The word “Narcissist” has its origins in Greek mythology. Around 8 A.D., there is a story about a beautiful hunter named Narcissus who was exceptionally proud. In order to expose his arrogance, Nemesis (a longstanding rival and the origin of the word nemesis) drew him to a pool of water. Narcissus, upon seeing his reflection and not realizing it was his own image, became so attracted to himself that he refused to leave. He later died there. Thus, the name Narcissist describes a person who is fixated on themselves.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) takes its root from the same name. Here is a practical definition:
- Believes they are better or superior to others
- Fantasizes about their unlimited power, success, and attractiveness
- Exaggerates their achievements and talents
- Expects constant praise and admiration from others
- Believes they are special and can only associate with other special people
- Shows little to no empathy for others
- Expects others to go along with their ideas and plans without question
- Takes advantage of others in exchange for personal gain
- Expresses disdain for those they feel are inferior or beneath them
- Believes that others are jealous of them and their success
- Pattern of troubled close relationships, especially with family members
- Sets unrealistic goals for others
- Lies to get what they want or think they deserve
- Is easily offended and hates to be embarrassed or ignored
- Very charming when needed
- Can cut off relationships with others without remorse
- Arrogance in nearly every environment
- Believes it’s all about them.
Many movies have portrayed a person with NPD but perhaps the funniest and most exaggerated example is of Will Ferrell’s character Ron from “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.” Ron’s admiration of his looks and talents despite his obvious flaws is characteristic of narcissism. But narcissists are not just in movies, they are also in real life.
Many professions even encourage and reward a narcissistic mentality. After all, it takes an ambitious goalsetter to run corporations, a charming person to win an election, a very confident (arrogant) person to perform surgery, and an embellisher to get press coverage. Narcissists can be doctors, lawyers, managers, leaders, speakers, athletes, pastors, professors, and business owners.
Some narcissists, however, have a difficult time holding down a job because they constantly believe they are smarter than their superiors. This can become problematic in a work environment where subordinates are expected to succumb to a supervisor’s requests. The result is often a trail of jobs rarely lasting over a year.
Once the narcissism is revealed, spend some time understanding the disorder. Learning to work with a narcissist is much easier than fighting one.