We're all narcissists: Here a leading psychologist says most of us are more like Samantha 'I'm so beautiful' Brick than we admit
21:01 GMT, 14 April 2012
Samantha Brick provoked national derision when she said she was hated for being beautiful
From the Wicked Queen in Snow White to Samantha Brick, the writer behind the recent ‘I’m so beautiful . . .’ media storm, women who are convinced of their own beauty are often cast as villains.
There is no doubt that women (and men) who are perceived as vain generate quite an astonishing degree of derision.
Is it, as Samantha believed, because of their good looks Or is there something else at work
It is not often we hear someone talking about how beautiful they are.
Even women heralded as great beauties, such as Angelina Jolie, often bat away praise by pointing out a feature they have always been insecure about. It’s considered the polite thing to do.
But deep down there would have to be something wrong with Angelina if she didn’t recognise she was more beautiful than the average female. Her fame is a by-product of it.
Numerous scientific studies have proven that her symmetrical features – and those of other famous faces, such as Kate Moss – are considered to be beautiful because they indicate good health and genes.
But where does all this leave someone like Samantha Brick, who many believe is not in possession of one of these faces
One could argue she displays the hallmarks of a narcissist. But she is not alone – we are all narcissists to some degree. It’s just that most of us know how to temper this part of our personality.
Our idea of this type is based on the Greek myth of Narcissus, who drowned in a pool looking at his own reflection.
We use the word to describe people obsessed with their appearance, such as the Wicked Queen, whose favourite pastime was getting her magic mirror to confirm her beauty.
But narcissism doesn’t just have to refer to appearance and vanity.
Psychologically speaking, there are three types of narcissists: clinical narcissists, healthy narcissists and unhealthy narcissists.
At its most extreme, Narcissistic Personality Disorder refers to an unusual mental illness, where sufferers have a grandiose sense of self-importance in all areas of life.
They believe they are special and require constant admiration. They have a sense of entitlement and brag constantly about their superior talents with no consideration of others.
A clinical narcissist is unable to
empathise or sympathise with others, so they will think nothing of
bragging about their children’s achievements to somebody who has just
lost their own child.
more, they don’t have any feelings about their own child as a person
and will be using them only as a way of making themselves look good.
Deep down there would have to be something wrong with Angelina Jolie (left) if she didn't recognise she was more beautiful than the average female. Kate Moss's (right) looks indicate good health and genes
They believe they are special and normal rules do not apply to them. They become furious when the world does not agree with their elevated view of themselves and may have outbursts of extreme anger, called narcissistic rage.
In rare cases, they can kill people who insult them.
Famous clinical narcissists include Harold Shipman, who had a God-like conviction in his own importance.
He didn’t consider himself a murderer but a doctor who knew what was best for his patients, unlike, say, the Yorkshire Ripper, who killed for sexual gratification.
And anger isn’t the only dangerous thing about a clinical narcissist.
Bernie Madoff – along with many other financial high-flyers behind recent global frauds – showed a narcissistic disregard for the rules of right and wrong, and no empathy for his victims.
Despite this, there is healthy narcissism. It makes us take a pride in our appearance and achievements, and have self-confidence. It’s what enables us to have self-belief and self-esteem.
Healthy narcissism allows you to go into a presentation at work and tell yourself it’s going to be great, or to have the confidence to believe you deserve a promotion – or that you are a nice enough person that somebody will love you.
Studies have shown that most of us think we are attractive.
In an online survey of 26,000 people by the University of California, respondents rated themselves an average six or seven on a scale of one to ten for attractiveness. A third under 30 rated themselves eight to ten.
Mirror mirror: Charlize Theron as the Wicked Queen in Snow White And The Huntsman
However, this kind of narcissism comes with a good dose of reality.
We know when our presentation wasn’t as good as our colleagues. Or that even though we are comfortable with how we look, it’s not a big deal. We know it’s unacceptable to brag about ourselves.
Unhealthy narcissists, however, do not have this sense. Although they lead a normal life, their self-regard is not healthy and can lead to conflict.
They are disconnected from reality, which makes it hard for them to form relationships.
Like contestants on TV’s X Factor who believe they can sing when they are out of tune, they become furious that the world cannot see their talent. They lash out and insult anyone who criticises them.
It is very hard to communicate with these individuals and they can become isolated by middle age.
Anger and depression are two of the most common reasons unhealthy narcissists seek out therapy.
It is possible Samantha Brick falls into this group. Did she consider how people with facial disfigurement, who endure real prejudice because of their looks, might think about her opinion
Did she listen to the responses of others or did she become angry and retaliate
While these people are not the kind of clinical narcissists who hurt others, their behaviour can often end up hurting the person most important to them: themselves.
If this is the case, then psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, can help them to change their behaviour and habits but it is up to the person to seek help.
A narcissist will not thank you for pointing out their flaws.