The term narcissism comes from Narcissus, a character from ancient Greek mythology who fell in love with his own reflection and died of heartbreak when realising the object of his desire couldn’t reciprocate his feelings.
For this reason, we use the word narcissism today to describe people who are in love with themselves. We often come across such people in our working lives and relationships, but would we be able to recognise narcissistic traits in ourselves if we had them?
The chances are we wouldn’t, because narcissists often find it difficult to find fault within themselves, but here are five signs of narcissism we should be aware of when assessing our own behaviour.
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You may see the world as a story in which you are the main character and everyone else is just there to help push the plot along. In your mind, you are the only person who is special or unique and deserves recognition as such.
Everything you do is amazing and everything everyone else does is mediocre. You, being remarkable in every way, do not belong with average people who have done nothing remarkable with their lives. You crave the company of the elite.
You may often find yourself giving advice, lectures or examples of your past achievements, even when people haven’t asked for it, because of course you know what you’re talking about and everyone has to learn everything from you. If you think like this, you’re probably a narcissist.
You might often feel bitter about the world because things didn’t always play out how and when you expected or hoped. Most mentally healthy people will know that you don’t always get what you want in life and are fine with it being that way, but for a narcissist, not getting things their way all the time will leave them seething on the inside.
As a narcissist, you’d most likely feel a sense of entitlement even when you’ve done nothing to deserve that which you desire. You’ll blame your exam board or school for preventing you from passing your exams, but you’d never stop to think that you just didn’t study hard enough.
You’d also be averse to being made to wait for things, even if you’re just queuing to get your coffee. After all, why should you wait to be served? People should be lining up to serve you!
In the real world, we all make the mistake every now and again of mistreating someone, whether that is exploiting them, bullying them or upsetting them in some other way. On realising our mistake, we may feel remorse and actually seek a way to apologise and make amends.
But a narcissist would not feel any remorse or sympathy for the people they have mistreated. They wouldn’t even think twice before taking advantage of them, and won’t stop to think about their actions afterwards.
You may at most ask yourself “why should I feel bad?” At the end of the day, you see people as tools who are simply there to help you carry out your own bidding. It’s not like they have feelings or lives or anything. So long as you have your own needs met, that’s all that matters.
Like everyone else, you love receiving a bit of attention every now and then, but the type of attention you like is being the centre of everyone’s focus in a crowded room, ideally when they are all applauding or showering you with praise. Maybe you post a lot of selfies and get a real kick out of the likes and comments on social media.
However, receiving attention from just one special person for the rest of your life scares you, because that person would have access to both your public life and your private life. This is quite frightening for you because how you are in private does not match with your public persona, and the key to your public success has been keeping it completely separate from your life at home.
Behind closed doors, you are sloppy, miserable, abusive and vulnerable, and you can’t risk allowing anyone to get close enough to you to see that and tell the world about it, dare the world find out you are not actually perfect.
It’s not easy keeping up appearances for your whole life. You’re bound to slip up eventually and expose your true self to others, so you don’t ever have the luxury of letting your guard down and potentially give away the fact that you are vulnerable, or you actually don’t know what you’re doing.
You’re also very wary of being exposed by others, whether that’s by a partner, and old school friend who remembers what you were like before you ‘made it’, or a colleague who is intelligent enough to see right through you.
Because you’re easily threatened, you may become overly defensive, or aggressively seek out and silence anyone who might criticise or publicly expose you. You may resort to underhand tactics, threats or even violence to protect your ego.
Whatever the case, you perceive yourself to be constantly surrounded by enemies looking to bring you down, and for that reason, you can’t afford to relax for one minute.
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