Narcissism is not a term that one wants to be associated with. Nobody wants to be accused of being a narcissist or even to be affiliated with one. Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by an exaggerated sense of self-importance, a profound need for attention and approval, and a lack of empathy for others. A narcissist has a strong sense of entitlement, will insist on having the best of everything, and expects recognition and praise even when their achievements do not warrant it. A narcissist will often embellish their talents and successes and believe that they are superior to others.
A narcissist tends to have tumultuous relationships and is extremely vulnerable to any type of criticism. Narcissists will take charge of conversations, look down on those who they see as inferior, and attempt to manipulate and take advantage of others to get what they want. A person with narcissistic personality disorder is either unwilling or unable to understand the needs of others and shows no empathy for other’s misfortunes. A narcissist is always envious of others, but believes that others envy them. A narcissist is usually perceived by others as arrogant, smug, and showy.
Despite the negative connotations that narcissism holds, it does not have to be viewed as all bad. There are actually some positive things that can result from narcissistic traits and tendencies. However, the prejudice and negative views that society holds towards narcissists can greatly prevent people from seeing anything remotely positive from this personality type.
Three good things that can result from narcissistic traits and qualities include:
- Persuasiveness and charm: Narcissists seem to have a way with words, are charming, and are very adept at persuading others. These qualities can greatly assist a person to get their way or to receive exactly what they are looking for. Persuasiveness and charm may help a person to climb the career ladder, to advance to certain positions in life, or to excel in financial matters. Persuasiveness can help one to “get the girl”, to win over a stranger, or to entice a classmate to do their homework for them.
- Overachieving and rule breaking: Narcissists are always out to prove themselves and thus, will go to great extents to overachieve. They are often found in careers that exude power, stature, and recognition, as they desperately want to be admired and feel superior to others. Narcissism can help a person to produce, even if it is done in an arrogant manner, or is at the expense of someone else. Narcissists are constantly testing the boundaries and feel that breaking the rules is acceptable. Rule breaking can be positive in situations where out of the box thinking is required. If something is no longer effective, a narcissist will feel comfortable breaking the rules and going against protocol. This action may assist one to find a better way of doing things.
- Confidence: Narcissists are highly confident and have an exaggerated sense of self-worth, often leading to high levels of motivation and confidence. These qualities may make an individual more assertive, more open, and more likely to participate in challenges. The ability to embrace challenge and change can actually enhance a person’s growth
Considering all the negative qualities and characteristics of a narcissist, it is not surprising that society views it so negatively. However, if one has an open mind and is willing to consider things in a different way, narcissism doesn’t have to be all that bad. Persuasiveness, achievement, and confidence can be viewed as positive qualities that result from narcissistic traits and tendencies.
Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for the Community YMCA, Counseling & Social Services branch. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents. Tracy facilitates groups using art therapy, sand play and psychodrama.