You're So Vain: Recognizing The 5 Kinds of Narcissism

Narcissism. The word alone conjures up images of Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. You know, the creepy corporate walking artifice, who is a physically perfect specimen but you're convinced he spends 3 hours staring at his face in the mirror every night while listening to Huey Lewis and the News on loop on his cassette player. But this is only one variation. A creepy, decisively 80s variation, but a variation.

There are different iterations of narcissism most of which go unnoticed (in others and ourselves). In fact, I believe most people have some form(s) of narcissism in varying degrees. To complicate things there's a fine line between confidence and narcissism, but recognizing what I have boiled down into the 5 variations of narcissism (which I had a little fun with) can be helpful, because while we may not all be Patrick Bateman, our own egoic narcissism shows up somewhere, in some way.


Narcissism is typically an overvaluation of your contribution, importance or impact in the world. It is an over-estimation of one's power and influence and is typically accompanied by either a lack of insight, empathy or understanding of others' experiences.


The Bateman

This is the type of narcissism I mentioned at the beginning of the post, and is the most recognizable in the Western world. The Bateman can come in all shapes and sizes. Typically this person is not lacking in self-esteem (at least not in the eyes of others). They often feel justified in their behavior (no matter what it is) because they often believe others are not as smart, talented, beautiful, rich, strong, etc., as they are. The Bateman feels as though their presence is a gift, although depending on their level of functioning they will be careful not to communicate this belief to others. Bateman's are often charming and attractive to others and thrive on praise and admiration. Bateman's are also typically successful (or at least appear to be).  Internally they tend to need approval and love, outwardly they may be cold and polished. Most Bateman's don't become sociopathic murders like the type's namesake, so if this is you, do not fret.

+ QUALITIES: confident, successful, powerful and attractive.
- QUALITIES: self-aggrandizing, false, malicious and deceitful.
ARCHETYPES: CEO, Model, Mogul, Televangelist, Politician, Dictator


The Sweeney Todd

This person flips narcissism on its head, and so often won't see themselves as narcissistic. They tend to be more negatively identified. Preferring to believe that most people don't like them or would prefer to not be around them, they take solace in their uniqueness and have simultaneously grandiose visions of their specialness and sadness about their flaws. If negative things happen, they often believe its because they've had something to do with it. Todd's often derive satisfaction from having problems and may compete with others in a "my life sucks more" contest. Conversely, they are often very self-reflective and sensitive (think tortured artist). Underneath their low self-concept there is a zeal about their own uniqueness and value that they feel they can't express outwardly. They may alternate between pride and dejection. 


+ QUALITIES: sensitive, insightful, reflective and creative
- QUALITIES: negative, pessimistic, pensive and envious
ARCHETYPES: Artist, Poet, Wounded Healer, Addict, Scorned Lover


The Superhero

This person believes it is their job to save other people...from anything and everything they can. The Superhero often believes they have been blessed with some quality that engenders them to help other people out of their mess. They often have a martyr identity, believing it is their plight to help others, but secretly enjoy their rescuing attempts. Superheroes sometimes believe that they have some sort of magical healing or spiritual ability (and sometimes they do), which can give them a righteousness and arrogance. They  believe other people are inept at living their lives and that people need them to survive on some level. Superheroes do well in jobs where they get paid to help others. Many superheroes have an unconscious fear of being vulnerable and weak.

 + QUALITIES: brave, protective, nurturing, and healing
- QUALITIES: meddling, arrogant, controlling and manipulative
ARCHETYPES: Counselor, Paramedic, Firefighter, Nurse/Doctor, Teacher, Spiritual Guru


The Kardashian

This person's narcissism centers on the belief that they are at the center of a reality show of their life, so they must constantly keep it dramatic. It's as though cameras are constantly rolling, but unlike the Bateman who only wants to be shown in a positive light, the Kardashian will alternate between being a hot mess and a saint. There's a sense of chaos surrounding the Kardashian because drama seems to be where ever they go. They may complain endlessly about the drama (or the haters) but love the thrill of the intensity. They may have trouble talking about anything but their latest episode, but can at times be superficially interested in others problems (only to make it about them later). 

+ QUALITIES: compelling, entertaining, fast-paced and revealing
- QUALITIES: dramatic, superficial, histrionic and unreliable
ARCHETYPES: Prince/Princess, Spoiled Brat, Actor, Drama Queen/King, Eternal Child, the Club Promoter


The Nurse Ratched

This person's narcissism tends to show up through their belief that they do things right. They often believe that they do what they're supposed to do and others do not. They may be convinced of their unending duty to others (which they resent) so may complain that they're always helping others or cleaning up others' messes and are resentful as opposed to proud like the Superhero. Some Ratched's may feel more righteous and feel compelled to correct or reform other people to the right way of doing things. In any case they feel a sense of duty and responsibility and find themselves at the mercy of other people's demands (and incompetence). They may often criticize other people's narcissism, unable to see their own. They can control overtly through nitpicking or be petty and passive aggressive.

+ QUALITIES: dutiful, conscientious, appropriate and responsible
- QUALITIES: nit-picking, petty, irritable and pious
ARCHETYPES: Angel, The Perfectionist, The (long-suffering) Assistant, The Nun, The Right-hand-man, The Copyeditor, The Crusader .

Most people will have a mixture of these styles. We all have them in our psyche somewhere, it's just a matter of not letting them get "psycho". These exist on a continuum, from a little bit to a lot, but it can be fun to have a dialogue with the little narcissist in our heads. Ask them what they want, and them tell them to calm down because it isn't all about them.

Can you think of more? I could have gone on and on I'm sure.