What is a Narcissist?
The term ‘narcissist’ came from the tale of Narcissus, an ancient Greek, who became obsessed with his image. He considered himself to be the most beautiful and perfect creature that ever lived. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) describes narcissism as a personality disorder identified by individual traits.
It’s fair to say that most people display a few signs of narcissism. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. However, a true narcissist has more of these traits and often takes them to extremes.
How Does a Person Become a Narcissist?
There’s no definitive answer to this question. Some psychologists think it is a combination of genetic temperament and upbringing. A child born with narcissistic tendencies who is treated as if they are the center of the universe, given everything and always praised to the heavens by their parents are likely to grow into fully fledged narcissists. Another child, born with similar narcissistic tendencies but who has a normal upbringing with siblings and parents with realistic expectations and a healthy approach to developing their child’s self-esteem is less likely to become narcissistic.
On the other hand, other psychologists and psychoanalysts think that lack of parental love and attention causes some kids to over-compensate by ‘bigging’ themselves up to feel more important in front of their peers.
Most children who display narcissistic tendencies will grow up to be well-rounded adults. They are usually at their worst in their teens, and then gradually begin to understand that such behavior will gain neither favor or friend, so adjust their attitude and outlook.
Am I a Narcissist? Character Traits of a Narcissist
1. They are obsessive about their appearance.
2. They think they are right more often than they are wrong.
3. They have a right to be late.
4. They take more selfies than any other kind of photo.
5. They think they are always entitled to special treatment.
6. Validation by social media is very high on their list of priorities.
7. They are very competitive.
8. They can’t take criticism. The automatic response is to be defensive.
9. Unless people are talking about them, what others have to say is usually boring.
10. They give money to good causes… and then tell everyone how generous they are.
11. Rules don’t apply to them.
12. Other people make them angry.
13. They interrupt people because what they have to say is more important.
14. They are attentive to people when they first meet to ascertain whether they are of use.
15. They have no real, close friends.
16. They believe the world owes them a living.
17. Compassion and empathy are just words; the narcissist doesn’t recognize them as feelings.
18. They need to be admired as much as they need oxygen to breathe.
19. They are jealous of other people’s success, popularity, and possessions.
20. They constantly fantasize about their glorious future.
You are not a Narcissist if…
1. You occasionally feel remorse, guilt or shame.
2. You care how other people feel.
3. You understand why and how a person feels the way they do.
4. You can listen and act on constructive criticism.
5. You can set healthy boundaries.
6. You have stable and loving relationships.
7. You aren’t too bothered if caught wearing your jammies.
I Think My Partner or Parent is a Narcissist
It is far more common now for people to recognize that their partner or parent is a narcissist. There are so many resources online that enable them to make the connection. Thus, it is also more widespread for narcissists to find themselves dumped or divorced. Similarly, adult children of narcissists can emotionally and physically distance themselves from a damaging relationship and hopefully regain their self-esteem.
One thing you need to know is that while a narcissist displays the most unpleasant of characteristics, they are usually hiding a fragile inner-self. The outer narcissism is a protective shell. Unfortunately, the shell often becomes the dominant personality. If that can be gently eased away, then there’s hope for improvement.
Narcissists are experts at emotional manipulation and will use all the tools in their armory to keep their partners and/or children tied to them. If you think you are caught up in a relationship with a narcissist, find a counselor or therapist who can guide you and help you to decide if the relationship can be saved or whether you should make the break for your well-being.
Can a Narcissist Change?
Most full-blown narcissists never realize that they are narcissists in the first place. Even when told to their face. They prefer to believe that there is something wrong with you because, after all, they are always right. However, some do have redeeming features and upon realizing that, to maintain healthy relationships with family and partners, they have to make some fundamental changes to their overriding ego perspective.
It’s difficult for narcissists to change their personality, but easier if it is explained to them as behavior issues. If they can recognize the signs that they are headed down their favorite narcissistic path, then they can choose to adjust the direction toward more appropriate behavior.
The narcissist must be willing to change their attitude and perspective. They have to accept that it takes lots of courage, hard work and an actual processing of feelings to throw off the chains of narcissism and learn to relate to other people on an equal basis. They will need help with making these changes from an experienced professional as well as from their partners and closest allies. They must also understand that they have to do the work from the inside out. Changes on the outside can only take place from making the radical change on the inside.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder Resources