The word “narcissist” is pretty freely tossed around these days, and according to Tik Tok and Instagram, you’re surrounded.  If somebody is rude? Narcissist? Your boyfriend forgets a milestone occasion? Narcissist. Your mother abandoned you and tells you how it was your fault? Narcissist. One of these examples is clearly not like the other, but we’ve reached a tipping point: if everyone is a narcissist, nobody is.

Because narcissism is a hot-button issue these days, clients occasionally ask me if I think THEY are narcissists. This is always a valuable conversation. It typically comes up after a partner or family member verbally berated my client and accused them of being narcissistic. It’s not uncommon for people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) to project onto others and accuse them of the very behaviors they are exhibiting. There’s an expression that fits narcissism well: you think you are looking out the window, but you are really looking in the mirror. Once that accusation is tossed around, it becomes difficult to defend against. If you try to respond and claim you are NOT a narcissist, the easy response from the accuser is, “See? That’s just what a narcissist would say!”

A distinction needs to be made between “narcissistic traits,” which we all display at times, and full-blown NPD, a serious mental health issue that can be difficult to treat. The issue is that neither you nor I are qualified to make that call without a thorough mental health assessment. We are all a little selfish sometimes, but that is not indicative of a mental health disorder.

Self-confidence is also healthy and also not a diagnostic problem. Following your intuition in ANY relationship, friends, family, and romantic partners is important. Even without a label, if you don’t like how you feel about yourself in the presence of another person, you have the right to reassess why you would choose to remain in the relationship.