What is a narcissist? Are you concerned or consciously aware that you may be a narcissist? What are the signs that you should look out for?
According to experts, there are some signs that might suggest you’re a narcissist.
Here are their insights:
David Hawkins, MBA, MSW, MA, PhD
Narcissism Expert | Clinical Psychologist, Marriage Recovery Center
Everything revolves around what you think, feel, and want
“You’re so narcissistic,” one woman said to her husband recently. “It all has to be about you.” Her husband shrugged his shoulders and rolled his eyes, obviously feeling put out by his wife’s words.
Was she right? Was he a narcissist? Maybe yes and maybe no. The word ‘narcissist’ is thrown about rather cavalierly lately. Many believe they are married to a narcissistic man, and in many cases, they are right.
How can you know if you are married to a narcissist or if you are a narcissist yourself? There are ways to answer this question, though it may not be as easy as you think.
How to tell if you’re a narcissist
The answer to these six questions will help answer the question regarding whether you are a narcissist.
How self-centered are you?
Narcissists are rigidly self-centered. Everything revolves around what they think, feel, and want. There are no room for others’ opinions, ideas, feelings, or concerns.
Additionally, they feel entitled to have the focus on them.
How open to others’ feelings and thoughts are you?
When faced with any opposing or challenging thoughts, the narcissist will defend their position, subtly or overtly attacking anyone who challenges them. They have a great need to be correct and sabotage any connection to be correct.
How equal are your relationships?
Do others in your world feel valued, cared about, and even cherished? Remember that those in the world of narcissists feel small and insignificant. The narcissist’s actions, of course, create an imbalance in relationships.
There is no us but rather a big me and small you. When played out repeatedly, this dynamic destroys any relationship and stops the bully/narcissist from growing.
How open are you to constructive criticism?
The narcissist is thin-skinned, unable to receive any information they perceive as a threat to their fragile ego. Not only are they not open to feedback, but they will create chaos for the person trying to give them the feedback.
These tactics are all used by a narcissist to defend themselves from feeling any sense of shame.
- Playing the victim
How easy are resolutions found to interpersonal problems?
There is no such thing as a simple argument with the narcissist. Conflict will always escalate unless you bend to their will. Otherwise, prepare for World War III.
Related: How to Communicate With a Narcissist
How empathic are you?
How able are you to be sorry and take ownership of the problems you bring to the relationship? A hallmark of emotional maturity is the ability to empathize with another and to own any wrongdoing.
Failure to do these things leads to a shallow, unhealthy relationship.
In summary, a little bit of narcissism leads to untold emotional difficulties. Whether a person is a full-blown narcissist, any issues in the above areas lead to significant relationship challenges and a need for qualified therapeutic intervention.
Neuropsychologist and Owner, The Narcissistic Life
Vanity and self-righteousness are the keywords of the narcissistic personality
Every person has narcissistic traits, such as:
- considering yourself the best,
- putting yourself above others, or
- pleasing someone so that it makes you feel good.
When narcissism becomes a personality disorder is purely a matter of definition. Personality disorders are defined in the DSM-IV, and for narcissism, 9 points are described that the client must meet.
Today’s narcissists are preoccupied with prestige, power, and success. Vanity and self-righteousness are the keywords of the narcissistic personality. To be seen and admired is their pursuit and their fantasy.
Narcissists try to be special and distinguish themselves with their exceptional talents. The talents are judged by themselves, of course. But how can you, as a narcissist, know that you are a narcissist?
Narcissists often know very well that they have the characteristics of a narcissist.
They do not deny that they are:
- Love power, and
- Care about appearances.
However, a narcissist will not always know that these traits fall under the heading of narcissism. What a narcissist can recognize in themselves is that they often perceive the same feelings in themselves.
Here are ten examples of what is typical of narcissistic behavior:
- A narcissist has a great need for attention and admiration. At the same time, they feel that they receive too little attention and admiration.
- A narcissist generally has relatively little interest in the feelings and problems of others.
- If a narcissist has a problem or complaint, they demand that it be solved immediately by the top boss, and they also want to speak to them.
- A narcissist only makes time for special people who deserve their attention.
- A narcissist knows that other people are always jealous of them.
- Narcissists place high demands on their partner’s appearance and social standing. However, it’s not their intention they have too many demands and wishes.
- Narcissists expect their partners to be thrilled because they are chosen to be with them.
- The narcissist squeezes in so that their name appears on that article or report and thus receives the credits.
