INTJ personality types may be predisposed to narcissistic personality disorder based on having highly sensitive temperaments and experiencing emotional trauma as children.
The introversion of INTJs, as well as criticism, physical abuse, and isolation lead INTJs to live inside their heads where unaffected ideas and imagination flourish.
Consequently, this safe zone becomes a sanctuary where self-absorption, self-importance, and self-aggrandizement become a way of life. INTJs who are self-aware use their healthy or adaptive narcissism to fuel ambition and achieve phenomenal personal and professional success.
In the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5),  Narcissistic Personality Disorder is defined as comprising a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood… (2018, Ambardar & Bienenfeld, para. 1).
Ekern (2013) posited that there are no known causes for narcissistic personality disorder but offered the following as possibilities:
- Severe emotional abuse in childhood
- Unpredictable or negligible neglect by caregivers in childhood
- Excessive pampering or praise in childhood
- Excessive criticism for poor behaviors in childhood
- An oversensitive temperament at birth
- Genetic abnormalities impacting psychobiology (the connection between brain and behavior)
Ekern further listed these signs and symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder as:
- Obsession with self
- Appearing unemotional
- Setting unrealistic or unattainable goals
- Easily rejected or hurt
- Becoming jealous easily
- Using others to an advantage to reach own goals
- Reacting to others with shame, anger, or humiliation
- Difficulty maintaining relationships
- Requiring constant positive reinforcement and attention from others
- Dramatization of own importance, talents, and achievements
- Desiring the best of everything
- Fantasizing about success, power, and attractiveness
- Having a fragile self-esteem
Traditionally, narcissism has been viewed as a negative personality trait but may align with today’s values and status within contemporary society.
Thompson (2018) said: “The past few decades have witnessed an enormous shift from a collective, community or family focus to an emphasis on the individual. Wealth, power, fame, and celebrity, while assuredly not the secrets to happiness, are prized above all else, and now form the foundation of how we’re expected to interact with each other on a daily basis…” (para. 10).
“Anyone who puts themselves out there must, by definition, suggest ways in which they are special, show an exaggerated sense of self-esteem, and ask for admiration for who they are or what they do or have done” (para. 11).
Kaufman (2013) identified a breed of narcissism not spoken about too often by stating: “…As far back as 1938, Harvard psychologist Henry Murray noticed another breed of narcissist among his undergraduates: the covert narcissist.
While the “overt” narcissists tended to be aggressive, self-aggrandizing, exploitative, and have extreme delusions of grandeur and a need for attention, “covert” narcissists were more prone to feelings of neglect or belittlement, hypersensitivity, anxiety, and delusions of persecution” (para.8).
However, having adaptive narcissism may be a positive trait. Whitbourne (2010) said:
“Having the “right degree” of narcissism may also help people attend to what they wear and how they groom themselves, presenting a more professional image. For better or worse, society rewards people seeking jobs or promotions who spend a little more time honing their looks.
People high in adaptive narcissism are also more likely to seek those jobs or promotions because their self-confidence leads them to aim high” (para. 8).
According to Williams (2018), researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have found that narcissists possess what the researchers have dubbed “mental toughness,” — which gives them the ability to succeed.
It is suggested that INTJs are predisposed to narcissism just as a 6’6” athletically gifted individual is predisposed to basketball. It doesn’t mean that the person will automatically gravitate towards basketball merely because of height and basic skills.
Given a nurturing environment, motivation, and incentives for success, a tall, gifted athlete may thrive in that arena.
Similarly, a highly sensitive, intellectually and academically driven INTJ in an environment of consistent criticism, bullying, and emotional abuse may become narcissistic under Ekern’s descriptors.
The environment shapes the manifestation of the prowess of the athlete and narcissist. The propensity is there and only needs to be sparked by external forces.
