Beautiful Minds

Musings on the many paths to greatness.

Do Narcissists Know They Are Narcissists?

How self-aware are narcissists? Do they know what they are really like? Are they aware of their reputation? A recent series of studies gets to the bottom of this mystery. Read More

I don't think that such a

I don't think that such a 'self-awareness' can be called as awareness at all. Being power-oriented, impulsive and arrogant isn't that bad and can actually help one to achieve many things. These qualities alone do not make up a narcissist. The most negative and important trait that narcissists have and do NOT realize (being too self-absorbed) is how hurtful can be their actions towards others, HOW vulnerable people around can be.

It looks that this study measured only superficial traits of narcissists.

Furthermore, the speculations that the scientists made on possible causes of 'narcissistic persistence' suggest and emphasize once again that these people do not realize their negative aspects. Just notice what phrases researches use to explain this 'anomaly'

- 'Perhaps narcissists assume that others are just failing to realize...'

''s possible that narcissists maintain their self-image by misconstruing...'

These phrases 'assume', 'misconstrue' suggest that narcissists are quite delusional about reality and their 'self-awareness' is based on faulty foundations.

i dont think so

Being power oriented is not good niether is impulsivity or arrogance that type of thinking are what cripples humanity especially in the slavery day but aside from that
What he said makes complete sense the study seems reliable and there is a good chance that they do know that they are narcissist but regard it as a asset they are blinded by thier own lights.

Thats a good point. I am a

Thats a good point. I am a narcissist...BUT, i have learned as I have gotten older to focus less on myself and more on others, so my relationships are fantastic! (hahaha, anytime a narcissist says something is fantastic, people on this page thinks they are being over confident).

But honestly, once a narcissist can be considerate and act on it, those "negative" traits of arrogance, dominance, etc. are what gets them ahead.

Being power-oriented and arrogant is good?


If we're talking about the same kind of 'power', i.e. being in a position where you have power over others, then I'm ready to hear the justification of such a drive when you're ready to justify it. Otherwise, it's a negative personality trait. The only person you or anyone else should have any power over - or indeed, WANT to have any power over - is yourself.

I'm leaving parenting out of this equation because that's a completely different animal.

And arrogant is only required when you need to see yourself as being better than others...for whatever reason you might have.

('arrogance,' not 'arrogant.')

Sorry. So much for proofreading :P


I had a boyfriend many years ago...I was young and didn't really realize what he was telling me in spite of being a mental health professional.

He used to say he was a narcissist and that was his excuse for what a horrible human being he was -- he was simply accepting himself as he was...

This man happened to have a PhD in psychology from Harvard as well...that certainly helped support his over-inflated sense of importance...

I still cringe, many many years later, when I think of him. He was the most horrible boyfriend I ever had.

In any case he not only embraced, but celebrated his narcissism.


Here's your PERFECT scapegoat:

"There is no beast on earth more self-sufficient than a narcissist. Years of unpredictability in his relationships with meaningful others, early on abuse, sometimes decades of violence, aggression, instability and humiliation – have eroded the narcissist's trust in others to the point of disappearance. The narcissist knows that he can rely only on one stable, unconditional source of love: himself."

If the excerpt above is true, then it would appear that early life was an EXTREME torture and punitive experience for the narcissist. Would you have survived? Would you trust anyone? He doesn't so his first question is what ADDITIONAL abuse would you like to dole out?

If you are not a narcissist then thank your parents. I am a vengeful narcissist and I stick my middle finger to the world and say F#CK YOU ALL. I celebrate myself because I survived YOU. Find someone else to project your sins on.

Congratulations on surviving

Congratulations on surviving :)

Now if you could make it to the next step, that would be really special. Cause many people survive all kinds of abuse through all kinds of strategies. But not so many are able to go further and heal their wounds so that they are able to have meaningful positive connections to others. Shutting away from trusting others may protect you from repeating hurtful experiences, but it also prevents you from experiencing some of the most intense and satisfying things that life has to offer. And I would say that the best revenge you can get on people who hurt you is by not letting this hurt rob you of experiencing life at its most beautiful.

