What is narcissism/characteristics/Types/Identification

What Is Narcissism?

Narcissism is a personality trait that makes the individual want to always be in the spotlight , controlling people and situations at all times.

This happens because the narcissist has a distorted image of himself and the reality that surrounds him, considering everything he is and does superior to the achievements of most people.

That is, he judges himself above average , seeking to validate this belief through the admiration and manipulation of others.

The term narcissism was inspired by a story that integrates Greek mythology, in which Narcissus ‘ parents could never allow him to see his own image.

Extremely vain, the character was not capable of feeling affection for any of the girls interested in him and, one day, his lack of empathy contributes to a tragedy.

In love, the nymph Eco tries to get closer, but Narcissus’ rejection makes her hide in a cave, where she dies, leaving only her bones and voice.

As punishment, Nemesis shows him a lake on a day when Narcissus is very thirsty.

When facing his image in the water, the young man dives to find it and ends up drowning.

What Are The Characteristics Of A Narcissist?

Below, we list some characteristics common to narcissists, commented on by psychologist José Elías Fernández in this report .

Arrogance And Arrogance

Narcissists see themselves as superiors , people with special abilities that others cannot understand.

Exacerbated Competitiveness

They push the boundaries of healthy competitiveness, exaggerating their accomplishments or diminishing what others have accomplished to excel.

Inability To Hear

They are not interested in other people ‘s point of view , after all, their ideas are always seen as the best.

Lack Of Empathy

As they do not seek to know others , it is extremely difficult to put yourself in their shoes to give importance to their needs and desires.


They tell a lot of lies to attract attention, usually making up stories that are difficult to confirm.

Hide Emotions

Narcissists never want to appear vulnerable or show any flaws .

Control Junkies

They are always trying to dominate situations and people so that they do what they want.

How To Identify A Narcissistic Person?

Once we meet a narcissist, it will be difficult to identify this trait in his personality, even if he suffers from high degrees – characterizing narcissistic personality disorder .

This person may even seem alluring and agreeable, someone inspiring by the determination to achieve success.

However, after some time of coexistence, the unpleasant attributes become evident, through behaviors such as:

  • Sabotage someone else’s work
  • Lie to get what they want
  • Usurping the reward of activities performed by colleagues
  • Exposing and ridiculing other people
  • Always stay in the spotlight
  • Blaming others for your failures
  • Explode when thwarted.

What Makes A Person Become Narcissistic?

To understand how someone acquires the traits of narcissism, let’s explore the perspective of psychoanalysis.

The subject was guided by Sigmund Freud in the text “On the Introduction of the Concept of Narcissism”, published in 1914.

There, Freud states that, when the baby begins to perceive the vision of those he lives with about him, he begins to build a self-image based on this information.

If parents look at him with balanced admiration and zeal, he is likely to develop healthy self-esteem.

If, however, there are distortions, they will impact the construction that the child will make about himself.

In the words of the psychologist Miriam Lopes de Barros, expressed in this article :

“In fact, people who have this disorder carry in their personal history the pain of not having felt adequately loved as children and, from this, they develop an emotional coldness in interpersonal relationships. This happens as a way of defending themselves to never again feel the disappointment they experienced as children.”

Thus, we can conclude that we all experience primary narcissism as babies, which gave rise to a positive self-image and may have left some light traces, which do not represent a pathology.

The problem is when these traits are deeper and mark the personality in a strong way.

See below for profiles of these individuals at work.

Narcissistic Leaders

Because they value their own opinion too much, they tend to be authoritarian and have negative reactions when questioned by those they lead.

They cultivate difficulty in dialoguing, giving and receiving feedback , impacting the development of talents within the team.

But when narcissism is more contained, it may be that the leader is not destructive to his team and even has advantages, reinforcing qualities such as proactivity, initiative, assertiveness and determination.

Narcissistic Teammates

Colleagues who have this profile tend to be terrible teammates , whether at work or in leisure activities.

Because they cannot value most of their peers, they tend to act with indifference if someone needs support, for example, to deal with a crisis.

However, once the issue is resolved, the narcissist can quickly change their stance to take credit for the successful action, even if they need to increase the importance of their tasks or lie.

How To Deal With A Narcissist At Work?

Dealing with a narcissist can be a difficult task, as the characteristics of this profile generate toxic work environments , relationship problems and even unethical behavior.

Depending on the type and degree of narcissism, the team can face serious consequences, such as bullying and the emotional illness of one or more employees.

This happens when people get into the blame and manipulation games of a narcissistic colleague.

Therefore, the first tip for not harming yourself is to identify who has narcissistic traits and not get involved in that person’s games.

If possible, avoid contact and closeness, including any comments about your personal life.

Keep interactions at a professional level , using features such as friendliness and clarity when communicating .

If you need to work with a narcissist, don’t pay too much attention to their teasing and keep materials that prove your activities are carried out.

That way, you prevent him from saying that he did all the work himself or that he was responsible for all the right decisions.

Remember to draw a line, making it clear that you don’t agree with nitpicking and expositions, whether yours, other colleagues or leaders .

If you feel that constant criticism is undermining your motivation or self-esteem, seek help from a superior you trust, the company’s ombudsman or an external professional (psychologist).

Types Of Narcissists At Work

As we mentioned above, narcissism can manifest itself through different traits and, for the most part, does not imply a personality disorder .

Below, we review four types of narcissists you may encounter in the workplace.


They are the most dangerous and difficult to live with , as they have many narcissistic traits, even manipulating and exploiting people around them to achieve their goals.

Perverse narcissists are those who, in fact, have narcissistic personality disorder, according to this report .

