The Disarming Truth About Whether True Narcissists Know They Are Narcissists

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It seems everyone is a self-proclaimed therapist these days, handing out accusations of narcissism left and right. It also seems that any person who is deemed to be toxic, manipulative, or exhibits negative behaviors is thrown into the pool of undiagnosed malignant narcissism and written off as a victim of mental illness.

In this dog-eat-dog world, a lot of hurt people are concluding that egotistical, self-serving individuals have narcissistic personality disorder. They flock to support groups and spend hours reading literature about how to outsmart the narcissist at their own game.

But one question that has often gone unanswered is whether or not the narcissist recognizes that they are, in fact, narcissistic.

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Do narcissists know they are narcissists?

The answer is yes... and no.

Narcissists are very much aware that they have narcissistic traits, but believe the way they act is reasonable and warranted.

Narcissists don’t understand the impact that their actions have on the people around them because they lack empathy for others.

It’s important to remember that people with narcissistic personality traits are like addicts engaging in ego-dystonic behaviors. That means that their actions don’t align with the goals and desires.

People who are ego-syntonic are disciplined and can resist the urge to do things that are counter to their values and ambitions. They have an internal voice of reason that asks if their actions make sense based on the self-image and character they want to project.

But the benefits of grandiose behavior are greater than the risk to them.

Narcissists care about how they come across, as long as it benefits them.

What a person with good mental health might see as conflicting behavior, a person with narcissism sees as a means to an end.

They gaslight, deflect and refuse to take accountability under the false belief that it is moving them closer to what they want in life. Narcissists fail to realize that being viewed as dishonest, sneaky, or downright mean can come back to haunt you and ruin your reputation.

But someone with narcissistic personality disorder has no control over their disorder, so even knowing what they are, they find it difficult to change.

Narcissists know that their behavior is considered to be such, but likely don’t care unless it is having a detrimental impact on them. How it affects other people is none of their concern.

Studies show that, as much as they hate to admit it, narcissists know and would much rather pretend all is well than address it. A self-aware narcissist only becomes that way when they see their own flaws and are ready for a change.

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Do narcissists know they are abusive?

People with narcissistic personality disorder do know that they are being abusive — and they do it by design.

Narcissists know how to always put their needs above anything else, so they feel totally justified in treating you like an inferior. The intent is to make you feel as if you are "less than" so you continue to tolerate any mistreatment they dish out.

Deep inside, narcissists carry a lot of shame and use defense mechanisms to keep their insecurities under wraps.

People often mistake narcissism for self-absorbed confidence, but it is the exact opposite.

Something is broken inside, and it makes them feel extremely vulnerable. They will go to great lengths to make sure no one can exploit their weaknesses, so they put on an armor of emotionless bravery.

The practices normally associated with the disorder — like manipulation, a lack of emotional intelligence, gaslighting, and blame-shifting — are a direct result of their defensiveness. Narcissists may not know the exact reasons why they choose to behave the way they do, but they are 100% certain they are abusive and are okay with it if it leads to a "win."

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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, and author of seven books. She covers lifestyle and entertainment and news, as well as navigating the workplace and social issues.