This article was first published on the BBC website and can be found at

People who chronically brag and boast are grating – and, at times, repellent. But a surprising truth about narcissists might help us feel unexpected compassion for them.

In a world where humility is valued, some of the most grating people are those who constantly name-drop, brag, claim credit and opine about their brilliance. These qualities set off loud alarm bells of a narcissist in our presence – the kind of person who makes us roll our eyes and gnash our teeth.

It’s hard to find compassion for a someone who’s full of themself – and, in many cases, it’s unclear why we’d want to sympathise with the people who repel us most. However, research indicates that unlike Narcissus staring at himself reflecting in the pool, many narcissists actually aren’t in love with themselves after all.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

Much of the time, a narcissist’s behaviour isn’t driven by self-love – rather, self-hatred. New findings reinforce this idea, noting that narcissistic behaviour like flexing on social media might come from low self-esteem and a constant need for self-validation. The fact that some narcissists might actually dislike themselves not only debunks the common school of thought around braggarts, but also suggests that we might want to rethink the way we interact with narcissists.

‘They don’t feel good’

“Narcissists tend to be very charming and outgoing, and they can make very good first impressions,” says Robin Edelstein, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, US. “But they also tend to be somewhat disagreeable, lacking in empathy and manipulative.”

In an employment setting, that can mean taking credit for other people’s work, blaming colleagues for mistakes, taking advantage of others to get ahead or responding to feedback with hostility, explains Edelstein. Socially, this may manifest as showing off on social media, or usurping attention over brunch at the expense of someone else.

A common misconception is that this behaviour stems from intense self-love, self-obsession and self-centredness. But the cause could be just the opposite……………………………………………………………….


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