- Narcissists don’t like criticism. The perfect way they present themselves is to compensate for deeply buried doubt and lack of self-esteem.
- A narcissist expects nothing less than perfection from his children. Therefore, a narcissist is disappointed if their child cannot do something at once.
Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling | Psychotherapist
Low self-esteem is the core of narcissistic behaviors
People often use the term “narcissist” to describe a partner’s hostile character in a relationship. In psychology, we define a narcissist through the diagnostic label of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). A set of presenting behaviors is well defined for an NPD clinical diagnosis.
However, diagnostic features can be seen in a variety of individuals who do not meet the threshold of NPD and are often labeled as “a narcissist.” How can you tell if you are a narcissist?
It is rooted in feeling worthless
Low self-esteem is at the core of narcissistic behaviors. We see NPD features typically in men about 75% of the time. Narcissist responses exist primarily to protect the individual from feelings of defeat or criticism.
Narcissist demeanor is challenging, often causing hurt, and can lead to abuse. Expressions of grandiosity offer temporary relief since healing the core wound ultimately requires vulnerability.
Related: How to Improve Your Self-Esteem
Key narcissistic traits include the following:
- Narcissists have a false sense of grandiosity and self-importance. These may consist of special abilities or talents and a feeling that nobody else sees but them.
- Narcissists usually have an unending preoccupation with fantasies of power, brilliance, ideal situations, or success.
- Belief that the person has a special or unique quality is only understood by a few who are also unique or special or of high status.
- A narcissist may feel they deserve excessive admiration or respect. They will communicate this through demanding language or behavior that feels like control.
- An unreasonable sense of entitlement. Often we see this with expectations that are also unreasonable.
- Narcissists exploit or take advantage of others, primarily if it serves a purpose rooted in their unmet needs.
- Narcissists lack empathy and are unwilling to “hold space” for their partner’s feelings, especially if their partner’s issues regard their behavior or attitudes.
- They are often envious of others or may think others are envious of them.
- A narcissist’s presentation is rooted in arrogance, as if they know everything.
Most people can identify with one or more of the above personality characteristics. While common, what separates a narcissist from an ordinary human temperament is these features’ duration, collection, and intensity.
Clinically we notice only about 1 in every 20 people are “true narcissists” and are often transient. However, I think at times, we all let our “ego” take the better of us and do or say things that are less than helpful for ourselves and the ones we love.
Recognition of our narcissistic dispositions is an opportunity to seek professional support and create healing.
Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD
Certified Psychiatrist, The Pleasant Mind
Narcissists always have a very high opinion of themselves
Narcissism can be described as too much self-obsession. The person is extremely self-involved, which can lead to ignoring and voiding the needs of others around them.
Narcissists always have a very high opinion of themselves. They also suffer from a high-end superiority complex. If we analyze the psychopathology involved in narcissism, we will find a fearful, anxious, and insecure person lying deep within.
Their feelings of grandiosity arise from insecurity and innate vulnerabilities. Narcissists seek admiration because they want approval from others around them. Sometimes, they try to appear too impressive just to remain picture-perfect in front of others.
They tend to underestimate others and see them as lesser than them. Narcissists lack empathy. They remain preoccupied with their physical appearance. But behind it all lies a fragile being who does not even handle the slightest criticisms.
Some of the telltale signs of narcissists are as follows:
- The need for acceptance and admiration is always high
- An inflated sense of self
- Always wants to appear grand and impressive in front of others
- Poor self-esteem
- Insecure and deeply shaky from within
- Lacks empathy and compassion for others
- They are unable to maintain healthy relationships because they always see others as inferior to them.
- Narcissists believe that they are special and deserve favors and privileges.
- Tends to think highly of themselves.
- Feelings of personal entitlement and self-importance are always found.
- Narcissists exaggerate their achievements and make them appear big, even if it is not so in reality.
- Belittling others remains their favorite pastime.
- Suffers from jealousy if others climb the success ladder better than them.
- Cannot feel the deepest feelings of others, even close relatives, family members, and friends.
- Most narcissists are arrogant, boastful, and lack humility.
- Narcissists love to give unsolicited advice to others because of their feelings of being great.
- They always like to have the best of everything in life. Never settles for less, even if that means hurting or humiliating others.
- They take the upper hand in every relationship.
- Narcissists are selfish and possess a need to control others.
- Always expects others to listen to them without question.
- They are pretentious and practice gaslighting in intimate relationships.
