What are the two faces of narcissism?
When it comes to narcissism, there are many shades and nuances that are often difficult to spot, even for an experienced eye. While assuming that all narcissists are the same may be understandable, especially for someone who hasn’t had the bad luck to get hurt by one, this negative personal trait can show up in different ways in different people.
With the term “narcissism” gaining significant popularity, people are requiring to know more about this particular type of personality disorder. To meet these demands, experts have distinguished two main kinds of narcissism – grandiose and vulnerable. According to Psychology Today, both of them represent related but separate traits.
How are grandiose narcissists different from vulnerable narcissists?
Including both sides of the picture, psychologists and psychotherapists laid the preliminaries for the “Trifurcated Model.” This model reveals how both the grandiose and vulnerable forms relate to fundamental narcissistic traits, including antagonism, self-importance, and a sense of entitlement.
A grandiose narcissist is someone who often displays high levels of confidence, which are closely related to their ego. On the other hand, vulnerable narcissists are quite anxious and have significantly low self-esteem. However, their low confidence is also connected to their egocentric nature.
To explain this confusing phenomenon, the authors of the book “The New Science of Narcissism,” W. Keith Campbell and Carolyn Crist, use three examples of people with narcissistic personality traits, which cover different aspects of the Trifurcated Model:
Your favorite influencer
— loves to talk about the high-status people she knows and the fancy places she travels. She name-drops all the time, and you can see that she thinks highly of herself — and believes she’s better than others. She always turns the conversation back to herself and her life experiences, no matter the topic, and it seems like the world revolves around her. However, she’s entertaining, attractive, and charming, and you like her despite the self-centered behavior. You think you could be her friend.
Your shy and insecure friend
— more like an acquaintance, really, since you can’t seem to get close to him — is often depressed but also full of himself. He’s rigid and wants everything to be done his way. He doesn’t show compassion for others and complains about them often, usually focusing on the idea that they don’t recognize his intelligence or skill. You or others have talked to him about his depression, but he can’t take responsibility for it. Instead, he believes his problems stem from the “unfair” treatment he’s received from the world. If others recognized his brilliance, everything would be fine.
— brags about his work accomplishments on social media, though you don’t consider them to be as great as he does. He puts down other coworkers and doesn’t show gratitude when they help him with projects. He often expects special treatment, and when he doesn’t get what he wants, he’s mean and vindictive. He also reacts harshly to criticism of his work and is quite defensive. However, the boss likes him and sees him as a “go-getter.” You think of him as a suck-up.
In these cases, the first person is considered a grandiose narcissist for her sociable and engaging personality.
The second one, who shows a strong feeling of entitlement despite his many insecurities, is a vulnerable narcissist. Meanwhile, the arrogant and defensive coworker appears to be a combination of the two.
The grandiose narcissists are the ones people most often think of when in a conversation regarding narcissism. That’s because their bold and ongoing character is fairly recognizable. At first, they are enchantingly charismatic ant their outstanding sense of humor leaves you speechless. However, sooner or later, their lack of empathy and their acute selfishness pushes others away.
In the meantime, vulnerable narcissists are much more difficult to notice. While they do have some of the same self-absorbed qualities as the grandiose ones, they tend to be more introverted, and their egos get mostly hurt by criticism.
Narcissism is a part of two spectra, experts say.
Psychologists and psychotherapists believe that narcissism can vary between a clinical disorder and a normal personality trait. Furthermore, they are also considering it to be moving from vulnerability to grandiosity.
As per Zlatan Krizan and Anne Herlache, researchers at Iowa State University, “the narcissism spectrum model synthesizes extensive personality, social-psychological, and clinical evidence, building on existing knowledge about narcissistic grandiosity and vulnerability.”
The truth is we all have some amount of narcissism in our nature. However, with the help of the Trifurcated Model, we can clarify some of the conflicting definitions that we face in our everyday lives, and we can easily identify the different kinds of narcissists we meet.
Did you know about the two faces of narcissism? Leave a comment to let us know!