Non-pathological narcissism: what it is, how it affects us and the signs to detect it

Narcissism can be understood as a personality trait with which we refer to excessively egocentric people or as a psychological disorder.

The term narcissism comes from a well-known Greek myth about a young man named Narcissus. Narcissus was so vain that he ignored the love of the nymph Echo and fell in love with his own reflection in the pond. Although he tried with all his might, Narciso couldn’t get his reflection’s attention, since he wasn’t human. And, as a result, he was consumed and died of anguish with a broken heart.

Although many successful people behave in ways that could be considered narcissistic, not everyone who has a very high opinion of themselves and high self-esteem can be diagnosed with a disorder. narcissistic personality.

The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) says that these personality traits, to be considered pathological and, therefore, to be able to diagnose the disorder, must significantly affect health, not adapt or change to the course of life. . They must also occur continuously over time. Individuals diagnosed with the disorder must additionally have significant problems due to these traits or show deterioration in functional abilities.

In this article we will establish the differences between normal narcissism or non-pathological narcissism and what is part of a disorderthe traits of narcissism and pathological narcissism, which can be differentiated in people’s evaluation of themselves, their relationship to others, and how narcissistic characteristics affect their daily lives.

    What is non-pathological narcissism?

    Non-pathological narcissism refers to the form of relationship with others in which the person acts expressing very high self-esteem and a great sense of self.

    There is a difference between normal narcissism, traits of narcissism, and pathological narcissism. Self-centered people, who brag about their accomplishments or expect extra attention, can be called narcissists, but it is important to understand that these behaviors do not have the same meaning as pathological narcissism.

    If you’re wondering if you might be narcissistic, then you probably aren’t. A person with narcissistic personality disorder can see nothing wrong with themselves and will never question whether they are narcissistic. A person who has narcissistic traits she focuses much more on herself than on others.

    Narcissism is not 100% bad as is sometimes believed; moreover, a little narcissism is normal and necessary. With a relatively high level of narcissism, one can be empathetic and compassionate, yet competitive, and exhibit a decent level of self-esteem. “normal” narcissism it is considered a natural expression of self-preservationalthough if it exceeds a level, although it does not become pathological, it is considered an unhealthy state.

    Some people labeled as average may exhibit certain narcissistic traits considered problematic, which include, for example, feeling superior to others. It’s not considered pathological narcissism, and it’s more common in today’s world than you might think, due to the added value that certain self-centered behaviors represent in one’s professional career. But, although not considered a pathology, narcissistic personality traits can be life limiting people considered narcissistic. These may not connect with others in a meaningful way and exhibit self-destructive behaviors that can affect their mental health.

      Relationship between narcissism and self-esteem

      Narcissism, considered normal and not affecting life, is commonly associated with a good level of self-esteem. Although, when we talk about self-esteem, we must point out that people with good self-esteem do not only care about themselves, they also care about the needs of others, which does not happen in narcissism.

      A person has self-esteem and an accurate self-assessment when they do not aspire to be below their abilities or above their classification in the possible hierarchy that occurs in relationships, for example, as a couple or at work.

      Self-esteem must be at an appropriate point of balance. It is obvious that self-esteem cannot be too low, because it is not good for a person and affects his mental health. Low self-esteem can make a person feel inadequate, inferior, and incapable, which can cause significant psychological problems.

      Therefore, there is a continuum of self-esteem, from not enough to too much. Both ends of the scale are not healthy for the psyche. Placing narcissism in unhealthy places on the scale.

        Narcissism and society

        Normal Narcissism and Personality Narcissism Traits Are in Different Places on the Self-Esteem Scale. Although the debate is still open about how high self-esteem is considered a narcissistic trait and how beneficial it is in today’s society.

        For some authors, in certain situations and professions, achieving optimal performance requires above-average self-esteem/confidence. They call it high self-esteem and explain that it goes beyond what would be considered normal, but can still adapt to the current situation. Here are some examples of jobs/situations where high self-esteem would be beneficial: war heroes or business leaders.

        However, some have suggested that narcissism is a disorder that can only be suffered by people who live in more affluent countries, because in less developed countries people have to worry about basic needs such as housing and food. food. In more developed countries, people have more time to focus on themselves, which can be considered a higher level in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

        Certain professions, such as medicine, law, and science, can attract narcissists in cultures that encourage individualism and complacency at the expense of community. Likewise, Narcissists can thrive in cultures that honor individuality and self-satisfaction more than community.

          Narcissism vs pathological narcissism

          Some studies have shown that differences in the dimensions of narcissism are related to indicators of positive and negative psychological functioning. Narcissism can be pathological, showing a link to aggression, low self-esteem, internalizing problems, and an inaccurate sense of one’s own relationships. On the contrary, non-pathological narcissism is linked to high self-esteem and aggression, while it is associated with problems of negative internalization.

          People with narcissistic personality disorder differ from people with nonpathological forms of narcissism because they focus only on themselves. People who exhibit pathological forms of narcissism do not think about how their actions can benefit others, unlike a person with narcissistic traits who, despite having a self-interest, may consider others. Non-pathological narcissists, they don’t act selflessly, but they understand that consideration of others can bring personal benefits.

          Narcissists are competitive, confident, and bold. They are able to charm others and make them think they are special. Their intelligence, persuasiveness, and self-confidence allow them to lead without hesitation and expect others to follow their orders. Their confidence in self comes from believing in their own talents and abilities. Although this leads them to occupy leadership positions, their lack of consideration for others and their sense of entitlement can cause problems for others, but they can lead a suitable life.

          On the contrary, in narcissistic personality disorder, it is a condition in which a person’s self-esteem is not healthy and is regulated by a distorted ego structure, with an ego that is too arrogant than the person must protect and support. Self-esteem is maintained by defensive tactics considered non-adaptive. Narcissistic personality disorder has been described as concentration of attention in the ego or inversion of the ego in the libido.


            One could say that there are different levels of narcissism. Narcissism considered normal, the traits of narcissism (non-pathological) and pathological narcissism. In the case of narcissism considered normal, narcissism is related to self-preservation and a high but sufficient level of self-esteem, characteristics that appear alongside competitive traits, where there is also an ability to empathy and compassion.

            If the capacity for empathy is diminished or practically nil, and self-esteem is above average, we speak of non-pathological narcissism.. It is considered non-pathological, as the person does not exhibit maladaptive behaviors, they can even lead a life full of work and social success, and narcissism is a valued characteristic in today’s society. But although valued, it is problematic for the people who suffer from it, who can feel empty and disconnected from others, and for the environment which suffers from a lack of empathy and selfishness.

            In the case of narcissistic personality disorder, self-esteem is unhealthy and the ego is distorted. Those diagnosed present with functional problems in daily life and maladaptive behaviors that persist over time and do not change, as well as psychological discomfort.

            Bibliographic references

            • Christopher T. Barry and Rebecca L. Kauten (2014) Nonpathological and pathological narcissism: Which self-reported characteristics are most problematic in adolescents?
            • Trechera, JL, Millán Vásquez de la Torre, G., & Fernández Morales, E. (2008). Empirical study of narcissistic personality disorder (PND).
            • Feruta, A. (2011). Continuity or discontinuity between healthy and pathological narcissism Oscillating configurations.

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