Ego vs Narcissism
We have all exhibited mild sometimes moderate characteristic of an inflated ego. Most of us have put ourselves first at the expense of others at some point in our lives. Having a small dose of ego is natural, expected, and even healthy. Ego creation is an essential part of normal development. However, ego turns into narcissism when we start to become completely self-absorbed, lacking empathy for others, etc.
I am sure many of us have read the Greek mythology, Narcissus. Narcissus was a hunter from Thespiae in Boeotia who was known for his beauty. He was the son of the river god Cephissus and nymph Liriope. Narcissus was known for his intense sense of vanity. He was celebrated for his beauty and attracted many admirers but, in his arrogance, spurned them all. Narcissus was eventually lured to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention there are different variations to the end of this story, i.e., Narcissus withers away staring at his reflection, stabs himself, reaches in the water to embrace the image, but drowns, etc. However, the ending remains the same, Narcissus dies with unrequited love, for himself. Narcissus is the origin of the term narcissism, a fixation with oneself and one's physical appearance.
Everyone demonstrates some form of narcissism, usually a mild form. However, other people may demonstrate moderate or even severe traits of narcissism. Some of the traits of narcissism –such as inflated sense of self-confidence, arrogance and marked inflated sense of self are frequently attributed to people with a “big ego”. Chronic narcissism or Narcissistic Personality Disorder is often under-diagnosed as many high functioning individuals are perceived as people with big egos due to their successes.
Narcissistic Characteristic Include:
Inflated sense of self-importance/grandiosity
Requires excessive compliments, admiration, and validation
Believes no one is as smart as, can do things as well as, etc.
Strong sense of entitlement
Shows arrogant, haughty [rude and abusive] behaviors or attitudes.
Believe others are envious of him/her.
Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
Places unreasonable expectations or demands on others
Demonstrates arrogant, haughty behaviors and/or attitudes
Defensive of personal mistakes
Demanding or unrealistic expectations of self and others
Fall into periods of hopelessness and helplessness when things do not work out their way
Ego Characteristic Include:
Significant self confidence
Reasonable and thoughtful goal planning
Pride in one’s ability but realistic in their personal capabilities
Acknowledges and “owns” mistakes, but may experience a diminished sense of pride as a result.
solid self esteem
Ability to accept rejection
Able to “go with the flow” or overcome adversity
They do not fall into periods of hopelessness and helplessness
Able to stay focused on their goals and keep a healthy perspective.
Has the ability to empathize for others
Unlike people described as having a “big ego”, narcissism involves exaggerated self-confidence, an inflated view of one’s abilities and unrealistic expectations of themselves and others. People with big egos are able to “roll with the punches”, and get pick themselves up following a failure. However, narcissistic people often have pronounced difficulty rebounding from a failure, or escaping feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and maintaining a healthy perspective.
Although, we all have some measure of an ego, most of us typically outgrown or decrease our level of self-centeredness. Those that do not outgrow or develop an excessive need of appraisal and validation will ultimately become consumed with an inflated sense of self-worth, grandiosity, placing unrealistic demands on self and others.