Narcissists are persons who are full of themselves. Their central focus in life is to establish before others that they are superior to all of them.
They feel irritable unless they are surrounded by admiring people to obtain continuous self-validation from them. To them, they proudly boast of their achievements.
Gaslighting is a form of narcissism in which the perpetrator manipulates the victim into believing the wrong, undermining, things about themselves.
Narcissists can be mildly narcissistic to highly so. Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman says narcissism is a stable trait that varies in degree among people. Only at the extreme does it become a disorder.
In Freudian psychoanalysis, narcissism is having an excessive sense of self-esteem, self-admiration, self-involvement, and vanity, usually seen as a sign of emotional immaturity.
It’s seen in about 5% of the population. In everyday language, we use the term narcissist to describe someone who is a vain, self-absorbed, attention-seeker.
Narcissus is a name that comes from Greek mythology. It has placed itself firmly in modern psychological science as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
The Story of A Handsome Hunter, Narcissus
Narcissus is a fascinating figure in Greek mythology. His myth has inspired artists and poets for two thousand years.
This enthralling story about unrequited love and self-love first appeared in Book 3 of poet Ovid’s epic Metamorphoses.
Narcissus was a hunter from Thespiae in Boeotia, renowned for his good looks and hunting skills. When born, to the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope, a blind seer predicted he would live long provided he never gets to recognize himself.
In time, Narcissus grew into an extremely handsome man and became the object of many people’s desire. With his youthful arrogance, however, he turned down all romantic advances.
When Narcissus rejected the beautiful nymph Echo’s love, she was severely heartbroken. She retired herself into a life of complete solitude, in the lonely company of her own echo.
Nemesis, the goddess of retribution and vengeance, noticed this. She was known to show her wrath to any human who would commit hubris. She decided to punish Narcissus and planned a plot for him to recognize himself.
One day, while walking in the woods, Narcissus felt thirsty. Nemesis lured him to a pool of water that resembled silver. As he bent down to drink water, he caught sight of his reflection in the water.
He thought the image was of a beautiful spirit living in the water. Narcissus tried to reach into the water and touch the spirit, but it dispersed. Narcissus stood there perplexed until the water calmed down and the spirit reappeared.
He was transfixed by how handsome the person looked, like no one he had ever seen before. Narcissus fell deeply in love with the spirit, which was of only himself.
Unable to leave, he sat gazing at it for days and weeks, pining for it to come out, oblivious of his thirst and hunger. Finally, realizing that the spirit cannot reciprocate his love, Narcissus wilted away to his death.
The mountain nymphs mourned Narcissus and went in to bury him. But they could not find his body. In death, Narcissus had turned into a gold and white flower.
The flower was named Narcissus, or by another name, Daffodil.
Narcissus believed his own image was more beautiful than any man or god. Hopelessly enamored, he fell in love with it, dismissing everyone else since they were less handsome. In love with his reflection, he acquired a condition of blind self-love.
How to recognize a narcissist from their actions?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, narcissism involves a “grandiose sense of self-importance, a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.”
In modern life, we see a narcissist as a cold-hearted person who is obsessed with themselves and unconcerned about the needs of others.
A narcissist’s intentions may be good, but even then, their hallmark trait is a lack of compassionate empathy. They simply are unable to respond to the feelings of others in a caring and kind way.
▪ Take a look at these 20 Tell-Tale Signs of A Narcissist.
Quotes On Narcissism
Love doesn’t die a natural death. Love has to be killed, either by neglect or narcissism. — Frank Salvato
How starved you must have been that my heart became a meal for your ego. — Amanda Torroni
They barrel through life, using relationships and people as objects, tools, and folly. While they often seem as if they are cruel or harsh, that is in fact giving them too much credit. They are simply careless. And they do expect other people to clean up their messes. — Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., author of Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
Since narcissists deep down feel themselves to be faultless, it is inevitable that when they are in conflict with the world, they will invariably perceive the conflict as the world’s fault. — M. Scott Peck
Narcissism includes self-absorption, self-love, and self-aggrandizement as attempts to gratify infantile needs. — Sigmund Freud
Americans are experiencing an epidemic in narcissistic behavior in a culture that is intrinsically self-conscious and selfish, and citizens are encouraged to pursue happiness and instant gratification of their personal desires. — Kilroy Oldster, Author of Dead Toad Scrolls
When I look at narcissism through the vulnerability lens, I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose.
― Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly
The main condition for the achievement of love is the overcoming of one’s narcissism. The narcissistic orientation is one in which one experiences as real only that which exists within oneself, while the phenomena in the outside world have no reality in themselves, but are experienced only from the viewpoint of their being useful or dangerous to one. The opposite pole to narcissism is objectivity; it is the faculty to see other people and things as they are, objectively, and to be able to separate this objective picture from a picture which is formed by one’s desires and fears. ― Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving
Narcissists are consumed with maintaining a shallow false self to others. They’re emotionally crippled souls that are addicted to attention. Because of this, they use a multitude of games, in order to receive adoration. Sadly, they are the most ungodly of God’s creations because they don’t show remorse for their actions, take steps to make amends or have empathy for others. They are morally bankrupt. ― Shannon L. Alder
Pathological narcissists can lose touch with reality in subtle ways that become extremely dangerous over time. When they can’t let go of their need to be admired or recognized, they have to bend or invent a reality in which they remain special despite all messages to the contrary. ― Bandy X Lee, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President
Self-love: Being content with the work-in-progress you are. Not seeking approval from others. Being yourself. Comparing yourself only to who you were in the past, not to others. Not thinking you are better than anyone else. Narcissism: None of the above. — Zero Dean, author and life coach
The sadistic narcissist perceives himself as Godlike, ruthless and devoid of scruples, capricious and unfathomable, emotion-less and non-sexual, omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, a plague, a devastation, an inescapable verdict. ― Sam Vaknin, Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited
Realize that narcissists have an addiction disorder. They are strongly addicted to feeling significant. Like any addict they will do whatever it takes to get this feeling often. That is why they are manipulative and future fakers. They promise change, but can’t deliver if it interferes with their addiction. That is why they secure backup supply. ― Shannon L. Alder
A healthy dose of narcissism can facilitate career success, because reasonable concern with the self helps a person think of achieving important goals and being admired as a leader. The moderately narcissistic person often appears to be self-confident and charismatic. Yet extreme narcissism can hamper success because the narcissist irritates and alienates others in the workplace as well as in personal life. ― Andrew DuBrin
In a way, we are all narcissists, some more and some less.
- Healthy narcissists have a positive self-image and a realistic view of their strengths and weaknesses.
- Toxic narcissists don’t think twice about grabbing credit for joint-successes while shifting accountability for failures.
In any case, if you’re dealing with a narcissist, do not convince yourself that you can change them for the better. You cannot.
Let’s end this with a quote from one of the highest authorities on psychological disorders:
Narcissistic personality disorder is named for Narcissus, from Greek mythology, who fell in love with his own reflection. Freud used the term to describe persons who were self-absorbed, and psychoanalysts have focused on the narcissist’s need to bolster his or her self-esteem through grandiose fantasy, exaggerated ambition, exhibitionism, and feelings of entitlement.― Donald W. Black, DSM-5(r) Guidebook: The Essential Companion to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition
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Love can heal; empathy can’t. Empathy can hurt you badly and even kill relationships. It can make you sad and broke. And, did you know, psychopaths can empathize better than many of us?
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes popular science articles on happiness, positive psychology, and related topics.
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