And one more thing: people who have hurt you are responsible for their deeds. For how you handle your life as a grown up, the responsibility is yours. Same goes for each of us.

I love me..

I am a diagnosed Narcissist. Actually went to a medical health professional (someone else paid). The fact is that I don't trust others, have a high level of confidence and self-respect, feel that all social situations are a game, and can choose when and where to feel emotions.

I love my existence, and dread the notion of being like others.

Too funny

If you cheat, lie, and are dependent on others for any form of validation, you have extremely low self-respect. When you are a monk, then I know you are extremely confident and have self-respect.

Often a true narcissist has

Often a true narcissist has low self esteem and very low self awareness; they have an inability to connect with others on a genuine basis and to be honest. They take everyday aspects of life and build them into great achievements. Often times narcissists are not great achievers but are barely maintaining the minimal of standards and still think they are above others. They often acquire enormous debt so that they can APPEAR to have achieved more than their counterparts! THEY ARE SELF ABSORBED AND CANNOT give a genuine compliment...they prefer to berate people for small misgivings that a person might find endearing about themselves. The narcissist goal is to break down the spirit of another at any cost!

My experience

It was a revelation to learn that I was a narcissist. So in my case, and likely others, the answer to your question is no--narcissists think they simply talented and charming versions of everyone else, without any pathology.

I married a narcissist, who also would insist that she is not. Another answer "no" to your question.

But the realization can come, and with it some steps forward. Narcissists can be entertaining, particularly to those who are oblivious and trusting, but there's little of antyhing else to recommend narcissism, and in a reasonable final analysis, it's a lousy way to live.

A fellow blogger. . .

my impression

My impression from experiences with a couple narcissists is that they know on some level that their actions cause harm to others. But they simply don't care unless it interferes with what they want.

Emotionally, they are stuck at about age 7. The world revolves around them and their wants.

In both cases, the individuals were above average intelligence and above average in looks, could be very charming men when they wanted something and demonstrated an exceptional understanding of what strings to pull to get what they wanted.

In both cases, the men had been through traumatic abusive childhoods. Emotional abuse oscillating with praise for their above average qualities. The men were also very proud of their ability to survive what they'd been through and felt this showed they were better than others and more deserving than others.

They were very easily slighted, however, by any sort of criticism. Neither of them have managed to have a long-term meaningful relationship. One of them was forced to seek counseling by a divorce court for parenting. This has seemed to make him a better parent by and large. But he is still working on wife No. 5.

I can say that neither of these 2 men were really ever happy with their lives. They looked to others to make them happy, to fill that void within. But no one ever could.

I think it is a sad way to live. I'm not so sure they clearly see this however. They have not experienced empathy or healthy loving relationships, and I think they find the features of them, intimacy and so forth, very threatening.

The underlying cause of true

The underlying cause of true narcissism is a lack of empathy and that lack of empathy creating a range developmental personality defects as the person matures. To cure true narcissism implies one can alter the genetic fault that created a lack of empathy, empathy itself being one of the core evolutionary developments of any social species.
So how has narcissism survived, consider the majority of narcissists are pretty females.
A point of interest female narcissists tend to marry men with lower IQs than themselves to ensure there is always someone around less intelligent than them so they can rebuild their ego's when it takes a drubbing from being exposed to greater intellects.
Can you blame a narcissist for their faults, well, no more than you can blame someone for being colour blind, however you must learn to manage that relationship whilst minimising the harm you are likely to suffer.

How has narcissism survived

Robert wrote:

So how has narcissism survived, consider the majority of narcissists are pretty females.
A point of interest female narcissists tend to marry men with lower IQs

Fascinating! Will you share the data that supports these novel insights?

I wonder

Are the majority of narcissists females, much less pretty ones? I also would like to see the data. In my experience, narcissists may tend to be above average in attractiveness and, having been praised for it, tend to focus more upon their appearance. But that's not the only symptom of narcissism, and there are plenty of male narcissists, including the man for whom the condition is named.

