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