A Narcissism Checklist: Spotting Red Flags As Soon As Possible

Derived from the Greek myth of Narcissus, who became infatuated with his own reflection, narcissism is made up of personality traits such as an excessive admiration for oneself and an inflated sense of importance. While a certain degree of self-esteem is healthy, extreme narcissism can lead to problematic relationships and challenging interactions. This checklist will help you recognize potential indicators of narcissism, allowing you to identify warning signs before becoming too deeply involved in a relationship with the narcissist.

narcissism checklist

Narcissism Checklist 1. Grandiosity and Superiority Complex

One of the most obvious and easily identifiable signs of a narcissist is their exaggerated and inflated sense of self-importance, which is why it is the very item on our narcissism checklist.

The Illusion of Grandiosity

Grandiosity, in the context of narcissistic behavior, extends beyond mere confidence or self-assuredness.

It is an inflated belief in one’s own abilities, importance, and worthiness, often disconnected from reality.

Narcissists perceive themselves as inherently superior to others, convinced that they are more deserving and entitled to special treatment and privileges.

This grandiose self-perception is often unfounded and not substantiated by actual achievements or capabilities.

Yet, it is held with such conviction that it shapes the narcissist’s worldview, guiding their actions and interactions.

narcissism checklist grandiosity

The Superiority Complex

Closely linked to grandiosity is their superiority complex.

Narcissists will boast about their accomplishments, exaggerating their talents and skills, even when these claims do not align with reality.

Their superiority complex also leads narcissists to demand recognition and respect from those around them.

They expect to be acknowledged as superior individuals, irrespective of whether they have substantial proof or accomplishments to back up their claims.

narcissism checklist - superiority complex

The Impact on Relationships and Interactions

This combination of grandiosity and superiority complex inevitably significantly impacts a narcissist’s relationships and interactions.

Their unwavering sense of entitlement can lead to unrealistic expectations, frequent disappointments, and conflicts.

Their lack of empathy and disregard for others’ feelings results in strained relationships and emotional distress for those involved with them.

Moreover, their constant need for validation and admiration can be exhausting, leading to a toxic and unbalanced dynamic


Narcissism Checklist 2. An Obsession with Fantasies of Success and Power

The grandiosity and superiority complex that lie at the heart of narcissism are also linked to another phenomenon. Narcissists are often obsessed with fantasies of boundless success, unrivaled power, extraordinary brilliance, exquisite beauty, or idealized love.

It is important to note that this preoccupation goes beyond simple daydreaming, but manifests as a form of alternate reality inhabited solely by the narcissist.

This self-created fantasy world serves as a refuge for the narcissist, allowing them to escape from reality and exist in a realm where they are always the best, the most important, and the most deserving.

narcissism checklist fantasies of success

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with dreaming big or aspiring for success, a problem arises when there’s a significant disparity between these fantasies and reality.

Narcissists will spend copious amounts of time luxuriating in their imagined accomplishments and successes. However, they are rarely willing to put in the work and effort required to turn these dreams into reality.

This gap between their grandiose fantasies and their real-life achievements can ultimately lead to frustration, disappointment, and conflict, especially when they expect others to buy into their inflated self-image without questioning it.

narcissism checklist fantasies of success

Narcissism Checklist 3. A Desperate Need for Praise and Admiration

Among the many traits of narcissism, another one that stands out starkly is the narcissist’s constant need for praise and admiration.

This praise and admiration that they so crave is commonly referred to as ‘narcissistic supply‘.

The concept of narcissistic supply is central to understanding how narcissists operate, since this is the energy source of their narcissism, fuelling their inflated self-image and validating their grandiose sense of self-worth.

narcissistic supply

Narcissists view themselves through a lens of superiority and exceptionality, and they rely heavily on others to reinforce this perspective.

They seek out relationships and social interactions that will provide them with this supply, often manipulating situations and people to ensure a steady stream of admiration and praise.

narcissistic supply

When the flow of narcissistic supply is disrupted or depleted, narcissists react with marked frustration and anger.

Unable to tolerate any challenge to their self-image, they will lash out at those around them, resorting to blame, criticism, or even outright hostility.

The lack of narcissistic supply can lead to what is known as a narcissistic injury, which is a perceived threat to the narcissist’s self-esteem or self-worth.

When faced with such an injury, narcissists will display a range of reactions from intense anger to sulking, or they may engage in manipulative behaviors to restore their source of narcissistic supply.

narcissistic supply

Narcissism Checklist 4. Sense of Entitlement

Narcissists harbor an inflated sense of entitlement, expecting others to cater to their needs, desires, and whims.

This expectation is not reciprocal. They rarely consider or prioritize the needs of those around them. They demand constant attention, expect preferential treatment, or insist on having their way in most situations.

This sense of entitlement is deeply ingrained in the narcissist’s psyche, shaping their interactions and relationships.

It is part of the so-called ‘narcissistic entitlement syndrome’, where they believe the world revolves around them, and everyone else is merely there to serve their needs.

