Home / Relationships /

Do Narcissists Have Any Self-Awareness About Their Narcissism?

Kayla, a good friend of mine asked me a question about NPD personalities the other night. She said, “Hey Ryan, do narcissists know they are narcissists? Or what’s going on there? Why is it that they do and don’t have any self-awareness?” Well, that’s a great question because it can be very confusing when you really break it down.

Narcissism or BPD/NPD is certainly a mental disorder. It is one that [really], will never change. When someone is diagnosed with this issue—it could take many years (as in 10 or 20) of therapy to really unwind what’s going on.

Let’s dig into this topic in detail…

a woman in a bed experiencing sadness or pain

What to know about dating someone with narcissistic personality traits and BPD/NPD…

Dating a narcissistic personality type can certainly alter who you are. In fact, there’s now abundant research that points to the negative qualitative and quantitative effects of being around individuals with pathological narcissism.

According to a study by Nicholas J.S. Day, Michelle L. Townsend, and Brin F. S. Grenyer—screened participants described those with narcissistic personalities as having “grandiosity.” Or “having a requirement for admiration, showing arrogance, entitlement, envy, exploitativeness, grandiose fantasy, a lack of empathy, and self-importance.”

The study helps us to understand the types of behaviors that a single person could get exposed to over time. In a book published by the American Psychiatric Association titled “Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders 5th ed” (link to Amazon), which includes more than 200 experts, making it the definitive medical reference on all things borderline personality disorder—they outline the comprehensive effects of being with NPD partners.

What dating someone with narcissism is going to feel like

The net result of both of these publications is one simple yet shocking conclusion, stating, “the vulnerable aspect of pathological narcissism impacts others in an insidious way given the core deficits of feelings of emptiness and affective instability.”

See also: How dating a narcissist changes you

Do Narcissists Know They Are Narcissists? 5 Reasons They Don’t Know Why

Here’s the short answer: no, they don’t! But even knowing that answer doesn’t really help you in figuring out why they don’t know they have NPD/BPD. Knowing why they DON’T know is really going to help you when you’re dealing with this type of personality.

Let’s dig into those reasons.

1: They grew up in an environment where this was normal

NPD/BPD personalities usually grew up in an environment where they got to see someone behave this way. For example, they might have had a narcissist mother—who grew up showing them that the world should revolve around them.

While that might seem like a “nice” thing to have in a home—what it teaches children is that the world does revolve around you or HER. And that’s not actually true. If the world revolves around the NPD mother, then everything will be sacrificed for that. Identity, as a main point, would get sacrificed.

It’s critical to have clear values in a household between mother and father. And to make sure those values are upheld during the raising of children. Generally, the NPD mother will have an effect on the children’s self-esteem.

do narcissists know they are narcissists? a woman in a bed in pain

2: There’s a fundamental lack of empathy

According to studies, “Empathy requires cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and moral capacities to understand and respond to the suffering of others. Compassion is a tender response to the perception of another’s suffering.”

This is probably what you’re missing when you think of a person who has narcissism. You might be asking yourself—well, why is it that they’re not aware of themselves when they’re hurting other people?

Well, there’s you’re answer! They actually don’t know because they lack the ability to be compassionate with others around them. Remember, there’s a good chance that they grew up in a situation where not having empathy was congratulated, not corrected.

See also: What is a vulnerable narcissist?

3: Don’t try to change the fact that they don’t understand HOW they’re hurting people

The topic of “how narcissists hurt people” is a very long one. It’s complex, too. In short, if a narcissist KNEW they were hurting people, they probably wouldn’t stop—anyway. They may put on an elaborate show that displays that they care.

But what will happen is that over time, they’ll begin to transform back to the persona that they originally came from. The reality is that you can’t change this person. And this is what makes them completely unaware of who they are.

Remember, an NPD personality is mostly a person who lacks a personal identity.

Related: Average length of a narcissist relationship

a woman holding her head in pain
Do narcissists know they are narcissists? Nope! They have ZERO CLUE!

4: It simply seems normal for them to be given everything they want

When you don’t do what a narcissist wants, they often behave very oddly. Not typical to how another human might behave if they’re not getting their way. For example, let’s say a person doesn’t get their way—well, they might ask why they aren’t getting what they want. Meaning, “What can I do to impact change?”

On the contrary, when a person with this illness does not get what they want—they simply move on. They treat life as though it’s about serving them. Remember, this is probably something that began with them from a very early age. The idea that people are here to give them what they need.

If you’re thinking about self-awareness then, it becomes much harder because they don’t see themselves as needing to change—simply needing to change who they are around.

See also: Female narcissist traits

5: Behavioral change can take years and years—and even then, it might not change!

The last point here isn’t even really about self-awareness. It’s simply a note to say that if you think an NPD is going to one day wake up and think about all the ways they are hurting other people—and actually make a change for themselves, you’re probably wrong…

They will go as far as to hurt their offspring. Especially if they are of the female gender. When you think about that—that means they are fundamentally going against everything they stand for. And they could care less about their purpose on this earth.

It is truly a terrible mental illness. And one that’s extremely difficult to be around. My advice, build some space between yourself and the person who is having this impact on you!

Conclusion: do narcissists know they are narcissists?

The answer is no! Remember, it will always be no! Don’t try to put yourself in a situation where you think that you can cause change. You won’t be able to!

Even trained professionals have a very difficult time keeping these personalities “in check.” And often fail to fully overcome what caused the BPD/NPD in the first place.

Fact checked:
Board reviewed by Marianne Tomlinson, LCSW (Couples and Family Therapy). Content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Learn more.

About the author

Ryan Sanderson (LCSW) Ryan is a game and relationship enthusiast who enjoys all things quizzes, games, fun, love, relationships, and family. He's a licensed social worker and helps families, couples, and children in need. He's spoken about love and relationships on Salon.com, Forbes, and Mirror, to name a few.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.