I read a lot about narcissism. It’s sort of like being an undercover cop in a drug cartel, you know? I keep immersing myself in the lifestyle, trying to learn more about it so that I can get a deeper understanding of what it is, how to deal with it, and most of all, how to heal from it. I have gotten criticism from those who have accused me of trying to get back at him or just venting my bitterness when, in truth, I could care less about him or what he does. I don’t care if he is miserable or exuberant – I just don’t want others to be unaware of what they are dealing with as long as I was.
Anyway, when you soak up that much information you begin to see things in yourself, or at least I do. I worry that I am being controlling or manipulative because I would be devastated if I was… you know… a narcissist. I take the Are You a Narcissist? tests and invariably I find similarities in my own actions. I’ll be honest, it scares the crap out of me.
Degrees of Narcissism
Psychologists believe that narcissism isn’t a box with clear boundaries but is more like a line with increasing degrees. There is even such a thing as healthy narcissism – it’s just way at the beginning of the line. At the other end of the spectrum is the narcissistic sociopath. All of the space in between is made up of degrees – so to some extent we are all narcissists.
In other words, if you take one of those tests you’ll have some of the characteristics of a narcissist. Don’t let it freak you out.
Types of Narcissists
There are many different types of narcissists, and honestly more categories being created every day. To some extent narcissism is to 2014 what ADHD was to 1984. In any case, understanding the various types may help you see what you are dealing with.
Keep in mind that narcissists are most often a blend of several kinds and the intensity of their narcissism will depend a lot on where the fall on the line.
The Amorous Narcissist
Infidelity, sexual addiction, seduction – these guys find their value in the notches they’ve cut on their bedposts. He experiences personal satisfaction and a sense of self-worth when he’s winning over a new conquest, especially if it is challenging.
Once he has you it usually doesn’t take long for him to move on. Oh, he may not go through the inconvenience of a divorce but fidelity is not part of his vocabulary.
The Elitist Narcissist
The elitist will keep up appearances no matter what. They see themselves as more important, more intelligent, and more talented than others. They believe they are entitled to special treatment because of their superiority. Follow directions? Not this guy – he’s above all of that. He’ll blatantly ignore court orders because the rules are meant for the other guys.
Everything is a competition, everything. This is the guy who will woo you away from his best friend just because he can.
The Passive Aggressive Narcissist
I wrote about the passive-aggressive narcissist a few weeks ago so I won’t go into detail here. He will manipulate and control his environment by being the victim or the martyr. No matter what happens in his life it is always someone else’s fault.
The Unprincipled Narcissist
The unprincipled narcissist has little conscience, and no real sense of right or wrong. They are deceptive, and will lie as easily as most people tell the truth. Their concern about others stops the moment it crosses the threshold of their space and comfort.
They are arrogant, unscrupulous, and enjoy mind games. Generally this is the narcissist that will cross hairs with the legal system at some point. It could be drugs, petty theft, or some sort of white collar crime. These are the guys that will run up credit card bills and then walk away without a second thought, leaving you holding the bag.
The Compensatory Narcissist
A few months ago Hollywood released a movie that was based on a short story called, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. If you’ve never read the story I encourage you to do so. It’s about a man that leads a very insipid life but has a wild imagination. This narcissist will create college degrees, adventurous experiences, war stories, or whatever it takes to ensure that his audience is impressed.
He doesn’t take no for an answer. No one has any rights except for his majesty, and if he wants you to do something he will hammer at you until it happens, calling often to remind you. His emotions are tools that he uses to ensure the outcome he is looking for.
Since he has no sense of guilt or shame he’ll have no problem acing the lie detector test. You can catch him, red handed, with his hand in the cookie jar and he’ll tell you he wasn’t getting a cookie. He really is incapable of real feelings for anyone.
He’s impulsive and not very self-disciplined – that can make him dangerous. This level of narcissist is most likely to become physically violent. He wants to be taken care of financially and prefers to work the least amount possible.
This one was new to me. This one is hard to spot because it masquerades as introversion, shyness, and lack of self-confidence. This is the person who makes everyone feel that they need to be taken care of. They are hypersensitive, pessimistic, depressed, defensive, and overly sensitive to criticism.
I’ll tell you, this is the one that made me sweat. I am an introvert, I tend to be shy, and I have to really work on my self-confidence. Due to a lot of criticism growing up and a heavy dose of perfectionism criticism makes me wither. I took a questionnaire on Scientific American and was very relieved when I scored well below the boundary line for covert narcissism.
Am I a Narcissist? Are You a Narcissist?
So, we all have some degree of narcissism and it’s a healthy thing in small doses. It helps us like ourselves, take pride in our accomplishments, and have self-confidence. We see ourselves realistically, accepting both our strengths and weaknesses. We may even have small levels of the symptoms above.
Malignant Narcissism, the type that is problematic, is the point that someone consistently manifests 5 of the 9 criteria necessary to put it into the category of being a mental disorder.
The Nine Criteria for Narcissism
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance – he expects to be recognized as being superior, exaggerates achievements, lies about them, etc.
- He fantasizes about his success, power, brilliance, looks, coolness factor, or whatever he feels sets him apart.
- He thinks he is so unique that only certain (superior) people can understand and relate to him.
- Requires excessive admiration.
- Entitlement. He expects special treatment and automatic compliance.
- He will take advantage of others to achieve his agenda… or because he can…or because he is bored.
- He has little empathy if any. He cannot identify with the needs or feelings of others.
- Is envious of what others have and/or is positive people are envious of him.
- Exhibits regular arrogant, haughty, superior behavior.
If you are concerned that you might be unhealthily narcissistic you probably aren’t unless you are a narcissist that has heard that narcissists don’t question whether they are one or not and so you’ve started asking your friends what they think even though you don’t believe you are. I know that is a complex, convoluted statement but if you’ve lived with a narcissist you’ll totally understand what I mean.
Spend time with friends who will be honest with you and help you see yourself in perspective. Talk openly about your concerns, problems, and fears and interact with other women who understand. Join First Wives World today to get connected to a group who can advise, affirm, and encourage you in your daily life.
Lead Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons,TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ -Image was changed to black and white and cropped for this article.