Narcissism – Is It All Bad?


A quick Google search of the word narcissism would have us concluding that having narcissism might be as bad as having say, cancer. It makes men more aggressive says one study. Another concludes that narcissistic men are more likely to rape. Yet another links narcissism to pathological behavior and mass shootings. And many more correlate narcissism with a variety of negative outcomes – everything from poor social skills to cheating on taxes.

But if we pause for a moment, the question we might ask ourselves is: What is the difference between narcissism – a trait we seem to deplore – and self-esteem – a trait we seem to covet?

After all, the polar opposite of narcissism, an excessive amount of self-esteem, would be an impoverished sense of self-esteem, which can be linked to its own set of disorders.

The truth is, defining narcissism as an all bad trait is not only simplistic, it’s also unhealthy. We can no longer eliminate the need for self-esteem as we can extinguish the need to be loved. On the contrary, we should not rid ourselves of self-esteem, we should learn to better manage it. Self-esteem should be understood as a critical driver of achievement – one of Martin Seligman’s six fundamental components of flourishing. It should also be characterized as an integral part of identity – that which helps us understand our values, motivations, and purpose.

Self-esteem gives us the confidence to try new things, set goals, and believe that achieving them is possible. It also helps us to challenge ourselves and engage fully in something that is larger than ourselves – an antidote to narcissism in itself.

Even Sigmund Freud believed that some narcissism is an essential part of all of us from birth, and Andrew Morrison claims that, in adults, a reasonable amount of healthy narcissism allows the individual’s perception of his needs to be balanced in relation to others.

The key is balance. A balance that helps us avoid an exaggerated focus on the self while still advocating for our own needs, wants, and goals. A balance that should have us re-thinking narcissism.

Related Online CE Course:

Narcissism & Empathy DeficitsNarcissism & Empathy Deficits is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that examines narcissistic personalities and the traits that affect their ability to maintain satisfying personal relationships with others. This course will address key ideas emerging from neuroscience about empathy and empathy deficits, because narcissism is essentially a problem of lack of empathy. Emotional intelligence, heritability, and factors thought to influence the onset of narcissism are also discussed. Diagnostic considerations for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are reviewed along with signs and symptoms, prevalence, characteristics, subtypes, comorbidity, and treatment options. What’s more, it will help you discover constructive ways of interacting with destructive narcissistic traits, drawing on the latest international scientific research. Case examples illustrate scenarios of individuals with narcissistic personalities and show how their behavior, when left unchecked, impacts the lives and wellbeing of other people. Advice on setting interpersonal boundaries, dealing with verbal hostility, and finding ways to effectively deal with narcissists are also provided. Course #21-21 | 2018 | 35 pages | 15 posttest questions

This online course provides instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. After enrolling, click on My Account and scroll down to My Active Courses. From here you’ll see links to download/print the course materials and take the CE test (you can print the test to mark your answers on it while reading the course document).

Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion. Click here to learn more. Have a question? Contact us. We’re here to help!

Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).

Target Audience: PsychologistsCounselorsSocial WorkersMarriage & Family Therapist (MFTs)Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs)Occupational Therapists (OTs)Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs)School Psychologists, and Teachers