Team Narcissism vs. Team Healthy – Lets Get Specific!

Delving into the topic of narcissism and narcissistic behavior is not at all about learning how to stick labels onto one another. Instead, learning about this topic offers a golden opportunity to understand human nature in general. Each person has the potential for narcissistic behavior since narcissism is a pattern on a spectrum.

Healthy people examine themselves honestly and spend their adult lives honing positive skills.  Narcissists do not have an honest self-assessment, nor do they mature as the decades pass.  These are the ones whose self-absorption takes over the personality.

In an attempt to distinguish those who are in a narcissistic rut from those who are moving progressively toward healthiness, we can compare and contrast the traits that are quite common to each bent. Some people choose to join Team Healthy while others remain stuck on Team Narcissism. 

How to know if you are on Team Narcissism or Team Healthy:

As you go through these ten distinctions, apply a point system. For each indicator (both on the narcissistic side and the healthy side) use one of three ratings:

Zero points:  This description does not apply.

One point:  This description applies partially.

Two points:  This description applies consistently.

Once you tally your points, you can determine how your points add up toward Team Narcissism and how they add up toward Team Healthy. 

For instance, when rating the inclinations toward narcissistic behavior, a fully narcissistic person would rate 20 points whereas a fully non-narcissistic person would rate zero points. (By the way, hardly anyone can claim a complete absence of narcissistic behavior, so be honest.)

Likewise, a very healthy person would rate 20 points and a very unhealthy person would rate zero points. 

You can use these ratings as a guide to determine how well you manage life…or not.  Then you can also go back through the ratings to determine which qualities are strongest, weakest, or in need of improvement.

So, will you be on Team Narcissism or Team Healthy? 

Let’s examine 10 primary indicators that can help you determine where your life’s trajectory is leading. Specifically, you can rate yourself on each of the indicators with the goal of determining if your life is moving upward with insight and maturity, or if your narcissistic behavior is holding you back.

As you consider these indicators ask yourself:  “Does this description (both on the narcissistic side and on the healthy side) apply to me consistently, sometimes, or not at all?” 

Write your points down, at the end of the article I will explain what your final score means.

1. A mind of control

N:  Narcissists constantly rationalize why it is necessary to control others.  Having a need to remain superior, they readily remind others that they are duty-bound to conform to their standards.  When others balk, narcissists become insistent, judgmental, and stubborn.  They are naturally critical, adversarial, and bossy.  It is quite common for them to speak with persuasion and coercion.  In the narcissist’s mind, others exist to do their bidding.

H:  Healthy individuals approach relationships with a fundamental belief in the freedom for each person to choose how to live.  They certainly have standards and values undergirding their decisions, but they understand that those are matters that cannot be coerced.  Beginning with oneself and extending toward others, they want choice, not obligation, to be central as life’s responsibilities are considered.  They are willing to ask:  “What do you think?” or “Let’s talk about our options as we decide how to proceed.”

2. Curiosity about others

N:   Narcissists are not very curious about the people in front of them.  In the early stages of a relationship, they may seem willing to know facts about others, but time reveals how they are not really attuned to that person’s inner-self.  Another person’s feelings, needs, or dreams do not register deeply with a narcissist.  Often as they learn about a person’s practices or beliefs, they resort to giving advice that is not wanted or needed.  Or perhaps in casual conversations they will respond to a person’s comments by immediately talking about themselves, making it clear that they are disinterested in another’s innermost thoughts and feelings.  They are not inclined to take time or expend energy to know a person’s heart.

H:  Healthy individuals realize how interconnected people are and they like knowing others at a meaningful level, so they pick up on cues revealing tidbits about unique experiences or about emotional needs. Healthy people are proactive when it is apparent that someone needs to feel heard and encouraged, and they prize moments when they get to touch others at a heart level.  Even in casual relationships, they display empathy and warmth.  They clearly acknowledge another’s significance and they want to learn about another person’s essence.

