When Narcissism a Trait, Not Necessarily Disorder

Narcissism is an inflated sense of self. It is thinking that you are better than you actually are. It is a complicated trait with lots of different correlates to it, but it does include things like seeking fame, attention, vanity, and so on. However, its main characteristic is its self-centeredness. Jean M. Twenge (via Mutual Responsibility)

Several notable books, one brand new, take on the type of narcissism that is not necessarily a personality disorder but actually a relatively common personality trait.

I. The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement (2009) by Drs. Jean M. Twenge, W. Keith Campbell 

The authors address such questions as, how is narcissism not just high self-esteem? One main difference, they say, is that narcissists lack the ability or interest in nurturing their relationships.

Mutual Responsibility quotes Twenge on other “signs of narcissism”:

  • Overconfidence
  • Being delusional about one’s own greatness
  • Over-optimism
  • Taking too many risks
  • An inflated, unrealistic sense of self
  • Alienation from other people
  • Entitlement, the expectation of having things handed to you without much effort
  • Not caring about others.

II. Rethinking Narcissism: The Bad–and Surprising Good–About Feeling Special (2015) by Craig Malkin

Rethinking Narcissism is about de-pathologizing the term. “The truth is,” states the book blurb, “that narcissists (all of us) fall on a spectrum somewhere between utter selflessness on the one side, and arrogance and grandiosity on the other. A healthy middle exhibits a strong sense of self. On the far end lies sociopathy.”

Find out where you stand by taking a brief test that’s available on psychologist Malkin’s website. Your results will provide an assessment of your degree of echoismhealthy narcissism, and extreme narcissism.

(When people have “echoism,” according to Dr. Malkin, they are “so fearful of attention or acknowledgment that they often seem to have no voice at all.”)

By the way, psychologist Leon F. Seltzer (Psychology Today) says the longer book version of Malkin’s self-test is “alone worth the price of the book.” (He also highly recommends Rethinking Narcissism as a whole.)

III. Everyday Narcissism: Yours, Mine, and Ours by Nancy Van Dyken (September 12, 2017)

In an interview with Psychology Today, author Van Dyken defines “everyday narcissism” as “a low-grade, garden-variety form of narcissism that most of us struggle with, often on a daily basis.” Reports Publishers Weekly, “everyday narcissism” includes “the resulting passivity, inability to discuss emotion, and self-denial” that arises from being taught certain myths from an early age.

These five myths have been typically handed down from one generation to another and are as follows:

  • We are responsible for—and have the power to control—how other people feel and behave.
  • Other people are responsible for—and have the power to control—the way we feel and behave.
  • The needs and wants of other people are more important than our own.
  • Following the rules is also more important than addressing our needs and feelings.
  • We are not lovable as we are; we can only become lovable through what we do and say.

One of Van Dyken’s various recommendations is to learn how to say no, which in her work as a therapist is “one of the hardest pieces of homework I give to people.” Her advice will go something like this: “I’d like you to say ‘no, that won’t work for me’ three times this week.” As she recently related to Mike Zimmerman, tonic.vice.com, “It might take someone 3 months to learn how to do that.”

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