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4 Signs of a Narcissist

Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD - Blogs
By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhDPsychologistOctober 27, 2015
From the WebMD Archives

Everyone likes being close to people who are (or seem to be) “shining” successes – they have a glow around them that draws you in. But, though being around them might initially make you feel special, you may ultimately end up feeling inadequate if that “shining star” you hook yourself to is a narcissist.

Narcissists are often intent on proving their superiority, which often leaves those around them to question themselves. How do you know if you are in the presence of a narcissist? Here are 4 signs to look for:

1. They are driven – often unconsciously – to see themselves as being judged positively by others. Narcissists talk on and on, showing how brilliant they think they are. They are unaware of or don’t care how grandiose and self-important they appear. Whether or not they have actually demonstrated any superiority or made significant achievements, they expect to be recognized as superior and admired. They are preoccupied with fantasies of being incredibly successful.

However, narcissists can also have an excessively exaggerated belief that their imperfections are worse than those of others. When a failure or weakness of theirs is exposed, they feel fatally flawed.

Because the approval of others is so important to them, they set their goals with an eye toward achieving approval. Their sense of superiority often motivates them to set personal standards unrealistically high. Yet, they also hold very low standards based on a sense of entitlement. For instance, they might expect to win the Nobel Prize in their future career, but also expect their landlord to allow them to “slide” on the rent because they are destined to greatness.

2. They lack empathy and their relationships are superficial. Narcissists are highly motivated to meet their own need for approval. They don’t empathize with, or recognize the needs of, others. Instead, they focus on how relationships can help them feel better. You will find a narcissist enjoys having an “audience” to listen to their musings while also having little interest in listening to others’ thoughts. And, while they might want a sympathetic ear during difficult times, they are unlikely to view the difficulties of you or others as their concern.

3. They are antagonistic. Because they feel superior to other people, narcissists are condescending to others. They feel entitled to special treatment and can be exploitative to achieve their own desires. This style of interacting either directly or indirectly tells you that you are unimportant, or not as good as, the narcissist.

4. Their bad behavior is not short-lived. They have a pattern of behavior in various contexts in their adult lives. It’s not a phase, such as you might see during adolescence.

When you notice the signs of narcissism in someone, don’t be surprised if you are uncomfortable, or feel demeaned or inadequate in your relationship with them. You might still choose to work with them or remain friends, but you would do well to recognize the limits of the relationship.

Entries for the Relationships blog are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.

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About the Author
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Dr. Becker-Phelps is a licensed psychologist in NJ and NY, and is on staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset. She is dedicated to helping people understand themselves and what they need to do to become emotionally and psychologically healthy. She accomplishes this through her work as a psychotherapist, speaker and writer. She is the author of Bouncing Back from Rejection and Insecure in Love.

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