It’s Narcissist Friday!
Many people have the idea that narcissists boast a lot. Yet, if I put that out as one of the identifying characteristics of a narcissist, many would not agree. Only the most overt narcissists boast, maybe the television narcissist. The others, well let’s just say they think of themselves “more highly than they ought to think.”
The first two characteristics of narcissism, according to the DSM4, are as follows:
1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
Rather than boasting, the narcissist maintains a consistent perspective of being better than others. He is more important to the company, the family, the church, or whatever than anyone else. He is smarter, more generous, more desirable, and more compassionate. He is simply better than you and me.
One of the narcissists I worked with in an organization became offended and vindictive when I didn’t cry out for his wisdom at a time when I was struggling. Never mind that I knew he would come in and use the situation for his own purpose and glory. Never mind that the people I was serving didn’t want him there. They knew that he had nothing to offer them. But he wanted to be seen as the savior, the one with wisdom others should heed. When I didn’t call on him, he accused me of all kinds of evil and managed to blackball me within the organization. All because he wanted to show that he was smarter than me. He had and still has a “grandiose sense of self-importance.”
Those who live and work with narcissists learn very quickly that they are not as wise or as good as the narcissist. One of the phrases many have learned to hate is, “Yes, but is that wise?” Only the narcissist is wise. His way is the right way, no matter how much sense your way makes. Remember that he doesn’t have to be right; he just has to be better.
This can be very damaging for those in relationship with narcissists. In fact, children of narcissists usually exhibit one of two responses. They either embrace the judgment of the narcissist and become weak and fearful; or they become narcissists themselves just to make themselves believe they are acceptable. It is very common for those in narcissistic relationships to second-guess their decisions simply because those decisions have been questioned and belittled so often.
The narcissist doesn’t really have to boast. Anyone in close relationship should know that he/she is better. Those who don’t know probably don’t matter. They are obviously too incompetent to understand.
I realize that sounds harsh, but it seems to be the way narcissists think. I once had a man tell me that he thought he had “presence.” “Presence,” to him, meant that when he walked into a room, people noticed. He made a difference just being there. That wasn’t boasting, it was just telling the truth.
Yes, I know there are people who are loud and who brag to anyone who will listen. That’s usually what we think of when we think of boasting. But when the stories are all so positive and just on the edge of credibility is that boasting or just the narcissist’s perspective? And when you feel somehow less in the presence of the narcissist, is that because of his boasting, or is he just better?
You see what I mean. They don’t boast. Most of them don’t at least. Oh, they might lie about their accomplishments and accept praise when others are “smart enough” to give it. And they might claim the ability to do things they have never been able to do successfully. And they might claim superior knowledge based on inferior information and experience. And they might take credit for things others have done. And they might have ridiculous ideas of what they will someday accomplish…
…but boasting, well that’s for amateurs.