Narcissism is a pretty ugly word. No one wants to be one, no one wants to be with one. And with famous narcissists like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton on the narcissism radar, it’s little wonder. But the simple fact is that narcissism is a serious psychological and one of the most difficult to treat of all personality disorders. It wreaks havoc with both the narcissist and those who fall prey. It’s deeply devastating for all involved. But what exactly defines the behavior of a narcissist?

Wikipedia defines it as follows:

 “Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder with a long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, excessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. Those affected often spend much time thinking about achieving power or success, or on their appearance. They often take advantage of the people around them. The behavior typically begins by early adulthood, and occurs across a variety of social situations.” 

Technology and social media has been a breeding ground on which narcissists have been able to flourish. The following are 7 common traits that define the behavior of a narcissist.


Feelings of grandiosity is a defining characteristic of the narcissist. It’s more than just arrogance or vanity it’s an inherent belief that they are unique, they are special, they are superior. They believe they are better than everyone else and they expect recognition for this. Often, they lie about their achievements and talents. They think of the world in black and white – good/bad, right/wrong, superior/inferior. A definite hierarchy, themselves at the top. 


In order to fuel their feelings of superiority, they need a constant supply of recognition to keep them inflated. And validation, for the narcissist, can only come from others. They need food to fuel their ego and they need it fast so they surround themselves with people who dole out words of adoration over and over. It’s all about what the admirer can do for the narcissist, never what they can do for them. Unless of course, it involves the narcissist, then they may engage. But beware, for if the admirer sees things as they really are the narcissist will treat this as a betrayal and it won’t be pretty. 


Narcissists believe in perfection. Their perfection and your perfection. They believe things should be perfect, that life should play out in a certain way but this is an impossibility which leaves the narcissist feeling dissatisfied and miserable much of the time. This need for perfection leads the narcissist to complain.


The narcissist takes competition very serious in all aspects of their life. They have an obsessive relationship with envy and become envious of anyone who outperforms then in any area of their life. They also believe everyone to be jealous of them. If someone disagrees with them – it’s because they’re jealous. When someone doesn’t like them – it’s because they’re jealous. If someone is mad at them – they’re jealous. 

Narcissists are threatened by anyone who possesses what they lack – especially confidence or popularity. Their defense mechanism is contempt so the only way to neutralize the threat is to put the other person down. In doing so they prop up their own ego. This is often done in a patronizing or dismissive way to show how little the other person means to them or they may go about creating lies or exaggerating interactions as a way of tarnishing the reputation of the ‘threat’.  


Since they have such idealist standards of perfection they are almost always disappointed when interactions fall short. Being in control gives them the chance to influence every situation to fit their ideal mould. When someone reacts in a way that isn’t considered ‘normal’ by the narcissist they become quite unsettled. Because you have gone off-script they don’t know what to expect. They wish for you to say exactly what they want of you as if you are a play in their internal mind, not a human being with thoughts and feelings of your own. 


Narcissists are self-absorbed and typically have no clue what you are feeling. Everyone should think and act in the same way as them and they seldom consider the impact their actions may have on others. They are highly attuned to perceived threats or rejection, but blind to the feelings of others. They have difficulty reading body language and often assume facial expressions to be negative. This predisposition means that they have little space to begin to understand the feelings of others. Similar to those with Borderline Personality Disorder.

On top of this, they are blissfully unaware of where feelings actually come from. They believe their feelings are caused by something or someone outside of themselves. They fail to realize their feelings are caused by their own thoughts and interpretations. In a nutshell – you are the cause of their feelings, especially the negative ones. If you make them feel vulnerable or if you didn’t follow their plan, you are to blame. This lack of empathy makes it really difficult to connect with a narcissist. 


They live their life in fear. There is a lot of fear around being abandoned and seen for who they really are. Then there’s feelings of shame. Fear of receiving little adoration from others. Then there’s the fear of being called out on their lies. Fear of not being important. Fear of being mediocre. Their decisions and behavior are rooted in fear. When we make decisions out of fear they create the very thing they fear. 

 Narcissism is a deeply painful disorder for both the narcissist and those impacted by their behavior. The narcissist lives with deep-rooted shame about who they are. Unconsciously they believe themselves to be defective and unworthy of love and so protect themselves from getting too close. Such is the reason for the behavior of a narcissist.