Whether on the playground, in the workplace, or on the home front, we all have experience with jerks: self-serving, insensitive, even abusive people we’re better off without. Whether they’re self-righteous bigots, snarky critics, or cynical naysayers, they burden our lives with dead weight. Such people are part of the human tribe, and when we encounter them it is at best unpleasant. If we happen to have a relationship with such a person is can be highly debilitating, with contact best kept to a minimum if possible.

So what’s the different between a regular ass maggot and a narcissist? These days the label “narcissist” is readily ascribed to run-of-the-mill Joe and Jane jerk. But the fact is that people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are a different animal from your typical turd bucket.

Understanding NPD

People with NPD have a profound mental impairment derived in early childhood. Possibly genetically predisposed to develop NPD if traumatically activated, some children adapt to negating experience—whether abusive, negligent, and/or overindulgent—with their caregivers by forming an alter-identity that they use to scaffold shaky emotional foundations.

Such children attempt to compensate for unmet needs with primitive tools at hand. Unable to develop a resilient inner identity and self-worth, they adopt an exaggerated facade of superiority and entitlement. Depending on whether the narcissist is introverted (covert) or extroverted (overt), the facade maybe be well-hidden or obvious.

NPD Characteristics

NPD is characterized by the following major impairments in personality functioning:

  1. Excessive reliance on others for self-definition and self-esteem
  2. Lack of empathy
  3. Exploitative of others
  4. Grandiose and condescending
  5. Exaggerated entitlement
  6. Attention seeking
  7. Admiration seeking

Read more details about NPD traits here.

Narcissist Baby Monsters

Above all, the narcissist is ruled by primitive emotions. Developmentally arrested at a young age, the narcissist is essentially still a child, with a child’s persistent self-focused need for attention and affirmation and unformed empathy for others’ feelings and perspectives. As I have said in other articles, what makes the narcissist personality so devastating to deal with is this toxic mix of primitive neediness and undeveloped empathy. Such people continuously demand validation externally from others while having little to no concern for how they treat others except as a means of getting what they want.

While narcissists are real people who are in fact not monsters, they often act monstrously. They are like giant baby monsters, walking around in adult bodies with adult capabilities but infantile motives and behaviors.

Whether you are their child, spouse, or other family member, their needs trump yours, and if you push back you will unleash the baby monster’s rage reaction and punishment. Imagine a three year old’s feelings of outrage combined with an adult’s ability to strike back psychologically and physically.

Average Jerk Versus Narcissist Jerk

While garden variety jerks manipulate and abuse for a wide range of reasons, narcissists do it to feed their insufficient self-esteem and need to prop their false self. But, whatever the underlying reason, abuse is abuse, and narcissists have dished out some of the worst in human history.


Julie L. Hall writes about narcissism for HuffPost and PsychCentral. She is the author of two forthcoming books: a memoir (read excerpts) and a book on the narcissistic family.

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