After seeking psychological help for the abuse I endured in my relationship with a narcissist, I told my psychoanalyst that I would be writing a book about narcissism based on my love story, and she said, “Will you write that you are narcissistic as well?”
That shocked me, but I soon realized that it didn’t necessarily mean I had NPD; I do, however, harbor some narcissistic traits. I noted the common features I share with narcissists as I was studying the condition. Of course, I’m not the kind of monster that manipulates people, but I definitely have some features of narcissism. It’s also frequently true that narcissists are attracted to one another, and we live in a narcissistic society, but is everyone a narcissist?
In fact, most people are to some degree because some narcissism is necessary for healthy self-esteem. It’s normal for hard-working people to crave approval; that’s a need that is driven by ego, and it serves to help you feel loved, unique, valuable, important, powerful, successful, and in charge of your life. Moreover, most people naturally try to avoid criticism and feelings of inferiority, but a healthy dose of constructive criticism and some feelings of inferiority drive us to take action, so we can feel a sense of power and control over our lives. This is a natural and healthy drive since it helps protect us from failing and severe disappointments. In short, a good dose of narcissism is a powerful force that helps us better ourselves. The traits of healthy narcissism include the following:
- Self-awareness: If you have a healthy dose of narcissism, you are quiet and comfortably confident. You know both your strengths and shortcomings, and you see how both are essential parts of your wholeness. You know you’re not perfect, and you don’t have an expectation that you will be perfect. You view yourself as constantly growing and learning, and you see no need to compare yourself to others.
- Collaborative: Healthy narcissists are collaborative because they have a mature sense of self-confidence, and they know they will get their needs met without having to put others down or keep them from achieving their goals. As a healthy narcissist, you are able to engage in mutually satisfying relationships with other people. You don’t lose yourself in their opinions, you don’t allow yourself to be pressured to be like them, and you can maintain your sense of self.
- Earn approval: A healthy dose of narcissism results in approval that is earned rather than from any sense of entitlement. You know that you have to work hard to achieve your goals, and if there is a failure or setback, you trust that it doesn’t have to do so much with your ability as with a need to either work harder or receive more training. You’re not resentful of having to work hard; in fact, it inspires you. Additionally, you have no problem asking for help or more information when you need it.
- Flexibility: Healthy narcissists are flexible rather than rigid or controlling. They have no need to control others, and they make for excellent negotiators and problem solvers. Their goal is to get things done in a way that benefits everyone involved. They can work healthily as part of a team without feeling that their ego has been deflated. They can withstand setbacks and changes in plans, something those with an unhealthy expression of narcissism simply cannot abide.
- Firm: Healthy narcissism also means knowing when to stand firm. If you have a healthy dose of narcissism, you have no problem setting and maintaining firm boundaries or saying no, and you don’t tolerate bullies, discourteous treatment, or devious motives. You stand firm in your authenticity and integrity and have an unshakable concept of self. You know your worth, are confident in your abilities, and don’t compromise your values.
- Respectful: One of the biggest differences between healthy and unhealthy narcissism is treating others with respect. Even when you disagree with someone, if you’re a healthy narcissist, you discuss the issue respectfully and without resorting to insults or bullying. You understand that nothing is black and white; there is always a gray area. You also have a good dose of self-respect, so you don’t tolerate condescension from people who believe themselves to be superior to you. You know they are not superior and neither are you; you are both genuine and humble in your behavior and treatment of others.
- Unselfish: This is another area where the difference between a healthy narcissist and an unhealthy one is particularly notable. Healthy narcissists are not selfish. They enjoy helping when they can, work hard, and care about the welfare of others. They make great team players because they care about the success of the team as much as their own personal success. They seek to help their family achieve their goals, even if it means they must sacrifice for that to happen. They are willing to do so because they understand that it’s not all about them, and they want to see their family members succeed.
- Emotionally intelligent: Healthy narcissists maintain a positive mindset, even when they are faced with challenges in life. They control their baser impulses and think before they speak. They stay mindful and ground themselves in the present, so they can sense the emotions around them and understand their own feelings and sensations clearly.
These are the main traits of healthy narcissism. It basically comes down to a balance. Too little narcissism leads to a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence, resulting in a fearful state of mind that interferes with success. Too much narcissism creates a bully — someone who is overly selfish and manipulative and compromises social cohesion to stand out. That’s exactly what I would experience with my ex-husband. I couldn’t believe it as I watched my “perfect man” turn into a childish, needy, and angry monster.
You see, the right balance is key, but let’s look at unhealthy narcissism and how it can manifest in the people you love.
Do you want to know more about narcissism? Read my books. In this book, I wrote about my personal story