Narcissism is a self-centered personality style characterized as having an excessive interest in one's physical appearance and an excessive pre-occupation with on one's own needs, often at the expense of others. The term narcissism is derived from the Greek mythology of Narcissus, a handsome and proud young man who, upon seeing his reflection in the water, became so enamored that he remained at the water's edge until he died.
It is human nature to be selfish and boastful to a certain degree and there is a significant difference between being narcissist and self-absorbed and those having a mental illness or the pathology of narcissistic personality disorder.
Narcissism refers to a "pervasive pattern of grandiosity", which is characterized by feelings of entitlement and superiority, arrogant or haughty behaviors, and a generalized lack of empathy and concern for others.
Extremely high levels of narcissistic behavior are considered Narcisistic personality disorder, but narcissism, in and off itself, is a normal personality trait. In essence, narcissistic behavior are a system of intrapersonal and interpersonal strategies devoted to protecting one's self-esteem.
Four dimensions of narcissism as a personality variable have been delineated: leadership/authority, superiority/arrogance, self-absorption/self-admiration, and exploitativeness/entitlement.
German psychoanalyst Karen Horney (1885-1952) saw the narcissistic personality as a temperament trait molded by a certain kind of early environment. She did not see narcissistic needs and tendencies as inherent in human nature.
Normal or healthy narcissism is an essential component of mature self-esteem and basic self-worth. Dr. Craig Malkin describes a lack of healthy narcissism as echoism, a term inspired by the nymph Echo in the mythology of Narcissus.
Freud said that narcissism was an original state from which the individual develops the love object.[qualify evidence] He argued that healthy narcissism is an essential part of normal development. According to Freud, the love of the parents for their child and their attitude toward their child could be seen as a revival and reproduction of their own narcissism. The child has a megalomaniac omnipotence of thought; the parents stimulate that feeling because in their child they see the things that they have never reached themselves. Compared to neutral observers, parents tend to overvalue the qualities of their child. When parents act in an extreme opposite style and the child is rejected or inconsistently reinforced depending on the mood of the parent, the self-needs of the child are not met.
Freud contrasted the natural development of active-egoistic and passive-altruistic tendencies in the individual with narcissism, in the former, and what Trevor Pederson referred to as echoism, in the latter.
Freud's idea of narcissism described a pathology which manifests itself in the inability to love others, a lack of empathy, emptiness, boredom, and an unremitting need to search for power, while making the person unavailable to others.
Healthy narcissism has to do with a strong feeling of "own love" protecting the human being against illness. Eventually, however, the individual must love the other, "the object love to not become ill". The individual becomes ill as a result of the frustration created when he is unable to love the object.[better source needed] In pathological narcissism such as the narcissistic personality disorder, the person's libido has been withdrawn from objects in the world and produces megalomania. The clinical theorists Kernberg, Kohut and Theodore Millon all saw pathological narcissism as a possible outcome in response to unempathic and inconsistent early childhood interactions. They suggested that narcissists try to compensate in adult relationships. The pathological condition of narcissism is, as Freud suggested, a magnified, extreme manifestation of healthy narcissism. It has been suggested that healthy narcissism is correlated with good psychological health. Self-esteem works as a mediator between narcissism and psychological health. Therefore, because of their elevated self-esteem, deriving from self-perceptions of competence and likability, high narcissists are relatively free of worry and gloom.
Other researchers have suggested that healthy narcissism cannot be seen as 'good' or 'bad', but that it depends on the contexts and outcomes being measured. In certain social contexts such as initiating social relationships, and with certain outcome variables, such as feeling good about oneself, healthy narcissism can be helpful. In other contexts, such as maintaining long-term relationships and with outcome variables, such as accurate self-knowledge, healthy narcissism can be unhelpful.
Sexual narcissism has been described as an egocentric pattern of sexual behavior that involves an inflated sense of sexual ability and sexual entitlement. In addition, sexual narcissism is the erotic preoccupation with oneself as a superb lover through a desire to merge sexually with a mirror image of oneself. Sexual narcissism is an intimacy dysfunction in which sexual exploits are pursued, generally in the form of extramarital affairs, to overcompensate for low self-esteem and an inability to experience true intimacy. This behavioral pattern is believed to be more common in men than in women and has been tied to domestic violence in men and sexual coercion in couples. Hurlbert argues that sex is a natural biological given and therefore cannot be deemed as an addiction. He and his colleagues assert that any sexual addiction is nothing more than a misnomer for what is actually sexual narcissism or sexual compulsivity. While Hurlbert writes mainly of sexual narcissism in men, Schoenewolf (2013) describes what he calls "gender narcissism" which occurs in both males and females who compensate for feelings of sexual inadequacy by becoming overly proud and obsessed with their masculinity or femininity.
