The Narcissus in All of Us

Reflections on the self, personality, and what makes you, "you."

Do narcissists really hate themselves deep down inside?

Narcissists are arrogant, self-absorbed, and generally speaking they're not too pleasant to be around. If you're like most people, you probably also assume one more thing--that narcissists dislike themselves deep down inside. A recent study, however, challenges this assumption. Read More

Hold on. The study you

Hold on. The study you presented is certaintly interesting and relevent, but I can see flaws in the conclusion that some narcissists have no deep inner self doubt.

The first one I observed is the fact that less communally oriented words were used in the IAT. Thier psychology is shame-based. They fear they are unaccepatable to others and of being caught, so trying to detect pathology using individually oriented words is futile. If you did, this would imply guilt. And narcissists have psyches notable lacking in guilt. Guilt is the sense that one is bad(the self oriented) while shame is the sense that one is seen as bad(others). As much as narcissists try to be all about themselves, this is only because of their powerful shame.

Another is that these "narcissists" who truly lack guilt or shame are not narcissists at all, but psychopaths, the heart of whose pathology is narcissistic rage, not shame or guilt.

Finally, not all narcissists are overtly arrogant and grandiose. The DSM being as narrow,influenced be insurance companies and anti-depth psychology as it is, does not list this category of narcissist, though they are just as self-absorbed.

I don't find it hard to

I don't find it hard to believe at all that narcissists may display high implicit self-esteem. Some have such powerful defense mechanisms that they lack the insight that self-hatred, or even true self-evaluation, requires. Just like the last line said, these people really do believe they're awesome because they don't have the ego strength to think otherwise.

Biblical prejudice

This is very interesting indeed, and IMHO reveals many things, among others:

1 - Psychologists (and others) design studies to prove a point, and most of the time succeed in proving their point using oriented studies.

2 - Our conception of humans is deeply flawed by biblical prejudice - e.g. bad people go to hell, good people go to heaven.

3 - Evolutionary psychology gives us better ways to understand why we are who we are because it does not suffer from religious prejudice.

'Bad people go to Hell' . . . . very distorted from what the Bible actually says

Regarding 'Biblical Prejudice':
The whole discussion has not touched on religion or the Bible, as related to the topic of narcissism, and yet 2 out of 3 comments of yours do.
I would dare say it is quite obvious that You have 'Anti-Biblical Prejudices'.
Also, if you yourself were familiar with the Bible - you would realize that your statement is quite flawed. Jesus said, "sinners and tax collectors, (hated and despised, even in Jesus' day) are entering the Kingdom ahead of you . . . " - referring to the hypocritical so-called spiritual leaders of the day.
You harbor a very childish and immature view of the Bible and you have a very distorted view as to what it actually contains.

Absolutely great! I

Absolutely great! I specially liked the last paragraph (the just world hypothesis).

Real world narcissism

These are interesting results for those narcissists whose wealth and power might make them immune to the emotional demands of human relationships. For the vast majority, isolating the communal from the agentic is pointless, as their profound failures and inadequacy in intimate relationships is the cauldron of shame (and guilt if they form emotional bonds) that produce self-loathing. The extreme defensiveness and fragile egos of narcissists can hardly float on a sea of self-love. Remember, Narcissus was condemned to obsession with his own image.

To me, the best indicator of

To me, the best indicator of a narcissist's low self-esteem is their inability to handle criticism. In my many years of experience treating them, I've found them far more defensive than most--one reason that I see them as having big egos but hardly strong ones. People who are truly self-accepting and regard themselves positively (but without any accompanying grandiosity), can take criticism well, reflect upon it, consider their flaws, limitations, etc. Narcissists cannot. So how can anyone with genuinely high self-esteem be so threatened by any sort of negative feedback?--i.e., I question whether their arrogance is anything other than a compensation for deeper (and maybe not even conscious) feelings of personal deficienty.

Has no one done a study relating their defensiveness to self-esteem issues? This, I think, would be possibly more revealing than the research you cite.

I agree with Dr. Seltzer

My belief is that narcissists have created a self-protective cocoon to buffer the effects of an unpleasant reality (which runs counter to the existence of a grandiose self). When people feel good about who they are, criticism tends to be evaluated objectively, and whether or not this feedback is incorporated, the receiver doesn't fly into "narcissistic rage." The exhibitionism, competiveness and one-upmanship point to an overcompensation for an underlying feeling of being "less than." It may be that narcissists are initially compelled to suceed (exceed really), in their respective areas to build self-esteem, but perhaps after a while, they really do feel better about themselves or are able to more successfully defend themselves against negative feedback. Frankly, I'm not sure, and the more I read various viewpoints, e.g., Millon, Masterson, Kohut, the less sure I am of any of this. This much I do know, all defense mechanisms have cracks, and few defenses are totally impermeable. Narcissists, like others who suffer from addictive/compulsive behaviors, are engaged in a never-ending search for narcissistic supplies. That has to take its toll, on some level, the narcissist must have some awareness that this behavior is not the norm for many others who are capable of making and sustaining significant relationships over time.

I so understand what you mean

I have reread your comment to keep my saintly thank you very much

Narcissism is bad

Narcissism is not self love. It is an obsession with their image in detriment to the "true self".

There are some people that cannot handle criticism but that doesn't mean they are narcissists. Narcissists make up a pattern of characteristics, such as: Unwilling to sympathize with others, manipulation, using people, ........ your ever day basic selfishness and it never changes.

