by those who are narcissists themselves.
It’s Not All Bad
A dose of narcissism can be a good thing. It can build your self-esteem and give you joy. You’re less likely to be depressed, lonely, or discouraged. ”Normal narcissists” often are excellent speakers and visionaries. That may be why they also tend to earn bigger salaries in the corporate world.
Think Someone’s a Narcissist?
Just ask them! They are surprisingly willing to tell you exactly who they are. Not that they think there’s anything wrong with them. They might even say you’re a sucker for not being a narcissist yourself. They for sure won’t apologize for their behavior or how they live their life.
If Your Partner Is a Narcissist
They may lull you with grand dreams when life is good. But when the fantasy pops, you may become the root of all their problems. Don’t buy into either distorted picture. It helps if you:
Don’t make excuses for them when they lie or hurt others.
Realize they will do the same to you.
Focus on your own dreams and goals.
How to Handle a Narcissist
Set boundaries. Decide where your limit is. Stick to it even as they try to punish, charm, or bully you.
Criticize gently. They may get angry if you threaten their self-image. Focus on how their behavior makes you feel rather than on their intentions.
Walk away if they become angry. Try again when they’re calm.
Don’t argue. They probably won’t hear you and may attack your motives.