Is someone you know a narcissist? And is there anything wrong with being a narcissist? It depends on what you mean by narcissism.

Most of the words that have trickled into public use from psychiatry are misused: schizophrenic does not mean multiple personality; depressed does not mean sad; and paranoid does not mean anxious. And the narcissistic personality disorder is not the same as narcissism.

To be narcissistic means to be focused on yourself. Many celebrities – from politicians to pop stars – suffer from enormous self-pride. But an extroverted personality, enjoyment of the limelight, and long periods of time in front of the mirror do not a malignant narcissist make.

It is also important not to confuse self-esteem with narcissism. The narcissist is self-obsessed, uninterested in the achievements of others – that is, unless they are in competition; then they must be derided. A healthy psyche is capable of both pride and humility. The narcissist is only capable of pride.

This short video gives an amusing, and instructive, take on the idea of narcissism. And here are the criteria for personality disorders – including the narcissistic variant – in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuals of the American Psychiatric Association.

What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Have you read Jon’s new book? Do you have a story about narcissism that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!