Every one of us has some narcissism, and perhaps the majority of us are healthy, positive narcissists. The problems start when we allow that part of ourselves to dominate us.
Narcissism is a mental health issue that has been studied extensively in psychology, psychiatry, social work, and even business administration.
The term “narcissism” derives from the story of Narcissus in Greek mythology, who fell in love with his reflection and wasted away gazing at it. That’s how we see a modern narcissist — someone who loves oneself so much that they are blind to the needs of others.
While too much narcissism is obviously unhealthy, a certain amount of it can be helpful and one of the best traits a leader may have.
Who Is A Positive Narcissist?
A positive or healthy narcissist has a charismatic aura, an ability to persuade others to be awed, an outward sense of self-confidence, unconventional leadership skills, a drive to overachieve, and intellectual empathy.
They are self-assured, have high self-esteem, are emotionally intelligent, and are proud achievers. They are assertive, yet they are also willing to collaborate and compromise. They are conscious of their own talents and shortcomings, and they grow and learn from their mistakes.
Positive narcissism describes a person who has a healthy sense of self-esteem but tends to have a pattern of behavior that could be mildly narcissistic.
“Healthy narcissism is a positive sense of self that is in alignment with the greater good.” — Wikipedia
Indeed, there is a thing as a good and healthy narcissist, and they are often people who produce some positive and admirable achievements.
An Example of A Positive Narcissist
Steve Jobs was undoubtedly one of the world’s most successful innovators. His ideas revolutionized the way we consume digital content today.
He was charismatic and magnetic, however, many of his actions indicate he was a narcissistic leader. Three of his narcissistic signs were:
- He had a sense of entitlement. He was highly exacting and even cruel in getting others to comply with and actualize his reality-bending visions. He frequently parked in disabled slots without any remorse or guilt.
- He believed that he was “special” and unique and that he could only be understood by, and should associate only with, other people who were “special” or of high status.
- He thrived on praise and had plenty of it. But he got offended when someone failed to admire him. Jobs received numerous accolades after launching the iPad, but he was upset that President Obama did not call him.
Many people today would prefer to remember him as a positive narcissist, while forgiving him for his negative narcissistic qualities. Who isn’t moved by his commencement speech in 2005, in which he advised:
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.— Steve Jobs, Stanford, 2005
How To Spot A Positive Narcissist?
A positive narcissist is likely to have the following characteristics:
- Positive narcissists appear intelligent and attractive, frequently make risky decisions, and behave in ways that seem irrational.
- They are self-assured in their plans and are less prone to get intimidated by the negative judgments of others.
- They trust their intuition and feel less guilt in rejecting people who are not helpful to their larger mission.
- They love to monopolize conversations and become impatient when others talk about themselves.
- They have a stronger-than-normal sense of entitlement, which means they think they deserve more attention and adulation than others because they are superior to everyone else.
- Most of the characteristics of a positive narcissist are diluted versions of these four defining behavior patterns of a typical narcissist: 1. a feeling of superiority over others, 2. an excessive need for attention and admiration, 3. a tendency to feel entitled, and 4. a willingness to exploit others.
[However, the four traits listed above are not the only ones that narcissists exhibit. To make sure, you must look for The 20 Definitive Signs of A Narcissist to recognize one.]
Positive narcissists are often criticized for using other people as mere tools to achieve their or their company’s lofty goals, resulting in their superficial and impersonal relationships.
According to research, there is a positive correlation between narcissism and cyberbullying (Goodboy & Martin, 2015) and cyber-victimization (Zerach, 2016).
In extreme cases, positive narcissists can be driven to explosive anger (narcissistic rage) as a reaction to anything that poses a threat to their self-esteem, goals, views, or image. This type of reactive rage can even lead to unintentional physical abuse.
Positive Narcissism: Healthy Qualities of A Narcissist
Most researchers accept that narcissism can express itself in both pathological and typical forms: pathological and normal.
- “Pathological” narcissism is typified by a fragile self-image that quickly falls apart in the face of criticism from other people.
- “Normal” narcissism is marked by a healthy self and self-esteem that does not crumble when faced with challenges or flak from others.
While it can be hard to see past the selfishness in “normal” narcissists, there are traits in them that are positive.
A healthy narcissist doesn’t take things too personally and has naturally high self-esteem. They also have confidence in their own abilities and can take risks to do what they want to do.
A positive narcissist may be thought to have a self-delusion of superiority, but it may actually be an example of the healthy self-confidence that competitive humans better have.
Generally, positive narcissists score high on extraversion (also spelled as extroversion). They are outgoing, sociable, and talkative. Their conversations are magnetic and energetic and their extroverted personality makes it difficult for others to notice their pain.