3. Notions about human worth

N:  Narcissists are functional (not contemplative) as they consider another person’s worth.  They see others as potential narcissistic supply.  In their minds, they approach people with basic questions like:  How useful will you be as I pursue my wants and needs?  Will you serve me?  Will you regale me and hold me in highest esteem?  If others seem willing to tend to their self-oriented cravings, narcissists deem them somewhat worthwhile.  If not, they move on toward someone who proves more utile.

H:  Healthy people approach others with a fundamental recognition of inborn dignity.  To them, others do not exist merely to fulfill functions.  They see people as deserving honor, respect, and courtesy.  Human worth is a given, and it is reflected in an unforced willingness to be affirming, friendly, and conscientious.  Knowing that they too wish to be treated with esteem, healthy people offer the same, demonstrating a fundamental goodness.  Healthy people see worth not as something to be proven, but as a pre-existing quality to be recognized.  They are unlikely to be impressed by superficial symbols of worthiness, choosing instead to act decently regardless of a person’s status or station in life.

4. Processing tender emotions

N:  Plain and simple, narcissists are not tender, at least not in a sustained manner.  Whether the relationship is within a family, in social circles, or in a work and organizational setting, they are uncomfortable with the gentle side of life.  Some might give the appearance (for a while) of caring, but time reveals it to be part of a manipulative game of impressing people for self-gain.  Over the long course of a relationship, narcissist tend not to express appreciation, nor are they openly affirming or willing to comfort those in need of a soft emotional touch.  To them, gentleness equates to weakness and vulnerability.

H:  Not only are healthy people willing to enter into tender moments with others, they consider it a privilege.  They like knowing how others feel and if there is a need to process sentimental matters, they are available. Healthy people naturally share others’ experiences of joy, contentment, grief, or confusion.  They are known as comforting and when appropriate, they offer emotional support.  Expressions of love are natural, as are comments of consolation or concern.  Compliments are sincere and freely offered.  Conversations about personal matters flow easily and others know them as safe.  Gentleness is one of their superpowers.

5. Managing conflict

N:  When narcissist engage in conflict, it is common that they leave others feeling miserable or tense.  To them, disagreements are an affront to their egotistical needs.  They seek dominance, so when others think, interpret, or feel differently, it is a threat to their power cravings.  It does not occur to them that others may have legitimate thoughts to consider.  Instead, they automatically go into some form of attack, either with open aggression or passive subterfuge.  A prevailing thought in their minds is:  “If you disagree with me, I’ll make you regret it.”

H:  Healthy people view conflict as an opportunity to know one another more fully.  Not only are they unthreatened by disagreements, they understand how inevitable they are.  They embrace the potential to explore all sides of an argument, and even when they believe others to be wrong, they listen.  When it is time to set stipulations or establish boundaries, they are firm.  Yet they still endeavor to manage strains in a respectful manner.  They communicate anger assertively, not aggressively.

6. Attitudes about forgiveness

N:  Narcissists will not forgive, nor do they feel the need for forgiveness.  Throughout relationships, mistakes happen, some minor, some major.  Sometimes it is the narcissist who errs, sometimes it’s the other person.  When narcissists have been wronged (or they feel wronged), they can hold grudges a long, long time.  They keep scorecards against people and do not forgive.  When, on the other hand, they are the ones in the wrong, they have great difficulty admitting it, much less asking for true forgiveness.  In the event of evidence being very clear, they may make a confession or offer an apology, yet over time they commonly backpedal, construct alternate narratives, or minimize.  They are very uncomfortable being known as one who must show contrition.

H:  Healthy individuals know and appreciate the healing power of forgiveness.  Healthy people are not above blunders and mistakes.  Being human, they can still show poor judgment at times.  Yet in the aftermath of their mistakes, they are honest about what went wrong.  They truly accept responsibility and make restitution where necessary.  They learn from mistakes and are grateful when forgiveness is offered.  When it is another person who has erred, healthy people are willing to forgive.  They understand the value of boundaries and consequences, and when necessary they will take such initiatives.  But they find no pleasure or need to lord over anyone with a non-forgiving attitude.  Instead, they pursue peace.

