Why is a narcissist lacking compassion?

Narcissism: A simple question exposes narcissists

At first glance, narcissism can be tremendously personable. We don't see someone as a narcissist at the beginning, but as a person with charm and charisma.

They are usually eloquent, humorous, self-confident and magnetically attract both looks and attention. At least at first. Over time, however, the narcissist and egomaniac reveals himself: His self-love and egocentrism are only annoying and what we once admired becomes a hollow facade, a means to an end. Shame about the show.

But wouldn't it be nice if Narcissus couldn't be revealed much earlier? Here you can find out what narcissism is and how you can expose it with a single question ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Definition: what are the characteristics of narcissism?

The term “narcissism” colloquially means something like Infatuation or Self-admiration. A narcissist is an overly self-centered person with an exuberantly positive self-image, which also immunizes them from negative criticism. Such people usually overestimate themselves immensely, are hardly interested in others and often even act ruthlessly and coldly.

In general, narcissists' self-image and their emotional world do not go together. Narcissists are usually characterized by five central characteristics:

  • An excessive self-confidence, which however
  • has to be confirmed again and again through attention.
  • A strong pursuit of dominance
  • a lack of will to integrate the feelings of others into one's own decisions and
  • a certain restlessness and impatience.

The term is based on Greek mythology. Narcissus was the beautiful son of the river god Kephissus and the water nymph Leiriope. He exerted an unbelievable attraction on his fellow human beings and they fell in love with him in a row. But out of pride and arrogance, he rejected them all. His arrogance is ultimately punished with boundless self-love. One day when he sat down by a water source to quench his thirst, he fell in love with his self-image.

How his story ends is not clear. There are three different versions:

  • He tries to reach his reflection and realizes that this is not possible. He dies of longing and turns into a daffodil.
  • The moment Narcissus looks into the water, a leaf falls into the river and consumes its reflection. Shocked that he's ugly, he dies.
  • Without realizing that it is his reflection, Narcissus leans into the water to get close to the object of his love and drowns.

The excessive self-love can extend to a serious personality disorder. If you have to deal with narcissists in everyday life, however, it is rarely such an extreme expression.

Considering the negative effects on a narcissist's environment, it should not be forgotten that those affected can suffer from their own narcissism themselves. Criticism and rejection in particular can lead to strong self-doubt, life crises or even depression and disorientation.

Many narcissists love themselves but are not enough for themselves. Your self-esteem depends largely on the admiration of others - if this is lacking, narcissism plunges those affected into a deep hole.

Recognizing Narcissism: The Nature of the Narcissist

People who fall in love with themselves and have a thirst for recognition are said to have a wide variety of characteristics: They are primarily looking for fans, not colleagues; they crave recognition and attention; like to pretend to be able to do everything; but never get their hands dirty. For them, only the short-term success that brings them into the spotlight in the short term counts more than real substance. Not exactly flattering.

On the other hand, narcissists are masters of first impressions. They know how to create a particularly witty aura and give us exactly what we so often admire:

  • attractiveness
  • Coolness
  • charm
  • humor
  • Eloquence
  • As well as light star airs - which at the same time suggest that you are a star.

Studies show that narcissists score with a good first impression. You will socialize faster and become popular. As a result, we applaud or promote them to the executive suite - despite the annoying attitude:

  • The exaggerated desire for admiration: Your disturbed self-esteem needs permanent caresses. You like to make a name for yourself and put yourself in the foreground at every opportunity.
  • The lack of critical ability: They see criticism, even constructive ones, as a threat and are very difficult to deal with.
  • The lack of empathy: Narcissists find it difficult to respond to the needs of those around them. There is even medical evidence of this. When psychologists working with Stefan Röpke from Charité Berlin examined 34 test subjects, half of whom suffered from a diagnosed narcissistic personality disorder, they determined with the help of a magnetic resonance tomograph (MRI): The Cerebral cortex was significantly thinner among the narcissists. This is the outer layer of nerve cells in the brain that contains the insular cortex, which is responsible for our compassion.

So wouldn't it be nice to know and recognize early on who you are dealing with?