Majority of narcissists are men!

Narcissism is predominantly a western cultural phenomenon, but it is spreading like wildfire! Parents are easy targets, especially mothers. The vacuous celebrities, the politicians, the bankers .... Most of them are liars, cheats, lacking in empathy, etc. Today's young are living in the age of entitlement (also a title of the book!). During the recent riots, the rioters were looting all shops, except ....... Bookshops! Designer-wear non-values is the obsession with image - very narcissistic!

Majority of narcissists are men!

Narcissism is predominantly a western cultural phenomenon, but it is spreading like wildfire! Parents are easy targets, especially mothers. The vacuous celebrities, the politicians, the bankers .... Most of them are liars, cheats, lacking in empathy, etc. Today's young are living in the age of entitlement (also a title of the book!). During the recent riots, the rioters were looting all shops, except ....... Bookshops! Designer-wear non-values is the obsession with image - very narcissistic!

Begs the question?

"Begging the question" is a form of logical fallacy in which a statement or claim is assumed to be true without evidence other than the statement or claim itself. When one begs the question, the initial assumption of a statement is treated as already proven without any logic to show why the statement is true in the first place.

A simple example would be "I think he is unattractive because he is ugly." The adjective "ugly" does not explain why the subject is "unattractive" -- they virtually amount to the same subjective meaning, and the proof is merely a restatement of the premise. The sentence has begged the question.
What is it Not?

To beg the question does not mean "to raise the question." (e.g. "It begs the question, why is he so dumb?") This is a common error of usage made by those who mistake the word "question" in the phrase to refer to a literal question. Sadly, the error has grown more and more common with time, such that even journalists, advertisers, and major mass media entities have fallen prey to "BTQ Abuse."

While descriptivists and other such laissez-faire linguists are content to allow the misconception to fall into the vernacular, it cannot be denied that logic and philosophy stand to lose an important conceptual label should the meaning of BTQ become diluted to the point that we must constantly distinguish between the traditional usage and the erroneous "modern" usage. This is why we fight.


I learn something new every day. Thanks for educating me. I've made the change to the post. Best, Scott

@ Robert: One's genes do set

@ Robert: One's genes do set one up for propensity, but they are not one's destiny. A neuroscientist at UC Irvine, who has studied the brains of serial killers for 20 years, discovered recently that he, himself, has the brain of a serial killer.....but he is not one. He is a loving husband and father and a contributing member of society.

It is more about choices...and about one's own parents' ability to nurture properly.

Per the Pressmans of Rhode Island, narcissistic parents beget narcissistic children more heavily because of the nurture element (actually, the lack thereof), than the nature element....even though it is impossible to completely unfurl one from the other in a double blind study.

We can still infer quite a bit.

Btw, in my right margin is an ad for a new book by a female psychologist (can't remember her name right now) about what to do about a son who has married a selfish and jealous-of-son's-relationship-with-son's-parents book.

From my direct experience, this authoress is a narcissist herself, who can not let go of her son so that he may cleave unto his own new wife and own new family....which is actually the number one reason why a male narcissist, who has been arrested in his emotional and/or biochemical and neurophysiological brain development during childhood, due to family of origin traumas, (this article or another commenter cites that most narcissists are arrested at about age 7), can never really grow up and out of his childhood - his mother keeps pulling on his heart strings, and his loyalty remains with his mother instead of with his wife. This is the recipe for marriage failure, which, if there are already children on the scene, sets them up for their grandparents' and their father's dysfunctions being passed onto them.

What is extremely sad to me is that so few people "get" this correlation, and there is now a book in the right margin of Psychology Today's website, blame shifting (inaccurately) to the "evil" young wife.

Tragic. But completely typical for a narcissist: Shifting the blame to someone else.....which keeps themselves utterly wallowing in their own selves ad infinitum. (A very bad circular problem.)

As long as we are on the subject

If we are discussing fallacies, that is precisely what I raised in my initial question.

The statement was made that a lack of empathy leads to narcissism.

