If there’s one word for someone who’s just The Worst, it has to be “narcissist.” The Mayo Clinic defines the personality disorder associated with narcissism as “a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.” While it’s true that this particular type of human doesn’t make for a great partner, friend, or boss, new research suggest that having just a hint of narcissism in your personality could be a strength—not a weakness.
In three independent studies of 700 total adults, Kostas Papageorgiou, PhD, director of the InteRRaCt Lab in the school of psychology at Queen’s University Belfast, found a correlation between narcissism and mental toughness. Dr. Papageorgiou’s team of researchers specifically looked at two types of narcissists: the vulnerable variety (who go on the defensive to protect themselves from others) and the grandiose kind (who have an inflated sense of self-importance). One type beat out the other when it came to experiencing lower stress levels and less vulnerability to depression.
“The results from all the studies that we conducted show that grandiose narcissism correlates with very positive components of mental toughness, such as confidence and goal-orientation, protecting against symptoms of depression and perceived stress,” said Dr. Papageorgiou. Just to be clear, he’s not giving you carte blanche to lean into your “me, me, me” tendencies. Instead, Dr. Papageorgiou says it’s a first step in considering dark triad (narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism) in a more nuanced sense.
“This move forward may help to reduce the marginalization of individuals that score higher than average on the dark traits. It could also facilitate the development of research-informed suggestions on how best to cultivate some manifestations of these traits, while discouraging others, for the collective good,” he explains. Personality isn’t black and white; it’s many shades of gray. But in this case, just a pinch of grandiosity could help you stay mentally tough in every corner of your life.
Get to know Y-O-U with the Myers-Briggs personality test or the Enneagram.