Claire Karakey, LPC
Founder, Claibourne Counseling
They are the masters of first impression
People with narcissistic traits are not people pleasers. They don’t care if you are pleased or not. It is all about them—and they must have the attention. So, they will create the best performance and make a great first impression every chance they get.
Have you ever met a really charismatic salesperson who could sell ice to an Eskimo before realizing it was just frozen water? There’s a good chance that the salesperson had narcissistic tendencies.
Those with narcissistic personality traits can easily adapt to any situation and any group of people. They can quickly adjust their personality to manipulate others to like them. They are the masters of first impression.
Degrees of narcissism
While clinical narcissism itself is actually relatively rare, only affecting about one percent of the population, we can find narcissistic traits in just about any of us.
Some common narcissistic traits are:
- A sense of entitlement
- Manipulative behavior
- Need for admiration
- Lack of empathy
When these traits develop into excessive levels of behavior, they begin to be classified as a narcissistic personality disorder, or NPD.
The grandiose narcissist
This one acts like they are better than everyone else. They also tend to lack any concern for the feelings and well-being of others.
You might spot this person in an argument where they are so firm on their point of view that they refuse to listen to anyone else. Their arguments often end with no resolution, and you can sense their desire to prove the other side wrong no matter what.
The vulnerable narcissist
On the other hand, the vulnerable narcissist will feed their emotional neediness by trying to drain energy and empathy from you.
For example, you made plans with this person, but you have to cancel at the last minute. It happens. That’s life.
The vulnerable narcissist will take this personally and make it all about what you did to them. Maybe you canceled it because you were sick or had an emergency. They will disregard whatever is going wrong in your life and emphasize that the canceled plans are an inconvenience or insult you have caused them.
This poses a problem with self-esteem, and the best thing you can do is stick to the facts in hopes they will eventually see your perspective.
Dr. Bryan Bruno
Founder and Medical Director, Mid City TMS
You exploit others without guilt
Being a narcissist, also known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder, is often misrepresented and even romanticized in movies and shows, making it difficult for those with the disorder to know they have it.
While narcissism is generally portrayed as being in love with oneself, it is more so as having an idealized, grandiose view of oneself. This self-image is often used to avoid deep feelings of insecurity or shame.
In addition to this, some of the most common signs and symptoms of narcissism are:
- Needing constant praise and admiration
- A sense of entitlement
- Exploiting others without guilt
- Frequently belittling others
If an individual is a narcissist, it can be challenging for them to recognize their behaviors in order to seek help. If you or someone you know is exhibiting these behaviors, it is best to speak with a professional.
If you know someone you believe may be a narcissist, it can be tough to approach the subject.
- It is important to educate yourself on the disorder and how to understand them better.
- Creating boundaries is also crucial to protect yourself from emotional harm.
- Approaching the subject with the individual should be done out of kindness, and you must be prepared for retaliation.
Many narcissists do not realize they have the disorder and will most likely not want to comply. At the end of the day, being in a relationship or friendship with a narcissist can be draining, and it is essential to do what is best if you need to distance yourself.
Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Specialist | Medical Reviewer, OK Rehab
You refuse to take responsibility for your behavior
Everyone can display traits of narcissism at times, but clinically, narcissism is a personality disorder characterized by a sense of superiority.
People with narcissism genuinely believe they are better than the people around them, and because of this, they are often content with hurting others if it means they get what they want.
Do narcissists know that they are narcissists?
This is a complicated question. On the one hand, narcissists are not always aware they are narcissists as they believe they are acting appropriately given that their needs are more important than everyone else’s.
However, narcissists do consciously manipulate others to get their needs met, so this implies they are aware of their disorder to an extent.
How to know if you’re a narcissist?
If you consciously put your needs above everyone else’s, even if it means hurting good people, and you are unashamedly obsessed with your looks or personality, you may be a narcissist.
However, this is, of course, an extreme definition, so it can help to look at specific symptoms to see if you relate to them.
Some key signs of narcissism are:
- Taking advantage of others
- Refusing to take responsibility for your behavior
- Being hypersensitive
- Struggling to feel empathy
- Being intolerant of criticism
It goes without saying that you need to identify with many of these traits to be diagnosed with narcissism. These traits need to be consistent in your life, i.e., obsessing over your appearance on the day of your wedding is not a sign of narcissism on its own.
What to do if you think you’re a narcissist
The most important thing you can do for yourself and others around you is find a therapist who will guide you through your thoughts.
