With our new obsession with selfies and the fact that everything seems to orbit around ourselves the concept of arrogance or being self-centered has reached new heights. Another development is to use the words arrogance and narcissism interchangeably. I get it; it has become the common lexicon to call someone a narcissist, because it is trendy.
This however, can be really confusing for those of us dealing with an individual with a full-blown case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), a true narcissist. It is disheartening the word “narcissist” has lost its meaning. These are dangerous people and by using the label for simply arrogant people, narcissism is less likely to be recognized for the pathology that it is. Such is life. No judgment on the usage, but some clarification is in order.
One of the traits of some narcissists may have is arrogance. According to the diagnostic manual DSM-IV-TR a narcissist:
• “Expects to be recognized as superior and special, without superior accomplishments
• Expects constant attention, admiration and positive reinforcement from others” (DSM-IV-TR)
Yeah, that’s arrogance!
More dangerous of course, is to attribute the characteristics of arrogance to all narcissists (when I say narcissists here, I’m talking about people with NPD). The problem swings both ways, yes, some narcissists are arrogant and some arrogant people are narcissists. However, not all narcissists are arrogant and you can be arrogant without actually having NPD. Wow, that seemed confusing.
The fact is that not all people with NPD appear arrogant. I often hear the defense, no they are not a narcissist, they are: shy, not arrogant, very friendly, easy to get along with…those sorts of statements that seem to eliminate the possibility of NPD.
Ted Bundy, the serial killer, was so likable many people did not believe he murdered a bunch of people in spite of huge amounts of evidence. I’m not suggesting that he was a typical narcissist. I’m trying to point out that sociopaths do not appear as evil, arrogant people with the sound track of Jaws conveniently playing in the background. They are sociopaths and can pretend to be whomever they want to be.
Just as often a narcissist will appear meek, weak and in need of special care. This is a different way to endear a different type of audience. Narcissists can be shy, quiet and timid, at least they can appear that way.
The more frightening of narcissists are complete chameleons and will appear different to different people and this is only discovered if these people talk and realize that they have completely different takes on who the person it.
The important thing to remember is that narcissists wear masks. They determine what their audience will respond best to and they play that role, often switching between confidence and uncertainty, arrogance and self-ptiy as the need arises.
So, to wrap up, someone that has NPD is not necessarily arrogant and someone that is arrogant is not necessarily a narcissist. Go ahead, take the selfie, it does not mean you are a sociopath.