7. Public image

N:  A narcissist’s self image is strongly tied to a superior public image.  Narcissists think of themselves as special, a step above others.  What they will not admit, though, is how this inflated egotism is a compensation for the judgment and shame they witnessed in their developmental years.  They have carefully determined how they must look or act to garner approval, then they have assigned themselves the task of looking the part of “the better person.”  They can be drawn toward themes of social status, intellectualism, vanity, accomplishment, power, or anything that allows them to proclaim:  “See, I am a true Somebody.”  All the while, they are very reluctant to let others know their frailties.

H:  Healthy individuals maintain a public persona anchored in authenticity.  They feel little need to appear as anything other than what they are.  Yes, when acclaim and accomplishment comes their way, they own it and appreciate it.  But alongside that, they also own their less than glowing traits or experiences.  They operate with the motto:  “What you see is what you get.”  Feeling little need to maintain pretenses, they are comfortable in their own skin, and they want others, no matter their status, to also join them in being real.  They are known as humble and approachable.

8. Openness to direction

N:  Narcissists do not receive direction or constructive criticism well, nor are they open to suggestions about personal improvements.  A beginning point in a narcissist’s engagement with others can be summarized:  “You need me more than I need you.”  Feeling smug and self-sufficient, they have rationalized how they know more about life than most people.  So when someone suggests alternate ways of thinking or managing projects, they ask:  “Why would I need to do what you suggest?”  They are too self-impressed to think they need refinement.

H:  Healthy people like to learn and they welcome input for personal improvements.  They are certainly confident about who they are and how they approach tasks, but they are sensible enough to know they (just like all others) are unfinished.  When they feel stuck, they speak up.  If they are confused, they solicit input.  When it is obvious they are lacking in a skill or in knowledge, they are willing learners.  Self-improvement is a lifelong pursuit, and as they age, they openly give credit to mentors who helped them along the way.

9. An understanding of equality

N:  Narcissists consider others as less than them.  They proactively convey how they think of themselves as uncommonly special. For instance, they keep double standards.  The principles and disciplines that apply to others do not apply to them.  They are the exception.  Likewise, they feel little need to do menial or domestic chores.  That is for someone else.  Additionally, they easily speak in a belittling manner even though they would not tolerate the same in reverse.  They often yell, make harsh demands, and use sarcasm easily.  Sometimes they are passive aggressive as they illustrate that they deem themselves above others.  All this implies being self-impressed at the expense of anyone who would conclude otherwise.

H:  Healthy individuals consider others as equal and treat them fairly.  They do not want or need to demean others.  Living with the Golden Rule, they treat others as they wish to be treated.  Even when it is obvious they have skills that others might not match, they understand that others have unique qualities too.  Rather than characterizing human differences in terms of better or lesser, they interpret them as matters that can be appreciated and shared.  They understand that they have no right to show condescension, nor should they receive it.  

10. Love and goodness

N:  Narcissists want to be loved, but love, to them, means favored treatment.  They truly do not comprehend the nature of love.  To narcissists, love means the recipient is admired or adored.  Love is something they should receive, though they usually do not initiate it.  If a narcissist acts with goodness, it almost always is a means to be regaled.  If they are nice or helpful, so the reasoning goes, they are then owed favored treatment.  They insist upon conformity from those who are “loved” by them, implying they view relationships as transactions only.

H:  Healthy people understand that love is a multi-dimensional quality that entails action, feeling, commitment, and decency.  Too them, love is directly connected to honor and kindness, and it represents a call to actively show goodness whether or not it has been merited.  Their love is conveyed most commonly as a peaceful, calming presence, and they like to distinctly empower others to feel secure and cared for.  If their acts bring no visible reward, they can persist since their reward is mostly inward.  More than just an emotion, love is a state of mind.

