Narcissism – Do You Love Yourself Too Much

It’s probably something we all see — that one person who cares about nothing but his or her own wishes. Have you seen this guy? It’s infuriating, isn’t it, to see someone so annoyingly self centered! Or, it is possible that this person is suffering from Narcissism, a possible matter of mental health.

The Encyclopedia Britannica defines narcissism as follows: “Narcissism is characterized by an inflated self-image and addiction to fantasy, by an unusual coolness and composure shaken only when the narcissistic confidence is threatened, and by the tendency to take others for granted or to exploit them.”

Today, let us explore the most common symptoms of narcissism that will tell you if you, or someone you know, are suffering from the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

What is Narcissism

Differing from standard self-importance or normal ego, narcissism is when you have an especially high regard of your own needs to the point of carelessly throwing away the rest of the world’s needs. Clinical narcissism demands constant attention and admiration, and shows a remarkable lack of empathy in other people’s problems.

The famous psychologist Sigmund Freud was of the opinion that narcissism is a normal part of childhood — but it becomes an issue, a disorder, only if it occurs after puberty. After all, we all have our self-preservation instincts; without that we will lose the desire to stay alive. But narcissism is definitely taking it too far.

Narcissism is a normal part of childhood

People suffering from NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) have a hugely inflated ego that is very sensitive to any kind of pressure. No amount of distress in other people fails to generate any kind of interest in them — or, if it does, it will only be to point out how distressed he himself feels due to other people’s complaining. 

Funny thing is, you’d think that with such a huge ego a narcissist would be able to hold up his or her own image on her own, right? Surprisingly enough, they can’t! They depend almost exclusively on other people’s remarks to judge themselves. 

And when someone makes a criticism of anything of them, or even disagrees to them on some impersonal matters, at once that person gets marked as an enemy. That’s because NPD patients value their own opinions above everyone else’s.

Symptoms of Narcissism

Though no one is exactly sure what causes narcissism, it can be recognized easily enough by the following traits and behaviors. Note that most of the points we discuss below are normal in most people; only when it interferes with a natural, peaceful, productive way of life then it becomes a disorder.

Superiority

Different from natural authority shown by authority figures or people in a position of power, this is the number one mark of narcissism. The only place a true narcissist feels safe is at the top — they can’t ever hold middle ground.

A true narcissist judges everything in black and white. Either it is good for themselves, or it is bad. Either it’s a praise, or it’s an insult. S/he has to be the most right and most competent person in the room, be in control all the time, and own everything. 

Don’t think that you can manipulate a narcissist into doing the best good person, though. A true narcissist revels in being the top guy regardless of whether good or bad. If they can’t be the best at doing good, they would rather be the best at doing bad. And it comes very easily since they never feel the pain of other people.

Need for Attention

Perhaps that heading isn’t entirely correct — it is more about validation than attention. A narcissist would follow you around the house telling you to do silly things just to hear you say that s/he’s better at doing it than you.

Even if you do shower your love and admiration and positive reinforcements on a narcissist, it still doesn’t count much. It’s like a black hole, you keep pouring and it keeps disappearing. Never will a person suffering from NPD will ever acknowledge a praise — they just think it is a tribute they own.

Need for Perfection

A narcissist wants everything to exactly as they envision it. They should be (already are) perfect, you should be perfect, the whole world should be perfect. As this is pretty much impossible, a narcissist lives in constant misery; within the feeling of rejection and misunderstanding.

narcissism selfie
image courtesy: huffingtonpost

Being a Control Freak

Being the arm of the above tool, a person with narcissism wants to control everyone and everything. However, since this is not possible with most people, sometimes, the control gets focused on one or two subordinates or family members that they can control easily. 

It’s not like a narcissist gets much pleasure at being in control. They will actually complain about having to supervise everything. But to their blown up ego and sense of entitlement, to them taking total control is only logical. 

See, the thing is to a narcissist you’re not really a real person. Instead you’re a character in their life story, an actor playing out the role of “you”. And the writer and director of that play is — obviously — the person with narcissism. And woe to you if you ever go off-script!

Lack of Responsibility

With all the massive sense of self-importance, one might think that a narcissist should jump to take responsibilities also. Wrong! An NPD victim is totally scared of any actual responsibility. This is because with responsibility there comes accountability; and they can’t ever bring themselves to answer to someone.

A narcissistic person can be quite clever at deflecting responsibility and blaming others. Sometimes the blame is generalized to the rest of the work party or world. However, more often a narcissist will single out a person to blame for any real or imaginary fault. That person is often the most loyal and attached person.

Lack of Boundaries

Like a toddler, narcissism knows no boundaries. Nothing is private for other people under the guiding glare of a narcissist. Frankly, one of the worst things you can do to a narcissist is to block them on facebook when they get too personal. 

If a narcissist wants something from you or wants you to do something, they will try till they die, no bar. S/he will ask, command, cajole, demand, pout, cause a major scene, and possibly threaten with self-harm till they get what they need. And of course, your troubles in giving it doesn’t matter.

A narcissist cannot accept criticism of any kind.

Criticisms As threats

A person suffering from narcissism will not and can not accept criticism in any form — no matter how positive or accurate it is. They are highly sensitive to any kind of rejection or judgement from others, and they actively look for such.

For example, when talking to you, a narcissist actively scans your face for any negative expression you may show. Note that a certain level of delusion can count in this as well. 

Furthermore, if you try to take a middle ground, a narcissist won’t allow that either. You must either support them or else you’re against them — you can’t simply be non-interested. Because, a narcissist can’t survive in a vacuum of attention.

Lack of Logic

You’ve probably tried this, haven’t you? You’ve tried explaining things logically to a person, trying to show them how exactly the world does NOT revolve around that person — and failed spectacularly? That’s because narcissism takes over the normal reasoning capacity of the brain.

Get this straight: a narcissist is unable to understand other people. Including you, no matter how close and loyal to that person you are; no matter how you love them. His/her world begins and ends with one human only; everybody else are only “things” with opinions.

Fear of Ridicule

Narcissism is primarily driven by an acute fear of being ridiculed. A narcissist generally never shows any fear unless in extreme situations; to them, to show fear is the scariest thing there is! 

A narcissist lives within a solid metal armor of protection; no one is permitted to see the softness within. Much like a tortoise, a narcissist would rather seal themselves in their protective armor rather than to admit one weakness. They’d rather kill themselves rather than being made fun of.

The fears in narcissism can be of many shapes. Some common fears are about germs, about losing all their money, about being emotionally or physically attacked, about being seen as bad or inadequate, or about being abandoned. These may add up to form anxiety disorder as well.

Treatment of Narcissism is Tough

People suffering from NPD find it very hard to admit they have any problem with their minds. Also, they take the natural conversation with a therapist as a judgement and attack. 

So, talking carefully and cleverly is the only way to make a narcissist understand they need therapy. Even then, it will be difficult to fix a narcissist entirely because of their inability to listen to reason.

However, if the narcissism has advanced a lot to create other issues such as paranoia and delusions, then there are medical ways to calm the patient down enough to start sessions of talk therapy. 

Author: Swarna Karmakar

Swarna is an experienced content writer and marketer from Kolkata, India. His amateur interest in psychology, born out of mental health troubles he has experienced himself and among his friends and family, has led him to the dream that is Our Clear Minds. He works as a Senior Content Writer, and enjoys instrumental music and science fiction books in his pass time.

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