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 for at least two thousand years. The classic myth appears in the Book 3 of poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It’s easy to get lost in this story about unrequited love and self-love.
Narcissus was a hunter from Thespiae in Boeotia, renowned for his unparalleled beauty and hunting skills. When born, to the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope, a blind seer predicted he would live long if he never recognized himself.
As he grew into an extremely handsome man, he became the object of many people’s desire.
But Narcissus was arrogant and spurned all romantic advances. He even rejected the mountain nymph Echo’s love. She was heartbroken and resigned herself to loneliness and the sound 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 Narcissus to recognize himself.
One day, while walking in the woods, Narcissus got 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 a beautiful spirit living in the water. When Narcissus tried to reach into the water and touch the spirit, it dispersed, but reappeared when the water calmed.
He was transfixed by how handsome the person looked, like no one he had seen before. Narcissus fell deeply in love with the image, which was of himself.
Unable to leave, he sat gazing at his image for days and weeks. Finally, realizing that his love could not be reciprocated, he pined and wilted away to death.
The nymphs mourned Narcissus and went in to bury him. However, they could not find his body. In death, he had turned into a gold and white flower.
The flower was Narcissus, or by another name, Daffodil.
Narcissus thought himself more beautiful than any man or god, and was so vain that he could not think of falling in love with anyone less beautiful than him. After he fell in love with his own reflection, he could not stop thinking about anything else than self-love.
The carry-over to modern life is that a narcissist is a person with intense self-love.
How do narcissists behave in a relationship?
Living with a narcissist can be living in an abusive relationship. The narcissist does not empathize with the thoughts, feelings, and sufferings of their partner.
A narcissist can be your husband, wife, mother, father, sister, brother, boyfriend, girlfriend, neighbor, boss, church member, or anyone you come in contact with. There are endless possibilities of ‘who’ they can be. The important thing to remember is the actions, behaviors are all very similar. ― Tracy Malone, author
▪ They have a fragile self-esteem, usually a result of being lavished with high praise for modest accomplishments, by parents, teachers, and relatives. This leads them to grow an overwhelming need for admiration.
▪ They see a partner more as a follower than an equal, and often doubt if the partner really likes or cares about them.
▪ True narcissists often stay emotionally distant in their relationships. This makes it easier for them to ignore their partner’s needs and grievances.
▪ They come with an inflated sense of self-importance and emotional instability. They expect you to drop whatever you’re doing and attend to them. You have to keep praising and serving them without expecting any for yourself.
▪ On the rare instances when they show their admiration for you, you can easily see that it is hollow. They don’t mean what they say and will criticize you for your incompetence at the very next chance.
▪ Some people describe narcissists as cold, unempathetic, and manipulative. They will take advantage of you at every opportunity and lay every blame on you.
Relationship with a narcissist in a nutshell: You will go from being the perfect love of their life to nothing you do is ever good enough. You will give everything and they will take it all and give you less and less in return. You will end up depleted, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and probably financially, and then get blamed for it. — Bree Bonchay
▪ Narcissists tend to be very dramatic, so it is essential to be able to read between the lines of what they say to be able to see their true character.
▪ They also have a sense of entitlement, which means they believe they deserve special treatment and be recognized for doing things they did not even earn ethically. To put it another way, narcissists believe that the world owes them anything they desire, without ever needing to give anything back in return.
▪ Narcissists are emotionally shallow and self-centered, and often use others to serve their needs without considering the long-term consequences.
▪ They are envious of your achievements and believe you do not deserve them. They may even express their feelings about it in the most uncaring way.
▪ They frequently try to control others by intimidation, manipulation, and abuse.
▪ Some narcissists are violent and abusive, both physically and emotionally.
You don’t ever have to feel guilty about removing toxic people from your life. It’s one thing if a person owns up to their behavior and makes an effort to change. But if a person disregards your feelings, ignores your boundaries, and continues to treat you in a harmful way, they need to go. – Daniell Koepke
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.”
Their intentions may be good, but even then, their hallmark trait is a lack of empathy. They simply are unable to understand the perspectives or feelings of others.
Find out the twenty signs to recognize 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 a little narcissistic. At workplaces, it may play out in the following ways.
Healthy narcissists have a positive self-image and a realistic view of their strengths and weaknesses. Toxic narcissists do not think twice about grabbing credit for the team’s successes and shunning accountability for failures.
In any case, if you’re dealing with or in a relationship with a narcissist, don’t convince yourself that you can change them for the better. You can’t.
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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