To identify the difference between egocentric, egotistical, and narcissistic, we asked experts to differentiate the three.
Here are their insights:
Clinical Psychologist | Professor of Psychology | Author, “Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Narcissistic Relationship“
Egocentric implies selfish
Egocentric people are focused on their needs above all others and everyone else’s. And they can’t be bothered with other people’s problems.
An egocentric person would choose a restaurant they like even though it isn’t good for the friends who are bringing kids. An egocentric person would keep you on the phone or texting for hours about their own problems but is nowhere to be found when you are going through something difficult.
Egotistical implies grandiose and arrogant
Egotistical people think they are all that. They may brag about accomplishments and possessions. They may also show off their lives on social media, and they monopolize conversations.
An egotistical person would hold court at a party talking about his new Tesla. An egotistical person would yammer on and on about his promotion and how much money he is going to make. An egotistical person would drone on about how difficult it is to get a dock for his beach house, which is the most expensive in the area.
An egotistical person would talk and talk about being an expert on wine or on medicine or on whatever and be very imperious about it.
Narcissistic people are both egocentric and egotistical
Narcissistic means a person who has limited to no empathy, is entitled, grandiose, arrogant, superficial, validation seeking, hypersensitive to criticism, prone to rage when they don’t get their way, manipulative and insecure. Narcissistic people are both egocentric and egotistical.
Related: How to Shutdown a Narcissist
You may meet people who are egocentric or egotistical who are NOT narcissistic but not the other way around.
Douglas D. Moll, PsyD
Licensed Psychologist | Medical Advisor, eMediHealth
These and similar terms often get confused and can be somewhat overlapping, and there are differences in how mental health professionals may use and understand them compared to the general public.
In psychology, egocentrism refers to a sort of cognitive bias usually seen in young children in which one lacks the ability to see the world through another person’s perspective.
So, someone who is egocentric may genuinely lack the capability to understand how others feel and may think everyone sees things the same way they do.
Egocentrism usually diminishes as one moves through development stages, but aspects of it can persist in certain areas. These could be considered potential areas of growth as we strive to develop greater empathy and understanding in our lives.
“Egotistical” is more of a popular term than a psychological one. When someone describes a person as being egotistical, they typically view them as being arrogant, self-centered, or “stuck-up,” thinking they are “special” and more important as compared to others, and thinking their opinions and views are right and others’ are wrong.
Many people could probably be described as being “egotistical” but this is usually something that doesn’t reach a level of clinical significance.
Narcissism takes things to a different level, and when psychologists speak of narcissism, we often are referring to the clinical condition known as narcissistic personality disorder, which the DSM-5 describes as “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy.”
People with this diagnosis typically see themselves as special and as having exceptional qualities and believe they are deserving of much praise and attention because of this.
However, they often are dismissive of other people’s feelings and accomplishments and are sometimes seen as exploitative to get their needs met.
Although these individuals may appear arrogant and self-important, they often suffer from feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth. Thus, they are constantly looking externally for validation, and when they don’t receive it, they may experience intense anger or feelings of depression.
A hallmark of personality disorders is that the person afflicted usually doesn’t have much insight into the nature of their problems and may not believe they need to change anything. This obviously can create many problems with relationships and day-to-day functioning in the workplace and other areas.
Kasia Ciszewski, M.Ed, LPCA
Licensed Professional Counselor Associate and Brainspotting Practitioner, MyCharlestonTherapist
Egocentric is best explained as someone who is self-centered and focused on satisfying their own needs- to the point that it seems a bit obsessive.
The world revolves around them. Yes, everyone engages in this kind of behavior at times, especially as an adolescent. Still, there are some who just lack the ability to see anybody else’s perspective, leaving extraordinarily little room for empathy.
Though egocentric people tend to only think about their own needs and actions, unlike egotistical and narcissistic people, they tend not to have big egos. They do not resort to the manipulation of others to fulfill their needs.
Egotistical refers to someone who enjoys talking about themselves most of the time.
Also, someone who believes they are superior to everyone else and do not receive criticism very well. They lack the ability to admit to mistakes and will need to always win a debate.
Egotistical people only care about other’s feelings and opinions when it affects the egotist’s reputation. Though egotists love to relive and share past achievements to maintain this superior state of mind, they usually will not relay on manipulation and boast their ego, such as narcissists.
Narcissistic behaviors tend to go a step further than egotistical and egocentric.
In most cases, psychological tactics are used to obtain their needs. Unlike egocentrics, who cannot see other people’s points of view, narcissists choose not to and get annoyed when others do not see their point of view.
Narcissists fantasize and obsess over their power and splendor. They think they are brilliant, clever, wise, and inspirational. This leads to feelings of entitlement. Narcissists love to show off because they are desperate for others to praise them.
Egotists want others to admire them while narcissists expect to be showered with affection and will use people to attain this kind of attention. They will manipulate to bring their fantasies into manifestation without any shame.
Alex Dimitriu, MD
Board-certified in Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine | Founder, Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine
Looking at this more fundamentally, I think it boils down to ego.
In my professional work, we have come up with a balance between “Darwin and Buddha.” This is essentially a scale or spectrum of ego – from ego centrism to ego dissolution. No ego vs. too much ego. Whatever the label, some people have too much ego, beyond one standard deviation of the norm.
When people are locked into “ego castles,” they see everyone as a competitor, and their resources limited and needing to be preserved (no farming in the castle). Manifestations of this are seeing all interactions as transactional.
“What would he do for me in exchange?” Or “I always call first.”
Competition arises, along with jealousy and feelings of inferiority – despite an outward (false) facade of impermeable strength and self-righteousness. The reality is it’s lonely in “ego castles.”
Like an ageless vampire, these people eventually lose friends, relationships, career opportunities, as they hide behind their own high walls.