It’s human nature to be selfish and boastful now and then, but true narcissists take it to an extreme. They don’t just have extra self-confidence, they don’t value others’ feelings or ideas and ignore others’ needs.
But there’s a difference between being self-absorbed, often called a narcissist, and having narcissistic personality disorder, which is a mental illness.
Kris Oser, 37, of Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., is an email fiend. A single mother and director of communications for a market research company, she has to be immediately accessible to executives and the news media.
That means Oser is often on the phone and messaging several people at the same time -- and that can lead to trouble. In one recent gaffe, she mistakenly emailed a reporter at The Wall Street Journal instead of her best friend, asking her to pick up Oser’s daughter from school.
If you can recognize a few of the traits below, that’s someone who’s self-absorbed. If he has most of them, he might have the disorder. A therapist can get to the bottom of it.
What You Might See
The word comes from a Greek myth in which a handsome young man named Narcissus sees his own reflection in a pool of water and falls in love with it.
Sound like someone you know? Are people often upset with him? Is it hard for him to keep relationships? Does he tend put himself first and think he knows the only “right” way? He might also:
Think about himself most of the time and talk about himself a lot
Crave attention and admiration
Exaggerate his talents and achievements
Believe he’s special
Set unrealistic goals
Have wide, fast mood swings
Have a hard time taking others’ feelings seriously
Strive to win, whatever it takes
Fantasize about unlimited success, money, and power
Someone like this may appear to have high self-esteem, but the opposite is probably true. There’s a deep sense of insecurity underneath that grand exterior. He wants others to be envious, but often he’s the jealous one. He’s competitive and threatened by others’ achievements. His relationships are often stormy and short-lived. He leaves a trail of hurt feelings in his wake.
He’s easily hurt, but either chooses to not show it or overreacts in rage. He can’t stand criticism. He makes excuses and refuses to take responsibility for his flaws and failures. He sees himself as a natural leader who can easily sway others. He doesn’t listen and often interrupts. It’s a one-way street -- all take, no give.
Someone can be a narcissist and not have the disorder. For example, Bill Gates has been called a narcissist, but not to the extent that it disrupts his daily life.
It’s proven that most people are drawn to narcissists and find them attractive, likeable, and exciting. Confidence is charming. And successful leaders are often more assertive and demanding.