Lessons in narcissism with the stable genius Donald

Level B2 to C2 (reading + vocabulary related to narcissism)


What is a narcissist?

Thanks to the stable genius Donald Trump we now have a pretty good idea. We have all been able to view narcissism in action on a daily basis.

Thankfully, Donald is being dragged towards the exit door, however, narcissism is definitely on the rise. Social media has grown fat on narcissistic behaviour.

Celebrities who pinch their lips, pout their mouths and offer the world their best ‘cat bottom’ smiles are social media royalty.


Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?

Written and compiled by Benedicte Gravrand, English trainer at The Language House


Are you a narcissist if you post videos on Instagram of yourself every day? Not necessarily. It could simply be a sign of extreme self-confidence, or of vanity. But it could also be a sign that you have some narcissist tendencies.

Indeed, some psychologists say that social media promotes narcissism where there are existing traits in the first place.

Excessive selfie posting – like spending several hours a day – is sure sign of narcissism, they say.

With the increase in selfies and Twitter two-liners, there is a general increase in narcissistic tendencies in the world. If that is the case, how does this affect our world? Healthy narcissism can be good because it makes people believe they can do great things. So, there are more great achievements.

The dark side of narcissism is expressed through less empathy and downright lies.

The world is on edge watching to see how a pathological narcissist like Donald Trump will exit the world stage.  It seems likely that he will have to be dragged kicking and screaming. He may well rip up the floorboards, destroy the sets, kick the cat and assault his co-stars in the process.

Indeed, pathological narcissists who do not get their way tend to react abusively.

Dr. Bandy X. Lee, a psychiatrist,” told Salon:

“Just as one once settled for adulation in lieu of love, one may settle for fear when adulation no longer seems attainable. Rage attacks are common… But when there is an all-encompassing loss, such as the loss of an election, it can trigger a rampage of destruction and reign of terror in revenge against an entire nation that has failed him.”

She added, “It is far easier for the pathological narcissist to consider destroying themself and the world, especially its ‘laughing eyes,’ than to retreat into becoming a ‘loser’ and a ‘sucker‘ — which to someone suffering from this condition will feel like psychic death.”

Trump cannot accept losing the election. He wants to sue the states that he claims miscounted the ballot. His only consolation is that he got about 70 million votes, more than any presidential candidate – except for Biden, who got 74 million votes. Even though the U.S. has more voters than ever before. He will be a difficult leader during the next two months. Narcissists don’t believe in finishing in second place.


Psychology of narcissism


The word comes from Narcissus, a character in ancient Greek mythology. Narcissus was a very handsome hunter. But he rejected many potential love interests, including a nymph named Echo, who was severely heartbroken. Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, learnt about it and decided to punish Narcissus. One day she lured him to a pool. When he bent down to drink, he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, as if it were somebody else. He could not get away and ended up drowning. Where he died, a flower grew (as often happens in Greek mythology) and we now call that flower the Narcissus or daffodil.




Check the meaning of the words in bold


Narcissists on the whole think that they’re better looking, smarter, more important than other people and that they deserve special treatment.

There are two forms of narcissism as a personality trait: (1) grandiose narcissism, and (2) vulnerable narcissism. There is also (3) the narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), which is more extreme.

  • Grandiose narcissism is expressed through extroversion, dominance, attention seeking, and love of power. Some politicians, celebrities, and cultural leaders are such narcissists.
  • Vulnerable narcissists can be quiet and reserved. They think they deserve special treatment but are easily susceptible or insulted.

Narcissists, whatever the personality trait, tend to act egoistically. Narcissistic leaders may make risky or unethical decisions, and narcissistic partners may be dishonest or unfaithful. If you confront narcissists, they can become angry or aggressive.

“It’s like a disease where the sufferers feel pretty good but the people around them suffer,” says Campbell.

  • The behaviour, if extreme, is classified as a psychological disorder. It affects one to two percent of the population, more commonly men and usually diagnosed in adults. Some of the traits associated with narcissistic personality disorder are: grandiose view of oneself, problems with empathy, a sense of entitlement, and a need for admiration or attention. It causes big problems. The sufferers can, for example, claim everyone is wrong and he alone is right, and put everyone down.


