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Narcissists – Identifying and Understanding Them
I spend a lot of time in my life coaching sessions helping clients understand and cope with Narcissists, which made me realize that we need a greater understanding, as a whole, on this topic. The term “Narcissist” is used loosely and frequently, without necessarily knowing if a person truly fits the proper definition. In fact, Narcissists are omni-present and their numbers are on the rise.
Recently, a nationally representative sample of 35,000 Americans found that 6% of Americans, 1 out of 16, had experienced Narcissistic Personality Disorder at some point in their lives. Most of us know at least one Narcissist; some of us are related to one; some of us married one and some of us are or were friends with one.
What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder? Although mental health professionals are the best ones to diagnose this condition, here are some markers for identifying a Narcissist. A Narcissist is an individual who:
- Has a very low self-esteem but who appears to mask it well
- Needs constant external validation; they crave admiration and validation
- Is always trying to prove they are superior to others; their desire to win at all costs is all encompassing
- Is extremely self-centered
- Is very one-minded; they can only see things from their own perspective
- Is hypersensitive to feeling slighted or mistreated in any way; they feel insulted and criticized when no insult or criticism was intended and they are always on the defensive
- Always believes they are the innocent victim and that others are hostile perpetrators
- Is willing to de-value and humiliate other people
- Feels no pain when they hurt others; if they do feel pain, it’s a lot less than others would feel
- Has hierarchical thinking, meaning that every person or object (they are very materialistic as well) is placed on a scale. They have troubles believing anyone is their equal.
- Have disproportionate anger; they get very angry at things that seem quite minor to others
- Uses extreme language; they refer to others as “perfect” , “the best” or “the absolute worst” and there is nothing in between
- Uses cruel and inappropriate language; they say things out loud that others might think but don’t voice for fear of hurting others i.e. “That is the dumbest waitress I’ve ever had.”
- Have an inability to genuinely apologize or admit mistakes; they do not have a stable enough self-esteem to admit their mistakes and feel if they admit their mistakes, their facade of perfection will end or another will humiliate them
- Has a difficult time sustaining serious, intimate relationships
What is THE key to understanding Narcissists?
When a child experiences a lot of pain and their self-esteem is destroyed, Narcissism can be the result. When one does not receive the love they need, they can become “selfish” and spend the rest of their lives trying to meet their own needs in unhealthy ways. And certainly, our celebrity culture, media and the internet are contributing to the rise in this self-centered way of thinking.
When we understand that a Narcissist is simply coping with their pain, it can help ignite compassion within us. Having this information can help us refrain from taking a Narcissist’s actions or words personally and assist us in dealing with them effectively. The key to healing narcissistic thoughts is to become aware of them and then take the steps to coming to love oneself (outlined in my book “The Resourceful Mother’s Secrets to Emotional Health”). Taking these steps teaches an individual how to increase their self-esteem, so that they can internally validate themselves, as opposed to seeking external validation.
Sources Used: “The Truth about Narcissistic Personality Disorder” by Elinor Greenberg PhD, CGP in Psychology Today and “Narcissism Epidemic: Why There Are So Many Narcissists Now” by Lindsay Lyon, Staff Writer, US News.