If you’re anything like most people, you probably think the term narcissist just means “mirror-worshiper”…
… Not so.
You’re hanging around chatting with some friends, and someone says a new coworker is a narcissist. If you’re like the vast majority of people, you immediately picture someone who primps and preens in the mirror, has to have every hair in place and buys the finest clothing to drape on their perfectly manicured physique. But while this person does have a higher than average likelihood of being a narcissist, not all narcissists will look like this person.
Virtually everyone you ask will tell you a narcissist is merely someone who is in love with themselves, particularly with their own image. But a narcissist isn’t so much someone who loves to look at themselves as they are someone who refuses to.
It’s not been proven precisely why narcissists are how they are, but it is known that they cling to a false sense of self. There’s the real person standing before you — demanding, critical, dishonest, emotionally abusive — and who the narcissist so desperately wants to believe they are — someone special, someone super-human and deserving of all your attention.
Currently, in order to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a person must have 5 (any 5 at all, but no less than 5) of the things on the American Psychiatric Association’s official NPD traits list.
While fantasies of ideal beauty is one of the possible manifestations of trait #2, it’s by far not not the only possible manifestation of that trait. One narcissist may be preoccupied with fantasies of ideal beauty, but they still have to split the statistical bill with narcissists who have fantasies of ideal love, ideal brilliance, and power instead.
And it’s possible to be a narcissist without having trait #2 at all. In fact, statistically, just looking at the chart, you can see that if only five out of the possible nine traits are required, plenty of narcissists would not be vain about their appearance at all. In fact, some of them are very slovenly dressers; they take the attitude that they can wear rags, because after all, they just look stunning in everything, naturally!
So, what then, is a good, quick layman’s nutshell definition of a narcissist, especially when so many people who ARE vain are in fact, narcissistic?
Someone who is self-absorbed.
Because as you look over the traits list, just about every possible NPD trait screams what every narcissist is constantly thinking about –
“Me, me, me…”