1. Generally a deeply dysfunctional state of mind in which one is in love with oneself, often at a rather superficial level. From the Greek myth of Narcissus, who wasted away out of unrequited love for his own reflection in a pool.
2. More specifically described at its worst as Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD. NPD is characterised by the following:
Refusal to admit that one is narcissistic. The horror author Stephen King once wrote that alcoholics build defence mechanisms like the Dutch build dykes. Narcissists are kind of the same, except that compared to your average narcissist, your average alcoholic is a rank amateur.
An exaggerated sense of self-importance, with the narcissist often talking about private, professional or other interpersonal relationships in which they are involved as though nobody else really existed.
A preoccupation with fantasies of pure or unlimited power, beauty, "authenticity", intelligence, love and so on. Has an urgent need for praise.
A tendency to read what people say out of context, or more likely without any context, and a disability to spot when they are being taken for a ride.
Belief on the narcissist's part that people vastly more gifted than they are (in whatever respect) are their natural equals, and a snobbish contempt for anything less.
A sense of entitlement; narcissists are typically manipulative, haughty, arrogant and generally destructive in their relationships with others.
A narcissist may appear overly anxious to show respect for the property and privacy of those they cannot profitably step on. Towards those under them in any social hierarchy (employees, offspring, subservient spouses, etc.,), they are shamelessly controlling, frequently treating such other peoples' property as their own to use or discard, on a more trivial level barging intrusively into their conversations, and so on. Narcissists treat those below them, or loyal to them, as extentions of their own egos.
Lack empathy and tends to treat other people like dirt, when they can get away with it.
Project a sense of immense effort, as though eternally hoping that some teacher will award them an A for it; at the same time their work is frequently slipshod and they secretly delegate to social subordinates.
Narcissists show no need to take any responsibility for the untoward results of their own actions, frequently going to ingenious extremes to weasel their way out of anything of the sort. After all, anything else would first require them to admit, as more than some petty platitude, that they aren't perfect.
Frequently project their own shortcomings onto others, especially whose whom they can control or of whom they are envious.
Carol's narcissism inspired her first husband to leave everything to her in his will. Some say she drove him into an early grave. She enjoys the money, but now nobody with a brain cell will touch her and her kids don't want to know her.
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