Narcissism has grown into becoming a commonly thrown across word these days. But what does it mean and who is a narcissist? The word took its origin in Greek mythology where a character named Narcissus fell in love with his own image that he saw reflected in a sea. Thereon, it has come to signify self-love, selfishness, and arrogance. However, narcissism has many shades from an extra healthy ego to a pathological grandiosity.
Who is a Narcissist?
The unhealthy end of the narcissistic spectrum can be characterized by:
- A grandiose sense of self-importance
- Preoccupations with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love
- A belief that he/she is special and unique and only other special or high-status people or associations can understand them
- Requires excessive admiration
- Has a sense of entitlement
- Is interpersonally exploitative
- Lacks empathy
- Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him/her
- Shows arrogant behaviours or attitudes
How to identify a narcissist in your life?
- He/she would be the one basking in the center of attention. Narcissists dominate conversations. They love to talk about themselves and exaggerate their accomplishments. They embellish their stories in order to impress their audience.
- Narcissists offer unsolicited advice all the time. They seize opportunities to demonstrate their superior knowledge.
- He/she can’t wait in line and hates it when someone doesn’t pick up their phone. They believe they deserve special treatment and want their needs to be fulfilled immediately. They live life with a sense of entitlement and expect the world to revolve around them.
- Narcissists have high ambitions. However, instead of working hard to get there, they believe they are destined for greatness. Narcissists believe they are naturally special and deserve only the best. They obsess over status symbols and belittle others who don’t quite fit in.
- These persons are charming till the time you keep the praise and appreciation flowing. But as soon as you criticize them, the relationship is over.
- Narcissists are competitive. They need to win everywhere, be it in a video game, office or a lottery. Turning out superior to everybody else is important to them. Consequently, they can never celebrate anyone’s success because it would mean someone else won this time.
- They are pros at keeping grudges since they take every criticism and disapproval very personally. If you insult them or criticize them, they will never forget it or get over it either. Most likely, they will take revenge either now or in the future.
- They never own up to their faults. Blaming others is a defense mechanism they use almost immediately.
- They lack empathy and take advantage of people by manipulating or bullying them.
What to do when there is a narcissist in your life?
Unfortunately, narcissism cannot be treated with a drug; there is no medication for it. However, being a personality trait or disorder, it can be treated with intensive specialized psychotherapy. But if he/she refuses to believe there is a problem and resists treatment, the most you can do is talk to a therapist about how you can make things work without him/her seeking therapy.
People who have narcissistic traits or personality are difficult to deal with and more so, to stay with. It is imperative that once you realize these symptoms in your loved ones, you sit down with them and show them some of the things that are happening in their lives and the reason behind it. If they acknowledge it, prepare them to see a therapist. If they don’t, you seek a therapist yourself to work out things at your end.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.