Have you ever worked with a narcissist? As they go around, leaving havoc in their wake, they seem positively unperturbed at what they've done. And new research says this isn't an act. Some narcissists are happier than those of us who care about others.

There are two types of narcissists, grandiose and vulnerable. The vulnerable narcissists are defensive and hostile. Still, the grandiose narcissists "usually have an over-inflated sense of importance and a preoccupation with status and power," says Kostas Papergeorgiou, director of the InteRRaCt Lab in the School of Psychology at Queen's University, Belfast. He found that people who showed narcissistic traits had increased mental toughness, which resulted in lowered perceived stress and protection against depression.

That over-inflated sense of importance gives these narcissists a sense of "confidence and goal orientation, protecting against symptoms of depression and perceived stress."

How these findings about narcissists can help you

Narcissists have many negative characteristics, including expecting "unquestioning compliance with their expectations," taking "advantage of others to get what they want," and exaggerating their achievements and talents.

These are traits that you don't want, but having lowered stress and being happier can help you, and I think Papergeorgiou's research gives us a clue. Confidence and goal orientation.

How to develop confidence

Some people seem to be born with confidence, but if you're not in that group, you can learn it. Work to gain knowledge and expertise in your area of focus. That may mean taking some extra classes or working with a mentor. Don't give in to imposter syndrome--no one you work with (even the super-confident narcissist) is perfect and knows exactly what they are doing. 

Dr. Neel Burton suggests that you also "wear clean clothes that make you feel good about yourself...eat good food as part of a healthy, balanced diet," and "exercise regularly." These outside activities do affect your inside view of yourself.

Set Goals

You don't have to have a personality disorder to be a goal setter, and you don't need to set grandiose goals to get positive effects from them. 

Accomplishing something small leads to positive feelings. This is why making to-do lists can be so rewarding. You can say, "Look at what I've done!" Accomplishing goals also helps you build your confidence, and it gives you direction. You can take a look at your goals and say, "How does this task help me achieve my goals?" If it doesn't, you can toss that aside.

Narcissists are generally toxic, but if we adopt these positive traits, we can use them for our good--and the good of those around us. There's no reason to destroy others on our climb to the top. Set your goals and build your confidence.

Published on: Nov 6, 2019
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