Narcissism 101

Research begins to reveal how the complex, poorly understood condition affects work, health, and relationships

Robert Roy Britt
Elemental

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Credit: Westend61/Getty Images

OOnly a narcissist would claim to fully grasp narcissism. It’s among the most complex and utterly dichotomous human traits: producing leaders and destroying relationships. Armchair psychologists attach the term to friends, relatives, and maybe the current president. Despite an “exponential explosion in scientific attention” in recent years, “the narcissistic personality stubbornly persists in puzzling psychologists attempting to understand it, all the while perplexing clinicians attempting to treat its pathological manifestations,” researchers opined in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review two years ago.

The latest research provides a peek at how youthful narcissistic tendencies play out later in life, affecting jobs, relationships, and well-being, plus how the “selfie-generation” feels about being labeled narcissists. To understand it all, some narcissism 101 is helpful.

Named for the Greek character who fell in love with his own reflection, narcissism is a set of personality traits characterized by an outsized sense of self-importance and lack of empathy, along with a great need for attention and, in the most extreme cases, ironically fragile self-esteem that can ruin…

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Robert Roy Britt
Elemental

Editor of Aha! and Wise & Well on Medium + the Writer's Guide at writersguide.substack.com. Author of Make Sleep Your Superpower: amazon.com/dp/B0BJBYFQCB