How Do You Know if You’re a Narcissist?

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Lion Goodman offers a test to help determine if you’re living a narcissistic life, and some motivation to help you get past your ego storms.

If narcissism were a disease, it would be considered a pandemic.

Our culture not only condones selfishness, but celebrates it as a virtue. Materialism, driven by corporate interests and advertising, reinforces the focus on accumulation for self. The media is suffused with a focus on individual success, beauty, celebrity, fame, and status. The rugged individual is held up as a model of excellence, alongside the ultra-rich CEO, the celebrity sports figure, the bad-boy artist, and the soldier of fortune. Even the online culture supports our need to be “friended,” noticed, and popular. Public narcissism is the latest result of our self-focused social structure.

Both men and women are selfish, but in general, men are more deeply programmed to look out for #1, to get their own needs met, and to do whatever it takes to get ahead. It’s more difficult for males to climb out of this deep self-hole and finally grow up into truly loving, caring human beings.

Women, on the other hand, have traditionally been programmed to care for, and care about, others. As a generality, they learn early to be collaborative and generous to others (sometimes to their detriment). In the extreme, they may bend themselves around another person’s needs, becoming codependent or self-sacrificing.

Where are you on the Narcissism Spectrum?  Measure yourself from 1 to 7 on each of these parameters. Ask yourself: “How much time and attention do I spend on either side of this range?”  Circle the number that is closest to where you function most of the time.


Thinking about Myself                      1…2…3…4…5…6…7      Thinking about Others

Caring for My Needs and Desires    1…2…3…4…5…6…7      Caring for Others’ Needs and Desires

Seeking Approval and Admiration    1…2…3…4…5…6…7      Admiring and Praising Others

Feeling Superior to Others                1…2…3…4…5…6…7     Celebrating Others’ Accomplishments

Treating Others as Objects               1…2…3…4…5…6…7     Treating Others as Sacred Beings

Being Right & Proving I’m Right       1…2…3…4…5…6…7      Learning from Others

Doing What I Want To Do                1…2…3…4…5…6…7      Doing What Others Want To Do

Cold, Intolerant, Judgmental            1…2…3…4…5…6…7      Warm, Caring, Compassionate

Withdrawn and Self-absorbed          1…2…3…4…5…6…7      Connected, Collaborative, Supportive


Your answer for some questions may be, “It depends on the day.”  We move from one side to the other depending on our mood, our circumstances, and the people we’re hanging out with. Overindulgence in anything (i.e., drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc.) can drive us to the selfish extreme. Spiritual pursuits usually inspire us toward the warm, caring side of life.

If you find yourself mostly on the narcissistic extreme, you’ve probably seen the effect your behavior has on others. Perhaps you go into angry tirades, dumping your unprocessed feelings on others. Or you may suddenly leave, or withdraw into yourself, ignoring the feelings of those you left behind.

If you’ve ever worked for a severe narcissist, or been in relationship with one, you know how awful it feels. You feel ignored, abused, diminished, or uncared for. You consider walking out the door and never returning. And if you can’t walk out (because you’re a child, or an employee), you feel trapped.

Narcissism is especially damaging to children. Kids can’t develop healthy self-esteem when they have narcissistic parents. If it happened to you, you developed strategies to work around the deep ego wounds that resulted. You may have even developed your own form of narcissism as a defense against theirs. (Read “Children of the Self-Absorbed,” by Nina Brown, for an eye-opening essay on this syndrome.)

As I studied my own narcissism, and sought a cure, I found the deeper causes in my family upbringing, my psychological development, and the social programming and indoctrination I received throughout my growing years. As with any addiction, awareness is the first step of the cure. Understanding is the second step, and changing your behavior comes next.

Take it from one who is recovering: it’s possible to heal.

At the age of 60, I’ve finally achieved success in loving. I have a brilliant partner who brings out my best virtues. We have an agreement to help each other out of our periodic ego storms and self-absorbed reactions. You have to do your inner work, but the ultimate healing of narcissism comes inside of a healthy relationship. We use compassion and forgiveness to restore and repair breaks quickly. We’re committed to learning to love better, and love more.

The ideal state is not just a balancing act between Self and Other, but a state of inclusion, where both my needs and desires, and her needs and desires, are taken into account.

