I keep starting to read about narcissism–probably because I’m ready to branch out and explore other personality issues surrounding borderline personality disorder–but I don’t actually find it that interesting a read. I have been observing signs of it in actual people, and then maybe I’ll read about it to try to understand the person…but, ironically, I have trouble relating to people with the balls to express narcissistic rage.
One of the hallmarks of narcissism is the inability to empathize…and I find it hard to empathize with narcissists…so…? At my core, my feeling before I started googling was that I’m extremely narcissistic, but I’m too insecure and scared to express it outwardly. (I’m also a little bit jealous of narcissists for being openly narcissistic). I wouldn’t say that fear and lack of self-confidence absolve me of my narcissistic traits.
One of the things I’m most curious about with narcissism is how much it interferes with self-awareness. I had assumed that it did–which, to me, makes it the enemy; however, in the last week or so, I had a conversation with a friend with (mild?) narcissistic traits in which he casually acknowledged his own narcissism. I poked around a little bit, and I found this and this, which are accessible digestions of the same research study. The 5-second version is that the study’s results challenged the long-held believe that narcissists lack self-awareness.
Anyway, a psychology twitter I follow posted a link to a book that’s coming out on narcissism, and the site has a diagnostic tool that uses self-report to measure narcissism. My results were boring:
(1) ECHOISM – I haven’t been able to find a short, satisfactory definition of echoism, but it has something to do with ability to tolerate or enjoy attention. If you want the long version, the third paragraph of this is interesting. Based on that, however, I think I should have scored higher on echoism.
(2) HEALTHY NARCISSISM – Okay, sure. These are the qualities that are normative and adaptive (openness, ability to enjoy praise, confidence, and ambition).
(3) EXTREME NARCISSISM – These are pathological qualities, the traits of cluster b personality disorders (narcissistic, borderline, antisocial)
Honestly, I’m surprised to get middle-of-the-road in all categories. I’m usually surprised when I take these psychological tests to score in the “normal” area, but it’s also obvious to everyone that I’m extremely self-centered. I think about myself a lot, I talk about myself a lot. My surprise at getting “hoi polloi” results betray my self-deprecation and expose myself as someone who thinks I’m special.
Most of my life was spent wanting to be unique in a way that either wasn’t rejected by others or was, but left me feeling fulfilled about being different. When I was a little girl, I REALLY wanted magical powers (especially telekinesis, after I had a dream in which I pointed at a raft in my room, then moved my finger and the raft followed). As an adult, I became anorexic, and that was alllllll about a socially acceptable way of standing out that spiraled out of control because I wanted it to.
Now? Fuck yeah I think I’m special. However, I think the same of everyone else, and I no longer feel the pressure to come up with effable qualities that make me a special snowflake. I think I’m special in the sense that I think music is good. It just is, and one song being life-changingly amazing doesn’t diminish the possibility of another song being the just as amazing.
Still, I’m self-centered. It occurred to me that perhaps I’m egocentric rather than narcissistic. Egocentric people can probably be just as self-centered as narcissists, but I think there’s an innocent quality to them that provokes annoyance more than it does disgust.
Here’s an article on narcissism versus egocentrism.
There’s also…and I don’t know if there’s a word for it…people who are so averse to self-centeredness that their disgust for it ends up making them MORE self-centered. This is my mom. She would probably name selfishness/self-centeredness among the worst traits a person can have. In trying to avoid arrogance, overconfidence, being so sure of herself that she’s closed off to the truth that she’s doing something wrong, and making things all about her…she ends up making things about her. She’ll make a statement with regards to, for example, what she wants to do that day, and then spend minutes debating and second-guessing herself. Or she’ll refuse to offer input because she doesn’t want to dominate…putting the burden of decision-making on others. This is all very innocent stuff (it was on a continuum of self-centered behavior shaped by levels of self-confidence, I’d put “egocentrism” in the middle, and narcissism and this on opposite ends).
I’m guilty of this too, but I’ve been working on recognizing it and reining it in once I realized that it makes me just as much as a pain in the ass (and WAY less amusing) than someone who just gives into being in love with herself.
One of my friends posted a very descriptive profile of an extreme narcissist (possibly, based on the extreme lack of empathy, an actual sociopath):
People with NPD are manipulative, but also “charming”, so if you’re not paying attention and you’re a trusting person, you’ll get pulled in. They will tell you what they think you want to hear and flatter you b/c they want to keep you enthralled with them (Apparently this is called “grooming”). They are also passive aggressive and VERY angry when they’re not getting the attention they think they deserve from you. It’s a real mindf*ck. They toy with people b/c it satisfies their ego. They’re also very jealous, to the point of ridiculous. i.e. – I don’t really like that guy…but I’ll try to get his attention b/c you have his right now. They point fingers a lot, too. NOTHING is ever their fault. It’s always someone else’s. They love playing the victim and they have zero empathy for anyone. I feel like they play act that they’re “normal” people, if that makes sense? They don’t actually know how to have emotions (compassion, empathy, happiness) like a mentally healthy person, so they mimic (badly) what they see other people doing so no one will catch on to their game. It just comes off as “off” somehow.
I also came across this interesting (but non-peer-reviewed) article. It also has a fun quiz. It appears to be adapted from a “real” psychology tool, so take it with a grain of salt (I scored “9,” but it doesn’t seem to address the “fragile” narcissism subtype that’s mentioned in the article).