Narcissists expose themselves with a question

Researchers led by Brad Bushman, professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University, have evaluated a series of eleven independent studies with a total of 2250 test subjects. And the result is more than astonishing:

There is an easy way to expose Narcissus - ask him!

No joke. Psychologists usually use an inventory of at least 40 sophisticated questions to identify or assess a narcissistic personality (see also our self-test below). According to Bradman, however, a single question is enough, it is:

On a scale from 1 to 7: How much do you agree with the statement “I am a narcissist”?

Certainly, the question is neither incredibly subtle nor particularly rhetorical, but actually pretty flat: Are you a narcissist or not? But, or perhaps because of that, it works - because of the narcissist's nature.

Bushman is convinced that the more narcissistic a personality is, the more likely it will agree with this statement and place itself on a high level.

Other tests that measure the degree of narcissism also come to comparable results: those affected do not deny their narcissism because they do not see it as an undesirable personality structure. They love each other - because they are so great. What's wrong with that? In a way it may be naivete, but at the same time honesty: Narcissus cannot deny that he thinks himself great and does not want to either.

Or as Oscar Wilde once put it:

Loving yourself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.

And he was quite a narcissist, but also a great writer.

Narcissism Test: Are You A Secret Narcissist?

You may be wondering at this point: How much narcissism is there in myself? Good question! To find out, we even have a narcissism test ...

As early as the 1990s, psychologist Jonathan Cheek and his colleagues discovered that narcissism can have two extreme faces, which they called:

  • Grandiosity exhibitionism
  • Vulnerability-Sensitivity

Interestingly, both variants express themselves in forms of arrogance and egomania. But that's where the similarities end.

The second type in particular does not appear aggressive at all, but rather hypersensitive, appraising, observing, appraising, overly cautious, reserved - which often makes him appear like a sensitive, introverted character.

This can be a mask, but often also an unconscious one. Or pure self-protection, after all, it sounds somehow more likable to be seen as particularly sensitive and empathetic, rather than self-indulgent and arrogant.

Jonathan Cheek, Holly Hendin and Paul Wink then developed an interesting self-test (which we found here), with which such secret narcissists can be tracked down.

Ultimately, however, such a self-test can only provide indications - psychoanalysis or even narcissism therapy never replaces such a thing. If you still want to find out more about yourself: The test does not take longer than a maximum of 15 minutes ...

Test: This is how the narcissism test works

Please check the following 23 statements as honestly as you can - anything else is just a waste of your time. Next to the statements is a field. Please click there and note how much the statement applies to you, whereby ...

  • the value 1 for “does not apply at all” and
  • the value 5 stands for “fully applies”.

Please add all values ​​together at the end. You will find the evaluation at the end of the test.

If you don't want to bother online in your browser, you can download the narcissism test free of charge as a PDF and print it out.

I can get brooded - about personal matters or my relationships with others.
I am easily vulnerable and irritable through insults, ridicule and scorn from others.
When I walk into a room, I often feel like everyone else's eyes are on me.
I don't really like to share my success with others, especially when it is mostly based on my performance.
I think I have enough to do with my own problems and don't have to burden myself with those of others.
I think I'm not nearly as moody as most people.
I like to take the comments from around me personally.
I can get lost in my own ideas and interests and forget the existence of others.
I don't like being in groups that much - unless I know that everyone on the team will appreciate me.
Actually, it annoys me every time others tell me about their problems to get my attention or compassion.
I admit I'm jealous of attractive people.
I tend to feel humiliated when I am criticized.
Sometimes I have already wondered why some do not recognize and recognize my talents and qualities.
I tend to find people either great or terrible.
Sometimes I have fantasies of being really brutal - but I don't know why.
I am just as sensitive to successes as I am to mistakes.
I've had problems with the fact that nobody but me seems to understand what it's about.
I try to avoid rejections as much as possible.
I fear my most secret thoughts, feelings, and actions may shock my friends.
I tend to have relationships in which I sometimes adore my partner and then despise it again.
Even with a group of friends, I often feel alone and uncomfortable.
I resent some who have what I would like to have.
Defeat and failure embarrass me or annoy me - but I usually don't show it.

