In my younger years, I spent a lot of time lacking confidence because I didn’t want to come across as having narcissistic behavior.
I spoke quietly, held back even when I knew I was right, and had a bad knack for people-pleasing.
Now that I am (slightly) older and much wiser, I know there is a big difference between being confident and having narcissistic behavior.
So how can you tell if someone is confident or narcissistic?
Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes it’s not.
Both character traits are held by those who hold themselves in high regard, though that self-esteem comes from very different places.
Based on how you look at it, one can act with a bold confidence, or be self-centered and narcissistic. Let’s take a look at the differences.
To begin, let’s start with self-esteem.
Self-esteem ebbs and flows over time, as events in your life cause you to feel either good or bad about yourself.
When your self-esteem is elevated, you start to feel good about yourself. You believe that what you have to say is correct, you are doing the right thing, and that you are adding something to the world.
So how do you differentiate between the two?
Your mindset, your relationship with yourself, and your contribution (or lack thereof) to the world are 3 ideas that separate confidence from narcissistic behavior.
Confident people have a mindset of abundance while narcissists have a mindset of scarcity
The mindset of scarcity is deeply rooted in a fear of failure and inadequacy.
A mindset of scarcity tells you that you need to be above others. That little voice in your head constantly reminds you that you need to beat everyone else. It tells you that you should elevate yourself while trying to bring everyone else down.
Narcissists don’t believe that there is enough to go around. They see life as a zero-sum game- where when someone wins, someone else absolutely must lose out. And that someone is usually them.
Narcissists have trouble being happy for people that have something they desire. Some of their main weapons are sabotage and their ability to undermine the achievements of others.
On the other hand, you can have a mindset of abundance. In this state, the voice in your head tells you that you can be awesome, and others in your vicinity can feel awesome also.
There’s enough awesomeness to go around, and there would be nothing better than being surrounded by a ginormous bubble of awesome everywhere you go.
If a confident person sees someone out there doing something awesome, they can be happy for them. They can give them a pat on the back, a “good job”, and go on their way. They don’t feel insecure when people around them are appreciated.
Confidence is being at peace with yourself while narcissistic behavior represents a relentless inner struggle
People who are confident don’t feel the need to be competing at everything life has to offer. They’ve already achieved victory by being who they are and they don’t need other people below them in order to feel good about themselves.
Confident people are ok with saying “I don’t know. Let me find out for you.” They know they have something important to add but they don’t let that interfere with what someone else has to say. They are comfortable with themselves and their contribution to society.
Confident people don’t measure their self-worth by comparing it to others. They measure it against themselves. Their day-to-day self-esteem is not heavily influenced by the ups and downs of everyone around them. They’re more influenced by their own personal growth and can be truly happy when those around them experience positive events.
For narcissists, each day is a struggle. You can tell narcissistic behavior because narcissists will always have an answer for everything. They constantly interrupt others to make sure they’re heard and they’re always ready to take credit for something, whether they deserve it or not.
Narcissists get high off of other peoples’ mistakes, as it gives them a short-term self-esteem boost.
Confident people are fulfilled when they brighten someone else’s day, while narcissists are fulfilled by brightening their own day.
Confident people add to the world while narcissists take away from it
Confident people are confident because they know they have something positive to add. They enrich lives, and do so by having a contagious confidence.
They are always looking for places to add value, and they know that most of the time, they will offer something great that someone else can benefit from.
Narcissists feel best about themselves when they are able to make people feel below them.
Typical narcissistic behavior is when someone is constantly trying to lower the value of everyone around them as opposed to raising their own.
Instead of making the world a better place, they’re just trying to make everything around them worse, so they can enjoy the view from above. This is a pitiful way to live and provides nothing but the most hollow, temporary boost of self-esteem.
One good way to remember this idea of adding and subtracting value is that confident people give out compliments. Narcissists search them out and take them.
There are people who will always mistake confidence for narcissism. Unless people know the real you and understand what drives you, this is unavoidable. Each person sees you through a different filter based on their own experiences and impressions of you, and no two filters will ever be the exact same.
At the end of the day, you have to trust your own intentions and know that you are adding something great to the world.
The truth is, none of us are great at judging our own impressions on other people.
We don’t know what we sound like or look like, so we can only gather feedback from others and adjust accordingly. People that judge you harshly after only a brief encounter have weaknesses of their own that they most certainly struggle with.
Whether they think of you as being confident or having narcissistic behavior is out of your control. What you can control is making each and every person in your vicinity a part of your awesome bubble.
And even though nobody might ever tell you straight to your face, you can sleep easy at night knowing that you have added something great to the world.
Featured Image photo credit: David Rubin