A lot of people throw around the term narcissist to describes someone with an inflated sense of self. I’ve done it and I’m sure you have also. But are we using it correctly and can we actually identify a narcissist when we come in contact with one.
The definition of narcisssist is: a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves.
Okay. Well… maybe I am using the word right. But what about a chronic narcissist? A habitual, toxic behavior that affects everyone and everything around them?
That’s called Narcissistic Personality Dissorder. It is defined as:
A disorder in which a person has an inflated sense of self-importance.
Narcissistic personality disorder is found more commonly in men. The cause is unknown but likely involves a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Symptoms include an excessive need for admiration, disregard for others’ feelings, an inability to handle any criticism, and a sense of entitlement.
Yep, I’ve met a few of those in my time.
It is no surprise to meet people like that in television or radio. The talent can sometimes have a very high opinion of themselves, while the producer and editors tend to feel intellectually superior. I get it. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.
But what other fields have high levels of narcissistic behavior? According to Stewart Cook, an advocate for victims of Narcissistic Abuse & NPD, says:
- Politicians – their all-consuming hunt for popularity quickly transfers to the voting ballot. Power hungry, short-term vision, an openness to treachery and backhand deals, thriving in the cutthroat environment amongst birds of a feather, fame and recognition. (I KNEW IT)
- CEOs – wealth, status, trappings. An ability to make touch decisions unemotionally, regardless of the numbers of staff whose life may be wrecked with redundancy. Natural risk takers greedy for success and recognition. Power wielded as they rule over a flock of sycophantic and fawning subordinates.
- Lawyers – a delight in making money, lots of it, especially if it can be done at the expense of someone else’s misfortune. A good churn of clients on a daily basis. A profession with status and influence – well suited to the cerebral narcissist.
- Doctors – one’s natural instinct to think of doctors as caring, empathic types and the majority of them are. But this is also a profession that attracts – the positions of power, the opportunity to enjoy someone else’s heartache, the high turnover rate of appointments. Moreover, general practice is a great cover for the narc – projecting a caring reputation and commanding respect in return. The dead giveaway is what would have been referred to in times gone by as an awful bedside manner.
- Surgeons – as for doctors, but with the added buzz and excitement of high drama and unpredictability that the operating theatre offers. Moreover, it their ability to make calm, quick and unemotional decisions (that can potentially have life implications for patients) can be a big bonus.
- University Lecturers – centre of attention, admiration of juniors, the chance to laud their wisdom over a large and captive audience – all attractive to the cerebral narc. Particularly as students provide a regular turnover of fresh new faces.(That makes sense. The Child Nerd of the past who was probably bullied and picked on now has the center of attention!)
- Media and film – widespread recognition and fame.
- Sportstars – this is an interesting one. There is much logic in there being an attraction to the somatic narc – physical supremacy, the chance to show off in front of thousands of adoring fans, stardom and recognition. But whilst individual events are golden opportunities, team sports pose a problem to the narc – the close proximity to others in pretty intense and testing situations, having to put the team needs ahead of their own. All a bit of a high-risk environment for the narc.
- Chef – thriving in chaos, a high turnover of less-educated staff, an accepted atmosphere of fear and abuse. We can all picture the irate chef lambasting juniors with all kinds of expletive, controlling the kitchen with an iron fist, the fearful reverance and exaltation they command.
- Law enforcement – with a smart uniform, shiny badge and side-arm to hide behind, the ultimate narcissistic mask. Wielding more power that they perhaps should, it is easy to understand how a narc policeman might end his career outed as a rotten apple.
- Military – as per law enforcement. But with the added buzz of being empowered to commit the ultimate act of supremacy – taking another human being’s life. Unlike the policeman, however, the soldier lives and works in teams, again under pretty extreme and intense conditions. Harder therefore to get away undetected.
- Priests and Clergy – particularly the gentler type who lack confidence in their sexuality. An uniform and stereotypical and ready-made persona to hide behind, the opportunity to work with the more vulnerable in society; the voyeuristic access to personal information, secrets and situations, the protection that their host organisation has traditionally provided them, a ready-made flock of acolytes.
- Public relations – the manipulation, the acting, the lack of moral compass for a theme, or empathy towards individuals affected by stories, the thrill of chaos. (EEK… I’m in that world… yeah, I can see it. And yes, I am probably guilty. Pot & Kettle, you know?)
- Criminals– drugs dealer, pimp etc. For the low-functioning narc, crime is a natural haven and it is of little surprise that studies show a quarter of the prison population typically having NPD. For them, a life of crime offers excitement to the risk-seeker.
Cook really nailed these descriptions on the head!
What I am learning, is that when you are surrounded by narcissists, the environment can be super draining. Just this morning, someone came into my office to discuss a wide variety of topics. Most of it was classic mansplaining and the other half were these half baked ideas on what we should be doing. We as in – Me and doing as in – already done. (Clueless person.) I try to avoid this person, because everytime I spend any amount of time with them, I feel like all of my energy has been drained from my body. A true emotional vampire.
According to starbentrecovery.com, there are signs you have been around one:
For starters, although it may sound strange, but being around a narcissist can leave you with wildly conflicted feelings. For example, do you find your emotions swinging from unconditional love and utter devotion for this person to a nagging, gut feeling of wanting to run far, far away? Yep.
That’s because narcissists run hot and cold. So you can expect to experience sublime feelings of bliss and elation when everything is going well. But if you displease or irritate this person, he or she is likely to get angry, become dismissive, or punish you through rejection.
Narcissists do one thing exceptionally well, and that is playing the drama card. Feeling emotionally drained after spending time with a narcissist is commonplace, as is having the feeling of extreme happiness or devastation when you’re with them.
According to Psychology Today, it is important to carefully assess those we allow into our personal space. We must go beyond what looks good on paper, and instead focus on character traits and value systems. When you consider getting involved or working with someone new, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:
How does this person treat other people?
How do they behave in public?
How do they treat their children?
Do they display kindness and empathy toward others?
Are they judgmental or critical of other people?
Are they intolerant of differences in culture, race, religion, or gender?
Are they inclusive and tolerant of other people’s opinions and values?
Do they always have to be right or win?
Another vital litmus test when becoming involved someone new is to ask yourself, “How do I feel in the presence of this person?” And you have to keep asking yourself this question, particularly when you have become vulnerable or have shared your vulnerable feelings, problems, or personal issues with them.
I think the best we can do today is keep our heads up, our hearts open, and our narcissist blocking shield elevated! What about you? Do you have any experience with a narcissist?