Narcissism is one of those popular buzz words that our generation loves to throw around when describing someone we’ve encountered who we find excessively vain, self-centered, egotistical and overall less than favorable. Whether it’s your awful boss, a trash ex-boyfriend or the leader of the free world, it’s easy to label someone as a narcissist to explain their otherwise unexplainable behavior.
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But did you know that this narcissistic label that we often place on people is actually part of a more serious personality disorder that psychologists believe is unrecognizable and irreversible in those who have it? That’s right, people with narcissistic tendencies believe they are just overly confident rather than narcissistic, and according to psychologists, that narcissism masked as false confidence will prevent them from seeking help to change their behavior for good.
Although most of us will demonstrate some narcissistic traits over time (think selfies on Instagram), those with extreme narcissism are said to have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), which is a mental condition where people have an inflated sense of their own importance and often experience troubled relationships due to their disregard for other people.
But what does all of this mean?
According to psychologists, people with NPD have a lack of empathy for other people and a desperate need for admiration. They expect to be recognized as superior, even without achievements that warrant recognition. They have a sense of entitlement and tend to exaggerate (or lie) about their talents and achievements in an effort to be the adoration or envy of their peers. They tend to associate with people they think are talented or gifted in some way, as it’s this association that helps boost their own self-esteem and provides an opportunity for the narcissist to take advantage of an individual to get what they want. The narcissistic person in your life may initially come across as confident, but overtime that confidence turns into arrogance, self-centeredness and manipulation.
Consequently, individuals with NPD also have a hard time handling criticism and will often react with rage or try to belittle other people to make themselves feel superior when they feel attacked. Deep down inside, narcissists have secret feelings of insecurity, shame and humiliation and may become depressed or moody if they ever fall short of their idea of perfection. Due to their impulsive behavior, researchers often associate NPD with high rates of substance abuse as well as mood and anxiety disorders.
But how do people become narcissistic?
During an episode of Red Table Talk entitled “The Narcissism Epidemic”, clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula, PhD, revealed that people aren’t born narcissists, they are created by negligent parents.
“Kids who are narcissistic either had narcissistic parents themselves or really distracted parents,” Dr. Durvasula explained. “Kids who are over indulged, meaning that they get anything they want; any experience or any [amount of] money, while their emotional needs are completely under nourished. That’s the difference. As far as they’re concerned, they go to Disney Land every weekend but sometimes they just want to cry and say ‘I feel sad or I feel scared’ and there’s no adult to be found when that happens.”
“That over indulgence against under indulgence teaches the child that only their outside, external stuff matters. And then kids who only get valued for what they do – you kick a soccer ball well, you sing well, you get good grades, you look pretty – those kids who learn that realize that I’m only about the things I do and how I look and nobody cares about my inside world. By the time they’re about 16,17 or 18 this [narcissism] starts to emerge and there’s not a lot you can do about it. This is not a pattern that changes.”
Most people with NPD may not want to think that anything could be wrong with them, so it’s very unlikely someone experiencing narcissism will seek therapy. If NPD individuals do seek treatment, it’s usually not specifically for narcissism, as perceived threats to their self-esteem make it very hard for narcissists to accept change.
So how do you deal with the narcissist in your life?
Don’t fall for the fantasy, set healthy boundaries and don’t take things personally. Narcissists live in a false reality and that includes their views of others. Don’t let their blame game shatter your self-esteem. Protect your peace, refuse to accept any undeserved criticism and remember, you are enough!
BEAUTIES: Do you have any narcissists in your life? How do you cope?