What is the difference between Narcissism and Selfishness

I know Narcissist are selfish and immature, but I know that all selfish and immature people are not Narcissist. What is the difference?

September 24, 2011 - 12:09pm

TNB201 Narcissism vs. Selfishness

The answer lays in degrees, frequency, motivation, and the intensity of the self-centeredness.

There is a certain degree of selfishness or self-centeredness in everyone. This generation has been labeled by some to be the, ME or Narcissistic generation. Never before have so many been focused on themsleves and their own needs. Some blame the media, two parents working and perhaps feeling guilty and over indulging their children, technology, and the internet.

This is a great question because it is now the norm to take care of yourself, focus on your needs, be good to yourself, and put yourself first.

The self-indulgence becomes unhealthy when it is at the expense of others and there appears to be no remorse towards using or hurting others to get your wants and needs met.

Narcissism is a personality disorder and the symptoms begin somewhere in childhood. They will not be diagnosed until they are at least 18 and part of the criteria is when the symptoms first began to appear.

Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

In order for a person to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) they must meet five or more of the following symptoms:

•Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
•Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
•Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
•Requires excessive admiration
•Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
•Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
•Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
•Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
•Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes


So basically a selfish person may take more and give less, may often put themselves above others, may appear disinterested in you, and your needs much of the time and with them it is a fault, a weakness as opposed to a part of who they are and will always be. Many outgrow selfishness as they mature and take on life's responsibilities.

Whereas a N is incapable of change and it is a PD as opposed to a flaw. They do not outgrow it and they do not mature past it. It is who and what they are.

What makes it tricky for some to figure out, especially in the beginning, is because they are masters at deception and hiding from others their disorder. They require supply to feed their disorder and they create many false personas in order to lure you in.

Red flags:

You are told by others that something is just not quite right with N or that N screwed them over. Believe it when you are told these things, people are trying to warn you.

Family and friends say, there is just something not right about N and I don't think he is good for or I am uncomfortable around him. Or you don't seem yourself since you took up with N. Believe it, they know you better than anyone and if they feel something is off they are right.

Their stories do not add up.

They go from loving to angry, cold, distant, and judgmental on a dime.

YOU feel that something is just not right. Trust your instincts, they are your best defense against the narc and trust what people in your life who love you have to say about N, their instincts are on high alert.

You keep trying to get the relationship back to the good ole days, the beginning, and no matter how hard you try; it is no longer the same. This is a major red flag; most people do not change to that extent.

If you see any of these red flags, get out, and stay out. PD's do not change and if they pretend to change, it is only an act, put on for your benefit to keep you hooked and sucked in and within a relatively short period of time they will be back to their old behaviors and tricks.

God bless,

September 26, 2011 - 9:54pm (Reply to #1)


Great question and great answer. Goldie is right, the key difference is lack of empathy.

We all have narcissistic tendencies and narcissism falls on a continuum. When one becomes so consumed with themselves that they lose the ability to feel for others, they become pathologically narcissistic - these are the people we must avoid at all costs.

Vanity is not the aspect of narcissism that is dangerous.

The dangerous characteristics of a narcissist include:

Lack of Empathy
Sadism (Narcs are sadistic and ENJOY frustrating us)

I hope this helps....again the key differential between healthy self-confidence and pathological narcissism is lack of empathy and the desire to manipulate, con, frustrate and punish others for their own amusement.

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