What is a Narcissist?
What do you think a narcissist is?
Do you know a narcissist?
Are you sure that the person who you think is a narcissist is actually a narcissist?
What is your definition of a narcissist which you use to classify whether someone is or is not a narcissist?
According to a dictionary definition, this is what a narcissist is:
definition via Dictionary.com
It struck me as appropriate that the Word of the Day on that site from which I got the definition happened to be ‘gubernatorial’ – of or relating to a state governor.
When I think of a narcissist of the #2 kind, I envision someone who wants to govern. Their state is that of being. They want to govern their state of being.
To govern their state of being they need others, because you can’t be who you’ve decided you are without others confirming it to you, for you, especially when you lack proof of your imagined self to give to yourself, therefore they need to govern the state of being of others too.
This is a full time job, which stresses them out, as others are an unruly mob full of disobedient subjects, but it has to be done – 24/7/365 and sometimes 366.
The first rule of governing others is to get others to accept your rule and governorship.
What is the best way to do that? What is the easiest way to win over new subjects? To be gubernatorial…
Most narcissists are charming when you first meet them. They appear confident, in control, and like to take charge. They have a magnetic aura, are exciting, scintillating, and in their presence you feel special, especially when their intense gaze focuses on you and lets you know that you are their chosen one.
People can write as many red flag lists as they want to help us identify possible narcissists, but narcissists aren’t waving those red flags in our faces when we first enter their territory. On the contrary, they’re usually waving a white flag, and they’ll usually make you feel safe with them.
Because of your own narcissism. WAIT! Wait! Take a pause before you go off the deep end… you’re not a narcissist, but you do have narcissistic traits as these are natural and normal for all human beings.
Show me someone who claims not to have a narcissistic bone in their body, and I will point at the same person and show you a narcissist.
I like the definition of narcissist from that site as it clearly shows that there are two criteria for the term narcissist.
The first one is the older version, which was what people meant when they called someone a narcissist up until the second one started taking precedence and the term narcissist came to mean someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
It refers to anyone who we consider to be up themselves. The sort of person who keeps having to check their reflection in shiny surfaces, who pampers and preens themselves, who talks endlessly about themselves, their interests, their this and that and the other thing. Me, me, me and me – is their motto.
It may apply to those people who post loads of selfies, take photos of their every meal to post online, video their lives, and share their every thought, movement, activity, emotion, everywhere they go, everything they do, and every fluctuation of their being….and share, share, share TMI about themselves on social media as though its front page news relevant to the rest of us.
They may be the old type of narcissist, but they’re not usually the type of narcissist who has NPD, but we may think they are because we find what they’re doing to be a disorder in our tidy world.
Someone with NPD may do those things, but they’re actually more likely to hide behind others than expose themselves to that degree. They’re more likely to post enigmatic selfies which look away from the camera and which are heavily filtered, if they post selfies at all – they prefer to use profile pictures of other people, celebrities, mythical beings (gods and goddesses are a favourite), famous characters, or others who they want to be. What they share of themselves may be more about how they perceive others, and how that makes them appear, they’re more likely to share what others are doing, eating, going, and make comments about how others are doing it wrong.
extract via Can You Spot a Narcissist? by Alice G. Walton
They’ll share a personal story about a friend, roommate, colleague, family member, who did something stupid or which upset them – according to them, and it will be related in a way to make their audience agree with them. They will portray themselves as the victim-hero of an abuser-villain. Their selfish roommate bought the wrong type of milk – this roommate knows that they’re lactose intolerant, does this selfish idiot want to deliberate cause them pain, give them the squits!?! And they’ll ask you what you think by prompting you to share your own grievances with selfish stupid heartless people who don’t make you the centre of their world every minute of their day and lives… as though this is how it should be and any other way is insanity.
Narcissists of the NPD kind know how to bring out the less healthy side of narcissism in all of us – which is partly why we protect them, become their ‘minions’, to protect ourselves from those moments when our ugly side peeps out from behind our pretty facade. We feel guilty and ashamed, even more so because we enjoyed being a bitch or an a-hole, and felt justified in being that way for awhile. They gave us the okay… but afterwards the high of it wore off and the self-reflection hangover hurt like hell.
