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Do Narcissists Know They are Narcissists? November 11, 2012

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
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81 comments

“The Scorpion and the Frog” by artist Jake Beckman @akajake.com

Someone recently commented –  it was more of a rant actually. The person said that since Narcissists don’t know what they’re doing, it’s rather “mid-evil” (yes, that was the spelling) to hold them accountable for their actions. They went on to say that being critical of Narcissists should make us take a long look in the mirror at ourselves. How dare we be so judgemental toward those who know no better? To their thinking, this made the victims of a Narcissist no better than the Narcissist themselves. I heartily disagree.

Although I enjoy the dialogue with my readers, the tone of the comment was so confrontational, I felt a sense of relief as I hit the Delete button, (and I can count on one hand the times I’ve done this.)

How ironic that only days later I came across “You Probably Think this Paper’s About You: Narcissist’s Perceptions of their Personality and Reputation,” a peer-reviewed article published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) in 2011 that addresses this very question. Does a Narcissist recognize their own narcissism and how it interferes with their life? FYI: We’re talking Pathological Narcissists here, Malignant Narcissists, or Clinical Narcissists, as the researchers refer to them. These are not your garden variety of narcissists – blowhards who dominate the conversation and enter the room with an implicit “TADA”!)

It took me several days to wade through the paper as it reactivated my PTSD from taking a statistics class. So, if you’re not up for the read, here’s the gist of the article. (To read the research paper in its entirety, hit the above link and then press on the Free PMC Article feature.)

“Lack of insight is believed to be a hallmark of narcissism…” begins the paper. When it comes to Narcissists’ self-insight, there are two competing views.

The Narcissist Ignorance view argues that narcissists, ” lack insight into their personality and reputation and overestimate how positively others see them.” This is akin to “ignorance is bliss.”

The Narcissistic Awareness view, however, finds that narcissists do have insight into their personality and reputation. The researchers predicted that ultimately the Narcissistic Awareness view is correct. (Bold type is mine.) Narcissists tend to recognize some of their own narcissistic traits but are more likely to see these negative qualities in a positive light. They’re masters of spin.

The Narcissistic Awareness model finds that although narcissists are likely to make a positive first impression, even the narcissist realizes that over time others do not view their performance as positive as their own self-perception.

This provides one reason why Narcissists continually seek out new people to impress. They know from experience that as people get to know them, their impression of the N will not be as positive.

“Narcissists’ failure to pursue long-term relationships and friendships may reflect their awareness that only new acquaintances see them in a positive light.”

Ultimately, “Narcissists understand that others do not see them as positively as they see themselves. Second, they understand that their reputation is more positive in a first impression context than among people who know them well. Third, narcissists describe themselves and their reputation as narcissistic.” (But they don’t necessarily view this as a bad thing.)

Narcissists have a degree of self-awareness. It’s just that they don’t/won’t change.

So even if you are clinging to the idea that a Narcissist behaves badly because they don’t know any better, you need to get your head out of your arse. Too many women (in particular) believe they are The One who can help the N see the err of their ways – only to find themselves ultimately cast aside, chastised for daring to think they had anything to offer so someone so great. Think The Scorpion and the Frog.

If you haven’t heard this tale, I’ll make it short. A scorpion asks a frog for a ride across the river. The frog knows the scorpion could sting him, so he declines. The scorpion reassures the frog. After all, if the scorpion stings the frog then they’d both drown. This seems logical, so the frog agrees to ferry the scorpion across the river. Halfway across, the scorpion stings the frog, who cries, “Why did you do that? Now we’ll both die?” The scorpion’s reply? “I couldn’t help myself. It’s just my nature.”

Know this about Narcissists. It’s just their nature. Don’t be stung again.