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Narcissism: The Self Admiring, Successful Failure

Understanding relationships with someone who is narcissistic.

Narcissism is a term derived from Greek mythology and has become a buzzword in modern culture. We often hear it used to describe individuals who display excessive self-centeredness and an insatiable need for admiration. But what lies beneath the surface of this intriguing personality trait? What drives individuals to exhibit such grandiose self-importance? One definition of this pathology sees narcissists as people who, to escape their emotional fragility, build an arrogant, victorious, successful character in which they constantly seek the recognition, loyalty and approval of others.

Self-Centred or Narcissistic?

Narcissism can be considered a personality disorder while self-centeredness should be seen as a personality trait. Therefore, narcissism can be taken as a psychopathology, a dysfunctional personality type, while self-centeredness entails certain behaviours and attitudes that bring with them, certain consequences, but that do not constitute a psychological disorder.

Within the social media ecosystem, these people can often act as influencers, YouTubers, etc. What is being seen and is increasingly observed now in today's young people, is an increase in narcissistic traits, however, it may be misplaced, to say that there are more and more narcissists. Our clinical observations demonstrate that the only thing we can say is that there are more and more self-centred people. Many individuals that today we consider pathological narcissists correspond more to an immature form of self-centeredness, naive and often insecure young adults who are often unable to assume responsibility or express empathy towards others. While self-centred people do not have to be narcissistic, narcissistic people are always self-centred.

Psychological Explanations

One of the prominent theories explaining narcissism focuses on early childhood experiences. Psychologists suggest that individuals who develop narcissistic traits may have experienced inconsistent or excessive praise from their caregivers. This can create an inflated sense of self-worth and an expectation of special treatment. Additionally, a lack of empathy or emotional engagement during critical developmental stages may hinder the development of healthy self-esteem and lead to a compensatory need for external validation.

Another psychological explanation for narcissism revolves around underlying feelings of insecurity and vulnerability. Some researchers propose that narcissistic individuals may be masking deep-rooted feelings of inadequacy or fear of rejection. By projecting an image of superiority and demanding constant admiration, they attempt to shield themselves from potential criticism or feelings of worthlessness. Moreover, certain personality factors, such as a high need for dominance and a sense of entitlement, can contribute to narcissistic tendencies. Individuals with narcissistic traits may seek to exert control over others, crave attention and admiration, and have an inflated sense of entitlement to special treatment and privileges.

A Range of Behaviours

It is important to note that narcissism exists on a spectrum, ranging from healthy self-confidence to pathological levels of narcissistic personality disorder. While some level of self-admiration and self-esteem is essential for healthy psychological functioning, excessive narcissism can lead to interpersonal conflicts, impaired relationships, and diminished well-being. Narcissists rarely, if ever, take into account the needs of others, and they usually have a transactional approach to relationships, to benefit from them. They are often seen as experts in seduction and excel in persuasive communication to achieve their goals. They are people who are initially, self-confident but are trapped in their own glorified image. They find it very difficult to connect with their internal senses or emotions and they are eternally seeking to escape any experience of their emotional fragility and their existential suffering. Their primary goal is control, power and success.

How can I know if someone I’m involved with is narcissistic?

While we should avoid labelling anyone whose behaviour we don’t like, it is helpful to be aware of traits with which we associate a narcissist. It may also help us to deal with our relationship with them. Dealing with a pathological narcissist is not so easy, but we should try not to fall into their traps when establishing a relationship with them. Some questions might be?

  • Do they act as if everything has to do with them?
  • Is their motivation in life to pursue their exaggerated fantasies of success, power, splendour, beauty or ideal love?
  • Do they make the rules and yet the rules don’t apply to them?
  • Are they envious and usually think that others envy them?
  • Do they humiliate you and intimidate you?
  • Do they demand continually?
  • Do they distrust the motivations of others if they are kind?
  • Are they perfectionistic and demanding?
  • Should things be their way or they are not done?
  • Are they pedantic and think of themselves as superior?
  • Do they need to be the centre of attention and recognised constantly?
  • Do they think of themselves as having special rights?
  • Do they not show interest in understanding how things are going with you and how you feel?
  • Do they not connect with emotions and feelings?
  • Do they usually lie to get what they seek or explain a life experience where they are more victorious?
  • Do they think that what they say is of the utmost importance?
  • Do conversations end up being monologues of successful fights, exceptional experiences, or knowledge of a topic?
  • Do you feel like they can't be interrupted and when you do it, do you notice that it bothers them dramatically? (Pascual, 2022)