Love is a condition in which everyone feels cared for, respected, and honored. Extend this idea to your colleagues at work, and your workplace will improve. Extend it to your children, family, and community, and you have the foundation for a civilization based on love, otherwise known as Heaven on Earth.


Photo: Flickr/!unite


About Lion Goodman

Lion Goodman is the co-founder of Luminary Leadership Institute (, an accelerated initiatory program for leaders of businesses and organizations. With his partner, Carista Luminare, Ph.D., he developed a program to help couples transform old patterns of insecurity and trauma into a secure and passionate relationship: Confused About Love ( Lion is a co-founder of The Tribe of Men, an initiatory program in Northern California, and he served as the Director of Men’s Programs for The Shift Network, where he produced the Ultimate Men’s Summit, attended by 20,000 people around the world. He is the author of three books: Creating On Purpose (with Anodea Judith, Ph.D.), Transform Your Beliefs, and Menlightenment: A Book for Awakening Men. He resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, but considers himself to be a world citizen.


  1. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    I took the Milan, and it said I had tendencies in that direction. But I think that it’s kind of okay for a teacher and writer to be wired up this way. You need to break away from the way others think to be original. Some of us probably have some antisocial personality disorder tendencies too. The main thing is not to let it go to behavior too much.

    • wellokaythen says:

      There seems to be an implied slant against introversion here as well. A preference for spending time by myself doesn’t mean that I’m egotistical or that I think I’m better than other people. I don’t think I’m the center of the entire universe, but I would like to be somewhere near the center of my own life. The “non-narcissistic” side of the scale sounds a lot like conformism to me. It suggests that doing what other people want is good, doing what you want is bad, as if those are opposites of each other, when in fact they are not inherently opposite of each other.

      I’ve come to hate the word “withdrawn.” It assumes that being social is unquestionably normal and spending time by yourself is some sort of action against the rest of society. Like being by myself is stealing from someone else. The mindset that calls me withdrawn is precisely the kind of mindset that I find invasive, which encourages me to mind my own business in the first place. You say “withdrawn.” I say “independent, self-sufficient, and avoiding herd behavior.”

      As an introvert, I do like the fact that there’s plenty in the chart to suggest that extroverts can be total narcissists – being social and outgoing doesn’t mean you give a damn about other people. Agreed.

  2. Do you have the scoring ranges somewhere? It seems the lower the score, the more self-absorbed you are. (9 being the most self-absorbed and 63 being the other extreme.) Also, since males and females differ, it would be great to see the healthy range results for each gender.

  3. Narcissists can be great shape- shifters…. They can be extremely generous and compassionate and self-sacrificing in certain situations or with certain people whom they are trying to win over… Once they have accomplished that, they change and try to get the other person attend to their needs…. They expect payback…!

  4. garvan-the-mad says:

    this test really won’t work.

    narcissists can’t actually assess themselves correctly.

    the narcissist views their own selfish behaviour AS being self-sacrificing.

    • wellokaythen says:

      And, I’m guessing most solidly narcissistic people would never even think to take such a test in the first place. If you’re wondering how narcissistic you are, you are clearly not a total narcissist….

      • wellokaythen says:

        Now, to be fair, I have to say this is at least some real attempt to use the word “narcissist” in a quantifiable way. The word has become something of a catch-all to label anyone who might do something slightly selfish, or a handy label for anyone who doesn’t do what you want them to do.

  5. Not quite says:

    This article and the self assessment is really about simply being self-absorbed. There is much more to true NPD than what is discussed here. For instance, it is extremely rare for a true narcissist to admit it and rarer still to improve, be cured or have any semblance of any healthy relationships.

    • I think you are right. I score low here, because I am writing a thesis in philosophy and I need to keep others and their needs away so I am able to concentrate on my own thoughts. So, yeah, I am quite self absorbed and can be snappy at people who I feel bother me. But I don’t think I am a narcissist because narcissists are people who seek to only have their needs met when being in contact with others, manipulating them frequently even.
      Perhaps all questions should start with ‘When in contact with others…’ or something better.

  6. wellokaythen says:

    Roses are red,
    Violets are blue.
    I am a narcissist,
    And so am I.

    : – )


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