Sometimes we just want to sweep that under a rug.
If you’re worrying about being the second kind of narcissist, the NPD type, here’s a tip – If you can self-reflect, and if you’re concerned about your narcissistic behaviour which prompts you to take a closer look at yourself, you’re not an NPD type of narcissist.
You’re just being momentarily narcissistic, letting your inner narcissist out for a walk. It’s okay… as long as you’re aware and open to learnign from the experience. It can be healthy to do that.
Sometimes we need to be an egotist, and we are not necessarily harming anyone with our self obsession.
The first kind of narcissist, the very human kind, is an egotist.
We can all be the first type of narcissist, especially when viewed through the eyes of others. We perceive the surface of others until we get to know them better, and even then we may be more focused on who we are than who they are, more interested in ourselves than them, our interest in them is an extension of self-interest. We may be more concerned with what they think about us, rather than what they’re thinking about themselves or anything else.
Let’s talk about you – What do you think of me?
Even when we might think we can’t be narcissistic or egotistical because we’re too good at being humble, selfless and have gotten rid of our ego – that may be a construct of our ego. Anything you value in yourself is a form of narcissism, it is healthy, natural and normal narcissism at work within us. Narcissism is good for us, that’s why it exists.
However, we can get a bit carried away with it, and it can get on the nerves of others. That includes being too humble, selfless and without ego.
When I was younger I spent a lot of time pursuing self-transcendence. It was popular at the time, the New Age and the Self Help movements were gaining ground in the collective consciousness, and I bought into it mind, body and soul… because I didn’t have a healthy ego, hated myself and wanted to be someone else.
Since I hated myself I was a perfect candidate for every guru who was selling some miracle cure using magical thinking to change yourself into a perfect person.
There were many of those, and they all seemed to hate ego, wanted all of us following their methods to get rid of our ego, stop thinking about ourselves, and get with the program of being self-less, ego-less, less human… while their ego grew bigger and stronger with each person like me who bought into what they were selling, admired them for being the epitome of who we wanted to be, and we fed their ego with our egos which we were trying to discard.
extract via Don’t Drop Your Ego by Sam Morris
At one point I even joined the Church of Scientology. We all are now aware of the dark side of that organisation, however, at the time it was a popular and trending solution to your problems. I only stayed with them for a few weeks, and got out before my trial period (for which I paid a hefty price) ended. They kept calling me, hounding me to find out why I had left and to try to get me to come back. I did eventually tell them that what they were doing, pursuing me relentlessly in a bullying manner, to get me back was a major reason why I would never return. They stopped bothering me after that.
Why did I leave?
Because the people I interacted with during my trial period seemed as messed up as I was, and I realised that wasn’t going to make me less messed up, in fact it would mess me up even more than I already was.
And what I experienced there reminded me of my family – which was what I was trying to escape by joining them. Basically I saw that I was jumping out of a frying pan into a fire. Trying to get out of one cult by joining a different one.
That experience scared some sense into me – to this day I refuse to join groups, especially those offering an escape from the rest of society, those who are elitist even though they may disguise their elitism with false humility.
However, it didn’t put me off searching for an escape from being myself and accepting myself as I was.
I just didn’t want to be me.
I thought I was making myself into a better person… but my tactics made me rather insufferable.
A goody two-shoes can be overly self-involved, vain and selfish, egotistical and narcissistic, while they think they’re being the exact opposite of all of that. In our pursuit of something beyond ourselves… we’re doing it for ourselves even when we tell ourselves we’re doing it for others.
It’s wonderful to give out random acts of kindness, but when you’re doing it to prove to yourself what a great person you are, to show everyone how kind you are, then you tip over into vanity.