Tips for Dealing With a Narcissist

Dealing with a narcissist can be challenging, as their behaviour is often characterized by a grandiose sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy, and a constant need for admiration. Remember that the strategies below may not eliminate the difficulties associated with dealing with a narcissist, but they can help you navigate the situation more effectively and protect your well-being. Even in therapy, narcissists have a great ability to manipulate.

The most effective strategy is to first of all to help yourself. you must be psychologically strengthened to be able to help a person who believes themselves to be amazing. Effective communication with these individuals must be established to have a healthier relationship with them and so, indirect therapy with individuals and family members is often the most effective intervention.

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, research and experts offer strategies that may be helpful when interacting with a narcissist:

  • Set and maintain clear boundaries: Establishing boundaries is crucial when dealing with a narcissist. Communicate your limits and expectations regarding their behaviour and hold them accountable if they cross those boundaries.
  • Focus on self-care: Narcissists can be emotionally draining and manipulative, so it's essential to prioritize your well-being. Take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally by engaging in activities that bring you joy and seeking support from trusted friends or professionals.
  • Avoid personal attacks or arguments: Engaging in arguments or trying to prove the narcissist wrong often leads to further conflict and frustration. Narcissists thrive on attention and can turn any disagreement into an opportunity to fuel their ego. Instead, try to stay calm, assert your boundaries, and disengage from unnecessary conflicts.
  • Use assertive communication: When interacting with a narcissist, it's important to be assertive rather than aggressive or passive. Clearly express your thoughts and feelings, use "I" statements to avoid sounding accusatory, and stand your ground without becoming overly confrontational.
  • Maintain realistic expectations: Accept that narcissists are unlikely to change their behaviour or perspective, as they typically have deep-rooted personality traits. Adjusting your expectations can help you avoid disappointment and minimize emotional investment in trying to change them.
  • Seek support from others: Connecting with supportive friends, family members, or professionals can provide you with an outlet for expressing your feelings and gaining perspective on the situation. They can also provide guidance and advice on how to cope with the challenges posed by the narcissist.
  • Consider professional help if necessary: If you find yourself struggling to cope with the narcissist's behaviour or experiencing significant emotional distress, seeking therapy or counselling can be beneficial. A mental health professional can provide specialized guidance and support tailored to your situation.


Campbell, W. K., & Foster, J. D. (2007). The Narcissistic Self: Background, an Extended Agency Model, and Ongoing Controversies. In C. Sedikides & S. Spencer (Eds.), Frontiers in Social Psychology: The Self (pp. 115-138). Psychology Press.

Malkin, C. (2015). Rethinking Narcissism: The Bad—and Surprising Good—About Feeling Special. Harper Wave.

Miller, J. D., & Campbell, W. K. (2010). The Case for Narcissism’s End: An Outdated Concept? In W. K. Campbell & J. D. Miller (Eds.), The Handbook of Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Theoretical Approaches, Empirical Findings, and Treatments (pp. 491-498). John Wiley & Sons.

Pascual, J. (2022) Los narcisistas y tú: Aprende a gestionarlos en todos los ámbitos de tu vida (Autoayuda y superación). Zenith Books.

Ronningstam, E. F. (2005). Identifying and Understanding the Narcissistic Personality. Oxford University Press.

Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2009). The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. Free Press.

Vaknin, S. (2015). Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited. Narcissus Publications.

Watson, P. J., & Campbell, W. K. (2019). Narcissism: The Science of Scapegoating. American Psychological Association.

Wink, P. (1996). Two Faces of Narcissism: A Social Relations Perspective. Psychological Inquiry, 7(4), 285-290.

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