Narcissism is definitely a trendy word right now. Although used to describe all types of people that we might not like very much, narcissism isn’t always a word used to describe people effectively. There are many myths about narcissism that I think are important to be addressed due to the gaining popularity of the word and its use. I have been a divorce attorney for over 20 years. A long standing theme that us divorce attorneys would joke about was the fact that all the wives would say that their soon to be ex- husbands were controlling while and all the husbands would say that their soon to be ex-wives were crazy. Today, everyone is just calling each other narcissists. It’s really become the term du jour. Although you might say or hear this word often, do you know what it actually means? Let’s break down some of the common myths about narcissism.
If someone exhibits some narcissistic traits, they must be a narcissist.
Remember that narcissism exists on a spectrum. We all have narcissistic traits and tendencies. We all want to feel seen, heard, and know that we matter. Those with narcissistic personality disorder lack empathy in addition to portraying narcissistic characteristics. They literally have no inner sense of value and have to suck all of their value from the external to the detriment of others. According to several studies, 6% of the world’s population actually has narcissistic personality disorder while another 3.3% lacks empathy or has sociopathic tendencies. These numbers are actually an underrepresentation of the full scope of what I call “The Second Pandemic.” This is because so few actually get to a place where they are able to be diagnosed by a qualified professional. This is one of the biggest myths about narcissism which is probably the cause of why it is thrown around with such ease in today’s world. In order to communicate with these personality types, you must understand exactly what is going on with them which requires the accurate description of who they are and what they do.
Narcissists have feelings too.
Although narcissists do have feelings they are incredibly different than the types of feelings most people have. Their feelings are all tied up in self. This is because they lack empathy. Their emotions are directly related to how things will affect their image, reputation, and overall ego. They feel emotions in response to whether or not they are getting narcissistic supply from those around them. They do feel; however, their feelings are not like the rest of ours. They are wired completely differently than the rest of the population.
Narcissists are actually born that way. Narcissists actually aren’t born to be narcissists. Sure, there are biological components that might increase one’s susceptibility to having narcissistic traits and narcissistic personality disorder; however the environment is really what shapes them to be who and what they are. Narcissists usually endured some sort of childhood trauma that resulted in their inability to live life like the rest of us. In some cases, overindulgence and coddling by caregivers during childhood has actually been said to cause narcissism as well. Narcissists experienced something in their development that taught them to manipulate, lie, and behave in ways that enable them to gain narcissistic supply from others. They were taught that they could not gain a sense of value without external sources. So, narcissists were not born as narcissists.
Narcissists believe that they are better than everyone. Although they act in a way that might persuade others to believe this, it’s a facade. This false portrayal of self is a defense mechanism that they subconsciously utilize. They treat others poorly because they actually feel worthless. They suck energy from others because they don’t gain energy on their own. They feel so negatively about themselves that they put on this mask so that nobody knows what’s actually going on within them. Remember that it’s all very subconscious and no narcissist will actually admit to this reality. Their false sense of reality is what keeps them alive.
Narcissism can’t be overcome. This is both a myth and a truth. Narcissists can change their behaviors if, in fact, they are willing to change; however narcissists cannot learn empathy. Narcissist cannot be taught to feel emotions for other people. On the off chance that a narcissist seeks help from a professional, you may see a change in their behavior but don’t be fooled- they cannot and will not feel the interdependent emotions that you feel.