If you get upset when someone refuses your act of kindness, try to make them feel bad about not accepting your gift because it makes you feel bad about yourself, try to heal them (when you’re not healed yourself even if you think you are) without their consent, try to pressure them into being and doing what you need them to be and do for you to feel good about yourself, or go around telling others a story about how mean someone was to you because they didn’t accept your generosity, that’s kindness tipping over into selfishness.
If being kind and good becomes the focus in your life to the point of becoming what defines you, and you need others to confirm to you how kind and good you are, then it may tip over into too much self-involvement as you lose the ability to see anything beyond your need to be a kind and good person whatever it takes.
But that’s okay, you’re probably not harming anyone by doing that, and you may help many along the way…
We may also be the first type of narcissist when we’re hurt, in pain, either emotionally, physically, or psychologically.
We tend to retreat into ourselves when we’re suffering, become overly self-involved in the rawness of our agony, unable to see anything or anyone outside of us.
We may make selfish demands of others, expect them to give us what we want because we’re in pain and they’re not. We may need others to listen to us talk about ourselves, or make every conversation about our issues even when the conversation is about what’s for dinner, and force our pain to be the centre of everyone’s attention one way or another.
If they smile we make them feel awkward about doing so in our presence. If they have good news, we may make them regret sharing it in our vicinity. If they don’t feel bad for us as much as we feel we deserve, we may make them feel bad about that, perhaps just by sighing heavily and looking droopy, or making an obvious effort to be cheerful while also making it obvious that we’re making an obvious effort to be what we are not.
We may even make of our wound a badge of courage, of vainglory, of painglory, because no one is suffering, has ever suffered, as much as we are and have.
There’s even a term for this – Woundology – since it is more common than we’d like it to be – surely no one else has ever done this and if they have it surely hasn’t been noticed enough for there to be terminology for it.
extract from a blurb about the book – Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can by Caroline Myss
Although this may harm others, we may drag everyone around us into our misery, even when we’re trying not to, and they may in desperation search online for information regarding how they are experiencing you, and end up on a page about NPD, and begin to suspect that you’re the other kind of narcissist… you’re still not the other kind of narcissist, you’re just being very narcissistic, your natural narcissism has been contorted by your pain.
Once your pain alleviates, you will emerge from your narcissistic behaviour, see beyond yourself, realise how you have affected others while you were caught up in your pain, and may make amends to those you may have hurt while you were deep inside your wound.
This type of narcissist may not necessarily be the second type of narcissist, even though they may appear to have NPD to those observing them.
I’ve been this type of narcissist. I’ve been so self-involved in my own pain and suffering that I couldn’t see how it was affecting others because I was too busy seeing how others affected me.
I’ve been very narcissistic… but I don’t think I’m the second type of narcissist. It took facing some hard truths to snap me out of it.
I credit this book – Going Mad to Stay Sane by Andy White – as being a catalyst for me finally accepting who I was and am, and not trying to escape anymore, but learn to deal with my mess as it is.
I was so caught up in how much others didn’t understand me, didn’t get my story, weren’t being empathic, weren’t even trying to do any of that, that I overlooked the fact that I didn’t really understand myself, my story, as much as I thought I did. That what I saw as me trying… was actually me being trying (in the other meaning of the word).
I also saw myself as an Empath, and didn’t realise how unempathic I was being while seeing myself as the embodiment of empathy, because my definition of empathy lacked empathy and was really more about sympathy-seeking, projection and transference.
I felt everything others were feeling… but what I actually picked up in the way of feeling from others was my own projected and transfered emotions. I was owning them by proxy, therefore not really owning them at all, but making others own what was mine, then being confused, burdened and hurt by what I thought was theirs… which was actually mine.
Why did this Empath attract narcissists? Because I made narcissists out of everyone… due to needing to keep up my appearance of being the one who wasn’t me. The one who was loving kindness surrounded by a bunch of selfish a-holes. And other variations on a theme.
I was very attached to my wound and wouldn’t let go of it and the stories it created for me – which I created around it.
This is an interesting read – Shy, Sensitive, Introverted… and Narcissistic by Linda Esposito.
