Narcissism: "Extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one's own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type." --Oxford English Dictionary.
Surely, few people would want to be classified as a narcissist.
Even if we're quick to judge others as such.
For example, a recent article in The New York Times, "The Narcissist Next Door," began with the question: Does this sound like anyone you know?
It then listed a series of characteristics of "extreme narcissists," as described by clinical psychologist Joseph Burgo, author of the recently published book, The Narcissist You Know.
Some of these characteristics included the tendency to portray one's self as a winner and all others as losers, or developing a grandiose sense of self (even to the point of violating social norms), throwing tantrums, or behaving as if entitled to do whatever one wants--regardless of how it affects others.
Interestingly, although not surprisingly, the comments section of that article is rife with remarks of those who have identified narcissistic traits in others--ex-lovers, neighbors, and even family members. (A particular U.S. presidential candidate was mentioned an exceptional number of times.)
But here's the thing about narcissistic personality traits:
We often ignore them in ourselves.
For example, according to the Mayo Clinic, "when you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may not want to think that anything could be wrong--doing so wouldn't fit with your self-image of power and perfection."
Granted, we're talking here about extreme narcissism. But the fact is that we're often blind to our own weaknesses. And if we consistently demonstrate even a few narcissistic traits, couldn't that be a hidden cause of trouble in our most important relationships--at work, with friends, and in our families?
It all boils down to this: It's extremely difficult to see ourselves from an unbiased perspective.
That's why the single best way to know if you are demonstrating evidence of narcissistic personality traits is to:
Find someone you trust, and ask them the questions found below.
The person you choose should be able to deliver as balanced a view as possible. (Ideally, you should speak to a few persons that fit that criteria.)
The Narcissist Test
Once you find the right person(s), ask them the following questions (adapted from the Mayo Clinic's description of Narcissistic Personality Disorder):
- Do I at times come across as conceited, boastful, or pretentious?
- Do I tend to monopolize conversations?
- Do you get the feeling that I look down on people I perceive as inferior?
- Would you say that I portray a sense of entitlement?
- If I don't receive special treatment, do I become impatient or angry?
- Do I insist in having "the best" of everything?
- Do I have trouble handling criticism?
- Do I ever belittle others in an effort to appear superior?
- Do I exaggerate my achievements and talents? (Or do I have an exaggerated sense of self-importance?)
- Do I seem preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty, or the perfect mate?
- Do I believe I'm superior to many others, and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people?
- Do I expect special favors and unquestioning compliance with my expectations?
- Do I take advantage of others to get what I want?
- Do I have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others?
- Am I envious of others and believing others envy me?
How This Can Help
Of course, any of us may demonstrate one or more of these traits at some point in our lives--it doesn't mean we're an extreme narcissist or suffering from a psychological disorder.
But these negative tendencies--even in limited form--can be the source of unnecessary problems in our relationships, at work, or in our financial lives. They can lead to major misunderstandings and create a huge gap between the way we see ourselves, and the way others see us.
By increasing awareness of these tendencies, we can better identify them in the future--and improve our overall quality of life.