But as you know, corrleation is not causation. Unless I hear some compelling evidence against it, a lack of empathy does not lead to narcissism. Instead, a lack fo empathy is one of many symptoms and indicators of NPD.

There just seems to me post hoc, ergo property hoc fallacy at work here. Narcissism doesn't follow a lack of empathy. It is correlated with it, and may be a cause of that trait among others.

Isn't that the case?

Lack of empathy is a symptom

Lack of empathy is a symptom of narcissistic personality disorder, as well as other disorders (borderline, anti-social, sociopathy, etc.) These disorders may result from genetics (suboptimal frontal lobe brain-wiring), or genetic predisposition plus abusive childhood experience that forges psyche defense mechanisms which ultimately manifest in the narcissistic traits seen in adulthood.


While I agree with you on emphasizing the lack of empathy as a main feature of narcissism, I am amazed by your brutal unfounded generalizations.

First of all, pretty females do not make up the majority of narcissists- I have read in many studies that men make up the majority: And then in one of the comprehensive descriptions of narcissism, Sam Vaknin mentions that 75% of narcissist are men:

"Narcissistic personality disorder is estimated to affect 1-percent of the adult population in the United States and is more common among men than women."

What is more, heterosexual narcissistic men target heterosexual women as the most likely outlets for their anger:

More reasons for women to learn how to spot these predatory insensitive creatures.

Overall, your understanding of narcissism based on looks ('pretty women') and heavy reliance on genetics is quite superficial and shows that you're not really informed of its causes and manifestations.

Never confuse being diagnosed

Never confuse being diagnosed with to actual numbers in society as defined by public behavioural mores. Narcissism in women is simply more far more tolerated and even rewarded in women than in men where it is more likely to be punished.
Where men lead is in psychopathy, this is more from a historical trend where the psychopath was often forced to physically defend that behaviour, hence males have the advantage.
Historically being able to survive on attractiveness gave women the advantage whilst of course males were historically pretty unforgiving of 'pretty boys' and their behaviour.
Modern trends are different where both the narcissist and psychopath manoeuvre within society protected by law whilst they wreak havoc.
Now both being developmental conditions final results of genetic defects on of empathy and the other of empathy and conscience will either be exacerbated or diminished by upbringing but never eliminated.

Can narcissists REALLY pull

Can narcissists REALLY pull the wool over EVERYONE's eyes???? Really? Is everyone that unintelligent to not pick up on these things??

Why is narcissism synonymous with stupid or lack of talent? So, narcissist know absolutely nothing right, IQ of 80 and thats pushing it, but they can convince EVERYONE they deserve to be a leader?

That either makes everyone else extremely stupid, or you are making sweeping generalizations. Narcissist are people, with different talents and ability, and you can't prejudge them, although it seems to give yourself a boost to do that and label them.

Narcissist win.

You might benefit with some

You might benefit with some reading on evolutionary psychology, a newer field that would shed some light on the "pretty lady" syndrome you speak of;)

With you here

Narcissus was a male in the Greek myth, and seems most often a male in our world.

The female narcissist is neiter rare nor uncommon, but when true narcisists meet, far more men show up.

Yes, there are female

Yes, there are female narcissists, however, a good portion of these pathologically immature females are actually inverted narcissists, who, if the stars had aligned in a way to put them in relationship with a nurturing male, they more likely would be able to grow up and out of their childish level of personality development.

In other words, female narcissists are less rigid in their pathology than male general....which means, of course, that there are exceptions to this generalization.

The vast majority of

The vast majority of narcissists are women.

I have met many.

For me it started early in life because my mother is a narcissist.

They almost always think of themselves as loving giving people.

Nearly every narcissist I have known is oblivious.

My experience is not unusual. If you search online, you will find groups who discuss their experiences. I would estimate at least 80% of the posts involve children or spouses of female narcissists.

Narcissistic behavior among females in western society is so common and accepted that we may hardly notice it.

I have never seen one narcissist change except to become more extreme.

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Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D. is a cognitive psychologist at NYU interested in intelligence and creativity development. He is the author of forthcoming Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined.


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