(If you read the above article – I’m an INTP, and in typical INTP style, I don’t completely agree with some aspects of this article, however, I’ve also noticed that some of those who I think have NPD, at least the ones I know personally, have claimed to be INFJ’s, so that’s why I was interested in this perspective, but I’m not totally convinced by it. It’s open to interpretation. Has some concepts worth considering. Don’t ever ask an INTP to be definite about anything… even when we are we question it).
It’s not pretty, but I’m proud to admit it because it frees me from my own bullshit which kept me trapped in a yucky place, a prison of my own making. I like to remind myself of that to keep myself real.
At one point I even credited myself with turning someone ‘normal’ into a narcissist of the NPD kind. I wasn’t pleased with myself about doing that… I was shocked that I seemed to have inadvertently while being kind and good to others turned someone who had seemed nice into a monster due to supporting and encouraging them to have confidence in themselves.
Some random acts of kindness really have one hell of a backfire!
Ah… inverted grandiosity!
extract via The Empath and the Narcissist by Elaine La Joie
In recent years I’ve had to face a lot of hard truths about myself. I tried facing them before and made some progress, but I lapsed due to fear and stuff like that in previous excursions.
I’ve also had to confront many a harsh reality about others too… but those are often more connected to confronting harsh realities about myself and my tendency to transfer and project onto others things which I don’t want of myself, or look at others with rose coloured glasses while using black ones to look at myself – I have been known to paint myself black while painting others all sorts of lovely colours.
Getting to know yourself isn’t as easy as it sounds, because it also entails getting to know others at the same time. The two are intrinsically linked which is why relationships of all kinds are so important to humans.
I learn a lot about myself, and others, through blogging – less through my posts (although that can be insightful into WTF is going on inside of me, but it’s about me and not others) and more through comments and replies.
Lately I’ve been having trouble replying to comments because shit is happening offline that eats into my online time. But I like to reply ASAP to comments, let you know I’ve heard you and listened, as your comments are important to me (more than I’ll ever let on), you’re sharing yourself and time with me (and you also have shit happening offline). I know that each comment is precious. Communication is valuable.
If I sound… to hell with how I sound, that’s out of my control. And I’m not sure if that is ever something I really want to control.
Here’s an example (which inspired this post) – This is a reply I made to a comment recently with regards to the ‘narcissist’ label:
I also have the impression these days that anything which moves is being labeled a narcissist, and that even breathing is narcissistic. I think it’s a phase which NPD awareness is going through, similar to the phase that airport security is going through where everything is viewed as a weapon. When something becomes a hot topic and gets into the collective consciousness which causes fear and panic, everyone wants to be safe and in the effort to get safe people become hypervigilant and paranoid. People are seeing narcissists/terrorists everywhere.
The thing about narcissism is that it is natural to all humans. Every single one of us has narcissistic traits and behaviours. These are both positive and negative. But right now they’ve all been classified as negative. Perhaps that’s a backlash to the previous decades when being narcissistic was a goal which we were encouraged to positively acquire.
Greed is good!
Fake it to make it!
Just do it!
… and a bunch of other slogans, positive affirmations, and other propaganda trying to get us all to be the best that we could be, have it all, and do whatever we had to do to get it.
Not so long ago we celebrated narcissists and narcissistic behaviour. We loved the grandiose.
Then the giant bubble burst, and we all got injured in the debris, leaving many people very disillusioned, confused, in pain, looking for someone else to blame. Enter the narcissist as the villain of our times, the Big Bad Wolf who blew all of our houses down, who took and took and took until he destroyed the planet and left us with nothing.
You’re not a narcissist, you know that. But you’re right, you could easily get labeled as one because it is the popular accusation of the moment, used most often by narcissists and other people who get pissed off because you’re not being who they want and need you to be for them, and not doing what they’ve decided you should be doing.
I read a post on an NPD blog awhile ago which centered around a commenter who the blogger had decided to ‘out’ as a narcissist. They included the comments this person had made which the blogger thought proved that they were a narcissist.
