“Early in life, I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose honest arrogance and have seen no occasion to change.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

Within the vast category of narcissism are some necessary and fascinating distinctions. Narcissism has become a catchword to describe anyone who is vain, self-obsessed, and craves the spotlight.

What is Narcissism Exactly?

            A narcissist has a sense of entitlement, an outsized need to be admired, and persistent thoughts about being more remarkable than others, whether that means being more lovable or more successful. The overarching expression of this personality type is an obsession with self that prevents intimacy with others. While it is uncertain if narcissism is increasing, the outlets where narcissistic personality traits can be celebrated and put on display have increased.  From Instagram to TikTok to reality TV, these media have brought narcissism into our lives and homes with increased frequency and intensity.

On the other hand, healthy vs. unhealthy Narcissism in Dr. Geraldine’s book, “BEYOND PIPE DREAMS AND PLATITUDES: Insights on Love, Luck and Narcissism from a Longtime Psychologist,” that unhealthy narcissism, which runs rampant in American culture, is quite different from the healthy variety that is the bedrock of self-love.

So how can you tell where you are on the spectrum? Read on to learn 5 of the common, unhealthy narcissistic traits and check how many feel familiar. Seek help from a therapist or a psychologist if you find that you share more than a few. At its core, narcissism is a camouflage for a deep-seated sense of shame and inadequacy that you may not even realize is there.

Diving Deep: 5 Signs that You Might Be A Narcissist

Sign #1. You Want to be the Center of Attention. Narcissists dominate conversations and feel compelled to talk about themselves, generally exaggerating their accomplishments. You might embellish your stories in your attempt to impress your audience. You portray yourself as the boss’s most trusted advisor, the most talented person in the room, and the most popular neighbor on the block. These contrivings are easy for you to excuse as little white lies because they make a better story. But in reality, they serve to shore up a glorified version of yourself that distances yourself from the intolerable fear that you are not good enough.

Sign #2. You Have A Habit of giving unbidden advice. Sure, you are trying to be helpful by recommending the best restaurant or sharing your wisdom on parenting. But you are also grabbing any available opportunity to demonstrate your superior insight and knowledge. Narcissists always appear all-knowing as they seem to have the inside scoop on just about everything. You are bolstering your inflated sense of self by acting more knowlegeable than everyone in the room (unfortunately, at their expense).

Sign #3. You Know How To Turn On That Charm. You have a knack for making other people feel important. Your relationships probably move quickly, like storybooks’ intoxicating, whirlwind romances. But all the appreciation you show for another individual is part of an unspoken deal. You expect them to reciprocate and view you as intelligent and attractive as they are, if not more so.  The minute they criticize or question you, the jig is up, and that critic is removed swiftly from the pedestal and sent to the trash heap.

Sign #4. You Are Competitive. In a narcissist’s worldview, there are losers and winners. The narcissist has an overwhelming need to win in virtually every field—on the tennis courts, workplace,and definitely, in the home.  If you’re a narcissist, you have to make yourself superior to everybody else in a constant quest to prove your value.  Your opponent could be anyone–someone you value or a total stranger. That compelling drive to come out on top makes it difficult to celebrate other people’s successes, e.g., your college pal’s beautiful new house—because at that moment, someone else is in the limelight and superior to you.

Sign #5. You Are Famous for Enduring Grudges. You probably seem highly confident to everyone else, a person who does not care what other people think. But for narcissists, that could not be further from the truth.  If you are a narcissist, you care a great deal about maintaining your idealized image and have trouble tolerating any disapproval or insult. Even a small criticism feels like a personal attack or an assault –one you are unlikely to forget.  And if you feel slighted or abandoned, you do not get over it quickly or easily.   Instead of dealing with your hurt feelings, you are likely to seek revenge in some way.


 Sigmund Freud implied that narcissism is a natural aspect of human nature that only causes unhealthy behavior and dysfunctional relationships when extreme.  Freud acknowledged how attractive narcissistic individuals could be (especially to those around them), but he did not develop the concept of healthy narcissism.

However, other writers, including Dr. Piorkowski, have elaborated on the concept of healthy narcissism, which is defined as a positive emotional involvement with one’s self, a form of self-love that is nurturing and sustaining.   Healthy narcissism can be found in the joy, delight or pleasure we experience when we succeed at a valued activity.  As adults, we can feel pleasure playing a good game of golf, preparing a sumptious meal, painting a landscape, finishing a crossword puzzle, or fixing a leaky pipe.   It is the kind of pleasure , the joie de vivre, that makes life worth living.

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