Bill Farrand, LCPC
“Am I a narcissist?” That’s a question that often comes up during individual counseling sessions. In a world in which it often seems as if we’re surrounded by more narcissists than ever, it might also be argued that it’s merely yet another distortion of unprecedented Social Media.
While this may be relatively easy to accept in theory, any brief channel-surfing of today’s entertainment (not to mention political) news will more than likely leave you far less interested in any potential cause than in simply escaping the glut of all the abounding egos.
To that end, let’s set aside for now that particular debate and look first to ourselves. By understanding the universal nature of many behaviors that only become unhealthy when taken to extremes, hopefully we can bypass the initial (typically narcissistic) denial impulses and take a more sober look at where on the spectrum we ourselves are prone to operate.
As you review the following bullet points, then, keep in mind that a healthy level of self-esteem will render most of them occasionally true for us all. The important measure is how much and how often each quality has begun to interfere with a healthy functionality in your day-to-day life. With that in mind, ask yourself the following questions:
1) Do I seem to to swear at people more than those around me?
Studies show that subjects who scored higher in narcissism are consistently more argumentative, tend to use more sexually explicit language and curse more than their modest counterparts. Context here is key – those in surroundings prone to a ribald tongue are obviously far more likely to adjust their own vocabularies accordingly (and vice versa). Be sure you only compare your swearing to that of others in the same situations or environments.
2) Do I regularly feel under-appreciated?
If this is a continually recurring complaint for you, it may well spring from holding a narcissist’s general (subconscious ) grievance against the world. Remember, everyone feels this way at times. We’re looking for patterns, not isolated incidents.
3) Am I a bad sport?
This applies every bit as much (and sometimes more) to our behavior after a win as it does after a loss. Any competitive situation – regardless of its eventual outcome – can easily evoke bullying behavior from a narcissist, most of whom develop reputations for being both a sore loser and a sore winner with relative ease.
4) Am I often described as self-righteous?
By definition, any narcissist will find this difficult to cop to. If it keeps coming up in the reactions of those around us to our behavior, though, we might well benefit from asking ourselves why we regularly appear to believe that our views are inherently superior to other people’s perspectives.
5) How comfortable am I with public emotions – particularly my own?
Harvard Medical School psychologist Craig Malkin explains that merely “experiencing a feeling in the presence of another person suggests you can be touched emotionally by friends, family, partners, and even the occasional tragedy or failure” – anathema to a narcissist’s vital need for autonomy! He continues, “To admit to a feeling of any kind suggests they can be affected by someone or something outside of them.” A telltale sign to watch for is a tendency to change the topic of conversation when feelings come up — especially your own.
6) Do I truly listen when others speak or do I simply wait for my turn?
If people sometimes accuse you of “glazing over” when others talk, particularly in what is supposed to be a give-and-take conversation (it happens to us all in the lecture hall!), it can be helpful to consider that they may well have a point. The potential denial of this symptom is often so strong, though, it not infrequently takes video documentation before we can honestly accept our own tendency to do so.
7) Do I fall in and out of love quickly and easily, often with people I don’t know very well?
Narcissists initially think their partners absolutely perfect — conveniently complementing their own perfection — until reality sets in. A four-month duration is a highly predominant average: upon realizing that their partner is of course flawed, like the rest of humanity, narcissists often promptly end the relationship (usually with what might generously be called a “signature dramatic flare.”)
8) Do I rationalize my own meanness to others?
Recurring feedback along these lines can be a prime indicator. Narcissists know vengeful or antisocial behavior isn’t acceptable, but justify acting that way because they constantly feel they’ve been wronged. Ask yourself, as honestly as possible, how often you find yourself excusing actions in your own behavior that you’ve condemned in others.
9) Do I always have to be in control?
A narcissist’s sense of total autonomy is central to their identity. “To be at the mercy of other people’s preferences,” Malkin says, “reminds them that they aren’t invulnerable or completely independent — that, in fact, they might have to ask for what they want — and even worse, people may not feel like meeting the request.”
10) Do I think I’m different than most people?
Mosts narcissists feel they are unique and special. They often believe most people don’t understand them because they are simply smarter – or “gifted”.
If considering these factors leads to concern, the good news is that Narcissistic Personality is one of the more treatable conditions with psychotherapy. Should you feel the need to more deeply evaluate yourself, the widely-accepted industry standard self-test is available on the Psychcentral Website.
You Might Be a Narcissist If… – How to Identify Narcissism in Ourselves and Others and What We Can Do About It by Paul Meier , Cynthia Munz, Lisa Charlebois, available at Amazon.com.
Should you decide to discuss options for treatment, we have skilled therapists right here in Chicago at 2nd Story Counseling who specialize in working with those who want to change the narcissistic behaviors and lessen the resulting depression, anxiety and isolation you may be feeling. Call to speak to one of them today!