Narcissistic Behavior Is Just a Self-Defense Mechanism to Mask Low Self-Esteem

Narcissists who appear to be very confident are actually hiding a great deal of insecurity. “For a long time, we didn’t know why narcissists engage in unpleasant behaviors such as self-congratulation,” said Pascal Wallisch, associate clinical professor in the Department of Psychology at New York University and co-principal investigator of a new study on the topic published March 12 in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. “Our work shows that narcissists are quite insecure, and it is the behavior of excessive self-love that they seem to use to cope with their insecurity”.

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Comforting themselves into a sense of power and security

Narcissism appears as a defense to overcome and mask low self-esteem. This refers to vulnerable narcissism as opposed to grandiose narcissism, which corresponds to an excessive ego. To avoid giving in to his own doubts, the narcissist prefers to console himself with a sense of power and security that allows him to overestimate himself. “Narcissists are insecure, and they deal with that insecurity by overvaluing themselves,” continues Mary Kowalchyk, co-author of the study. This makes them less liked by others, which further increases their insecurity, leading to a vicious cycle.” Based on survey responses, the researchers describe four elements that characterize narcissism: the need to make a good first impression, to receive social validation, to display hubris, and to adopt a socially dominant attitude.

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The researchers surveyed 300 volunteers with an average age of 20 who answered a total of 151 questions. They examined narcissistic personality disorder. The results showed that narcissistic individuals exhibit a strong need for social validation, a sign of uncertainty about what others might think. They also show a greater need to make a good first impression when meeting new people.

Being narcissistic is good for your health

Narcissism is not necessarily a bad thing. In a study published in European Psychiatry, Irish researchers examined the effects of grandiose narcissism on mental health. Those exhibiting Grandiose narcissism are able to have greater psychological health and have a reduced risk of suffering from depression. In the second study, published in Personality and Individual Differences, researchers found that grandiose narcissism also protects against stress. For individuals categorized as vulnerable narcissists, these findings have not been verified yet.

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Narcissism through the lens of performative self-elevation

The bright side of dark: Exploring the positive effect of narcissism on perceived stress through mental toughness



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