Narcissistic leadership is a common form of leadership. The narcissism may be healthy or destructive although there is a continuum between the two. A study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests that when a group is without a leader, a narcissist is apt to take charge. Researchers found that people who score high in narcissism tend to emerge as group leaders.
Narcissism as a personality trait, generally assessed with the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, is related to some types of behavior in the workplace. For example, individuals high in narcissism inventories are more likely to engage in counterproductive work behavior (CWB, behavior that harms organizations or other people in the workplace). Although individuals high in narcissism inventories might engage in more aggressive (and counterproductive) behaviors, they mainly do so when their self-esteem is threatened. Thus, narcissistic employees are more likely to engage in CWB when they feel threatened. Individuals high in narcissism have fragile self-esteem and are easily threatened. One study found that employees who are high on narcissism are more likely to perceive the behaviors of others in the workplace as abusive and threatening than individuals who are low on narcissism.
The narcissistic manager will have two main sources of narcissistic supply: inanimate - status symbols like company cars, company-issued smartphone or prestigious offices with window views; and animate - flattery and attention from colleagues and subordinates. Teammates may find everyday offers of support swiftly turn them into enabling sources of permanent supply, unless they are very careful to maintain proper boundaries. The need to protect such supply networks will prevent the narcissistic managers from taking objective decisions; while long-term strategies will be evaluated according to their potential for attention-gaining for the manager themself. Organizational psychologist Alan Downs wrote a book in 1997 describing corporate narcissism. He explores high-profile corporate leaders (such as Al Dunlap and Robert Allen) who, he suggests, literally have only one thing on their minds: profits. According to Downs, such narrow focus actually may yield positive short-term benefits, but ultimately it drags down individual employees as well as entire companies. Alternative thinking is proposed, and some firms now utilizing these options are examined. Downs' theories are relevant to those suggested by Victor Hill in his book, Corporate Narcissism in Accounting Firms Australia.
Medical narcissism is a term coined by John Banja in his book, Medical Errors and Medical Narcissism. Banja defines "medical narcissism" as the need of health professionals to preserve their self-esteem leading to the compromise of error disclosure to patients. In the book he explores the psychological, ethical and legal effects of medical errors and the extent to which a need to constantly assert their competence can cause otherwise capable, and even exceptional, professionals to fall into narcissistic traps. He claims that:
...most health professionals (in fact, most professionals of any ilk) work on cultivating a self that exudes authority, control, knowledge, competence and respectability. It's the narcissist in us all--we dread appearing stupid or incompetent.
Narcissistic parents demand certain behavior from their children because they see the children as extensions of themselves, and need the children to represent them in the world in ways that meet the parents' emotional needs. This parenting 'style' most often results in estranged relationships with the children, coupled with feelings of resentment and self-destructive tendencies. They would intentionally create a situation to collect narcissistic supply.
Narcissistic abuse was originally just defined as a specific form of emotional abuse of children by narcissistic parents - parents who require the child to give up their own wants and feelings in order to serve the parent's needs for esteem. The term emerged in the late twentieth century due to the works of Alice Miller and other Neo-Freudians, rejecting psychoanalysis as being similar to the poisonous pedagogies.
Self-help culture assumes that someone abused by narcissistic parenting as a child likely struggles with codependency issues in adulthood. An adult who is or has been in a relationship with a narcissist likely struggles with not knowing what constitutes a "normal" relationship.
In recent years the term has been applied more broadly to refer to any abuse by a narcissist including in adult to adult relationships.
Acquired situational narcissism (ASN) is a form of narcissism that develops in late adolescence or adulthood, brought on by wealth, fame and the other trappings of celebrity. It was coined by Robert B. Millman, professor of psychiatry at the Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University. ASN differs from conventional narcissism in that it develops after childhood and is triggered and supported by the celebrity-obsessed society. Fans, assistants and tabloid media all play into the idea that the person really is vastly more important than other people, triggering a narcissistic problem that might have been only a tendency, or latent, and helping it to become a full-blown personality disorder. "Millman says that what happens to celebrities is that they get so used to people looking at them that they stop looking back at other people." In its presentation and symptoms, it is indistinguishable from narcissistic personality disorder, differing only in its late onset and its support by large numbers of others. "The lack of social norms, controls, and of people telling them how life really is, also makes these people believe they're invulnerable," so that the person with ASN may suffer from unstable relationships, substance abuse and erratic behaviour. A famous fictional character with ASN is Norma Desmond, the main character of Sunset Boulevard.
