I know a woman who constantly needs to tell everyone how great she is. Everything she does is fabulous, wonderful, brilliant and popular beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. Her plans are always grand. Her posturing is insufferable. She also puts others down to make herself look good. She thinks she’s doing it subtly, but she couldn’t be more obvious. When she talks to me, I feel like I’m back at Francis Lewis High School, listening to a “popular” girl regale her hangers on about her dates.
I’m all for competition and I love winning. But I’m not the smartest, prettiest, nicest person in the room all the time and I’ve learned to watch out for those who announce they are. It often belies their insecurity, I’ve learned, or their narcissism. Really smart, pretty, nice people don’t need to broadcast their intelligence, looks and generosity. Their acts and their demeanor should speak louder than their words.
Sharing nice things that happen to us and to those we love is delightful, but beware when sharing turns into soliloquy about son Jack’s Harvard acceptance or daughter Jill’s impending marriage to a doctor.
I decided to Google “are narcissists really insecure?” to see if anyone backs up my theory, and came upon an article by Dr. Craig Malkin, a clinical psychologist and author, who wrote that obvious narcissistic traits—besides pretentious plans and posturing—include “the apparent absence of even a shred of empathy and the rage at being called out on the slightest of imperfections or normal human missteps.” Yep, when my narcissistic acquaintance talked about her sister-in-law dying of cancer, it was with the same affect of someone talking about a change in the weather.
Dr. Malkin also says narcissists “say and do things, subtle or obvious, that make you feel less smart, less accomplished, less competent. It’s as if they’re saying, ‘I don’t want to feel this insecure and small; here, you take the feelings.’ The narcissist loves to knock out your lights to seem brighter by comparison.”
Do you suppose that narcissists know they’re narcissists? Of course they do, I say. Some studies suggest that narcissists care more about being perceived as superior on traits such as industriousness, assertiveness and dominance, compared to traits such as honesty and agreeableness.
Narcissists don’t seem to care whether they’re thought of as good people. Being admired is more important than being liked. What’s ironic is that they usually can’t get enough admiration. They’re constantly looking for more, which further fuels their narcissistic tendencies.