Narcissism, Egotism, and Egoism

It’s Narcissist Friday!

(I am aware that this blog continually attracts new readers.  With somewhere around two hundred posts on narcissism and narcissistic relationships, it can be challenging for anyone to really use this material.  The search function works very well, if you know what to ask for.  Otherwise, we will all have to wait as the blog posts are sorted and categorized in preparation for a new (and exciting!) website.  So for the next few weeks, I want to dig back into the archives to pull out some of the posts that seemed most helpful over the last few years.  Please feel free to comment.)

I am about to finish “The Mirror Effect” by Dr. Drew Pinsky.  This book and “The Narcissism Epidemic” by Twenge and Campbell present a culture that is increasingly focused on the antics and philosophies of self-centered people.  Both books have something important to say, if for no other reason than to present the reality of the lives of the people Hollywood seems to find entertaining.  But, in my opinion, both books somewhat misrepresent narcissism and get it mixed up with a couple of other concepts.

The first is egotism.  Egotism is defined as excessively talking about oneself.  It reminds me of the country song, “I Wanna Talk About Me” by Toby Keith.  Egotists are focused on themselves and can hardly take the time to listen or care about others.  Now, I think someone taught them that this was the way life was.  The children of Hollywood often learn that they are the center of attention wherever they go.  People watch to see what hair style they choose, what clothes they wear, or what music they enjoy.  They are surrounded by admirers and sycophants all their lives.  Add to that the drug culture and the suggestion that drug use causes a stoppage of emotional growth at whatever age it begins and you have Martin Sheen saying that his son, Charlie, is still emotionally a child.  Children are supposed to grow out of egotism and into community.  In our culture, many do not.

Not all egotists are in Hollywood, but most are simply what we used to call spoiled children.  They need to be taught that life isn’t centered on them, no one really cares about their bodily functions, and the world doesn’t owe them either financial or psychological care.  If it wasn’t politically incorrect, I would suggest that many of them simply need a good spanking and an introduction to the real world.

The second word is very similar—egoism.  Egoism (note the loss of the letter “t”) is a philosophy that believes all personal action is fundamentally from self-interest.  Egoists believe that self-interest is the only valid reason for anyone doing anything.  So, according to this philosophy, those who go to war voluntarily do so for selfish reasons.  They may want recognition and are willing to take the risk or they may see a significant positive even in some kind of martyrdom.  Those who give generously to causes would have expectations of some kind of payback.  Those who are kind actually serve themselves.

Egoists have determined their philosophy after a certain jaded look at the world around them.  They see kindness and sacrifice and notice that many of those who do these things have self-interests.  They conclude that self-interest is the primary cause of all such actions and they accept that conclusion as valid.  A change of thinking may be as simple as meeting someone who actually knows how to love.

But narcissism is something quite different.  The narcissist is afraid and is driven to control, to manipulate, to abuse others, by his fear.  Whereas the egotist barely has any idea that there could be something about him that you would dislike, the narcissist is convinced that you would reject him completely if he ever let you close enough to know the truth.  The narcissist needs more than constant attention, he needs constant approval, and he will do almost anything to get it.

Of course, there are overlaps in these definitions.  The egotist may well be betraying a core of narcissistic need.  The narcissist would be the epitome, the ideal, of some form of egoism.  But it is generally helpful to remember that there are distinctions between the concepts.



Filed under Narcissism, Relationship

12 responses to “Narcissism, Egotism, and Egoism

  1. Sue

    Hmmm. This is interesting. I think I will chew on this for a while.

  2. Rebekah Grace

    This is very helpful! My dad would be an egotist NOT a narcissist. And a pastor. Probably not all that strange. He was raised an only child of a wealthy man and a manic-depressive, over controlling, protective mother.

    Makes sense to me!

    It just doesn’t make it any easier to deal with him. God give me grace!

  3. RD/ Kreative

    Reblogged this on rdkreative and commented:
    Interesting read

  4. I like how you differentiate constant attention vs. constant approval

  5. Reblogged this on quixotic faith and commented:
    Yes. This is so good. I keep reading how we are being more and more a narcissistic society. NO, we are becoming a more egotist and egoist society. There is a HUGE difference.

