Self­ies, celebrity ob­ses­sion and a sense of en­ti­tle­ment – mil­len­ni­als are in the grip of a nar­cis­sism epi­demic, but help is at hand

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But nar­cis­sism is more com­pli­cated – and con­fus­ing – than a sin­gle ques­tion can cap­ture. There are re­ally three types of nar­cis­sism. Prob­lems arise when peo­ple dis­cuss nar­cis­sism with­out iden­ti­fy­ing the form.

Grandiose nar­cis­sism is the out­go­ing, ex­tro­verted form. When you look at charis­matic but cor­rupt lead­ers, un­faith­ful for­mer part­ners or me­dia-hun­gry celebri­ties you are of­ten see­ing grandiose nar­cis­sism in ac­tion.

Grandiose nar­cis­sism starts with an in­flated im­age of one­self. The nar­cis­sis­tic in­di­vid­ual be­lieves he or she is smarter, bet­ter look­ing and more im­por­tant than oth­ers. And, of course, de­serves spe­cial treat­ment for this fact. This does not mean that grandiose nar­cis­sists are all pompous bores. They can be very charm­ing, lik­able (es­pe­cially on first dates or job in­ter­views) and en­joy peo­ple. On the flip side, nar­cis­sis­tic re­la­tion­ships are of­ten not very emotionally warm or car­ing.

Here is the big catch with grandiose nar­cis­sism: If your im­age of your­self and re­al­ity do not match, you have to fill in the gaps. That is, you have to make your­self look bet­ter than you are. So, you might spend time with popular peo­ple who boost your im­age. Or you might name drop or show-off.

There is a run­ning joke that the most dan­ger­ous place in the world is be­tween cer­tain politi­cians and a cam­era crew.

If you are tal­ented and nar­cis­sis­tic you might be able to at­tract a posse to follow you or an at­trac­tive “trophy” part­ner.

On­line, this might take the form of fol­low­ers or friends – re­search has found that grandiose nar­cis­sism pre­dicts the num­ber of Twit­ter fol­low­ers, Klout score and Face­book friends a per­son has.

If you have money (or can get loans – debt is a nar­cis­sism en­abler) you can sport fancy clothes or a car. You can even en­hance your phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance. This is easy to do with on­line pho­tos. You just take sev­eral and pick the best one then use var­i­ous fil­ters to make it even bet­ter. In real life, this same feat can be ac­com­plished with make-up, fa­cial hair, groom­ing and even cos­metic surgery. Re­al­ity al­ways wins, but il­lu­sion can put up a good fight.

When we mea­sure grandiose nar­cis­sism for re­search we typ­i­cally use per­son­al­ity tests. The most popular of th­ese, the Nar­cis­sis­tic Per­son­al­ity Inventory, has items such as:

much bet­ter place.

Vul­ner­a­ble nar­cis­sism is the sec­ond flavour of nar­cis­sism. It is harder to see than grandiose nar­cis­sism. Vul­ner­a­ble nar­cis­sists think they are en­ti­tled to spe­cial treat­ment and great­ness, but ac­tu­ally have low self­es­teem and are not typ­i­cally ex­tro­verted.

Imag­ine some­one liv­ing in his mum’s at­tic. He spends his evenings watch­ing X Fac­tor be­liev­ing he should be the next celebrity singing act.

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