Common and Lesser-Known Traits of Narcissism
Regina George from Mean Girls, Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, Don Draper from Mad Men and Gordon Gekko from Wall Street have one thing in common. They are all narcissists who exhibit at least some of the following traits:
- Exaggeration of personal greatness and accomplishments
- Excessive need for admiration
- Preoccupation with achieving unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty and/or adoration
- Sense of entitlement
- Manipulative or interpersonally exploitative
- Difficulty experiencing empathy
- Lack of insight about maladaptive behavior
The narcissistic traits above are better-known and easy to detect. The traits below, however, can be more difficult to spot:
- Low self-esteem. That’s right. Though their “armor” of positive self-regard might appear to be impenetrable, narcissists often have a deeply insecure “inner child” driven to hide their feelings of inferiority at all costs.
- Highly reactive to criticism. If a narcissist perceives even the most innocuous comment as a critique, their fragile ego can feel threatened, leading to defensiveness and/or explosive rage.
- Projecting undesirable traits onto others. The often-deep-seated need of a narcissist to protect their sense of self from flaws and shortcomings can result in “projecting” these traits onto others.
Many people exhibit one or more of these traits—in varying degrees. However, in order to be officially diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder by a mental health clinician, an individual would need to meet the criteria noted in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Coping With Narcissism
If you have read this far, you have a good understanding of narcissism “red flags.” If you spot these signs in someone who is an acquaintance, it is easy to maintain a healthy distance. But what if you have a coworker or family member with narcissistic traits? Below, we offer tips for coping with narcissism in others:
- Practice empathy. Though this can be difficult when dealing with a narcissist, empathy can help lessen the intensity of interactions. Try to consider what experiences might have caused this person to become a narcissist. Maybe, this person was raised by a narcissist. Maybe, this person was a victim of abuse. As we note above, narcissists behave the way they do because of something unhealthy within them.
- Advocate for yourself. Speak up about what you need/want. Set clear boundaries—letting the narcissist know what your values are—and maintain them, regardless of the narcissist’s potential manipulation.
- Find support. When isolated, it’s easy to begin questioning whether your perception of a narcissist is truly accurate. But remember, narcissists are adept at projecting and manipulating. “It’s not me…it’s you,” a narcissist might say. Talk to friends, family and/or a mental health professional who can help validate your experience.