Mind & Body

Narcissists May Have One Specific Advantage Over Other People

We're going to go out on a limb and guess that at some point in your life, you've met somebody who thought pretty highly of themselves. Like, way too highly. Like, "how do you even still have your job," too highly. And yet they always seemed to thrive. How could that be? Well, we hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that narcissistic acquaintance might actually have an advantage over your non-narcissistic brain.

Related Video: 6 Facts About Narcissistic Personality Disorder

I'm the Best Around

We told you once before about how narcissists aren't necessarily the mirror-gazing obsessives of the stereotype. Maybe it's not surprising, then, that the other major stereotype of narcissists — that they get their retribution when the world realizes they aren't that great after all — doesn't have much basis in reality, either. It's almost as if stereotypes aren't a reliable way to diagnose psychological conditions. In any case, according to a new study led by Kostas Papageorgiou from Queen's University Belfast, narcissists are likely to have a trait that's been closely linked to professional and academic success: mental toughness.

Mental toughness, in a nutshell, is the mind's ability to hold on to its sense of self and self-worth in the face of adversity. The boss didn't like your idea? No worries, he'll love the next one — and who cares what he thinks anyway? You're obviously a genius. It's easy to see a narcissist slipping into that pattern of thinking. And it's just as easy to see how that kind of thinking could be a major benefit to a person's career.

To be clear, Dr. Papageorgiou wasn't researching people with narcissistic personality disorder. His subjects were individuals with high, but normal, narcissism scores, and that was where he found the people with the highest mental toughness. And he also wants to emphasize that while we have a tendency to categorize different emotions and attitudes as "good" or "bad," they each might be seen to perform an evolutionary purpose. In Dr. Papageorgiou's words, "Being confident in your own abilities is one of the key signs of grandiose narcissism and is also at the core of mental toughness. If a person is mentally tough, they are likely to embrace challenges and see these as an opportunity for personal growth."

Dodging the Dark Triad

Now, we're not saying that narcissism is a good thing or that you should try cultivating it in yourself. It also can't be overemphasized that we're not talking about people with a clinical diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder; that's a real disorder that can cause many complications in your life. But still, even if you aren't a clinical narcissist, narcissism is part of the dark triad for a reason. You probably don't want to take on that trait more than you naturally do. But if you regularly doubt yourself, it couldn't hurt to observe how the more self-centered people in your life think — and borrow a little bit of that attitude at work.

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Want a deeper dive into darkness? Check out Kevin Dutton's "The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success." The audiobook is free with a trial of Audible. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Reuben Westmaas July 19, 2018

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