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July 14, 2008

The Most Narcissistic People Are ...

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

The question posed by the title of this post is a toughie.

Just what category of people is the most narcissistic? Movie/TV actors and actresses? Politicians? Fashion models?

Those are strong contenders. Obvious ones, too. So I'll propose a not-so-obvious group, just to get your reactions.

Marathon and other serious distance runners.

It's bad enough watching them do their stretches and mental preparations just before a race. But what gets me is the measuring that some of them are into doing. They select practice routes and time themselves every time they run them. They strap on monitoring devices to get heartbeat and other measurements of their body's performance during such a run. Comparisons of the latest numbers with previous data are then made.

In other words, they continually record and analyze statistics about themselves.

Is this self-absorption, or what?



posted by Donald at July 14, 2008


Distance runners and other endurance athletes are indeed narcissistic in the sense of being obsessively self-absorbed. But...they are singularly unconcerned with their emotional states, confining their constant internal scans to energy levels, mental focus, aches and pains, fatigue levels, and so on, all with an aim to achieving a ruthlessly truthful and objective assessment of their competitive readiness. Excessive self-love, or self-absorption, is absolutely constrained by the objective demands of distance and time. The clock, unlike trained, recruited and monitored Narcissist Enabling Support Systems, does not lie, flatter or otherwise suck up.

All athletes, even bodybuilders, are more likely to be afflicted by obsession with flaws, rather than overweening and distorted ego-ideals. As for NPD, the formal disorder, athletes in general strike me as not particularly prone to grandiosity, need for admiration, or lack of empathy, the hallmarks of the diagnosis (no more prone than other groups, I mean; obviously some athletes do exhibit these traits).

So...who, then? I'll give my nod to the obvious groups Donald mentioned, but add preachers, evangelical preachers in particular. They just seem to have the big three in spades: grandiosity (and how!), need for approval (say what?) and lack of empathy (damn those faggots!).

The Swaggarts and the Falwells and Wrights get my nod as Champion Narcissists.

P.S. Distance runners strike me as self-absorbed in a nerdish way, more Asperger-y than narcissistic.

Posted by: PatrickH on July 14, 2008 8:44 PM

I was out walking around the lake on Sunday, when this old guy stopped to chat me up.

He told me that he was a marathon runner and that he had placed in the senior games in Florida.

Then he announced he was going to run.

"Good luck," he called out to me. "Hope to see you again some time."

"Have a great day," I yelled back.

Five minutes later we were still side by side. He didn't run any faster than I walked.

We both pretended not to notice.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on July 14, 2008 9:22 PM

Eugene, OR is the most narcissistic place I've been or lived. I'm not that worldly, but this town's narcissism is boundless.

Over the years, many conversations with many men and women who have been through a divorce or the break up of a serious relationship have led me to conclude that the most narcissitic people are ex-wives, ex-husbands, and ex-lovers. I can't count the number of times I've heard someone curse his or her ex and complain about how narcissitic that ex is.

Posted by: raymond pert on July 14, 2008 11:03 PM

Sales people, especially real estate agents.

Posted by: Slumlord on July 14, 2008 11:25 PM

Politicians are the most narcissistic group of people I've ever met. I'm amazed anyone puts any trust or faith in a single one of them. I suspect there may be a few who aren't sociopaths. But who? And how would you know?

Hey, let me put in a good word for the amazing Sam Vaknin, whose website is here. Really smart and enlightening about narcissism. Bizarre too, because he freely admits that he's one himself. So how can he be trusted? Still ...

Narcissism is such a great topic ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 14, 2008 11:49 PM

Easily the most narcissistic people are the new Portlanders in general and Portland bicyclists in particular. They are wise and are doing their aggressive best to be better than all of the rest of us; and, to keep us posted on the facts of our inferiority. It's a suburban junior high gone mad and in control down here.

Posted by: Larry on July 14, 2008 11:53 PM

Larry and *raymond pert: not to belittle your candidatures, but no city can compete with New York where narcissism is concerned. By definition. It's a place narcissists from all over the globe come to scream, collectively: Me!Me!Look at me! There is no single category of NY inhabitants, however defined, that can be excluded from the trait.
Look at my day, f.ex. (yes, of course, what made you think I'm an exception? I live here.)Morning to twilight: architects. Phone conversations with salespeople. Meetings with various government agencies' officials. General contractors, god help us. Then, after hours: drinks at the sidewalk restaurant, where one is not only subjected to various self-absorbed patrons, but has to listen to the passersbies's monologues with cellphones!

Posted by: Tatyana on July 15, 2008 8:07 AM

I'm narcissistic. Isn't everyone?

Posted by: ricpic on July 15, 2008 5:12 PM

What about the people who cover their bodies with tattoos? Every tattoo freak I know think they're the center of the world and that everyone needs to look at the all the time. These were the kids who needed constant attention in school.

I purposely ignore anyone with tattoos and become monosyllabic if they try to start a convo.

Posted by: Days of Broken Arrows on July 15, 2008 9:04 PM

Wait, there are other people who are narcissistic? I'm going to need some time to process this.

Posted by: Steve Johnson on July 15, 2008 11:54 PM

"a good word for the amazing Sam Vaknin"

Dang, Michael, how are you able to dig up all these fascinating links and still have time for your career? 2B's is one of my favorite internet destinations, so many interesting threads/links.

As far as the vanity derby goes, may I take the cheap way out and just propose that it's in proportion to the numbers, i.e., the size of the audience? Which makes politicians at the national level the highest, natch (with dictators being the crème de la crème).

Posted by: Yakking Guy on July 16, 2008 3:52 AM

Sam Vanikin? Well! His "narcissism" so-called could not POSSIBLY be anywhere near as bad as mine. If you're going to recommend anyone's website, why not recommend mine instead?

I know it's not up yet! That's not the point! God, why do you never ever listen? What's the matter with you? Let me finish! Let me fin--

Posted by: PatrickH on July 16, 2008 11:31 AM

Most narcissistic?

Bloggers, of course (present company excepted).

Posted by: James M. on July 17, 2008 10:17 AM

Excerpted? On the contrary.
And it's a good thing.
If you're in agreement with Ain Rand.
As I am.

Posted by: Tatyana on July 17, 2008 11:18 AM

I think you are confusing a need for self-knowledge with self-worship. Someone once dismissed Marlene Dietrich as a monster of vanity because he found she was viewing and reviewing The Blue Angel. What was really going on was that Dietrich was studying the way Lang lit her in key scenes, for the benefit of the director she was currently working with.

For actors and athletes, the body and self are tools to be worked with - they must know their tools really well to do the beet.

Which is not to say that actors and athletes aren't also narcissists many times. But I would doubt that that includes marathoners. Most of them get no particular recognition.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on July 17, 2008 3:10 PM

Speaking of narcissists: listening to this one had me in stitches.

[via Dustbury]
Strangely, though, the guy seems to be in SF. I can swear, I saw him (and his matching friends) at 200 Lex yesterday night!

Posted by: Tatyana on July 18, 2008 6:22 PM

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