The Humpty Dumpty Ego – PsychTests’ Study Reveals the Fragility of Narcissists’ Self-esteem

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Research by indicates that people with a narcissistic personality tend to have major self-esteem issues, despite their outward confidence.

While they may seem confident and even arrogant on the outside, narcissists tend to have fragile self-esteem.

Narcissists thrive on approval and abhor criticism.

Narcissists may nonchalantly brush off criticism in front of others, but it does hurt them quite deeply.

Some people in power, or those who are drawn to fame like a moth to a flame, often display characteristics of narcissism – a grandiose view of themselves, a strong desire for admiration, and a tendency to believe that others are envious of them.

Despite the fact that narcissists display self-confidence to the point of arrogance, researchers at PsychTests declare that it’s likely an illusion. According to data they collected for their Self-esteem Test, narcissists tend to have a very fragile self-image that can be easily shattered.

Analyzing the results of over 2,000 people, researchers at compared the self-esteem of narcissists and those without narcissism traits.

What they found was a significant yet negligible difference of only three points on their self-esteem scores (80 vs. 83 respectively, on a scale from 0 to 100). On the surface, both groups appeared the same: They both had a strong sense of self-worth, a low need for approval from others, and seemed to be in good social standing (i.e. felt accepted by others).

However, when PsychTests researchers took a closer look at how narcissists and non-narcissists respond to criticism, that’s when the differences became apparent: Those who score high on narcissism do not take criticism well.

According to PsychTests' study:

  • 78% of narcissists believe that people who criticize them do so because they are jealous (compared to 6% of non-narcissists).
  • 69% of narcissists will only listen to positive appraisals of themselves and ignore negative criticism (compared to 9% of non-narcissists).
  • 47% of narcissists believe that partially failing at something is just as bad as a complete failure (compared to 5% of non-narcissists).
  • 47% of narcissists feel insulted when someone rejects their ideas (compared to 5% of non-narcissists).
  • 46% of narcissists consider it essential to be liked by everyone they meet (compared to 5% of non-narcissists).
  • 44% of narcissists don’t like it when people point out their mistakes (compared to 9% of non-narcissists), and 45% feel degraded when that happens (compared to 4% of non-narcissists).
  • 40% of narcissists believe that being successful is imperative; more important, even, than trying their best (compared to 5% of non-narcissists).
  • 37% of narcissists are uncomfortable admitting their mistakes or admitting fault (compared to 3% of non-narcissists).
  • 33% of narcissists believe that talking about their faults makes them vulnerable to insults and mockery from others (compared to 6% of non-narcissists).

“Narcissists thrive - or rather, survive - on admiration and approval from others,” explains Dr. Jerabek, president of PsychTests. “So when someone dares to challenge their grandiose self-view, they end up shocked and upset; it’s like an error message pops into their mind as ‘does not compute’. People who are not narcissists, on the other hand, accept criticism with grace and learn from their mistakes and failures.”

“Narcissists may nonchalantly brush off criticism in front of others, but it does hurt them quite deeply,” continues Dr. Jerabek. “In fact, any form of criticism can be a harsh and rude awakening. And that’s the catch with narcissists: They may appear confident on the surface, but much like the fabled egg in the popular nursery rhyme, keeping the shell of their self-image intact is a precarious affair. In the end, their self-esteem will go through extreme ups and downs depending on how others view them in any given moment.”

Narcissistic Personality Disorder requires therapy, especially in severe cases. For those who don’t have the disorder but recognize that their self-esteem tends to be highly dependent on what other people think, here’s what the researchers at PsychTests recommend:

  • Fight the tendency to compare yourself to others. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably obsessively looked at profiles of people from high school to see how successful they are - and chastised yourself in comparison. The thing is, you may look at someone and think they possess some quality or advantage that you don't, but the fact is, they may be looking at you and thinking the very same thing. Judge yourself by your own standards. Besides, most people will only share their successes and show the best pictures of themselves on Facebook. People don’t usually showcase their dark moments on social media, but we all have them.
  • Shun perfectionism. Interestingly, there is a high correlation between perfectionism and low self-esteem. The more you strive to be perfect, the more frustrated you become when you realize it's impossible! Be aware of any perfectionistic tendencies you have and keep them in check.
  • Do things for the right people. It's easy to get wrapped up in your own little world and forget that there are people out there who are in need. Give to others - your time, company, whatever you have to share - and you'll find yourself feeling much better about yourself.

Want to assess your self-esteem? Go to

Professional users of this assessment (therapists, life coaches and counselors) can request a free demo of the Self-esteem Test or any other assessments from ARCH Profile’s extensive battery:

To learn more about psychological testing, download this free eBook:

About is a subsidiary of PsychTests AIM Inc. is a site that creates an interactive venue for self-exploration with a healthy dose of fun. The site offers a full range of professional-quality, scientifically validated psychological assessments that empower people to grow and reach their real potential through insightful feedback and detailed, custom-tailored analysis.

PsychTests AIM Inc. originally appeared on the internet scene in 1996. Since its inception, it has become a pre-eminent provider of psychological assessment products and services to human resource personnel, therapists, academics, researchers and a host of other professionals around the world. PsychTests AIM Inc. staff is comprised of a dedicated team of psychologists, test developers, researchers, statisticians, writers, and artificial intelligence experts (see The company’s research division, Plumeus Inc., is supported in part by Research and Development Tax Credit awarded by Industry Canada.

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Ilona Jerabek
PsychTests AIM Inc.
+1 514-745-3189 Ext: 112
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