A Spectrum of Vanity

Kavya Muralidharan
5 min readFeb 7, 2021


Does anyone in your connection brag about his/her achievements? Behave selfishly? Doesn’t heed to others? Well, maybe then, take a look at this article!

NARCISSISM — Sounds like a deadly disease? Umm…not really! This word has its roots in ancient Greek mythology when a handsome-looking Narcissus fell into the depths of the river to admire his own reflection in the water.

Reflection | Source: Pixabay

That’s when a cloud of words started to revolve around the idea of narcissism, and we often mistake people who admire themselves. Let’s clear this cloud and understand what narcissism actually means with a fresh mind!

First, narcissism is a characteristic that one possesses in varying degrees and can be present in multiple combinations. Such people are extremely fragile, with an inflated sense of superiority that often masks their self-esteem. And this is present in you and me since it is a wide spectrum, and we fall somewhere on the continuum. The fact is that when this interferes with their normal functioning across a wide range of settings beyond work, then they are said to possess NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). Not as cool as it sounds!

Narcissism and NPD are very closely associated with each other. One who possesses NPD is certainly a narcissist, but a narcissist need not have NPD. There is a fine line between the two categories, which we shall explore.

What defines a narcissist?

Being narcissistic is often associated with the following symptoms:

  • lack of empathy
  • grandiosity
  • entitlement for everything
  • superficiality in relationships
  • chronically seeking validation from others
  • arrogance
  • tendency to rage
  • manipulative attitude
  • exploitative behaviour
Qualities of a Narcissist | Source: Pixabay

All these attributes can differ from person to person and can be present in combinations. People who have the qualities of a narcissistic person need not have any problem with his/her attitude, i.e., they can always work their ways out of their problems and lead an untroubled life. This makes them a narcissist, but they do not possess NPD. Still, their behaviour impacts people surrounding them and can cause depression in them. Merely tagging a person to possess a mental disorder because we don’t like them is unethical and unfair. You may say things like, “My boss is a crazy narcissist” out of anger but characterizing someone this way can be serious. Moreover, this stigmatizes those who live with such mental health.

Then, who is said to have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)?

While many narcissists lead a stress-free life (not attaching their feelings heavily with someone), a tiny percentage of the entire population in the world has NPD. When a person actually faces relationship issues or undergo depression or low self-esteem issues, they are subject to social and occupational impairment and are said to possess NPD. And their diagnosis can take place only when the narcissist himself feels suppressed by his behaviour.

Source: Unsplash

Where should one draw the line between normal and narcissistic?

Although a narcissistic person's traits might not influence oneself, it hugely affects the people surrounding them, especially when they exhibit toxic behaviours.

Narcissism is an analogy to secondhand smokeDr. Ramani

Source: Pixabay

Being self-confident is a stable state, given its portrayal is not grandiose and boastful. But, when a person mentions his achievements as prime focus and talks about themselves over others’ achievements, they enter the regime of narcissism.

Should one stay away from the so-called narcissists?

Should you draw your boundary? | Source: Pixabay

Not necessarily a boundary! But spotting narcissistic personality disorder in the workplace is crucial because it can be very damaging. For example, because they have trouble taking criticism. Narcissists are also drawn to power, but their penchant for unethical behaviour, need for admiration, and lack of empathy can destroy an organization. So, how to spot one?

There are multiple categories in this, but is everyone equally harmful? The answer is no. Just beware of the first two of the kinds below:

  • Toxic or malignant narcissist —Generally manipulative in nature, they exploit others for their benefit and tend to justify all that they do. They even make up for things by going to any extent possible and display a typical psychopathic behaviour.
Psychopathic behaviour | Source: Pixabay
  • Covert narcissists — Seemingly depressed, they seek sympathy but turn it to their advantage and spread negative vibes around those who try to support them mentally. They are always of the thought that the world owes them more. They terribly lack empathy and are hypersensitive by nature, which causes regret in the comforters' hearts.
Depression | Source: Pixabay
  • Grandiose narcissist —These are the ones who brag about themselves, seek entitlements and are conceited. “I am special and need special treatment” is their only way of thinking. Also, they have a habit of undermining others by gesturing condescendingly.
Grandiosity | Source: Pexels
  • Communal narcissist — Unkind to their immediate family but portray themselves on a pedestal of kindness to the outside world. They can be very confusing as they act differently among different sets of people. They suppress those with lesser power than themselves. They are those that crowd the social media to gather popularity.
On a pedestal | Source: Pexels
  • Benign narcissist — Out of all the aforementioned types, these are the most harmless, as is evident from the name, “benign”. Usually uninsightful and clueless, they act too dreamy and less mature like a teenager.
Dream Catcher | Source: Pixabay

Those with NPD can always confidently turn to their psychiatrists for any help they need regarding the difficulties that arise in their life. To conclude, it is our duty to help them seek medical advice from the right person and not be involved in helping them emotionally all by ourselves.

Therapies | Source: Pexels