They often have a strong presence and are, therefore, able to influence others on the go. Their first impressions and opening lines are charismatic.
All of this helps them quickly rise as a likable leader among a group of unfamiliar people.
Positive narcissists who lean towards grandiosity are mentally tougher and less likely to experience depressive symptoms. This makes them more resistant to adversities and allows them to bounce back to normalcy sooner than others.
They are confident in their decisions and opinions, and carry through their goals with a rare tenacity, often at the cost of displeasing and exploiting others.
However, to be fair, this is the attitude typically demanded of a person in a leadership role to navigate through rough waters.
When their high-risk decisions result in profitable outcomes, others accept them as crisis solvers.
They are constantly ready to take on new challenges, especially ones that would help them attain more popularity and a higher position.
One downside of this facet of their personality is that they readily accept challenges thrown by others, without much deliberation. They respond to criticism so fast that it appears as though they were waiting for others to throw them challenges.
Narcissists are creative people. According to Robert Raskin’s research, there is a small but significant relationship between the personality traits of creativity and narcissism.
They are naturally self-loving and self-compassionate people. For them, self-care takes precedence over duties and responsibilities heaped on them by others. As a result, they are less likely to develop burnout.
Some people with narcissistic traits can be compassionate and empathetic. Positive narcissists are mostly kind, friendly, and caring, and they may be the nicest people you’ve ever met.
It could be their yearning to be appreciated that drives them to behave with kindness in the hope of being reciprocated. Since it feels good to be treated kindly, we usually respond to such narcissists with gratitude for their kindness and appreciation of their good nature.
What Is Narcissism And How Does It Develop?
The word “narcissist” typically refers to a self-absorbed person, with a cold heart and vain pride who is overly egoistic, sarcastic, and insensitive. Narcissism can be defined as:
A “relatively stable individual difference consisting of grandiosity, self-love and inflated self-views.”— Campbell, Hoffman, Campbell, & Marchisio, 2011.
Narcissism has two main types: grandiose and vulnerable (Miller et al., 2011).
- Grandiose narcissists usually have an exaggerated sense of importance, an obsession with status and power, and a dominating and aggressive nature.
- Covert narcissists feel insecure and inadequate, therefore they are more likely to be defensive and see most others as hostile.
When born, we all have some narcissism built into us. Babies do not have the sense of “others” and see everyone and everything as an extension of themselves.
A switch starts around the age of 2, when the baby’s brain learns how to identify itself as a separate identity. As a result, the child begins to explore the world “outside” with curiosity and confidence.
However, when this developmental switch cannot occur fully, usually because of parental abuse, the child is stuck in narcissism and tends to grow into a narcissist.
Harmful narcissistic behavior typically begins in early adulthood and is often associated with significant distress in their own and others’ lives.
Can A Single Question Identify A Narcissist?
The Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), developed in 1979 by Robert Raskin and Calvin Hall, is the most widely used scale to measure the trait. However, we may use the Single-Item Narcissism Scale (SINS) to find out if a person is a narcissist by asking them just one question:
“Are you a narcissist?”
People who answered “Yes” to that single query were significantly more likely than others to score high on narcissism on the 40-item Narcissistic Personality Inventory.
Are High Achievers Narcissists?
High achievers are often considered narcissists by some because they pursue self-serving goals while often ignoring or steamrolling over the needs of others. They may not be classic examples of narcissists, but they have many of their characteristics, such as having an enlarged sense of self-importance, a deep need for admiration, and living in a self-absorbed world of grandiose fantasies.
What does it mean to have a god complex?
A person with a God complex believes they have divine powers and people should treat them as such. They overestimate themselves, regard their abilities as superior, and revel in a sense of inflated ego and entitlement. They often feel angered when made to feel inferior or given no better attention than others.
Narcissism has been referred to as the “God complex.” For a narcissist, being themselves means they must maintain a constant stream of self-promotion that they are supreme human beings.
Is some narcissism healthy?
Some amount of narcissism can be healthy in a person. Based on this helpfulness, narcissism can be positive and negative. Positive narcissism is healthy because it helps one to focus on their strengths and to work to create a beneficial self-image. Negative narcissism is unhealthy because it intends to exploit others and leads to feelings of entitlement, exploitation, superiority, and aggression.
We commonly see narcissists as self-assured liars and seductive manipulators and that view of them is mostly correct.
You may wish to be friends with a positive narcissist once you get to know their unusually good qualities. Still, when interacting with one, be aware that there is a fine line between narcissism and self-love.
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy — medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental health, happiness, mindfulness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).
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