Collective narcissism (or group narcissism) is a type of narcissism where an individual has an inflated self-love of his or her own ingroup, where an "ingroup" is a group in which an individual is personally involved. While the classic definition of narcissism focuses on the individual, collective narcissism asserts that one can have a similar excessively high opinion of a group, and that a group can function as a narcissistic entity. Collective narcissism is related to ethnocentrism; however, ethnocentrism primarily focuses on self-centeredness at an ethnic or cultural level, while collective narcissism is extended to any type of ingroup beyond just cultures and ethnicities.
In The Culture of Narcissism, Christopher Lasch defines a narcissistic culture as one where every activity and relationship is defined by the hedonistic need to acquire the symbols of wealth, this becoming the only expression of rigid, yet covert, social hierarchies. It is a culture where liberalism only exists insofar as it serves a consumer society, and even art, sex and religion lose their liberating power. In such a society of constant competition, there can be no allies, and little transparency. The threats to acquisitions of social symbols are so numerous, varied and frequently incomprehensible, that defensiveness, as well as competitiveness, becomes a way of life. Any real sense of community is undermined--or even destroyed--to be replaced by virtual equivalents that strive, unsuccessfully, to synthesize a sense of community.
Conversational narcissism is a term used by sociologist Charles Derber in his book, The Pursuit of Attention: Power and Ego in Everyday Life. Derber observed that the social support system in America is relatively weak, and this leads people to compete mightily for attention. In social situations, they tend to steer the conversation away from others and toward themselves. "Conversational narcissism is the key manifestation of the dominant attention-getting psychology in America," he wrote. "It occurs in informal conversations among friends, family and coworkers. The profusion of popular literature about listening and the etiquette of managing those who talk constantly about themselves suggests its pervasiveness in everyday life." What Derber describes as "conversational narcissism" often occurs subtly rather than overtly because it is prudent to avoid being judged an egotist. Derber distinguishes the "shift-response" from the "support-response," as in the following two hypothetical conversation fragments:
This section may contain material unrelated or insufficiently related to its topic, which is the topic of another article, History of narcissism. Some material from this section detail is better suited for another article .. (September 2021)
The term narcissism comes from the Greek myth about Narcissus (Greek: , Narkissos), a handsome Greek youth who, according to Ovid, rejected the desperate advances of the nymph Echo. This caused Narcissus to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to consummate his love, Narcissus "lay gazing enraptured into the pool, hour after hour," and finally changed into a flower that bears his name, the narcissus.[failed verification] The concept of excessive selfishness has been recognized throughout history. In ancient Greece, the concept was understood as hubris. It is only since the late 1800s that narcissism has been defined in psychological terms.
This section may contain material unrelated or insufficiently related to its topic, which is the topic of another article, Narcissistic personality disorder. Some material from this section detail is better suited for another article .. (September 2021)
Within the field of psychology, there are two main branches of research into narcissism: (1) clinical and (2) social psychology.
These two approaches differ in their view of narcissism, with the former treating it as a disorder, thus as discrete, and the latter treating it as a personality trait, thus as a continuum. These two strands of research tend loosely to stand in a divergent relation to one another, although they converge in places.
Campbell and Foster (2007) review the literature on narcissism. They argue that narcissists possess the following "basic ingredients":
Narcissists tend to demonstrate a lack of interest in warm and caring interpersonal relationships. There are several ongoing controversies within narcissism literature, namely: whether narcissism is healthy or unhealthy; a personality disorder; a discrete or continuous variable; defensive or offensive; the same across genders; the same across cultures; and changeable or unchangeable.
Campbell and Foster (2007) argue that self-regulatory strategies are of paramount importance to understanding narcissism. Self-regulation in narcissists involves such things as striving to make one's self look and feel positive, special, successful and important. It comes in both intra-psychic, such as blaming a situation rather than self for failure, and interpersonal forms, such as using a relationship to serve one's own self. Some differences in self-regulation between narcissists and non-narcissists can be seen with Campbell, Reeder, Sedikides & Elliot (2000) who conducted a study with two experiments. In each experiment, participants took part in an achievement task, following which they were provided with false feedback; it was either bogus success or failure. The study found that both narcissists and non-narcissists self-enhanced, but non-narcissists showed more flexibility in doing so. Participants were measured on both a comparative and a non-comparative self-enhancement strategy. Both narcissists and non-narcissists employed the non-comparative strategy similarly; however, narcissists were found to be more self-serving with the comparative strategy, employing it far more than non-narcissists, suggesting a greater rigidity in their self-enhancement. When narcissists receive negative feedback that threatens the self, they self-enhance at all costs, but non-narcissists tend to have limits.