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There may be a genetic element in the disorder, but the environment counts as well; that includes parents who put their child on a pedestal, parents who are cold and controlling, or cultures that value individuality and self-promotion.

“Americans are experiencing an epidemic in narcissistic behaviour in a culture that is intrinsically self-conscious and selfish, and citizens are encouraged to pursue happiness and instant gratification of their personal desires,” said Kilroy J. Oldster, an author.

Narcissists can improve their behaviour through honest reflection (like psychotherapy) and caring for others. But it is a real challenge for those afflicted with the disorder.


Social media: a platform for narcissists?


Social media helps narcissists get all the attention they need. But it is not clear as to whether it can turn someone into a narcissist. You can use social media a lot and still feel empathy and be a good listener. But what is clearer is that social media can promote existing traits.

A Swansea University study claimed, a couple of years ago, that people who repeatedly post photos and videos of themselves online showed a 25% increase in narcissistic traits.

Megan Dew, a model who posts a lot of selfies, disagreed with the study. She said although selfies were displays of vanity, they help improve confidence in people’s body image. “When you take a lot of pictures of yourself, you notice things in your face more. But I wouldn’t say this makes you self-obsessed.” Other people say selfies help them make friends online.




Match the words with their definition.

  1. Casually
  2. Self-confidence
  3. Existing
  4. In the first place
  5. Dark side
  6. Handsome
  7. End up


a. the feeling that you can do things well and that people respect you

b. used for stating the most basic reason for something

c. a handsome man or boy has a very attractive face

d. done in a relaxed and informal manner

e. the side that is sad or evil, metaphorically

f. used for describing something that exists now, especially when it might be changed or replaced

g. to be in a particular place or state after doing something or because of doing it



Answer key:

1:d – 2:a – 3:f – 4:b – 5:e – 6:c – 7:g



8. Drown

9. Self-involved

10. On the whole

11. Deserve

12. Attention seeking

13. Unethical


h. behaviour, especially bad behaviour, that represents an attempt to get other people’s attention

i. used for talking about the general situation

j. to sink under water and die

k. morally wrong, or against accepted standards of behaviour

l. self-centered; preoccupied with oneself

m. if you deserve something, it is right that you get it, for example because of the way you have behaved



Answer key:

8:j – 9:l – 10:i – 11: m – 12:h – 13:k



14. Unfaithful

15. Entitlement

16. Claim

17. Put someone down

18. Body image

19. Get your way


n. the opinion you have about how attractive your body is

o. to say that something is true, even though there is no definite proof

p. the right to receive something or to do something

q. To get or have what you want

r. having a sexual relationship with someone who is not your husband, wife, or partner

s. to criticize someone, especially when other people are present, in a way that makes them feel stupid



Answer key:

14:r – 15:p – 16:o – 17:s – 18:n – 19:q



20. Tend to do something

21. Settle for

22. All-encompassing

23. Trigger

24. Rampage

25. Sucker

26. Lure


t. to make something happen

u. (informal) someone who is easily tricked or easily persuaded to do something

v. to usually do a particular thing

w. uncontrolled behaviour, especially when this involves damaging or destroying property over a wide area

x. to accept someone or something that is not exactly what you wanted because you cannot have what you wanted

y Something that is all-encompassing includes or affects everyone or everything

z. to persuade someone to do something by making it look very attractive



Answer key:

20:v – 21:x – 22:y – 23:t – 24:w – 25:u – 26:z



Most definitions are from macmillandictionary.com and collinsdictionary.com





TED on the psychology of narcissism




BBC: Can too many selfies push you towards narcissism?






Carly Simon – You’re so vain


Trivia question: Who sang backing vocals on this song? He went on to be ‘quite’ famous. Have a listen to the song again and then google it if you are curious.

Garry Littman

Garry Littman est le fondateur de The Language House à Genève. The Language House propose des coachings d'anglais à Genève pour les particuliers et les entreprises, ainsi que des cours intensifs d'anglais dans les pays anglophones. Garry a été journaliste en Australie et en Asie, il a travaillé pour World Radio Switzerland.

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