The Pain of Narcissism

The Narcissist Test

Step 1: Take a moment to think about yourself.

Step 2: If you made it to step 2, you are not a narcissist.


photo by William Fortunato

What is Narcissism?

The word narcissist seems to get thrown around often in the selfie-obsessed world in which we live. If someone is more self-absorbed than the average person, she is quickly labeled a narcissist. However, in the psychological world, the term narcissist doesn’t mean self-love. It’s more accurate to say that people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are in love with an idealized, grandiose image of themselves.

Narcissism is a mental health condition that is characterized by a egotistical sense of self-importance. He/she exaggerates achievements and talents. He expects to be recognized as superior – even when there is no evidence supporting it! (Diagnostic Manual and Statistical of Mental Health Disorders, 5th Edition)

People with this disorder have no empathy for others. In fact, they have no problem depersonalizing others, even their spouses, if it benefits them in some way. Moreover, narcissists are willing to use and abuse others to serve the image they have created for themselves. (Dr. David Orrison, pastor, author, Narcissism in the Church)

We are all aware that most teens display narcissistic tendencies, however Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) often presents itself from teen years to early adulthood.

photo by Andres Ayrton

I let him take everything, until there was nothing left for him to take.
― Eleanor Moran, Too Close For Comfort

Sandy Hotchkiss, LCSW, devised a list entitled 7 Deadly Sins of the Narcissist, which I believe will be helpful in identifying a narcissist in your life.

  • Shamelessness – Shame is the underlying factor in all cases of unhealthy narcissism, but they come across as shameless.
  • Shame is processed in a normal manner in a healthy person, however, narcissists have difficulty processing this feeling in a healthy way. Narcissists also tend to inflict shame on other people, a concept referred to as projection.
  • Magical thinking – Narcissists tend to perceive themselves as perfect and flawless. This distorted thinking and illusion is called magical thinking.
  • Arrogance – Arrogance and disregard for other people’s feelings are typical characteristics of narcissism. Narcissists often have a low self-esteem which they try to relieve by insulting or degrading others. This helps to re-inflate their ego when they are feeling deflated or lacking in worth.

Are you thinking of someone you know, yet? Statistics reveal that it’s 75% likely that it’s a male.

photo by Shvets Productions

The List Continued

  •  Envy – Due to their sense of superiority, narcissists may feel insecure when faced with another person’s ability. Therefore, they may try to belittle by demonstrating contempt or be dismissive.
  •  Sense of entitlement –  Narcissists hold unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment. They expect automatic compliance because they consider themselves special. Failure to comply may be perceived as an attack on their authority and superiority. A person who disregards their authority is often considered to be a difficult or awkward person by the narcissist, who will proceed to demean them or their opinion, especially in front of others. Defiance can also trigger anger in the narcissist, which is referred to as “narcissistic rage.”
  •  Exploitation – This refers to the narcissist’s tendency to exploit others and show no regard or empathy for their emotions or interests. This often occurs when the other person is in a subservient position, where it is awkward or impossible to resist the narcissist. On some occasions, this subservience is only assumed rather than real.
  • Lack of boundaries – Most narcissists fail to understand their boundaries and recognize that other people are individuals rather than extensions of themselves. Others either exist to meet their needs or may as well not exist at all. Those who support the self-esteem of the narcissist are expected to always do so, with the narcissist failing to recognize the independence of the other person.

photo by Pexels, Lisa

Since narcissists deep down feel themselves to be faultless, it is inevitable that when they are in conflict with the world they will invariably perceive the conflict as the world’s fault.” – M. Scott Peck

Covert versus Overt Narcissism

Overt narcissism is what we typically think about when we hear the word. This is the charismatic, boisterous type who must be the center of attention in every situation. These individuals flaunt any attribute they possess – money, looks, career, attractive spouse, etc. In fact, they believe you should feel honored when they spend time with you.

The covert narcissist is less easily identified. There are 10 Signs that may help you identify a covert narcissist:

  1. Extreme sensitivity to criticism – act as if they are above criticism by dismissive, sarcastic remarks
  2. Passive-aggressive behavior – sabotaging, mocking others, giving others the silent treatment
  3. Tendency to put themselves down – but with the goal to receive compliments
  4. Shy or withdrawn nature – People with this type of NPD are deeply insecure and afraid of other people seeing their failure.
  5. Grandiose fantasies – often spend more time thinking about their wild successes than talking about them
  6. Feelings of depression and anxiety – due to their deep fear of failure and unrealized perfectionistic ideals
  7. Tendency to hold grudges – if they feel they have been treated unfairly, they may wait to have revenge
  8. Envy – they are envious of others for what they feel they themselves deserve
  9. Feelings of inadequacy – due to the inability to meet their own unrealistic standards
  10. Insincere empathy – can seem empathetic and compassionate, but it’s usually self-serving and just for show

Covert narcissists can drain the life out of you and make you feel guilty about it at the same time!

Photo by Dziana Hasanbekava

 Scripture and Narcissists

I love what 2 Timothy 3:2-5 says, especially in light of what we have learned regarding the characteristics of a narcissist.

“People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

Writer Jen Grice uses this passage to compare with the nine narcissistic traits outlined in the DSM-5. It’s an interesting read, one which I think you will find enlightening. I did.

Many Christians who study the subject of narcissism, especially in the area of domestic violence, believe that the Proverbs dealing with fools aptly apply. Although the word itself isn’t in Scripture, the characteristics of narcissism are spelled out clearly. Grice deals with a few of those, as well.

One truth is clear throughout the Bible, God resists pride and loves humility. James 4:4-6 (ESV) says:

You adulterous people!a]”>[a]”>aa]”>] Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Psalm 138:6, ESV

For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.

Proverbs 8:13, ESV

The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil
and perverted speech I hate.


Take heart, sisters. We may continue to pray for the repentance of the narcissist in our lives, and we shall, but it is only God who can open their eyes. You, however, must keep you and your loved ones safe.

Next week we will look at what makes someone a narcissist. In addition, we will talk about what to do if you are in a relationship with one.






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