Narcissism has been a popular concept since the election of Donald Trump as U.S. 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 him or her narcissistic. You can judge for yourself whether Trump fits the bill or whether you do, as you read the characteristics.
- Grandiose self-image. Do you think you are better than everybody else? Smarter? Better looking?
- Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success. Do you see a great present or future for yourself, with you rich, powerful, and adored by many?
- Sense of entitlement. Do you feel entitled to special privileges? An easy life? Special treatment?
- 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?
- Are you envious of others? Do you want everything good that the people around you have? Do you begrudge others for having what you want?
- Arrogance/abusive conduct. Do you treat others as if they are beneath you? Do you continually criticize or mistreat others?
- Exploitation. Do you exploit others? Use your position or unfair strategies to obtain money or sexual gratification?
- Low empathy. 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% of men and 5% of women.
Most of us have only some of the characteristics at a high level. At a moderate level, some of the characteristics could have value to a person. While a grandiose self-concept might cause us trouble, a somewhat inflated self-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 hard toward our 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.
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.