I could not see what I was being told to see, what I actually thought at the time was that if anyone was being a narcissist, it was the blogger.
The commenter had gone to the blog for help, they had shared their painful story (which is not easy to do and many people find commenting on a blog a difficult thing to do).
The blogger is one who considers themselves empathic and empathy very valuable, yet there was no empathy shown for this commenter from the blogger or anyone else. The mistake the commenter made which eventually led to them being branded a narcissist in public was to question the blogger on a certain point which the blogger was pushing as being crucial to recovery. They had been logical and reasonable in their questioning, their comments seemed fair, they were being emotional but considering their story and the subject that makes sense. The blogger took umbrage, and rather than let the point be a moot one, the blogger kept arguing from a basis of I’m right/you’re wrong and I’m going to make you accept it.
There were a bunch of comments on that post which had an element of witch hunt. A narcissist had been found and the pack closed ranks, going in for the kill. It was rather disturbing because up until then I’d thought this blogger was levelheaded. However, when you blog about NPD, and if you get attention for it, it’s frighteningly easy to go on a power trip, and the victim of a narcissist who started a blog because of their own experience may tip over into being a narcissist themselves (living out Nietzsche’s warning about monster hunters).
Hopefully the trip to the narcissist side only lasts long enough to learn something from the experience, an insight into NPD, but not so long that they never emerge.
I don’t think anyone in that scenario was a narcissist, they just got caught up in a situation which got out of hand, which triggered their respective pain, raw and angry, and the pain did the talking.
Pain is narcissistic, and when we’re engulfed by it we may behave narcissistically. But that does not a narcissist make. It does however give us insight into what it is like to have NPD, and why they do a lot of what they do. Through our own narcissistic behaviour we can understand those with NPD, but our narcissistic behaviour does not mean we’re narcissists. And it doesn’t mean that others who are behaving narcissistically are narcissists.
Someone with NPD may look the same as someone being narcissistic, but they are not the same. Not everyone who looks like Bin Laden is Bin Laden or is like him.
And not all narcissistic traits and behaviours are a bad thing. Many are actually good and useful.
Most things have to go to extremes before a balance is found, and I think that’s what is happening now, we’re visiting an extreme. Balance will come. We’ve been to the Me Me Me end of things, now we’re in the You You You end of things, at some point we’ll get to the Me and You part.
In the meantime, if someone calls you a narcissist, thank them for the information (about them and their view of you), and stay true to yourself. And if you’re the one calling yourself a narcissist, thank yourself for asking the question as you’ve just shown yourself that you’re not.
In my view someone with NPD is very different from your friendly or unfriendly neighbourhood narcissist.
My view comes from growing up with parents who could be labeled as – Malignant Narcissists – to distinguish them from non-malignant ones. I’ve called them that in a few posts. I felt awkward when I did that as I didn’t label them as narcissists of the NPD kind with ease, in fact I tried desperately not to do that even though I knew that they were… I really didn’t want them to be that.
I left myself open to their abuse longer than I should have. I stayed in the abusive relationship when any sane person would have left… or at least that’s what sane people tell others to do when others are in an abusive relationship. The empathy of sane people is lacking personal experience sometimes. When sane people end up in an abusive relationship… then they are sometimes less hasty to tell you to get out because they then know how hard it is to actually do what is so easy to say.
Its’ so easy to say things… doing them is so much harder.
Compared to my parents… most people, no matter how narcissistic they are being, aren’t narcisisists of the NPD kind.
When someone is behaving narcissistically, my first thought isn’t – Oh, shit, they’re a narcissist! – it’s – What’s going on in their lives to make them come across that way? – and I check with myself first to make sure I’m not the one being narcissistic in my perception, which can totally happen, more often than I would like for it to happen.
It’s very easy to make what is going on with someone else all about what is going on with us, or make what is going on with us all about someone else, and then make them the cause of our own issues. They could be adding to our stuff with their stuff, but are they really the cause of it?
Hard to tell or difficult to face sometimes.
So, in non-conclusion…
What is a narcissist?
What do you think?