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Have you noticed that people with what might be considered unhealthy levels of narcissism are often competitive? In turn, has that had you wondering if a competitive nature suggests narcissism?

Well, it could. Narcissistic people are often highly competitive because basically, they see life as a contest. Furthermore, narcissists believe they must win because they use winning as a means of proving uniqueness and perfection, as well as to draw out the adulation of others. but then, the narcissist’s personality is based on a defensive false self that must be kept inflated. This ensures he narcissist doesn’t have to deal with either the rage or depression that lurks beneath his created image.

Indeed, behind the created image that the narcissist projects, there’s actually an inadequate and fragmented sense of self. In other words, the narcissist doesn’t have a good idea of who is or what he’s about. He also doesn’t love himself. Rather, there’s a sense of not being worthy or enough. In fact, at the core of the narcissist are feelings of shame. As a result, some of those who write about narcissism and the narcissistic speak about the unhealthy narcissistic as possessing a shame core.

As long as the narcissist approaches life as a competition and feels he's winning, he goes on feeling self-important, grandiose, and omnipotent.

Competition for the Person with a Healthy Level of Narcissism versus the Narcissist

Of course, people with healthy levels of narcissism might be competitive and like to win as well. However, they're undoubtedly seeking different results than the narcissistic. For example, they might like to be perceived as experts at what they do because this facilitates opportunities to engage in more work that they love and, they may truly believe, makes a difference in this world. Or, they're quite certain that through achieving excellence, they could well receive a boost in income that will provide the means to send their children to better schools, for example.

Unlike those displaying unhealthy narcissism, the primary goals behind winning aren’t to gather accolades or prove uniqueness and superiority to others. But then, they aren't operating with defensive false selves based upon a grandiose fantasies, nor are they trying to ward off depression.

Again, the narcissist needs to keep his bubble of uniqueness and superiority from bursting to ward off all that negative stuff that lies beneath the surface--of which he is unaware. But it is not enough for him to be perceived as perfect. The narcissist has a need to be surrounded by perfection. As a result, he wants the people around him to be special and unique, too. Thus, he’ll try and associate with the famous, those of great wealth, those of high status, and women who are unusually beautiful. But he also want to own the most expensive and desirable cars, the biggest and grandest houses furnished with beautiful and unique things others might envy, and he’ll want to wear expensive and stylish clothes that make a statement not only about his wealth and accomplishments, but about his level of taste.

As a result of these needs and the lifestyle they lead to, many people who don’t display unhealthy narcissism might perceive the narcissist and what he seeks from life as being shallow and superficial. But again, to the narcissist, this is all very important. Yes, the wealth, power, and beauty in those who are part of his life must be a fit with his idea of perfection. After all, their perfection helps the narcissist justify his own grandiose self-image.

Of course, just as there are people who are competitive who are not narcissists, there are people who strive for perfection who aren’t narcissists, either. The thing is, they realize what they’re doing. And for that matter, they realize that in reality, perfection isn’t attainable. Narcissists, on the other hand, typically believe that they're perfect.

Actually, many displaying narcissism claim perfection rather than striving to achieve it. Thus, while more normal people might suffer the ups and downs inherent in pursuing goals and achieving dreams, the narcissistic expect to be granted what they want, and merely because of their perceived uniqueness and superiority. They expect to win, but they don’t necessarily engage in those behaviors that true winners do. And they don’t necessarily have the right stuff, either. Nevertheless, they will feel entitled to whatever they want to have in life.

Certainly, some who are narcissistic are able to create a match between their self-perceptions and their place in the world. Since often to accomplish what they have required being imaginative, creative, and talented, many of these narcissistic individuals don’t question their sense of importance. And of course, their lifestyles can look very good.

Why the Narcissistic Typically Don't Change

The narcissist who develops and sustains such a lifestyle might feel secure. He’ll also probably believe he lacks any severe personality problems. He might well profess he has it all. Furthermore, such a narcissist’s friends will probably mirror his beliefs. However, should such a narcissist ever encounter significant problems or setbacks, he will not consider personal weakness or a flawed self-concept as a causative factor. Instead, he’ll see his problems or setbacks as caused by others--or attribute them to world conditions in general.

At such a time, the  narcissist is apt to feel anger--of not outright rage. But whereas the normal person might be bothered by such anger and want to understand it so, in turn, it might be tamed, the narcissist sees it as proving that he has indeed been wronged. So to him, reacting with anger is a sign of strength.

If the narcissist were to allow depression to manifest, however,this would be a sign of weakness in his eyes. And really, if he considers himself as perfect—and needs to have others see him similarly—how could he ever allow that? Needless to say, he typically won’t. But by refusing to feel or experience that depression and its pain, he does not become motivated to make changes in the way so many of the rest of us would. No, he will not be inclined to pursue personal development and spiritual growth. Thus, the likelihood is that he'll never change.


This article I wrote first appeared on a blog of mine.