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Narcissism, what exactly does this term mean?

Man with 2 different personalities

Narcissism is a word that has been used more and more in recent years. The term narcissism is used in so many different contexts that it is difficult to keep track of what the word actually means. Are you already a narcissist if you are occasionally selfish or is the line much further? In this article I briefly describe the origins of the term narcissism, my perspective on it and ultimately give some tips on how to deal with a narcissist.

What does the term Narcissism mean?

The origin of the term 'narcissism' comes from Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis. In it he made a connection between a Greek myth about Narcissus and people who are constantly concerned with their own beauty or greatness. Narcissus had so many self-love that he fell in love with his own reflection.

When are you a Narcissist?

The name is mainly used for people who feel superior to others. But where is the line? Don't we all sometimes feel superior to others? Narcissism is actually a label for people who go very far in glorifying themselves. I myself have a mother who shows quite a few narcissistic traits. The book Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents helped me understand my mother better. Actually, a narcissist is someone who has been very damaged in his/her childhood and is very emotionally immature. To fill his/her emptiness, the narcissist therefore draws others into their own problems.

You are not immediately a narcissist if you are for instance angry with your girlfriend. For narcissists, the events happen consistently and every day. Narcissists will never say sorry on their own, unless they know there is no other way out. As adults we can more easily choose to distance ourselves from a narcissist, but this does not apply to children. Children with parents who show strong narcissistic traits suffer a lot of damage. There are two types of narcissists: the overt and covert narcissist. They often exhibit different behavior, but the underlying reason why they do something is often the same. This will be discussed further in another article.

Some notable characteristics of a narcissist are:

- They have an enormous need for recognition, attention and power;

- They are convinced that they are better than others and therefore entitled to more than the rest;

- With a narcissist, only their own opinion counts, others are not allowed to have their own identity or opinion, because they see this as an attack on their meager personality;

- They show that boundaries set by others do not exist. The narcissist does not consider the feelings of others and has little to no empathy;

- The narcissist is unpredictable and therefore reacts differently to the same incidents;

- The narcissist always wants to be the center of attention, everything must revolve around him/her;

- They quickly feel attacked and deprived and often react like an adolescent child;

- They often use manipulation techniques, such as silent treatment and gaslighting;

- Narcissists have no self-reflection, it is always the other person's fault.

You may be thinking now, but do narcissists also suffer themselves or do they only do this to others? It may sound crazy, but the narcissist often suffers the most even though it doesn't seem that way. They often feel lonely, vulnerable and have a great sense of inferiority. They have so little self-esteem that any comment/criticism can be seen as a personal attack. Narcissists are extremely good at believing their own lies, they often 'believe' that they themselves are happy, but deep down they do not feel this at all. Of course, this still doesn't make it right that they cause so much suffering to others, especially children.

Here are some tips for dealing with a narcissist


The term narcissist is actually used for people who have very low self-esteem, feel very lonely and have a great emptiness within themselves. Narcissists are not bad people, but they do bad things. Because the narcissist has to compensate for so much emptiness within themselves, they drag others into their misery. There is no specific checklist/boundary to define a narcissist, as everyone has narcissistic traits. What matters is the extent and consistency in which selfish events occur and the extent to which they harm others.


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