Are There Benefits To Being A Narcissist? Research Says Yes

Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor By Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor
Kelly Gonsalves is a sex writer and editor. She received her journalism degree from Northwestern University, and her writings on sex, relationships, identity, and wellness have appeared at The Washington Post, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.

Image by Kike Arnaiz / Stocksy

Narcissism comes with a lot of negative habits, from acting superior to everyone around them to never taking responsibility for their actions. But new research suggests that, when all is said and done, narcissists do benefit from their unempathetic, self-centered ways.

Two recent studies, one published in the Personality and Individual Differences journal and the other in the European Psychiatry journal, collectively surveyed more than 700 people about their personalities and various mental health factors. Narcissists tended to be more "mentally tough," be less stressed, and have fewer symptoms of depression.

Narcissism generally entails having an unrealistically high view of oneself, a lack of empathy, and a lack of shame or guilt. While generally toxic for those around you, many of these traits come with many positive side effects for yourself—such as being very confident, very focused on your goals, and perceiving less stress. Think of it like this: When you're always viewing everything related to yourself positively and instinctually deflect any criticism pointed at you, you end up feeling quite happy with yourself. And when your worldview orients around proving your superiority, you spend a lot of time focusing on concrete achievements like academic or career success. 

"While of course not all dimensions of narcissism are good, certain aspects can lead to positive outcomes," Kostas Papageorgiou, Ph.D., psychologist and lead researcher on the two studies, said in a news release. "Dark traits, such as narcissism, should not be seen as either good or bad, but as products of evolution and expressions of human nature that may be beneficial or harmful depending on the context."

Now, if you and only you benefit from a set of behaviors that makes everyone else around you suffer, it's probably worth rethinking your priorities. A person who steals from others benefits as well (more cash and stuff!), but it's probably a stretch to say stealing is good as a whole.

If you suspect you may be a narcissist, there are ways to unlearn narcissism so that you can make the most of your positive traits without hanging on to the ones that hurt others. ("Everyone can change if they want to," confirms relationship counselor Margaret Paul, Ph.D.) It'll likely involve a lot of self-reflection and perhaps a little outside help from a psychologist or therapist who can help you see yourself more clearly. But with a little dedication, anyone can change their behavior and become the best version of themselves—including narcissists.

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