Mind Matters: Image of a narcissist

I am king: Grandiose self-image and exploitation of others are two signs of a narcissist.
I am king: Grandiose self-image and exploitation of others are two signs of a narcissist.

Narcissism has been a popular concept since the election of Donald Trump as US president. Some psychology instructors use him as an example of the concept.

What is a narcissist? Is Trump one? Are you one?

Narcissism involves several characteristics. If a person has many of these characteristics, we consider them narcissistic. You can judge for yourself whether Trump fits the bill or whether you do.

Grandiose self-image: Do you think you are better than everybody else? Smarter? Better looking?

Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success: Do you see a great present or future for yourself, adored by many, rich, powerful?

Sense of entitlement: Do you feel entitled to special privileges? An easy life? Riches?

Requiring great admiration: Do you insist that others admire you for everything you do? Do you pressure others to express their positive view of you?

Strong negative reactions to criticism: Do you respond with rage or great defensiveness to criticism?

Envious of others: Do you want everything good that others have? Do you begrudge others for having what you want?

Arrogant/abusive conduct: Do you treat others as if they are beneath you? Do you mistreat others?

Exploitation: Do you exploit others? Use your position or unfair strategies to obtain money or sexual gratification?

Low empathy and caring: Do you have little or no awareness of how others feel? Do you care little about the emotional well-being of others?

All these characteristics exist on a sort of continuum. A person could be high, medium, or low on each one. A narcissistic individual is high on most.

How many people have these characteristics at a high enough level that they have difficulties with others as a result? About 8 per cent of men and 5 per cent of women.

At a moderate level, some characteristics could have value. While a grandiose self-concept might cause trouble, a somewhat inflated view might give us the confidence to take risks and achieve great successes. Realistic fantasies of great success might also help motivate us to work toward goals.

Most individuals who are narcissistic do not consider their personality to be a problem. A psychologist would say that they lack insight. They also usually lack a desire to change.

But if they did want to change, they could, with persistent effort, become more empathic and treat others better. However, they first might have to reduce their own great insecurities. Individuals who feel bad at a deep level about themselves may find it hard to change their narcissistic ways.