Evaluation of the narcissism test

In comparative studies with this test, the average achieved value circulates a little over 60 points. If your own score is in this range or even below, your narcissism is at best average - so everything is in the green area.

If your score is above 82, there is a lot to suggest that you may not be that introverted and sensitive, but rather a secret narcissist. From a value of 97 points the question arises whether one can still speak of “secretly”. The sensitivity to what others say about you or how they think you may be based less on a sensitive soul than on pronounced vanity and an inflated ego.

7 signs you are NOT a narcissist

In case the above test unsettled you: Conclusions can also be drawn from the opposite behavior. For example, there are 7 signs that you are NOT a narcissist:

  • They are happy for others
    Narcissists are not happy for another person, but rather wonder how they can get some of the recognition themselves. If, on the other hand, you are able to be honestly happy for your fellow human beings and also grant them this success, this is an unmistakable sign that you are not a narcissist. Additionally, rejoicing for the success of others can also make you happier. Because it also lifts your mood when you share someone else's joy.
  • They accept help
    Asking someone else for help and accepting it is out of the question for a narcissist. After all, this amounts to an admission that the narcissist is not as good at something as a colleague, for example. So it is better to act on your own. If you are not a narcissist, however, it will not be difficult for you to receive help from those around you. They understand that you do not have the wisdom for yourself and that it can also be useful for you to benefit from the knowledge of others.
  • You really listen
    Do you manage to simply not say anything during conversations, to remain silent and to give your conversation partner space to formulate his thoughts? Then you don't need to worry about being a secret narcissist. In addition, those who can regularly withdraw will be perceived as a nicer conversation partner.
  • You have many friends
    Do you have a wide circle of friends with many good friends and some particularly good friends? Then you can rest assured: you are not a narcissist because your friends would have noticed this long ago and turned away. It is very difficult for narcissists to build long-term friendships. You are not ready to invest in the relationship, but in return you are always looking to get positive benefits from it.
  • You can admit mistakes
    The flawless image that narcissists classically have of themselves should be maintained at all costs. Thus it is also impossible to admit a mistake to yourself. If you are willing to make mistakes and to stand by them too, it is not only a strong sign that you are not a narcissist. It also shows that you are interested in moving forward and learning from setbacks.
  • You give up responsibility
    A narcissist sees himself as the measure of all things. The bar he set cannot be exceeded by any colleague anyway, so it is best if he takes everything into his own hands. This self-image not only creates a feeling of arrogance in others, but also worsens the overall result. If you are a good team player, recognize the skills of your colleagues and give them responsibility, you are clearly not a narcissist.
  • You don't have to pretend
    Narcissists can be kind and understanding - but only if you hope to gain your own benefit. The environment should be manipulated in order to put the narcissist in a better light. Do you stand by your honest opinion or do you not pretend to please others? Congratulations! You have honest skin and by no means a narcissist.

Narcissism in Relationship and Partnership

Admittedly, narcissists as individual characters can be beneficial or entertaining due to their often creative or sociable to extroverted nature. But anyone who has ever worked with such people in a creative job also knows how unbearable it can become just as quickly.

Narcissism is even more devastating in a circle of friends or in a relationship and partnership. Quite a few experience a roller coaster ride of emotions - or in the extreme: martyrdom.

For example, an affected reader recently wrote us the following email (anonymized excerpt):

It is terrible how this personality disorder can destroy an entire family. How creeping people change. One observes how the narcissist increasingly falls into a kind of addiction, has to experience self-affirmation, wants to be admired, is never satisfied with what has been achieved and with himself. He no longer shows empathy towards his own children, does not even notice what he is to them with his egoism and his self-loving behavior. I have witnessed this development in my husband for many years, combined with depressive episodes, the inner turmoil of not wanting to be like that and then falling into this pattern again and again and in the end surrendering to it in a kind of redemption, only in the Finding a job and confirmation in the executive suite. Only our family perished because of it.

