Any psychologist – on Long Island or elsewhere – will tell you that narcissism is one of the most fascinating, but sometimes the most problematic behavioral issue out there. In psychology, narcissism is often reviewed with intense interest, and a popular reason for that interest is because there are many narcissists that currently hold positions of power.
This begs an important question: Is narcissism important for success?
The Answer: Not Really, But Sometimes
Research doesn’t necessarily find narcissists to be more successful on the whole. At least, not those that have severe, diagnosable narcissism. Everyone has some degree of narcissism. Studies have shown that some of the poorest leaders are narcissists, narcissists are more likely to commit crimes, and narcissists are more likely to have problematic relationships.
But there is some evidence that narcissists have more success – at least initially:
- Studies have shown that narcissists are more likely to get promoted.
- Studies have shown that narcissism is more common in the wealthy.
These are certainly factors in success. But if we look at the possible causes, we can see that, while narcissists may experience some positive growth in their professional career, there are reasons to believe it was not necessarily their narcissism that got them there. Consider the following:
- Chicken/Egg – Were they narcissists first and successful second? Wealth is known to create narcissism, according to research, so it may be their growth or wealth that caused them to be more self-absorbed.
- Children of the Rich – Children of wealthy parents are more likely to be narcissists for similar reasons. Those children, then, may have advantages that help them become more successful despite an otherwise lacking skillset.
- The Positives of a Disorder – Although narcissism is a challenging mental health disorder, and a problematic one, there are some positive behavioral aspects that non-narcissists can learn from it. For example, narcissists tend to stay focused on what they want, and ask for what they believe they deserve. This can help them with raises/promotions. Narcissists are also social and confident, which is an attractive quality to people (before the narcissism itself affects those relationships).
The latter factor also means that narcissists could, in theory, experience a bit more positive growth in their career. But it’s not the narcissism itself that helped them. It is, instead, confidence, focus, and drive – all actions that others can learn to have themselves without the underlying pathology.
Whether or not narcissists are more successful is still not clear. But it is unlikely. However, some degree of self-confidence can contribute to a more successful life, and so there is reason to emulate some of the less problematic behaviors.