What the quiz points reveal:

For Team Narcissism:

If you scored 0-6 points:

You have a very low inclination toward narcissism.  This indicates you’re not a member of Team Narcissism and you exude little narcissistic behavior.  Inevitably there are moments when you are not at your best and occasionally your selfish or controlling inclinations emerge.  But overall, any narcissistic leanings are fleeting or quite manageable.  You will still need to stay aware of situations that might trigger insensitivity or unappealing behavior, so be willing to receive input from those you trust and who can keep you accountable.   The good news is that you seem to have your ego firmly in check.

If you scored 7-12 points:

There are apparently several common scenarios that can bring out your self-absorption and insensitivities.  Challenge yourself by asking, “What triggers me most easily?” Then you can ask, “Why do I let circumstances propel me to be difficult or uncooperative?”  Your narcissistic behaviors are probably not out of control, and you apparently have moments when you can contain your self-gratifying urges.  But you will need to be aware enough to know that indeed you can overlook the needs and feelings of others.  You have it in you, but it needs to be more consistent. 

If you scored 13-20 points:

You are definitely a member of Team Narcissism. You apparently have an ongoing need to be in control and to receive favored treatment. What is more, as you pursue your yearnings, you show little true regard for the needs of those in your presence. The closer your score is to 20, the more inclined you are to be a raw self-centered machine. You see the feelings and needs of others as a nuisance, and evidently you fear confronting yourself about the many ways you contribute to relationship problems. Without strong accountability, you are not likely to change, but you are likely to leave a broad wake of broken relationships and frustrating experiences as you travel along your life’s path. To resign from Team Narcissism and consistent narcissistic behavior, counseling or some other form of therapeutic intervention is essential.

For Team Healthy:

If you scored 0-6 points:

You do not have a good grasp on the many ingredients of a healthy pattern of life.  There can be many reasons for this.  You probably had a lack of adequate guidance in your developmental years as you were determining how to manage relationships. Also, you have apparently minimized the need to think carefully about how to manage conflict, how to be an encouraging presence, or where internal peace comes from. To improve your psychological healthiness you will need significant guidance.  Most importantly, you will need to find the day-by-day resolve to be more conscientious in the ways you approach relationships. It can happen, but only to the extent that you are willing to be very specific about a fuller, more balanced life.

If you scored 7-12 points:

You have it in you to join Team Healthy, but you’re not quite there yet.  You apparently know how to engage with others well and how to manage your emotions…but only in spurts.  Consistency is missing.  This speaks to the need for real-time goals focused upon real-time solutions.  Honestly assess specific moments when you manage your life well compared to the times you do not.  What is the difference?  How can you maximize positive traits in those moments?  Then remember, change can happen as you concentrate on finding true confidence within yourself.  Rather than letting people and circumstances define you, let your inner goodness define you.  The potential is there to get to the next level, but you will need to set aside negative inclinations, focusing on your healthiest version of you.

If you scored 13-20 points:

Welcome to Team Healthy!  Of course no one is so ideal that there is zero need for improvement, but apparently you have developed enough consistency that you are capable of maneuvering through relationships with wisdom.  Remember that narcissism is a pattern on a spectrum and each person is capable of slipping into its traits.  That stated, you’re well on your way to the cleaner alternative.  You prioritize traits like inner steadiness, goodness, and fairness.  These and many other positive qualities indicate that your relationships are fulfilling and are known as an approachable person.  You have all the building blocks in place for traits like dignity, respect, and civility.

So you took the test, but what about your partner? Are you in a Narcissistic Relationship? Take our quiz here to find out

Les Carter, Ph. D.

If you are interested in online counseling, Dr. Carter has a sponsor who can assist.  As the need is there, please seek the help you deserve:
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