If He Has These 4 Personality Traits, He's Probably A Humble Narcissist

Humble narcissists are different than standard narcissists.

man holding himself up by his hands Reshetnikov_art/shutterstock

When you think of the narcissists in your life you probably think of personality traits like “full of themselves,” “self-involved," or “self-obsessed.” We tend to think of the term “narcissist” purely in negative terms.

But, believe it or not, psychologist Dr. Bradley Owens has done extensive research into narcissism and he doesn’t think it’s always a bad thing — especially when the narcissists are also humble (a skill he says can be learned).


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The “humble narcissist” seems like a fantasy since the characteristics of a narcissist seem, well, totally opposite. However, a study found that the “humble narcissists” leaders had the best performances from their staff.


The study was conducted to test what type of boss was better: someone who was humble or someone who was a narcissist. They found that the narcissists had staff that didn’t perform as well (they wasted more time on the computer or on breaks), but humble leaders had the opposite effect.

However, the leaders who found a balance between being narcissistic and being humble performed the best. As Adam Grant explained, “Humble narcissists bring the best of both worlds: they have bold visions, but they’re also willing to acknowledge their weaknesses and learn from their mistakes.”

Basically, being a narcissist gives you the confidence to be innovative, and being humble keeps the “big-headedness” in check just enough to acknowledge your human limitations (which will also make you more relatable to your staff).

Dr. Owens discussed how traditionally, leaders are expected to have qualities that often contradict each other, but that “combining humility with narcissism helps counterbalance these qualities without trying (and likely failing) to wipe any of them out.”


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I got in touch with Dr. Owens to inquire whether his theory of “learning humility” was applicable to all relationships (not just working relationships, but romantic and social). He responded that "though we have been exploring [humility’s] effects in the workplace — on motivation, performance, and relational quality — we strongly believe that humility would also help to improve relationships in other contexts.”

So, while this study focused on narcissists learning humility at work, it’s applicable to all walks of life.

Here are the 4 hidden (and a bit subtle) personality traits of the humble narcissist:

1. He seeks to understand “humility”

Even if he hasn’t fully mastered it yet, the “humble narcissist” is a self-proclaimed narcissist who is trying to understand humility. He will understand that this is how humans make connections to get ahead (both in their careers and relationships) and he will seek to better understand how humility can play a role in his life.


2. He seeks to master “humbleness”

The humble narcissist will actively try to be more and more humble until he has successfully mastered it as a skill. He may even be so obsessed with mastering this newfound “skill” that he will continue to practice it until it is almost second nature to him. Generally, this will be obvious both at work and in social settings (including romantic relationships).

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3. He’s confident but aware of his weaknesses

While he has the confidence most people expect in a great leader (as he is probably the one to take leadership roles both at work and at home), he is also able to admit his shortcomings. He is likely to have learned that admitting shortcomings (as we all have them) makes you more relatable and tends to provide more positive results in the long run.

4. He needs plenty of downtime

Dr. Owens says that these seemingly conflicting qualities tend to lead to stress since having to constantly keep his humility in check leads to some mental strain. This strain tends to mean that the “humble narcissist” will need plenty of downtime to relax and decompress.


Narcissists who have mastered learning humility tend to experience “emotional burnout.” I’m not even a narcissist (that much) and I get this. Dr. Owen recommends that humble narcissists should be realistic about the amount of time they will need to decompress at the end of the day to maintain the right levels of humility.

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Nicole Bradley-Bernard is a writer with a Bachelor’s degree in Professional and Creative Writing. She works as a freelance writer for FINE Magazine and GreekRank.