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Narcissism vs Confidence: Are We Getting Them Mixed Up?

by | Feb 27, 2024 | 0 comments

The term “narcissism” on this blog is used to describe a specific set of personality traits. It is not intended to be used as a professional diagnosis.

When someone comes off as a confident individual, it can be easy to interpret their behaviors as narcissistic.

Maybe they brag or constantly demand attention.

Perhaps they like to talk about themselves and show off.

But this doesn’t make someone a narcissist.

Narcissism, by definition, is a personality disorder in which someone lives in a delusional world where they are perfect.

They will manipulate, control, and emotionally abuse people to maintain that perception.

I’ve did a podcast episode about telling the difference between narcissists and people who are just plain annoying – but now we’re going to talk about confidence vs narcissism and how to tell the difference.


Because understanding harmful narcissistic traits is key to avoiding their negative effects.

This is especially true if you are trying to co-parent with someone who is trying to make your life difficult.

So let’s talk about the difference between narcissism and confidence and what to look for when spotting narcissistic personalities:

How Can You Tell the Difference Between Narcissism and High Self-Esteem?

Confidence and high self-esteem often go hand in hand. However, they are not the same thing as narcissism.

The key difference is how the confident person perceives themselves in relation to others.

Someone with high self-esteem can demonstrate their strengths and accomplishments without belittling or disregarding others. They are receptive to feedback and criticism and can use these things as an opportunity for growth.

On the other hand, narcissists will inflate their own importance while devaluing others. They seek constant admiration and validation, often at the expense of those around them.

While confident people find satisfaction in their achievements, narcissists crave attention so they can maintain their fragile self-image.

Overall, high self-esteem is characterized by a balanced sense of self-worth and respect for others. Narcissism entails an exaggerated sense of self-importance and a lack of empathy.

What is the Difference Between Narcissism and Vanity?

So when I first heard the term “narcissism,” I assumed it referred to people who were vain and in love with themselves.

But even though vanity and narcissism involve an excessive focus on oneself, they are different.

Vanity pertains mostly to physical appearance and superficial attributes. Vain people tend to focus on things like material possessions or grooming habits.

While narcissists can be vain, not all vain people are narcissists.

Narcissism encompasses a huge spectrum of traits, including entitlement and a sense of superiority over others. This leads to manipulative behavior and a lack of empathy for others’ feelings and needs.

In other words, while vanity revolves around external appearances, narcissism involves a deeper, more pervasive sense of entitlement and self-centeredness.

Can Someone Have Narcissistic Tendencies but Not Be a Narcissist?

For sure! It’s possible for people to have narcissistic tendencies without meeting the clinical criteria for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

Many people will occasionally display self-centered behavior or seek validation from others.

However, the distinction lies in the severity and persistence of these traits.

While occasional narcissistic behavior may be a normal part of the human experiences, pervasive narcissistic traits (even without an official diagnosis of NPD) are consistent and cause significant distress.

So while we can’t officially label people as having NPD, we can recognize that they exhibit enough narcissistic traits to make them manipulative, controlling, and emotionally abusive.

And we can learn more about those traits in order to avoid things like manipulative behaviors, abuse, and conflict.

Why Does It Matter?

Let’s talk a little bit more about why knowing the difference between confidence and narcissism is important.

  • Healthy Relationships: When you understand the difference between narcissism and confidence, you can pursue healthier relationships with people – and avoid manipulative tactics and other harmful behaviors.
  • Personal Growth: Understanding the difference can also help you avoid falling into patterns of enabling or codependency. When you know you’re dealing with a narcissist, you can prioritize your needs without being undermined by manipulative influences.
  • Conflict Resolution: Recognizing narcissistic behavior addresses the underlying cause of conflict and destructive patterns. Once you know how to recognize these, you can tailor your communication strategy to avoid arguments, fights, etc.
  • Co-Parenting: Knowing that you are co-parenting with a narcissist can help you establish clear boundaries, prioritize your child’s needs, and figure out co-parenting in a peaceful and constructive way.

By knowing that you are dealing with a narcissistic and not just a confident person, you can empower yourself to develop resiliency against their behaviors!

The Difference Between Narcissism and Confidence

While narcissism and confidence may share some superficial similarities, they are different.

Understanding the difference can help you become more resilient and vigilant when it comes to narcissistic behaviors.

The more you know about narcissism, the more you can predict shenanigans and avoid unnecessary conflict.

You can also begin to fortify yourself against their abuse and behaviors!

Which is super helpful if there’s no way for you to avoid the narcissist in your life (family member, co-parenting, etc.).

Do you think it’s important to know the difference between narcissism and confidence? Let me know in the comments below!

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