Since the development of narcissism is due to childhood stresses, and no one has a perfect childhood, all of us have varying degrees of this dysfunction. Although a brief list of narcissistic traits and characteristics was provided in the last article, it still might be hard to determine if we display these characteristics on a day-to-day basis. I think Dr. Paul Meier’s wonderful questionnaire in his book, You Might Be a Narcissist If, might be able to help us identify the daily presentation of narcissism. The questionnaire does not having a scoring system, however we can evaluate how frequently we unconsciously and/or accidently behave in the manner described in each question.
1. Do I have a humble heart? Do I realize I’m not perfect and have both strengths as well as weaknesses---and don’t feel overly threatened to acknowledge either of them?
2. Do I have empathy for others? Can I put myself in their shoes and imagine how my behavior has impacted them? For example, do I slow down my driving when passengers say they are frightened?
3. Can I admit when I’m wrong? Can I apologize with a caring heart, and do I seek to make things right to help repair the rift in the relationship?
4. Do I think I deserve special favors and preferential treatment and should be treated as having special status? For example, do I ask for things that aren’t on the restaurant menu or talk to the server in a haughty tone of voice that makes him feel inferior to me?
5. Do I tend to think in terms that categorize people in my head as superior or inferior to myself, rather than believe we are all equal?
6. Do I tend to talk about others behind their backs in a tone of voice or in a manner that puts them down or makes them seem inferior?
7. Am I able to share my strengths and weaknesses with others, or do I tend to brag about my accomplishments, but hide my weaknesses?
8. Am I shocked or do I become angry when others have an opinion that is different from my own?
9. Do I try to exert extensive control over my family members so they dress or act in certain ways so they don’t tarnish my image to others? For example, do I try to get my kids to pursue sports or careers that I want them to do rather than honor what they want?
10. Do I often feel envious of others or believe they are envious of me?
11. Do I take advantage of others or use others to achieve my own ends without enough regard for their feelings or needs?
12. Do I believe I am special or unique and can only be understood by others who are also are special or unique?
13. Do I expect others to automatically comply with my wishes, and do I become shocked and outraged when they don’t?
14. Do I feel an increase in my self-worth when I associate with others who possess beauty, wealth, high status, or power?
15. Do I tend to need excessive admiration from others, and do I seek this attention from others---even in subtle ways? For example, do I talk to strangers in a restaurant to get their attention?
16. Do I get energized by thoughts of myself possessing more intelligence, attractiveness, wealth, status, or power than others?
17. Do I take pride in being able to do things without the help of others, and do I believe that to need others or need help from others makes a person weak or pathetic?
18. Do I feel safest psychologically when I feel alone?
19. Do I feel threatened psychologically when I feel I am becoming attached to an emotionally dependent upon another person?
20. Do I verbally attack or withdraw from a person who has pointed out my failure, and do I devalue them (put them down) as a way to inflate my own self-worth?
21. When I experience failure (as all people do), do I either become grandiose in my head (wherein I increase my self-worth by believing I never fail), or do I experience strong feelings of self-loathing or self-contempt because of my failure or mistake (self-devaluation) and shame, humiliation, rage, inferiority, or emptiness?
What should we do if we see ourselves in too many of the narcissism questions? Or, what if we recognize these traits in a loved one? How do we get help? The next article will address how to help ourselves or our loved ones when dysfunctional narcissism is present.
I want to give a special “thank you” to Dr. Meier for giving permission to reprint the Narcissism Questionnaire from his book You Might Be a Narcissist If. . . How to Identify Narcissism in Ourselves and Others and What We Can Do About It. ( Paul Meier, PhD, Lisa Charlebois, L.C.S.W., Cynthia Munz, L.M.F. T., Langdon Street Press, 2009)