  6. charles

    “Whereas the egotist barely has any idea that there could be something about him that you would dislike, the narcissist is convinced that you would reject him completely if he ever let you close enough to know the truth.”

    I was under the impression that narcissists are not self-aware. Are you saying they are self-aware, or that the driving force behind their behavior is what you describe but is subconscious?
    Is it possible to tell the difference?

    Regarding how I should handle interactions with them, does it matter whether someone is an egotist or a narcissist?

  7. charles

    “The narcissist is afraid and is driven to control, to manipulate, to abuse others, by his fear. … The narcissist needs more than constant attention, he needs constant approval, and he will do almost anything to get it.”
    Wow. This so describes my former supervisor. He has developed a very poor reputation, and my perception of the reason is that it is because of how he handles conflict. When things go his way, he can be quite fun to be around. When things don’t, he becomes paranoid and blames everyone but himself and goes into self-preservation mode. He seems to be terrified of having a bad reputation, but cannot see that how he behaves when attempting to preserve and promote his reputation is why he has such a bad reputation.

  8. susanbotchie

    Had a narc co-worker. When layoffs were in the pipeline, though i had senority, i left the job because no way did i want to wrestle with that manipulative bayoch – she had the goods on managerial people, let along data-entry clerk me. She’d of torn me apart. But all was okay – even though this was years before i realized that Christ is sovereign, the Lord had gifted me with the common grace of being able to meet expenses throughout the time of not having a job.

  9. UnForsaken

    ” Driven by his fear”. Fear, and the often hidden Anger. I recently re-read one of the articles on here with a post I made, and was able to Finally put this together as one of the biggest Narc roots to their thinking. I had sort of gotten the idea, but not the words or how it worked, even looking at my own N. Actually, they create their own “reality” – or place they view the world from with this warped thinking. Our challenge is to constantly remove their reality being forced on us from our own worldviews long enough to see straight, the way God wants us to see.

    I was thinking about some of these things and providentially found a book at the library called “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” by Patricia Evans. WOW!

    Warning: She doesn’t differentiate between an abuser who can change and one who will not (most Ns ) – a Very Unsafe thing to do if you don’t have professional help to discern if you should be taking her practical ideas. But, I found here section on Realities right in tandem with the what I’d observed in Ns. I’ve always wanted to know the basic motivations behind this terrible thought pattern! I saw myself coming and going. Frankly, I won’t be able to use her self-respecting responses on my N, but I do plan to keep them in mind for the other abusers I meet all the time! It has been greatly healing my spirit and explained so much about why I feel and react certain ways.

    Thank you, Dave for clearly defining Egotism and Egoism. I used to think they were the same thing as Narcissism, somehow diminishing the evil of N behavior. But having a big ego is like having an overblown idea of how important we are – an unhealthy positive self-esteem. I still wonder how the separated movements I came out of could encourage and even worship both Narcissism And big egos, while denying the need for a healthy positive self-esteem. It is the way they make excuses for the leaders and force everyone else to follow without question. This does not make sense.

    How grateful I am we are each individual, equal parts of the body of Christ, centered not on our ‘perfection’ but on His view of us through the atonement/forgiveness of Christ’s love!

  10. Thanks Unforsaken, I too have had a mixed reaction to Patricia Evans writings- but could not work out why.. so it’s been helpful reading your comment 🙂

  11. Tamara

    Not that I dislike him, but no fan of Drew Pinskey. Agree 100% w/your illustration of egotism compared to Toby Keith’s “Talk About Me”. And yes, bunch of spoiled brats who were never told no & always got ‘Participation Trophies’. Don’t believe in them-ruining kids today. Also well written explanation on egoism.
    However, the narcissist is a borderline personality mental illness, best of luck dealing with this person. I was married to one over 20 yrs. #1 word always comes to mind is manipulation. #2 Control #3 you will always love them & hate yourself for it ~

  12. Wow! This is really eye-opening, after reading this, I realized I am an egotist whereas my boyfriend at the time was a narcissist. Is that why we had such a strong attraction to each other? And why I enjoyed all the attention he lavished my way at first until I realized it was conditional and he was expecting me to meet his expectations. Why do I still love him?

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