• Confidence and self-absorption rooted in narcissism are not the same: First, narcissism is self-focused while confidence considers the well-being of others.
  • Additionally, people with traits of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) constantly crave affirmation as they are hyperaware of others’ opinions, while confident individuals don’t seek to prove themselves.
  • Also, individuals with NPD traits exploit others for their benefit, while confident people strive to lift others up.
  • Furthermore, people with narcissistic personality disorder can’t and won’t admit fault, while people with a healthy amount of confidence take responsibility.
  • Finally, individuals with NPD traits tend to be narrow-minded and self-centered, while confident individuals look at the bigger picture.
  • We all need to work at achieving a healthy degree of confidence; those with narcissistic personality disorder, though, often need to work with a mental health professional.

Whether you’re concerned about a friend, a family member, or even yourself, it can sometimes be difficult to tell if someone is self-absorbed or rightfully confident. On the outside, these character traits can look very much the same: successful, bold, and charismatic. Beneath the surface, though, the self-absorption that comes with narcissism is very different from confidence. And knowing the difference is crucial.

While confidence sets a foundation for a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle, narcissism — if left untreated — can lead to a toxic life. So, here are 5 sure ways to know the difference between the two:

1. Narcissism is self-focused, while confidence is not.

It might be surprising to learn that a healthy, confident individual does not frequently think of oneself. Healthy self-confidence allows an individual to move from a place of self-focus to a place of focus on all involved. A person who is confident will often be more concerned with the needs of others than they are with him or herself. Narcissism, on the other hand, often involves the inability to see beyond oneself.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a person with narcissism personality disorder always thinks highly of himself. Regardless of whether the individual’s self-concept is positive or negative, if he is primarily thinking of himself, it could be considered a symptom of narcissism.

2. Narcissism craves affirmation, while confidence does not seek to prove itself.

While everyone needs encouragement to grow and thrive, a person who is truly confident will not require continual affirmation of others for their emotional stability. Confidence, in essence, is the ability to establish an emotional equilibrium, regardless of other opinions.

But it’s important to distinguish between narcissistic traits and behaviors, and narcissistic personality disorder. “It’s normal to want encouragement, approval, or even attention from others at times,” says Emily Simonian, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Head of Clinical Learning at Thriveworks. “Someone with low confidence might seek attention or approval from others, and their sense of worth heavily relies on other people’s opinions, but that doesn’t mean they have NPD.”

Surprisingly, narcissists tend to be hyperaware of what others think, even though this disorder can make one come across as aloof, disconnected, and unconcerned about others’ opinions. However, because a person with this disorder often lacks the ability to perceive their innate worth, they will seek to earn it through the approval of others, thus causing the individual to crave continual affirmation from those around them.

3. Narcissism exploits others, while confidence lifts others up.

Confidence takes genuine pleasure in seeing others grow and achieve their goals. A truly confident individual will often look for opportunities to inspire achievement and success in others. This is because true confidence is not threatened by another’s success, but quite oppositely, is energized by it.

Conversely, narcissism is rooted in deep insecurity and tends to perceive another’s success as threatening. Moreover, if left unchecked, narcissism can drive one to do almost anything to get ahead, even if that means exploiting and walking over others.

4. Narcissism avoids blame, while confidence is willing to admit fault.

Though admitting fault isn’t easy for anyone, it is far easier for a person with a healthy amount of confidence. This is because a confident person knows they are not defined by their success and failures. As a result, owning up to faults, mistakes, and wrongdoings is possible.

People with narcissistic personality disorder, however, find it impossible to admit fault. A person with this disorder has attached his or her identity to success, achievement, and sometimes even perfection. They may believe his worth is dependent on it. When this is the case, admitting fault feels deeply threatening. The individual may go into denial that any such fault exists.

5. Narcissism breeds narrow-mindedness, while confidence breeds perspective.

A true sign of healthy self-confidence is the ability to look at any given situation from another person’s vantage point. Simply put, healthy self-confidence allows an individual to see oneself as they really are—a small, but important part of a much bigger picture. On the contrary, people with NPD see themselves as the center of a much smaller picture. Individuals with this disorder often deem their subjective experiences as ultimate reality, creating a much smaller capacity to take into account another’s experience or perspective.

The unflattering reality is that overcoming self-absorption and cultivating healthy confidence instead is a process for all of us. In the case of narcissistic personality disorder, though, the process toward self-forgetfulness has been short-circuited — maybe even at an early age. In order to move away from this grandiose sense of self, it will most likely require professional treatment.