Another reader wrote to us:

I was married to a narcissist for 31 years.He was my first friend, and I loved that he dared to throw his opinion in everyone's face. The older I got, the more uncomfortable it became. It became more and more clear to me that he had a mental disorder. At first I admired him and apologized for his behavior - even if he always blamed me for it when things didn't go that way. However, his behavior came to a head. He became a master of emotional blackmail and ended up ruining us financially because he couldn't stop showing off in front of others. He lost everything through his behavior. But he is still certain that the fault lies only with the others or that the circumstances were against him.

A hallmark of a narcissistic relationship is not infrequently that the other partner is devalued, insulted, accused by the narcissist in order to indirectly enhance himself. A perfidious game of finger pointing, emotional manipulation and power. Permanent emotional exploitation of the partner is then the result.

Here it is important to set clear limits sooner rather than later - if only to protect yourself.

Pros: The good sides of narcissism

After talking so much about the negatives and disadvantages of narcissism, we don't want to go unmentioned the benefits of narcissism. Anything else would be a very one-sided picture.

Yes, it's true: Narcissists are exhausting, self-indulgent and vain down to the tips of your hair - you have to be able to endure that first. On the other hand, not everyone who is convinced of their opinion or decision is automatically a narcissist. Maybe he or she is just right. That is not easy to endure either, but it is justified. "Many traits that we like to call narcissistic today are quite healthy," explained narcissism expert and chief physician for psychiatry at Asklepios-Klinikum Nord in Hamburg, Professor Claas-Hinrich Lammers, to the Pharmacy magazine.

Plus, there are even some positive sides to narcissism. The psychologist Delroy Paulhus, for example, found out in an experiment that narcissistic group members were already perceived by everyone else as particularly open, competent, conscientious, sociable or entertaining at the first meeting. And that's definitely good for the team spirit.

Other benefits associated with narcissism are ...

  • Better results
    Researchers at Stanford University studied how narcissism affects teams. They were surprised to find that narcissists weren't really better or more creative than others - but they thought so. They were so convinced of this and so euphoric about themselves and their works that this euphoria and the impetus to be great spread to the entire group. Effect: In the end, the team's result improved overall. So that it doesn't degenerate into hyper-competition and a fight for laurels, there must not be more than two narcissists in the team.
  • More engagement
    On the positive side, narcissism can increase the amount of commitment someone shows on the job. Driven by the desire to be admired by others, top performance should be achieved. Narcissists like to be the center of attention - success can make just that possible.
  • More innovations
    If narcissism is found on the executive floor, the willingness for innovations and new technologies increases. This is the result of studies at the riedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU). Especially when the innovations are perceived as a great opportunity with just as great a risk, narcissistic bosses push them forward more often. Such innovations have great potential for attention and spotlight. A perfect stage for narcissism, which executives with narcissistic traits cannot be denied.

How do you deal with narcissists in the executive suite?

What is good for the company, however, may become a problem for the individual employee. Because a narcissistic boss can be anything but sociable. Discussions at the factual level rarely bear fruit because they do not meet his needs. When employees, on the other hand, step in above the relationship level, praise and admire them, they feel more secure, relaxed and noticeably more accessible.

To give you a few specific recommendations for dealing with a narcissus, here is a typology of four boss types with large egos - and how to deal with them:

Narcissism in Social Media

Social media, especially Facebook and Instagram, are repeatedly said to be hoards of vain self-promoters. After all, a lot of attention can be achieved here through skillful self-marketing.

A study confirms this and comes to the conclusion that social media are overall a mirror of the growing narcissism in society.

Scientists from the University of Michigan sum up their research results as follows: Facebook is a mirror - Twitter is a megaphone.

At least the channels for narcissists of different age groups are each the platform of their choice: While young adults and students tend to use Twitter to express their urge to gain recognition, Facebook is the preferred channel for so-called middle-classers.

Reason: From a certain age you have already formed your social self and just want to compare it. Facebook is better suited for this.

In any case, if you are on social networks, you should be on the lookout for narcissism. And question the reasons behind your own activity. Perhaps you will recognize some narcissistic traits in yourself after all.

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