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The pursuit of status drives some narcissists, while others crave admiration, according to a study

By: April Carson

Narcissistic individuals frequently irritate friends and family with their tendency to boast about their achievements, indicative of an overblown sense of self-worth. They also often appear to be preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, and brilliance, and take advantage of others to get what they want.

At the same time, those struggling with narcissism typically experience a profound sense of insecurity and shame about their weaknesses and failures. Consequently, they may find it difficult to empathize with or acknowledge the feelings of others and may make insensitive comments.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition characterized by people possessing an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive admiration, and a lack of empathy for others.

Recent research suggests that in certain cases, individuals with narcissistic tendencies may possess low self-esteem. However, their exaggerated behavior is not driven by a need to improve their self-evaluation. Rather, it is their desire to attain a higher social status that fuels their conduct. As such, they may use their charm and charisma to manipulate and exaggerate the truth in order to make themselves appear superior.

According to the study's lead, Virgil Zeigler-Hill, a psychology professor at Michigan's Oakland University, the research contradicts the view that narcissism is motivated by self-esteem issues. He believes that narcissism isn't about a person's need to feel better about themselves. Instead, it is driven by the desire to have power and control over others. According to Zeigler-Hill, what individuals genuinely value is their ability to navigate complex status hierarchies. "Narcissists believe they are special and superior to others," says Zeigler-Hill. "They have a strong need for admiration, approval, and attention from others.”

Individuals diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder showcase extreme grandiosity and a callous disregard for others. However, even those who do not meet the diagnostic criteria for the disorder may exhibit specific narcissistic traits, including an arrogant demeanor, an insatiable appetite for external validation, and a belief in their superiority over others.

With this set of beliefs, it is no surprise that narcissists’ behavior often creates conflicts within their social environments. However, despite their outwardly aggressive ways, narcissistic individuals are actually driven by underlying feelings of insecurity and inferiority. They may create strong impressions to protect themselves from further hurt or humiliation from others. These defenses can take the form of bragging, exaggerating their accomplishments, or even fabricating stories to make themselves seem superior.

According to Zeigler-Hill, psychologists originally believed that narcissistic behavior stemmed from the need to enhance and safeguard one's self-esteem. However, in recent years, research has suggested that narcissism that. Narcissists come in different types, with some having a swollen sense of self-worth while others actually suffer from low self-esteem. Zeigler-Hill has proposed a new perspective that goes beyond the self-esteem-centered view to suggest that the root of their behavior is actually a deep craving for dominance and high social status, causing the narcissist to crave adoration and elevation – with an inflated sense of self-esteem being a mere byproduct. So, while narcissists may have a grandiose view of themselves, their underlying motivation is often a feeling of inadequacy that stems from a need for external validation.

In an attempt to validate a hypothesis, Zeigler-Hill and fellow researcher Jennifer Vonk, enlisted young psychology scholars to complete standardized surveys regarding their personal traits linked to having a narcissistic personality. The surveys required the students to gauge their thoughts on statements such as "I will achieve great fame," or "I desire my adversaries' downfall." Through the result analysis, they expected to find few participants with the estimated 6% prevalence level of narcissistic personality disorder in the general population.

By examining individuals with varying degrees of narcissistic traits, researchers were able to compare and contrast those with high and low levels of this personality trait. To gather data, students were asked to complete a daily report for up to seven days in which they documented their levels of inclusion, social status, and self-esteem. This provides valuable insight into the relationship between narcissism and one's perception of self and social standing. "The results wereconsistent with the view that the pursuit of high social status is an important motivator of narcissistic behavior," reported Zeigler-Hill. The study concluded that while some narcissistic individuals display arrogance and an inflated sense of self-worth, others have lower self-esteem and seek admiration as a means of gaining higher social status.

Understanding the underlying motivations of narcissistic behavior can help individuals who struggle with these tendencies to recognize and regulate the impact of their actions on the people around them. At the same time, research that illuminates the complex nature of personality disorders can help clinicians develop more effective strategies for treatment and support.

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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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