What is a Narcissist?

According to the American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, narcissistic personality disorder is: A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning in early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).

  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).

  • Requires excessive admiration.

  • Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectation of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations).

  • Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own needs).

  • Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.

  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.

  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors and attitude.


Narcissists are people whose actions are, at the core, so self-centered and self-serving that their behavior causes a significant disruption in their lives and trauma to the lives of those closest to them - whether they realize it or not. They are often charismatic, convincing, and can be very charming when they want or need to be. They need admiration and are often very focused on impressing others and maintaining their public image. They tend to feel entitled to treat others however they wish, and because of this, they have a lack of empathy, regard, and remorse for the results of their actions.
 
In short, a narcissist feels they should be able to do whatever they want, whenever and as much as they want, and with whomever they want, and anyone that disagrees with them is the problem and the enemy.

Healthy Narcissism

It's necessary to realize that there is something called "healthy narcissism." I see many victims get concerned that they might be a narcissist if they make their wants, needs, or feelings a priority. They may feel this way because a narcissist has often told them that anything they wanted, needed, or felt was bad, wrong, selfish, manipulative, or abusive. They may struggle with feeling like a narcissist if they set boundaries, have deal-breakers, and don't put everyone else's needs, wants, and feelings ahead of their own. Making yourself, along with your time, energy, and emotions a priority isn't being selfish, it's what having healthy boundaries looks like.
 
Healthy narcissism is a term that refers to a healthy and realistic level of self-esteem. A person who has a healthy level of narcissism believes that their wants, needs, and feelings matter just as much as anyone else's and feels worthy of making themselves a priority.
 
They have a realistic sense of themselves and their abilities, which is in alignment with reality. They usually set realistic goals for themselves, but even if their goals are higher than their current abilities, they also realize that to achieve those goals, they will have to work hard and learn new skills to achieve them.

 

Narcissist vs. Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Many people take issue with the word "narcissist" and feel it should only be used to describe those who have been officially diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. There are many problems with this view. First, most narcissists won't go to a therapist, and therefore, they don't get diagnosed. If they go to a therapist, they can often charm the therapist into thinking they don't have a problem. They may even convince the therapist that their target is the one with the problem. What's important is to realize that the terms "narcissist" and "narcissistic behavior" both point to selfish, entitled, and relationship-destroying behavior. A person who has persistently entitled, abusive, or exploitative behavior, regardless of what you call them or their behavior, is still a problem.

 

Narcissists and their behavior come across differently, and there are different subtypes of narcissists and how their behavior tends to manifest itself. What type of narcissist do you have in your life? 

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