Michaels (2020) said INTJs have mainstream values and believe in fair play. They often form an overly optimistic belief about human nature at an early age, as well as the following:
o They grew up feeling alone and self-contained, which left them without physical and emotional protection.
o Firstborn and “only children” had to fend for themselves.
o They experience extreme insecurity and low self-esteem.
o To survive physically and emotionally, they had to create philosophies and systems for developing a sense of power.
Consequently, these introverts felt shut down and disempowered at an early age, making them preternaturally sensitive to the nuance of power within human interactions.
Such intellectual exploration begs the question of what would happen to an INTJ if the world was friendlier and less authoritarian. Suffice to say that highly sensitive individuals could spend more time on intellectual pursuits rather than developing philosophical and psychological paradigms that serve as defense mechanisms against a cold world.
How can adaptive narcissistic INTJs achieve phenomenal success? Here are a few recommendations:
Whitbourne said that having the “right degree” of narcissism can be a boon to one’s professional success and, by default, one’s personal success. Emotional detachment and fantasizing about success, power, and attractiveness do not have to be harmful desires.
This allegory can be taken literally or figuratively. There are countless stories of the ugly duckling that becomes a beautiful swan. In short, becoming your own, best cheerleader is a significant factor in experiencing the greatest joy and successes in life.
INTJs would not necessarily be overt but covert in their narcissism. They are not hardwired to seek overt attention. They are creating intellectual property that solves problems. Consequently, this brand of narcissism could be characterized by intellectual snobbery. In other words, exhibiting a “know it all” persona when opportunities presented themselves.
However, become an applied researcher instead of merely showing off your knowledge. Put your insights and ideas into action. Create digital books, articles, and software that solve individual and organizational problems.
Contrary to popular belief about introverts, achievement is high as a motivating factor. They don’t need the excessive flattery that typically goes along with it. Compelling intellectual property allows INTJs to quietly stand out within an industry by letting the work speak for itself.
Develop a proactive personal constitution. Extraordinary people will always be disliked for being unique. Create mottos and individual constitutions to live by. Often, INTJs possess remarkable self-discipline. Documenting your insight and analysis automates and serves as a shortcut for responding to dilemmas. A heuristic approach to life aligns with INTJs’ natural curiosity and intellectual thirst for clarity.
Develop self-defense that empowers. The impact of slights, criticisms and emotional abuse may never entirely disappear. Some scars never heal. However, by creating progressive self-defense mechanisms, your narcissism won’t be fed by anxiety or delusions of persecution.
Self-defense is often attributed to warding off physical attacks, but it can also apply to psychological aggression. Read books on assertiveness or take an online assertiveness class. These tools give INTJs an advantage in strategic thinking and maneuvering.
Narcissistic INTJs can transform themselves by reconstructing the criticism, physical abuse, and isolation into mansions of grandeur. Not out of pain, but out of power.
The world inside their heads can become replicas of the world they manifest. As a result, their wish is the world’s command.
Ambardar, S., and Bienenfeld, D. (2018, May 16). What are the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)? Medscape. Retrieved from: https://wb.md/3uSjAU5.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Personality disorders. In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition ed.). Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/3z8K7PC.
Ekern, J. (2013, April 15). Narcissistic personality disorder causes statistics, signs, symptoms & side effects. Addiction Hope. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/3yKJWbW.
Kaufman, S. (2013, Aug. 26). 23 signs you’re secretly a narcissist masquerading as a sensitive introvert. Scientific American. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/3o8DDdj.
Michaels, S. (2020, Aug. 25). An introvert’s fear (Turning rage into righteousness). The Strategic Introvert. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/3uSjCLT.
Thompson, J. (2018, Dec. 10). Are you secretly a narcissist? Truity. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/3uPMsfY.
Whitbourne, S. (2012, Jan. 24). The healthy side of narcissism. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/3yKGbTR.
Williams, L. (2018, June 26). This new study proves being a narcissist actually comes with some benefits & WTF. Bustle. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/2KnNBSv.
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