If they think you may have narcissism, they can advise that you seek a diagnosis from a psychiatrist, and if not, they can explore your concerns with you and figure out the source of your symptoms.
People with narcissism benefit from therapy because they can consider the effect of their actions on others, which they may not do without the encouragement of a mental health professional.
Have you ever wondered if you were in the company of a narcissist? Here are some tell-tale characteristics of narcissists that should help you make that assessment straightaway.
Narcissists behave as if the rules do not apply to them
This sense of entitlement causes them to have feelings of grandeur that result in the belittlement of others.
Narcissists long to be accepted by successful/powerful people
They are drawn to them, often mimicking their characteristics as their own. Ironically, however, once that acceptance is obtained, narcissists tend to devalue and discard the very people they once admired. This is because the arrogance narcissists so ardently display is actually a shroud for their true feelings of low self-esteem and a lack of measuring up.
A truly successful/powerful person could never accept the likes of them. Therefore, they move seamlessly from one relationship to another in search of the “ideal” person, leaving a line of confused people in their wake.
They convince their partner they’re a perfect match
Those in a romantic relationship with a narcissist are made to feel special and important as the narcissist tries to convince them that they are a perfect match.
Compliments such as, “You are the perfect fit,” “I have finally found my soulmate,” and “We were made for each other” are examples of the kinds of praises narcissists give to their partners.
Initially, narcissists actually believe the compliments they heap upon their new partners. This is because, during an essential stage of personality development for a narcissist, a significant individual in their life needed them to be something other than what they were.
The narcissist then felt the need to be different to be loved or accepted by that individual. This is known as “narcissistic injury,” and it devastates the emerging “self” of the narcissist.
Narcissists adapt by splitting their personality into a real and a false self when they cannot be the person they truly are and still gain acceptance. Narcissists learn to hide their “real” self because it is seen negatively.
They try to compensate for their shortcomings by creating a “special” self —a person who will be loved and admired by all. Regardless of this perfect “false self” that narcissists create for themselves, they realize they are not that person on a subconscious level.
They believe no normal person could accept their true self
They believe no average person could accept them as their true self. That is why when the very people they have been trying to convince of their ideal relationship start buying into it, narcissists feel the need to discard those people and search elsewhere for their “perfect match.”
The unique way narcissists make their partners feel by convincing them that they are the “perfect fit” or their “ideal love” is similar to the way narcissists feel about their “false self.” Their “real self” is so repulsive to them that they create a wonderful version of themselves that is admired and loved by all.
However, when the narcissist’s flaws are revealed, their carefully-constructed “false self” starts to crumble, and they no longer feel special or worthy. At this time, they begin to devalue their partner and look for some other ideal partner to mirror their “false self.” That is why narcissists seem to move seamlessly from one relationship to another.
To identify narcissists in your life, look for their adulations of:
- “Ideal love,”
- How you are the “perfect fit,” or
- “Better than anyone from their past relationships.”
Then check to see if the dynamics of your relationship change the moment you start believing those compliments. Did they begin to insult you or devalue you in some way? If your relationship ended, did they seem to move quickly into another relationship without looking back?
Many of those signs can help you identify a narcissistic lover, and some may even help identify a narcissistic parent or friend.
Narcissistic parents: Competitive with their own children and tend to threaten abandonment
A narcissistic parent often feels in competition with their own children. They will devalue their children, especially if their children appear to possess self-confidence.
Many children of narcissists experience feelings of:
- never being “good enough,”
- always falling short, and
- having overall pangs of inadequacy.
Narcissistic parents assume the role of “Most Important Person” and expect their children to help them maintain that status. If their children show affection or admiration for other family members, a narcissistic parent will devalue the other family members and remind those children where their loyalties should lie.
Threatening “abandonment” as a form of punishment is also common with narcissistic parents.
Margaret J. King, Ph.D.
Cultural Analyst | Director, The Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis
They want and deserve to be unconditionally admired and catered to
The nature of narcissism is that its sufferers aren’t self-aware of their condition, which is a mental health disorder (Narcissistic Personality Disorder).
They all know that they want and deserve to be unconditionally admired and catered to.
But this is the universe, built around a severe personality malfunction. It doesn’t serve them well unless they are the ultra-alpha person who never has to admit they are not the top dog—because they are and are in a position to prove it.
Nothing really disturbs their self-image, which means they can afford to live the NPD life.
However, for the rest of us, a narcissistic lifestyle alienates everyone around us, driving employees, family, and friends away because of the stress and time/effort demands of the required attention and adulation.
