In a world where humility is valued, some of the most grating people are those who constantly name-drop, brag, claim credit and opine about their brilliance. These features set off the loud alarm bells of a narcissist in our presence – the kind of person who makes us roll our eyes and gnash our teeth.
It’s hard to find empathy for a someone full of themself – and, in many cases, it’s unclear why we’d want to commiserate with the people who repel us most. However, research indicates that unlike Narcissus staring at himself reflecting in the pool, many narcissists aren’t in love with themselves after all.
Quite the opposite.
Much of the time, a narcissist’s behaviour isn’t driven by self-love – rather, self-hatred. New findings strengthen this idea, noting that narcissistic behaviour like flexing on social media might come from low self-confidence and a constant need for self-validation. Some narcissists might dislike themselves, not only debunks the typical school of thought around braggarts but also implies that we might want to rethink how we socialise with narcissists.
‘They don’t feel good about themselves.’
“Narcissists tend to be very pleasant and outgoing, and they can make perfect first impressions,” says Robin Edelstein, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, US. “But they also tend to be somewhat disagreeable, lacking in empathy and manipulative.”
In an employment setting, that can mean taking credit for other people’s work, accusing colleagues of mistakes, taking advantage of others to get ahead or responding to feedback with hostility, explains Edelstein. Socially, this may display as showing off on social media or usurping attention over brunch at someone else’s expense.