Narcissists have a noticeable place in the popular imagination, and the label “narcissist” is widely deployed to refer to people who appear too full of themselves. Moreover, the word narcissist is a term regularly used in common discussions to describe anyone who seems a bit self-involved. However, in terms of clinical mental health, someone needs to meet a specific criterion in order to be diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder.
Most of the time, it is easy to spot the narcissist in the room. They are the ones who are working for the crowd, loudly sharing fabulous stories that convey a sense of importance and accomplishment so that they can feel admired. Although, someone behaving like this tends to send out a clear signal to those around them that they are not approachable or compassionate.
The Traits of Narcissism
It’s easy to describe someone who spends a bit too much time talking about their career or themselves. However, narcissism does not necessarily represent a surplus of self-esteem or insecurity. But more accurately, it includes a hunger for appreciation or admiration, a desire to be the center of attention, and an expectation of special treatment reflecting perceived higher status. A high level of narcissism, not surprisingly, can be damaging in romantic, familial, or professional relationships.
In general, people with narcissistic personality disorder are those who are preoccupied with their own success and with a grand sense of self-importance that influences their decision-making and interactions.
It is important to note that narcissists find it difficult to build or maintain connections with others because of their manipulative tendencies and lack of empathy. They often feel entitled and lack compassion, yet crave attention and admiration. Here are some elements of narcissism.
- Having a sense of self-importance or grandiosity
- Experiencing fantasies about being influential, famous, and/or important
- Exaggerating their abilities, talents, and accomplishments
- Craving admiration and acknowledgment
- Being preoccupied with beauty, love, power, and/or success
- Having an exaggerated sense of being unique
- Believing that the world owes them something
- Exploiting others to get what they want (no matter how it impacts others)
- Lacking empathy toward others
How to Handle a Narcissist
Navigating a relationship with a narcissist can be deeply frustrating and distressing. Because in their quest for control and admiration, narcissistic people will manipulate and exploit others, damaging their self-esteem and even aiming to alter their sense of reality. Arguing with a narcissist about their action often proves fruitless. However, a more successful solution is to establish boundaries and emotionally distance yourself. Recognize that you may not be able to control your feelings about a person, but you can control how you respond to them. Cutting ties with a narcissistic partner, family member, or boss may eventually be the best if not the only solution. In that process, it’s helpful to reflect on the characteristics of the individual to avoid finding oneself in similar scenarios in the future.
Narcissism in Relationships
A narcissist’s desire to elicit admiration and praise, especially from potential romantic partners, often makes them charming and charismatic, traits that can rapidly ignite a romance. But their inherent deficit of empathy may prevent them from understanding a partner’s inner world and establishing a fulfilling long-term relationship.
It’s nearly impossible for people with a narcissistic personality disorder to truly fall in love and build a trusting, equal partnership. Such an individual may seek to establish strict rules in a relationship and attempt to isolate a new partner from friends and family, among other disturbing behaviors.