Sometimes it seems like we live in a world plagued by people with an inflated sense of self-importance — like that one Facebook friend who brags about every minute of her life, or the coworker who drones on and on about how wonderful he is. But it can be hard to decipher whether these people simply lack self-awareness or if they suffer from a deeper problem, like narcissism.
This is often recognised as the hallmark quality of narcissists. People with narcissistic personality disorder are often incapable of relating to the feelings of others.
When narcissists buy someone a gift, they expect an inappropriate amount of gratitude. This quality applies in the workplace, too. "Let's say they help you, mentor you or advance you," Durvasula says. "They will expect you to thank them and be grateful for that for the rest of your life."
Narcissists tend to have highly superficial personality traits, Durvasula says, including charm and charisma. "But what you'll often see is that charm and charisma end up being used as a rationale," she says. Even if a narcissist treats someone badly, the person will often rationalise the narcissist's behaviour and think they couldn't possibly have done something so bad because they're so charming.
Durvasula says one sign you might be dating a narcissist is if everything seems too incredible at first. You might feel like you're part of a sweep-you-off-your-feet, cinematic romance. "I always tell people: Pay attention when there's too much on the front end," says Durvasula, who wrote, "Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist." "I know it seems fun and romantic, but it's probably a train wreck waiting to happen."
Durvasula says narcissists often lack boundaries, which leads them to engage in inappropriate workplace affairs or cheat on their significant other.
At their core, narcissists lack self-esteem and have a pathological need to be admired. "They're very ambitious and competitive, and a lot of people make the mistake of thinking they're confident," Durvasula says. "They're actually not confident."
Grandiosity is a hallmark feature of narcissism, as it allows many narcissists to hide their lack of confidence. "In our culture, we associate grandiosity with confidence," Durvasula says. "If you walk around saying you're great, people will actually think you're great."
Not all narcissists are grandiose. In fact, Durvasula says some are vulnerable and are driven by shame and others' perception of them. They might even come across as depressed. "They often think that the world passed them by, or that they've been forgotten or something like that," Durvasula says.
A common feature of narcissists is the mindset that they're so important, they shouldn't have to deal with certain everyday things like waiting in line at the grocery store.
According to Durvasula, narcissists tend to deliver advice even when it's unwanted. "They'll often deliver it in a way that feels criticising, demeaning and invalidating," she says.
"[Narcissists] often look great, they're in the best suits, the best outfits — they're beautifully put together," Durvasula says. This perfect appearance plays to their inherent need for validation. And we buy into it. "Our assumption is that somebody who looks that good's got to be doing something right."
Narcissists love to tell the world how amazing their life is. Durvasula says this applies with social media, too. They'll post about their amazing trip to Hawaii, their big house, or their expensive car. "They like anything that makes them look good," she says.
Durvasula says narcissists have a tendency to explode into rage, especially when they don't get their way. They're typically very angry, deeply sensitive people and this anger often emerges when they don't receive the special treatment they think they deserve. "They can be very caustic and really angry, and it always seems to be bubbling under the surface," she says.