Healthy Self-Confidence or Narcissistic Personality?

  • October 01, 2018
  • General
  • John M. Oldham, M.D.

There is a lot in the air these days about the narcissistic personality of prominent people. But what is narcissism, really?  Is having narcissistic traits good or bad?  How much is healthy narcissism and how much is a true narcissistic personality disorder?

Scholars of behavior have described healthy narcissism as a plus, a useful personality trait when climbing the career ladder or when posting your personal profile.  Winners aren’t losers!  Fair enough.  A little healthy narcissism can go a long way.  But the other end of the scale—having a narcissistic personality disorder– isn’t a good place to be.

Self-Confidence Can Be a Key to Success

In The New Personality Self-Portrait, describes a “continuum” for different personality types, from the healthy personality trait at one pole and the extreme opposite pole where trouble lies. People populate that continuum at every point along the way.  The NPSP term for healthy narcissism is the self-confident style, and it is a valuable prerequisite for success.

Here are a few personality traits of a self-confident person.  They:

  • have a comfortable level of self-regard
  • expect others to like them
  • are ambitious
  • are politically astute
  • enjoy competition
  • admire status
  • aim high
  • are poised and self-possessed

What Is a Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

When self-confidence increases to become self-infatuation and then progresses to frank grandiosity, the term narcissistic personality disorder may apply. This disorder seriously impairs functioning. People disabled with pathological narcissism have several personality characteristics in common, including:

  • a grandiose sense of self-importance
  • a belief in their unlimited brilliance, power, and specialness
  • a need for constant admiration
  • a strong sense of entitlement
  • a drive to exploit others
  • a lack empathy for others
  • an arrogance or haughtiness
  • an envy of others

Take the NPSP test and identify your level of narcissism.