There is considerable confusion as to what exactly a Narcissist is, and how this might differ from someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. That’s why I differentiate the two by using the term Narcopath. It’s all in a label!
Not every asshole is a Narcissist
NPD abusers as amongst the most toxic and evil people out and about in society today. But blindly demonising every asshole as a narcissists does not help anyone’s cause.
We are all Narcissistic
In truth, narcissism is a scale that ranges for lacking in some people, normal in most people, and excessive in others. In the mid-range, a degree of narcissism is essential for our own self-confidence and self-respect. Conversely, at the lower end of the scale, a personality that lacks sufficient narcissism has low self-esteem, and finds it hard to impose and maintain healthy boundaries. As a result they will often be taken advantage of and abused – which is certainly unhealthy.
Even at the high end, much narcissism is a often a positive thing – whilst leaders may be boorish, success for themselves and the groupings they strive for is often derived from high levels of self-esteem and the confidence required to undertake risk.
The general consensus was that “Narcissists” were so because their level of Narcissism ranked at the very high end of the scale.
My personal view is that “Narcissists” do not occupy the high end of the range – their true self actually sits at the very bottom of the range. They have never been able to climb the scale because their emotional self is trapped in at the emotional maturity of a very young child. Rather than develop their self-esteem, they are racked with feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing. It is these negative feelings that they banish from their conscious – to convince everyone, including themselves, that they are super-confident, talented, successful etc.
They camouflage their lack of healthy narcissism by assuming the fake persona of someone at the polar opposite, just brimming with confidence. Often they overcook it – leading to the fallacy that people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are extremely narcissistic.
It is not so much the extreme levels of perceived Narcissism that makes them “personality disordered”, but their lack of other balancing emotions and behavioural regulators – love, empathy, compassion, and remorse.
My view is that we – from professionals and academics, to victims and wider society, are just confusing matters by calling them “narcissists”. We’re all narcissists. But we are not all disordered.
Calling them NPDs is perhaps more accurate – until one considered the actual words. NPD is the disorder, not the person.