There is no tolerance for criticism and no way to let go of the toxic premise that drives the NPD. Really, the only therapy for those who can’t avoid contact is to do self-protection. Human life is ego-driven but is equally a cooperative venture, with reciprocity at its core. This is what NPD cannot provide.
Dr. Steve Hruby
Doctor of Chiropractic, Kaizen Progressive Health
Narcissism is a spectrum disorder, and everyone falls on that spectrum to some degree.
It’s important to remember that narcissism is not always a bad thing. In fact, a healthy dose of narcissism can be beneficial. When someone’s narcissism starts to interfere with their ability to function in everyday life or causes them to act in harmful ways, it becomes a problem.
Here are some common signs that someone may be a narcissist:
They have an inflated sense of self-importance
Narcissists tend to see themselves as the center of the universe and believe that they are special and unique. They often have an excessive need for admiration and may be very demanding of others.
They usually have a sense of entitlement and feel that they deserve special treatment. When they don’t get what they want, they may become angry or resentful.
You may find that they are very critical of others, like to be the focus of attention, and can be very dramatic.
You have difficulty understanding how others feel
Narcissists are often unable to see things from another person’s perspective and have difficulty understanding how others feel. This lack of empathy can make narcissists seem cold and uncaring. It’s also why they often have difficulty maintaining relationships.
You may find that they take advantage of others or are uninterested in anyone else’s problems but their own.
You have a need for control
Narcissists often feel a need to be in control of everything and everyone around them. They may try to control conversations and the behavior of those around them.
You may find that:
- They are very bossy and always need to be right.
- They have a hard time letting others make decisions or take charge.
The thing is, they often don’t really care about others, they just want to control them.
Related: How to Deal with Controlling People?
Certified Life and Relationship Coach, Issues of Love
You’re too concerned about your reputation
It’s a narcissistic red flag when you feel you are the best in the world and nobody else comes even close to you in capacity or reputation.
Narcissists care so much about their appearance and how strangers perceive them; they are ready to put up a good impression just to impress a stranger, even if it means hurting you.
They are generally very concerned about their appearance, and they can go to any length to protect their ego.
You feel everything is about you
If you are someone who wants the world to revolve around you, then you are most likely a narcissist. If all the actions you take are always about you without consideration for how that action would affect someone else, that’s narcissism.
Narcissists want people to give them all their attention without wanting to give anything in return. They’ve been known not to appreciate the sacrifices of others.
You have an excessive desire for admiration
A narcissist’s desire for praise and admiration from others is extreme. They always want people to feel they are the best, and nobody measures up to them.
If they are your boss, narcissists will shut you up when you try to bring new ideas that threaten their dominion as the office star. They can fire you and abuse you when they feel you are competing with them.
Narcissists don’t want praise to go to anyone except them, and they will do anything to ridicule someone they feel is a threat to their arrogance.
You are manipulative and abusive
Narcissists are known to be very abusive and manipulative. They can go any length to get what they want, not minding who gets hurt. That’s because the narcissist doesn’t care if his words hurt you or not.
With a narcissist, you are most likely to suffer verbal and emotional abuse that can destroy your self-esteem.
You would hardly feel sorry for anyone, even if their life is on the line
One of the most obvious signs of a narcissist is their lack of human empathy. To them, they are never wrong; they are always right. They have no human feelings whatsoever; it’s why they can abuse people without saying sorry.
Psychologists have said that narcissists lack human empathy, and as such, they are cold and would hardly feel sorry for you even if you are in a life-threatening situation.
CEO, Abundance No Limits
Owning a narcissist personality can be because of some past or childhood trauma. Children tend to inculcate such attributes from their parents. Sometimes our surroundings, like people or even social media, influence and affect our life.
You are cold and rude to someone you dislike
The first sign of understanding you are a narcissist is that you are self-centered and concerned about yourself. Possessing a narcissist personality disorder is being over-occupied with yourself, giving self-importance, and not caring about others.
If you want to do the self-analysis of being a narcissist, check on the points like; not being empathetic and caring to others. Other tick-markers include being self-confident, being cold and rude to someone you dislike, and taking mean revenge on others.
You love to be praised
The high signs that prove that you are truly a narcissist are that you loved to be praised. Only positive thoughts are liked by you. And if someone disagrees with you, you tend to develop jealousy and hatred for them.
If you fall in the category of the above points or some similar one, make sure to take help. Talk to any of your family members, friends, or a psychologist.
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