Healthy Levels of Narcissism?
Updated: Apr 29, 2021
In practical life many highly successful individuals display personality traits that might be considered narcissistic. Grandiosity, fantasies of success, feeling special could be regarded as positive traits suggesting about positive self-image with optimistic expectations about one’s future. So can narcissists teach us something?
The Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders DSM-5 (APA, 2013) describes Narcissistic Personality Disorder as a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts.
The popular definition of narcissism is often used in society to indicate a person exhibiting traits of arrogance, thinking excessively high of himself, being self-absorbed especially with superficial values.
The actual disorder is diagnosed if person meets following criteria as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
3. 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).
4. Requires excessive admiration.
5. Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations).
6. Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends).
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
As it is easy to understand, narcissistic personality is serious mental disorder causing suffering of both: the narcissist itself (often person is not conscious about it) and the ‘victim’ - ones around him. Narcissistic personality disorder is also associated with anorexia nervosa and substance use disorders (especially related to cocaine (APA, 2013).
Person with narcissistic personality disorder often seeks attention which specifically need that attention to be admiring.
Grandiosity, fantasies, feeling special, on the other hand, could be regarded as positive traits suggesting about positive self-image with optimistic expectations about one’s future. In fact, in practical life many highly successful individuals display personality traits that might be considered narcissistic. Only when these traits are inflexible, maladaptive, and persisting and cause significant functional impairment or subjective distress do they constitute narcissistic personality disorder (APA, 2013).
Are there positive traits of narcissism that we could borrow from narcissist? What are the tactics to feel better about oneself and having more success?
For the narcissist he is the king of his/her universe. He constantly seeks to prove it. He doesn’t doubt it. We can learn from the narcissist Being our own biggest fan!
Our entire experience stems from our beliefs about oneself and the world as teaches Cognitive Therapy (CT), or Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), pioneered by Dr. Aaron T. Beck in the 1960s. If we keep positive and self-enabling beliefs, the actions we take most likely with bring positive outcomes. If we don’t believe in our worth, capacities its likely we won’t have motivation to strive for better things in life. That is why it is important to constantly check what our beliefs are.
Am I capable to achieve my goals, I am worthy of good things happen to me? If yes, are you acting according Your beliefs?
Am I prioritising my own goals in my life instead of following someone’s agenda for me benefiting others?
Am I as a big fan of my life as I am a fan of my favourite sport's team?
Am I more interested in my life than spending non-productive time living, watching talking about others' life?
Do I tend to spend time and energy following, admiring or even envying other people instead of working on my own fitness, beauty and well-being?
Is my time laser-focused on my projects and growth or is it dispersed all over the place?
Am I involved in negative, self-sabotaging habits or draining relationships?
Am I one ofe those grown-ass adults wearing t-shirt with the name of some other grown-ass adult (football player, etc.) on it… If Yes, am I an investor or the owner of the club?
The reason we admire, follow and idealize other people is because of the perceived magical aura –non rational attributions to their qualities, looks, success..
Like a narcissist feels grandiose because of his/her fantasies and beliefs, the person lacking self-esteem feels small compared to celebrities, other desirable characters because tends to attribute them abstract and vague explanations for their success, like: luck, “celebrity genes”, incredible talent, a genius and others…
By refusing to see the hard work, dedication and belief in oneself, behind every successful individual, it only moves person away from those desirable attributes. The truth is that me personally, from my work experiences in fashion and entertainment industry, I've got opportunity to get to know closely many famous characters. I know their surgeons, their connections, obsessions to succeed even their inner daemons they are so good in hiding.
What simple, insecure and low on self-sufficiency people can learn from narcissist is more ambitions and overweening confidence which often lead to high achievement, more positive self- view, and simple love and belief in oneself. Much more things and dreams become possible if we believe in ourselves and have courage go after what we want and do what it takes to achieve our goals. No magic pill, no 5-minute abs, no secret formula just right mind-set and strategy.
Here I do not encourage to become a narcissist but to borrow some hyperbolized traits which are common also in people with high self-esteem. Healthy confidence is basically different from pathological one, because a really confident person’s self-view does not as strongly depend on others, it is solid and stable that’s why there is no need for artificial self-inflating behaviour to maintain one’s ego.
In the narcissism, the person constantly needs of the others to maintain stable his/her own inside equilibrium, but at the same time he/she must get further since he/she holds them a danger for his/her own psychic safety (Quattrini et al., 2013).
To maintain their Ego narcissist need others. Their own self-esteem is often enhanced (i.e., "mirrored") by the idealized value that they assign to those with whom they associate. They are likely to insist on having only the "top" person (doctor, lawyer, hairdresser, instructor) or being affiliated with the "best" institutions but may devalue the credentials of those who disappoint them
And although we mentioned that overweening ambition and confidence typical for narcissist may lead to high achievement, however, in cases of narcissistic personality disorder performance may be disrupted because of intolerance of criticism or defeat. The fragile core of narcissist is the root of all defences and overcompensations he uses. He needs to create over grandiose self-image to feel secure and spends endless amount of energy to maintain it fearing he can be ‘exposed’.
For this reason, sometimes vocational functioning of the narcissist can be very low, reflecting an unwillingness to take a risk in competitive or other situations in which defeat is possible (APA, 2013).
The topic on narcissistic personality disorder is especially relevant these days although sometimes it’s not obvious as can be hidden in the form of ‘covert’ narcissism and that’s why it is worth discussing it other articles.
To sum up the article, the healthy self-confidence stands in between self-inflated grandiosity and self-defeating pessimism which both are out of touch with reality and causing irrelevant suffering. The healthy way has to do with looking into the situation realistically and working on the parts of us that need to be developed. Like this, a strong and stable core is developed and there is no more a need for self-inflating to look better than it is nor to idealise others for who they are not to justify our lack of motivation and ambition to become who we meant to be.
American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 5th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association Pub; 2013
Quattrini, Fabrizio & Spaccarotella, Michele. (2013). The role of Narcisism in the sexual Addiction Personality. Rivista di Sessuologia Clinica. XX. 1-31. 10.3280/RSC2013-002001https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259503428_The_role_of_Narcisism_in_the_sexual_Addiction_Personality