You often hear people who have high levels of fame, success, or notoriety being talked about as famous narcissists. What is narcissism, and narcissistic personality disorder, and why do some famous people get the label of being narcissists?
Narcissism in a Nutshell
Narcissism, as a positive personality trait, is something many people may have. We all carry a mix of personality traits within us that make us who we are. For anyone with a drive to become famous or be well-regarded in their area of expertise, a good sense of self-belief in themselves, high self-esteem, and confidence are going to be needed. This can be healthy for people – we need to love ourselves – but it is very different from full-blown narcissistic behavior and disorders.
In people where narcissistic traits are particularly prevalent or those who have the pathological condition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), these traits are pronounced. With pathological narcissism, people are extremely self-absorbed and their sense of self is distorted and glorified. While it’s often referred to as excessive self “love”, they will often use and abuse others to get what they want and where they want to go in life with little regard or empathy for others feelings. Not love at all.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
There are a number of traits that clinicians and health professionals measure against the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to make a formal diagnosis of the mental health condition Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Self-help advice is great, but armchair diagnoses of disorders aren’t, so a full assessment is needed to make the final call on this condition. In summary, some typical traits of a narcissist disorder include:
- Grandiosity: Narcissists often believe they are superior to all others and may exaggerate their abilities and importance. Those with the disorder may come across to others as being arrogant or conceited and project as having a sense of entitlement above others. Narcissists have to have the power and control and will abuse it. If something goes wrong they are likely to project blame onto others without taking any personal responsibility for their actions.
- Attention seeking: Narcissists love attention and are often charismatic speakers and storytellers. They not only love being the center of attention, they seek it out and lap it up. For someone with a disorder, this is a concept known as narcissistic supply – narcissists need other people to supply the validation of their perceived importance. They may lash out in a fit of narcissistic rage if they don’t get the attention they are craving. In conversations, narcissistic people will often only talk of themselves without giving anyone else the opportunity to reply or respond.
- Manipulation: Narcissists are often very manipulative. People with a narcissistic personality disorder may use and take advantage of other people to get what they want, and where they want in life. This is known as narcissistic abuse. Narcissistic people tend to have a lack of empathy, with little thought or regard for other people’s feelings. Narcissistic people will sometimes distort the truth and situations to achieve what they want.
What is more, there are categories of narcissistic behavior often used within psychology and popular culture.
- The term covert narcissist is sometimes used to describe someone who may be more introverted and not so publically grandiose, but nonetheless shows many narcissistic traits or symptoms of the disorder.
- A malignant narcissist, or malignant narcissism, is used to describe someone who is antisocial, aggressive and sometimes displays sociopath or sadist tendencies. They have no regard for other people.
- “Malignant self-love” is often used to describe the toxic effects that narcissism can have on self and others, especially those with the disorder.
Throughout history, there have been a number of movie stars, singers, politicians, leaders and other celebrities and public figures that have displayed a number of narcissistic traits.
In today’s climate of social media, people who crave the spotlight can be easy to see and love – charisma can be charming. The instant gratification for a narcissist to reply to a post, or to re-tweet to thousands of people is immense. For historical figures, often they have been analyzed after their death on how their narcissistic tendencies contributed to their life and whether or not they had a narcissistic personality disorder.
Eight famous narcissists, or people who have displayed narcissistic traits, include:
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Actress Joan Crawford’s narcissistic abuse of her adopted daughter was dramatized in the movie “Mommie Dearest,” based on the book written by her daughter. Mother-daughter relationships are often difficult, however, Crawford’s need for attention as a narcissistic mother was said to be at the expense of her family relationships and providing her children a healthy upbringing. Crawford’s daughter’s account shows the difficulty of narcissist abuse recovery for those who have lived with someone who may have this mental health condition or disorder.
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Rap singer Kanye West has displayed narcissistic traits on many occasions. Stepping up the microphone during an acceptance speech for a music award given to Taylor Swift, he proclaimed another artist should have been the winner, humiliating Swift publicly, making himself the center of attention. He’s also stated publicly that he’s up for running for the US Presidency in the 2020 elections. As part of the extended family of the reality TV Kardashian clan, he seems to also have a narcissistic mother-in-law in Kris Jenner and a few other female narcissists in his life, including his wife.
Image Source: Instagram.com/kimkardashian
Sure, we live in a world of social media, selfies, and reality TV shows, but Kanye West’s wife, Kim Kardashian, is a queen of narcissistic type self-promotion. Her claim to fame is pretty much being “herself” – an image she perpetuates through self-posting online updates of daily activities on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. Another narcissistic characteristic, if true, is she is rumored to have released controversial material, including a sex-tape, herself to make her name more famous.
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Singer Mariah Carey is said to be one of the most overbearing and narcissistic celebrities of her generation. Narcissistic traits displayed by Carey including treating others as though they are beneath her and/or she owns them. She is the boss. Carey is known for disrespecting other people’s time, turning up late or not performing at all with no apology – as happened when an unexpected backup track was played at a New Year’s Eve in Times Square a year or two back. The narcissistic behavior on that occasion and her subsequent excuse put herself across as a victim rather than making it right for those who were there to see her perform.
Image Source: Nme.com
Singer Madonna has never been one to shun the limelight and find ways to reinvent her image to attract and retain attention on herself. She’s said to be unreasonable with her demands of her employees, with little empathy for long hours and working conditions of people she hires. In 2006, it was reported she lobbied governments and scientists to treat nuclear waste with magical Kabbalah fluid.
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Donald Trump has long displayed many narcissistic traits as a narcissistic CEO of a large corporation, well before becoming President of the United States. A prime example of narcissism, Trump’s need for self-promotion seems to overshadow any policy talk. His derisiveness of political rivals, other people in general, and talk of conspiracies outstrips dirty politics. Trump often shows an extreme sensitivity to criticism and disregard for other people with his public outbursts and comments on Twitter. From the wording of these, they are possibly the result of narcissistic rage and a feeling of not being able to control everything.
Image Source: BBC.co.uk
Jim Jones was a cult leader and is famous for inciting the mass suicide/murder of over 900 people in the 1970s in Jonestown, Guyana. Jones is said to have displayed narcissistic traits throughout his life, along with characteristics of other personality disorders. Said to have had a complete disregard or lack of awareness of other’ people’s feelings, this is a trait also seen in sociopaths. Most notable were delusions of grandeur in which he is reported to have spoken of being a savior or God to his supporters. He was said to have justified his sexual abuse and violence towards both men and women as a way to help people with their perceived problems and as a way of helping them feel better.
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Studies of the possible mental health conditions Adolf Hitler may have had include narcissistic personality disorder, along with other borderline personality disorders. Hitler’s beliefs of superiority and the position of power he attained through false propaganda led to the abuse and genocide of millions of people in Europe during his political reign. Hitler is an example of a sociopath and narcissistic leaders in the extreme.