Now, what is narcissism is

Now, what is narcissism is exactly, it would greatly simplify if the definition could be simplified into common words, which are easy to translate to any language, beyond selfishness and ever present hate, envy and lying definition of narcissism is extremely unclear, and since psychologists can't agree whether self-abusive conscience, self-deceitful conscience and downright lack of conscience are part of narcissism or psychopathy or being just human - after all we all do choose when we use our empathy and ignore it.

Again, neurology co-operating with psychology prevails where psychology alone fails:

Brain's 'Hate Circuit' Identified

Essential quotation:

"A marked difference in the cortical pattern produced by these two sentiments of love and hate is that, whereas with love large parts of the cerebral cortex associated with judgment and reasoning become de-activated, with hate only a small zone, located in the frontal cortex, becomes de-activated. This may seem surprising since hate can also be an all-consuming passion, just like love. But whereas in romantic love, the lover is often less critical and judgmental regarding the loved person, it is more likely that in the context of hate the hater may want to exercise judgment in calculating moves to harm, injure or otherwise extract revenge."

If this isn't proof that Jung was right that Idealists (driven by excessive love and lack of reason) and Egoists (driven by excessive hate and lack of kindness) should be separated from each other, instead categorizing both under same term, narcissism.

This leads to curious paradox, if aggressive-dramatic personalities (Narcissists, Psychopaths aka Antisocials, Borderlines, Sadists etc, depending on school of psychology) are driven by hatred, then their sense of reality is mostly intact, maybe even more accurate both on immediate logical thinking and on negative spectrum of emotions than on average sane person. The most frightening conclusion of this neurological study is that self-proclaimed claims of aggressive-dramatic personalities could be true, they might truly understand hatred better than the neurotypical majority and since hatred is masked fear, introverted aggressive-dramatic personalities probably understand subconscious fears accurately, while extroverted aggressive-dramatic spot immediate conscious fears. Since neurotypical majority is usually unaware of their subconscious fears and afraid of showing fears they are consciously aware, it is indeed realm of fear which is the source power of the aggressive-dramatic personalities.

What the hell are you talking

What the hell are you talking about? Talk like someone who lives with a narcissist. Your ridiculous language relates to no one.

Thank you for this great

Thank you for this great post. My father was diagnosed with Narcissism Personality Disorder by a psychologist and practicing social worker back in 2001. The diagnosis was later confirmed by an MFT in 2003. 2001 was the first time I had heard of NPD and I had a tough time finding accessible research. It's great that the PT blogs cover NPD.

Two out of three of my dad's ex-wives wholeheartedly agree with his diagnosis! Of course, I do too. He seems pretty "textbook". His third ex-wife claims the diagnosis to be crap and argues that the rest of the family uses the NPD diagnosis to excuse his stealing, womanizing, and general bad behavior. However, we are not psychologists. I was wondering is there a standard way to make a diagnosis? The psychologist made the original diagnosis through a series of talk therapy sessions.


I think it's more accurate to say that some narcissists really do think highly of themselves but that feeling comes from some sort of deficiency that made them think lowly of themselves originally but they have literally convinced themselves to the point where its true

Don't narcissists believe

Don't narcissists believe that other people are inferior to them? That others are simply objects or extensions of themselves rather than independent people? Their extreme defensiveness to criticism is a result of their over-inflated egos. It's more of a, "how dare this inferior person be so bold as to criticize ME who is superior" type of thing. A low self-esteem individual, on the other hand, would believe the criticism to be true and they probably wouldn't rage but rather be dejected.

Many psychopaths and antisocials are the ones with a high ego, combined with low self-esteem. (not a good combination)

psychology today.

What if Psychologists ran the world[?]
- Then we'ld all be nuts.


My ex-boyfriend was a narcissist. He used me and others. He abused me emotionally and verbally and he was a very dangerous individual. He thought that he was better than everybody else. He felt he was God and everyone else was inferior. He wanted to control the way I dressed and needed to know everyone I was talking to. Point is do narcissists have a low self-esteem. Maybe in your opinion they do but they are the most self-righteous, destructive people I know. I'm absolutely terrified to be in another relationship with a guy. Men terrify me. Narcissism in my experience with my ex cannot be cured because why it is listed as a disorder is beyond me. They are just pure down evil people. I think cutting the psycho-babble junk would be a start and live with one. Then you'll know the horrors you experience with these monsters.

Interesting but I found your

Interesting but I found your closing paragraph to be done with extreme prejudice and in poor taste. Why would you wish anguish on any human being? Don't you think that to be a severely petty remark?

I agree with Anonymous... they are monsters

She wrote: "Narcissism in my experience with my ex cannot be cured because why it is listed as a disorder is beyond me. They are just pure down evil people. I think cutting the psycho-babble junk would be a start and live with one. Then you'll know the horrors you experience with these monsters."

I agree 100%. I don't find WorthyCompany's remark to make much sense. If you've had to live with a Narcissist, or even worse, were raised by one, then look out. Your life and your own self-image will be damaged in irreparable ways. You will spend the rest of your life trying to repair the damage done, and you will know that it was all done intentionally and with willful malice. That's what makes it so bad, and why we can easily call Narcissists MONSTERS.

If you see one coming, run the other way! Don't even stop to say "hello" or shake their hand. Just get out as quick as you can. They will prey on anything and anyone, and bite you like a pit viper in the end.

Over and Out.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

Joshua D. Foster is Assistant Professor of Social Psychology at the University of South Alabama in Mobile.


Subscribe to The Narcissus in All of Us

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.