12 traits of a narcissist low empathy - narcissism checklist

Manifestations of Entitlement

The narcissist’s sense of entitlement can manifest in various ways, ranging from subtle expectations to overt demands.

They might arrogantly expect preferential treatment, believing they should always be first in line, receive the best of everything, or be exempt from common rules and norms.

In more extreme cases, they may shamelessly demand unreasonable favors, expecting others to go out of their way to fulfill their requests.

They may react with surprise, disappointment, or even anger when their expectations are not met, unable to understand why they aren’t being treated as they believe they deserve.

entitlement - narcissism checklist

Narcissism Checklist 5. Exploitative Behavior

Another central trait observed in narcissistic individuals is their tendency to resort to exploitative behavior.

They have a consistent pattern of taking advantage of others to fulfill their own needs and desires, with complete disregard for the feelings, rights, and wellbeing of those around them.

Their actions are underpinned by a profound lack of empathy, which allows them to exploit and manipulate without feeling guilt or remorse.

They are oblivious to the emotional or psychological impact of their behavior on others, focused solely on their personal gain.

The Tactics of Exploitation

The exploitative behavior of narcissists can take many forms. They may use manipulation tactics, such as gaslighting, to control and influence others.

In addition, they could employ deceit or charm to gain trust and then abuse it for their benefit. They could also resort to intimidation or aggression to assert their dominance and get their way.

They rationalize their behavior, dismissing any harm they cause as necessary or inevitable in their pursuit of success or satisfaction.

Remarkably, when narcissists engage in exploitative behavior, they typically do so without experiencing any feelings of guilt or remorse.

Their lack of empathy and inflated sense of self-worth prevent them from recognizing the harm they inflict.

Instead, they view their actions as justified or even praiseworthy, further fueling their exploitative tendencies.

manipulative - narcissism checklist

Narcissism Checklist 6. Lack of Empathy

Narcissists are notorious for their inability or unwillingness to empathize with others.

They can understand, on a cognitive level, that their actions may cause harm or distress, but they dismiss this understanding in pursuit of their own needs and desires.

This empathy deficit doesn’t mean that narcissists are incapable of recognizing or understanding emotions.

They often demonstrate a keen awareness of others’ feelings when it serves their interests.

However, they typically lack the emotional response that characterizes genuine empathy, leaving them indifferent to the emotional impact of their actions on others.

narcissists cognitive empathy

This lack of emotional empathy fuels many of their harmful behaviors.

It enables them to exploit, manipulate, and disregard others without feeling guilt or remorse.

Their inability to empathize also often leads to insensitivity, callousness, and a dismissive attitude towards others’ needs, feelings, and concerns.

In addition, the narcissist’s lack of empathy also serves as a defensive mechanism.

By disconnecting from others’ feelings, narcissists protect their fragile self-esteem and maintain their grandiose self-image.

This disconnection allows them to avoid feelings of vulnerability or inadequacy, reinforcing their sense of superiority and entitlement.

fake empathy

Narcissism Checklist 7. Enviousness or Belief that Others are Envious of Them

Narcissists are often consumed by envy, constantly comparing themselves to others and measuring their worth against external standards.

They covet others’ successes, possessions, relationships, or attributes, perceiving them as threats to their own superiority or specialness.

Even the slightest hint of someone else being more successful, attractive, or popular can trigger feelings of envy in a narcissist, leading to bitterness, hostility, or efforts to belittle or undermine the person they envy.

Conversely, narcissists also believe that they are the frequent targets of others’ envy. They tend to interpret others’ actions or attitudes as evidence of jealousy or admiration, reinforcing their grandiose self-image and sense of entitlement.

This belief that other people envy them serves several purposes for the narcissist.

It validates their inflated self-perception, provides a convenient explanation for others’ negative reactions or criticism, and allows them to dismiss or devalue others as merely jealous or envious.

7 Signs of a Female Narcissist - Envy and Competition

Narcissism Checklist 8. Arrogant or Haughty Behavior

Arrogance in narcissists manifests in various ways.

They will flaunt their achievements, wealth, or status, seeking to impress others and assert their superiority.

They might dismiss or ridicule the ideas or suggestions made by others, asserting their own views as superior or more valid.

However, ironically, contrary to their external confidence and arrogance, narcissists harbor deep-seated insecurities and fears of inadequacy.

Their arrogance serves as a defense mechanism, masking their vulnerabilities and reinforcing their grandiose self-image.

Their dismissive or belittling behavior towards others is a means to maintain their self-esteem and avoid feelings of inferiority or insecurity.

narcissistic arrogance

Concluding Thoughts on the Narcissism Checklist

It’s important to remember that everyone can exhibit some of the behaviors in the narcissism checklist from time to time.

However, if someone consistently displays several of these traits on a regular basis and across various scenarios, it indicates a consistent pattern of narcissistic behavior.

Take note of it and consider ending the relationship, for narcissists rarely, if ever, change.

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