Sorokowski et al. (2015) showed that narcissism is related to the frequency of posting selfie-type pictures on social media. Sorokowski's study showed that this relationship was stronger among men than women.
Research indicates that being in a devalued social group can encourage narcissism in some members of that group, as said individuals attempt to compensate for their low social status (due to being a member of a stigmatised group) by exaggerating their own self-worth by engaging in narcissism, which may also help them psychologically cope with negative treatment at the hands of others, though it may also cause them to engage in behaviour detrimental to themselves.
The concept of narcissism is used in evolutionary psychology in relation to the mechanisms of assortative mating, or the non-random choice of a partner for purposes of procreation. Evidence for assortative mating among humans is well established; humans mate assortatively regarding age, IQ, height, weight, nationality, educational and occupational level, physical and personality characteristics, and family relatedness. In the "self seeking like" hypothesis, individuals unconsciously look for a "mirror image" of themselves in others, seeking criteria of beauty or reproductive fitness in the context of self-reference. Alvarez et al. found that facial resemblance between couples was a strong driving force among the mechanisms of assortative mating: human couples resemble each other significantly more than would be expected from random pair formation. Since facial characteristics are known to be inherited, the "self seeking like" mechanism may enhance reproduction between genetically similar mates, favoring the stabilization of genes supporting social behavior, with no kin relationship among them.
Narcissistic defenses are those processes whereby the idealized aspects of the self are preserved, and its limitations denied. They tend to be rigid and totalitarian. They are often driven by feelings of shame and guilt, conscious or unconscious.
Codependency is a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively caretaking ways that negatively impact one's relationships and quality of life. Narcissists are considered to be natural magnets for the codependent. Rapport identifies codependents of narcissists as "co-narcissists".
Destructive narcissism is the constant exhibition of numerous and intense characteristics usually associated with the pathological narcissist but having fewer characteristics than pathological narcissism.
According to recent cultural criticism, Narcissus has replaced Oedipus as the myth of our time. Narcissism is now seen to be at the root of everything from the ill-fated romance with violent revolution to the enthralled mass consumption of state-of-the-art products and the 'lifestyles of the rich and famous'.
Jessica Benjamin (2000), "The Oedipal Riddle," p. 233
Some critics contend that pop culture has become more narcissistic in recent decades. This claim is supported by scholarship indicating some celebrities hire "fake paparazzi", the frequency with which "reality TV" programs populate the television schedules, and the growth of an online culture in which digital media, social media and the "will-to-fame" are generating a "new era of public narcissism [that] is mutating with new media forms." In this analysis, narcissism, rather than being the pathologized property of a discrete personality type, has been asserted as a constituent cultural feature of an entire generation since the end of World War II.
Supporting the contention that American culture has become more narcissistic and that this is increasingly reflected in its cultural products is an analysis of US popular song lyrics between 1987 and 2007. This found a growth in the use of first-person singular pronouns, reflecting a greater focus on the self, and also of references to antisocial behavior; during the same period, there was a diminution of words reflecting a focus on others, positive emotions, and social interactions. Similar patterns of change in cultural production are observable in other Western states. A linguistic analysis of the largest circulation Norwegian newspaper found that the use of self-focused and individualistic terms increased in frequency by 69 per cent between 1984 and 2005 while collectivist terms declined by 32 per cent. References to narcissism and self-esteem in American popular print media have experienced vast inflation since the late 1980s. Between 1987 and 2007 direct mentions of self-esteem in leading US newspapers and magazines increased by 4,540 per cent while narcissism, which had been almost non-existent in the press during the 1970s, was referred to over 5,000 times between 2002 and 2007.
Cross-cultural studies of differences in narcissism are rare. Instead, as there is a positive association between narcissism and individualism and a negative one between it and collectivism, these traits have been used as proxies for narcissism in some studies. This approach, however, risks the misapplication of the concepts of individualism and collectivism to create overly-fixed, "caricature-like", oppositional categories. Nonetheless, one study looked at differences in advertising products between an individualistic culture, America, and a collectivist one, South Korea. In American magazine advertisements, it found, there was a greater tendency to stress the distinctiveness and uniqueness of the person; conversely the South Korean ones stressed the importance of social conformity and harmony. This observation holds true for a cross-cultural analysis across a wide range of cultural outputs where individualistic national cultures produce more individualistic cultural products and collectivist national cultures produce more collectivist national products; these cultural effects were greater than the effects of individual differences within national cultures.