13 CRITICAL Differences Between Narcissism And Healthy Confidence

They're not at all the same.

Differences Between Narcissism And Healthy Confidence Dragosh Co/Shutter Stock

Many people with a narcissistic style or Narcissistic Personality Disorder are relentless. They rarely admit fault yet nearly always seem to find someone to blame. They can also seem so certain of what they say and do that those around them may come to second-guess themselves.

If you have a person with narcissism in your life, it is more likely that you will become exhausted, overwhelmed, or confused than it is that the narcissist will back down. Over time, you may become inured to how extreme and costly their actions are.


What is a narcissist and how are they different from the rest? One way to regain perspective is to remind yourself of the differences between narcissistic behavior and healthier behavior.

Here are the 13 characteristics of people with narcissism versus those of healthier people: 

  1. Narcissists shun introspection. Healthy people value introspection.
  2. Narcissists lack empathy. Healthy people care about the needs and feelings of others.
  3. Narcissists become hypersensitive to slights. Healthy people don’t take others’ actions personally.
  4. Narcissists act impulsively. Healthy people seek spontaneity.
  5. Narcissists spoil others’ good moods. Healthy people celebrate and share in others’ good moods.
  6. Narcissists deny or hide mistakes. Healthy people seek to learn from mistakes.


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  7. Narcissists are driven by fear. Healthy people are cognizant of fears but cultivate hope.
  8. Narcissists blame others. Healthy people take responsibility.
  9. Narcissists stonewall or withdraw when upset. Healthy people communicate when upset.
  10. Narcissists get enraged when criticized. Healthy people remain open to constructive criticism.
  11. Narcissists pursue a win-lose strategy. Healthy people pursue a win-win strategy.
  12. Narcissists hold grudges. Healthy people seek resolution.
  13. Narcissists have one-way, superficial relationships. Healthy people have reciprocal relationships.

It is helpful to see how strikingly different narcissistic behavior is from healthy behavior. Seeing the behaviors of narcissistic people compared to how you strive to behave can give rise to three valuable questions:

  1. Do I let someone with narcissism treat me differently than I let others treat me?
  2. If so, why?
  3. What is the cost and is it worth it?

The answers to these questions can lead you to set healthier boundaries with people who are narcissistic. The contrast between people with narcissism and healthier individuals is also striking in the differences in values.

These are the values of people with narcissism versus the values of healthier people:

  • Narcissists value perfection. Healthy people value growth
  • Narcissists value attention. Healthy people value connection. 
  • Narcissists value superiority. Healthy people value equality.
  • Narcissists value winning. Healthy people value fairness.
  • Narcissists value status. Healthy people value equality.

By identifying and staying true to your values, you can hold your own in the face of narcissistic people and behavior.


Copyright 2017 by Dan Neuharth PhD MFT.