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13 Differences Between Narcissistic and Healthier Behavior

Many people with a narcissistic style or Narcissistic Personality Disorder are relentless. They rarely admit fault yet nearly always seem to find someone to blame. They can also seem so certain of what they say and do that those around them may come to second-guess themselves.

If you have a person with narcissism in your life, it is more likely that you will become exhausted, overwhelmed, or confused than it is that the narcissist will back down. Over time, you may become inured to how extreme and costly their actions are.

One way to regain perspective is to remind yourself of the differences between narcissistic behavior and healthier behavior.

Characteristics of People with Narcissism Vs. Characteristics of Healthier People

  1. Shun introspection  vs.  Value introspection
  2. Lack empathy  vs.  Care about the needs and feelings of others
  3. Become hypersensitive to slights  vs.  Don’t take others’ actions personally
  4. Act impulsively  vs.  Seek spontaneity
  5. Spoil others’ good moods  vs.  Celebrate and share in others’ good moods
  6. Deny or hide mistakes  vs.  Seek to learn from mistakes
  7. Are driven by fear  vs.  Are cognizant of fears but cultivate hope
  8. Blame others  vs.  Take responsibility
  9. Stonewall or withdraw when upset  vs.  Communicate when upset
  10. Get enraged when criticized  vs.  Remain open to constructive criticism
  11. Pursue a win-lose strategy  vs.  Pursue a win-win strategy
  12. Hold grudges  vs.  Seek resolution
  13. Have one-way, superficial relationships  vs.  Have reciprocal relationships

It is helpful to see how far narcissistic behavior is from healthy behavior. Seeing how strikingly different the behaviors of narcissistic people are from how you strive to behave can give rise to three valuable questions:

  1. Do I let someone with narcissism treat me differently than I let others treat me?
  2. If so, why?
  3. What is the cost, and is it worth it?

The answers to these questions can lead you to set healthier boundaries with people who are narcissistic.

The contrast between people with narcissism and healthier individuals is also striking in the differences in values.

Values of People with Narcissism Vs. Values of Healthier People

  • Perfection  vs.  Growth
  • Attention  vs.  Connection
  • Superiority  vs.  Equality
  • Winning  vs.  Fairness
  • Status  vs.  Equality

By identifying and staying true to your values, you can hold your own in the face of narcissistic people and behavior.

© Copyright 2017 By Dan Neuharth PhD MFT

13 Differences Between Narcissistic and Healthier Behavior

Dan Neuharth, Ph.D., MFT

Dan Neuharth, PhD, is a marriage and family therapist and best-selling author based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has more than 25 years’ experience providing individual, couples and family therapy. Dr. Neuharth is the author of If You Had Controlling Parents: How to Make Peace with Your Past and Take Your Place in the World. He writes two blogs for PsychCentral: Love Matters and Narcissism Decoded. He is licensed as a marriage and family therapist in California, Florida, Texas and Virginia. His website:

Please note: Dr. Neuharth's posts are for information and educational purposes only. These posts are not intended to be therapy or professional psychotherapeutic advice, and are not a replacement for psychotherapy. I cannot give psychotherapeutic advice about your individual situation outside of a therapist-client relationship. The posting of these blogs and the information therein does not constitute the formation of a therapist-client relationship. Please consult your physician or mental health provider for individual advice or support for your health and well-being. If you are in crisis, please call your local 24-hour crisis or mental health hotline or dial 911.

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APA Reference
Neuharth, D. (2019). 13 Differences Between Narcissistic and Healthier Behavior. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Sep 2019
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