- Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast are currently studying why narcissists, or people with an inflated sense of importance and lack of empathy for others, seem to be increasingly common despite their negative connotation, BBC reported.
- The study is ongoing, but so far the researchers have found narcissists’ self-reported levels of happiness were higher than non-narcissists.
- Today, more people are exhibiting narcissistic behaviours even if they don’t have narcissistic personality disorder, and increased social-media use likely plays a role.
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Narcissists’ self-absorbed personalities are bad news for their friends and coworkers, but might be the key to their higher-than-average happiness, according to ongoing research.
Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast are currently studying why narcissists, or people with an inflated sense of importance and lack of empathy for others, seem to be increasingly common despite their negative connotation, BBC reported.
The study is ongoing, but so far the researchers have found narcissists’ self-reported levels of happiness were higher than non-narcissists. (Of course, it’s possible the narcissists lied about their levels of happiness in order to appear more content than they actually are.)
Still, this research builds on previous studies from the same team, which found that narcissists are more successful in their careers and social lives than non-narcissists.
“If you are a narcissist you believe strongly that you are better than anyone else and that you deserve reward,” psychologist and lead study author Kostas Papageorgiou told BBC.
According to Papageorgiou, this belief makes narcissists more mentally tough than others and helps them get over feelings of disappointment or rejection easier since they blame it on external forces rather than themselves.
This reasoning could also explain why narcissists are happier than others. “While of course not all dimensions of narcissism are good, certain aspects can lead to positive outcomes,” Papageorgiou said.
Narcissism exists on a scale from tendencies to a full-blown disorder
Narcissism doesn’t manifest the same way in every narcissist and there are different levels of the personality disorder. Some people may exhibit a few tendencies like being arrogant or monopolizing every conversation while others may have full-blown narcissistic personality disorder, though that only affects 0.5% and 1% of the general population, mostly men.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people with the disorder view any and all forms of critique as personal attacks, take advantage of others to get what they want, and get overwhelmed with sadness when things don’t play out in a way that suggests they’re superior to others.
Experts are unsure what causes this disorder but believe it has to do with a person’s genetics, the environment in which they grew up, and how their brain functions. Usually, narcissistic behaviours begin in a person’s teenage years and can stem from receiving misplaced yet excessive praise or criticism from a parent over an extended period of time. Such words and actions can skew the teen’s view of reality.
Social media plays a role in the rise of narcissism
More people today are exhibiting narcissistic behaviours, even if they don’t have narcissistic personality disorder, according to psychologist Gregory Kushnick, and social media may be to blame.
“People are caught in the moment and that’s what social media does. You lose ability to step back and see how it’s affecting you and your connection to people,” Kushnick previously told Insider.
The concept of social media centres around the self thanks to the constant pull to check our phones for texts, likes, and comments. For that reason, social media can breed narcissistic tendencies, according to Kushnick.
“The bane of the 21st century is this collective exaggerated sense of importance and absolute hunger for validation that makes people very self-focused,” Kushnick said.
Being more self-focused could come with an upside, though. As Papageorgiou’s study suggests, the ability to tune out others and view yourself as the most important person in your life could, to an extent, lead to increased happiness.
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