To fit this condition, the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) defines that the adult individual shows five or more characteristics within a set that includes:

  • Grandiosity : Overrated abilities and feats
  • Fantasy : idealizes limitless opportunities to achieve beauty, power, status and perfect relationships
  • Distorted View : You think you are special and believe that only other special people can understand your perspective
  • Privilege requirement : always want to be treated in a special way, even if you don’t deserve it
  • Exploitation of others : requires dedication and uses others to get what you want
  • Lack of empathy : Does not recognize or care what happens to other people
  • Envy : cultivates envy for those he considers superior and, at the same time, believes he is envied by everyone
  • Arrogance : He puts down other people and lives bragging about his deeds.


Authoritarian profiles are usually manifested in managers who, by achieving power, feel they have the right to despise their subordinates .


It is necessary to be careful with this profile, since it can try to harm you directly, through threats or concrete aggressions.

When you come across someone aggressive at work, don’t be intimidated and impose limits, asking for a more professional attitude.

Be aware of your rights at work, call witnesses and, if necessary, report threats or assaults to a trusted leader.


This type is more common , including individuals with few traits of narcissism who do not consider the impact of their actions on the team and company.

In these cases, it is worth giving feedback so that they become aware and work for the collective good.

How To Deal With A Narcissistic Leader?

“Working with ND [narcissistic] bosses causes a lot of stress as they are always belittling, exploiting, being arrogant, critical, micromanaging and failing to fulfill their responsibilities to others.”

That’s because the narcissist’s self-confident profile has the potential to awaken the idea that he is, indeed, an above average person at what he does – even if he is not competent.

The habit of showing off also ends up contributing to corroborating the image of a person who deserves to be admired, facilitating promotions and ascension to leadership positions.

Another key point for many narcissists to achieve high positions in the corporate world is that leadership is about the influence that someone is able to exert on a team, and he is able to influence.

Even using harmful tools such as intimidation, manipulation, and emotional blackmail, the narcissist does, in fact, exert influence over many individuals.

If you are having problems with a manager who has this profile, try betting on the following tips.

Keep It All In The Professional Field

The first recommendation, as quoted in this article by Roy Lubit , is not to take things personally .

After all, the manager’s behavior has more to do with him than with subordinates.

Even if the boss is directly criticizing your attitude and exposing you, keep in mind that this is a pattern he adopts and that such behavior was not awakened by you.

Preserve Yourself

As tempting as it may be, confronting the narcissistic leader can be a bad idea , as they tend not to listen to you – as they consider their subordinates to be inferior.

Even a conversation or feedback can be understood as disrespecting and questioning the command, and what is worse, retaliated directly.

Therefore, it is best not to argue and try to take the case to higher spheres, so that your boss’s leaders or peers confront you, not you.

Save Emails And Documents

In addition to avoiding situations that cause problems or excessive criticism, it is useful to record email interactions to provide evidence of your behavior in the face of the problem.

With documents in hand, it will be easier to demonstrate the hostile posture of the leadership, if necessary.

Strengthen Self-Confidence

Despite responding to the leader, you are not a toy or someone he can manipulate.

And one of the secrets to staying strong and saving your emotional health is to invest in self-knowledge , remembering who you are and the merits that made you conquer your current position.

That way, harsh words from the narcissist will not have the power to affect your self-esteem.

Recognize Your Limit

If the mood gets too heavy and the boss doesn’t even accept a conversation, it may be time to rethink the importance of your position or even the job.

There are companies that don’t realize that their own culture allows the rise of narcissistic individuals, and staying in these places can bring more losses than gains.

At first, it is worth trying to change departments or units to avoid retaliation, but this is not always an option.

If you realize that the problem will not be solved, prioritize your health and career , looking for professional replacement .

How To Disarm A Narcissist?

Disarming a narcissist requires patience and courage .

The first step is to show that you are not afraid of him, nor are you part of the individuals he can manipulate.

It is best not to get carried away by provocations and prevent direct confrontations, but if they do start, try to respond softly and firmly.

What Is A Narcissist’s Weakness?

One of their main weaknesses is their constant desire for control .

He usually doesn’t know how to deal with people who clearly don’t share his opinions or take his orders.

Narcissistic Leaders In The Pandemic Period

Large doses of narcissism were already harmful before the pandemic and consequent crisis caused by Covid-19 .

In the midst of this chaotic scenario, leaders with a narcissistic personality can destroy groups, companies and countries, imposing ideas that do not match reality .

Politicians are the most notorious examples, as they have a lot of influence with organizations and public opinion.

When they decide to promulgate fake news, deny the seriousness of the pandemic or spread miraculous solutions without scientific basis, they can trigger a series of problems.

Its arbitrary stance leaves no room to find solutions together, which could unite efforts and reduce damage to health, economy, education and so many other sectors impacted by the pandemic .

Marcelo A. Treff

This context is analyzed in the article “ Narcissistic Leaders in Pandemic Times (without glamour) ”, written by Professor Marcelo A. Treff.

The expert cites the fact that these leaders are far from glamor and flattery because of social isolation, which reduces the incentives for them to work hard.

That is, the times of working from home showed narcissistic traits among managers , such as high competitiveness, obsession with results and lack of willingness to dialogue.

In addition, the ridicule and contempt for subordinates who do not follow the boss’s workaholic pace became clear, affecting the productivity and quality of life of the subordinates and the performance of organizations.

It is therefore necessary to approach narcissistic leaders, suggesting behavior changes and, if necessary, treatment with a professional.

We hope you have understood the true concept of narcissism.

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