“A humble narcissist? Isn’t that, like, a total oxymoron?”
I hear you. I thought the same when I first heard the term.
But as it turns out, there’s always more we can learn about the human mind, and figuring out how the combination of two opposing qualities turns into something inspiring is one such lesson.
A 2015 study looked at which customer service employees displayed more productivity based on whether their leaders were narcissistic or humble. Those who worked under narcissists were less productive than those whose leaders showed a high degree of humility.
This makes sense as narcissism isn’t exactly inspiring. The self-absorption and self-interest associated with narcissism make it difficult for CEOs to relate to their employees, which in turn lowers motivation and loyalty to the company.
However, the study yielded an additional result: employees were at their most productive under leaders who displayed a combination of both narcissism and humility.
They were humble narcissists. They had the best of both worlds.
So, how can you tell if you’re dealing with a humble narcissist? These are the 6 behaviors they tend to display.
1) They take joy in what they do
Believe it or not, narcissism isn’t all bad.
Sure, there are all the typical traits that make narcissists very difficult to deal with, such as overconfidence, a lack of empathy, preoccupation with oneself, and a need for admiration.
But then there is such a thing as “healthy narcissism”, which occurs when you feel ecstatic joy and deep satisfaction with yourself. This can happen after a job well done or simply on a day when you feel really good-looking.
The best part?
That intense joy and confidence you feel is exactly what can get you through the tough times.
When life gets you down, you know you’re strong enough to get back up. When you win a prize, you don’t immediately doubt your abilities and feel like an impostor.
In summary, a humble narcissist knows that they deserve all the goodness in the world.
But they also know that they’ve got to work for it.
2) They believe in their vision but listen to advice
The reason humble narcissists work so hard is that they truly believe in their power to make their dreams come true.
This drive keeps them going even if everything keeps falling apart around them. They have a tunnel vision, and they won’t stop until they reach the light at the end.
Let’s be honest – it takes a little bit of narcissism to have such insanely high ambitions like becoming the CEO of a multimillionaire company, founding a political party, or inventing a brand new piece of technology.
These people believe in their vision so strongly that they simply refuse to give up.
But here’s where humility comes in. If you’re ruled solely by narcissistic qualities, you might take things too far, get drunk on power, or journey in the wrong direction.
If you add a bit of humility into the mix, you have a much higher chance of success because you’ll actually be willing to listen to people and integrate their advice.
Humble narcissism is a combination of trusting oneself and trusting others.
3) They are proud of their strengths and work on their weaknesses
A humble narcissist will show confidence in their abilities without seeming too cocky. They know what they’re good at – but they also understand their limits.
For example, they may believe in their singing skills and pursue a popstar career while also acknowledging that they’re not too great as far as dancing is concerned.
What’s more, they’re not ashamed of their weaknesses because they view them as challenges they can overcome if they just work hard enough.
A singer who can’t dance will hire an instructor and work extra hard to improve that skill. A CEO with anger issues will go to therapy. An employee who makes a mistake will admit to it and apologize.
There is humility in self-awareness.
4) They react well to criticism
If you criticize a narcissist, they’ll probably flip out.
If you criticize a humble narcissist, they’ll thank you for your feedback and think it over. Then they’ll decide if they agree with your assessment or not and decide which parts are worth implementing.
Let’s say you’ve told them that they’re often too impatient and act like they make decisions without thinking them through. While they might agree on the impatience part and will take active steps to work on that weakness, they don’t necessarily think that they are rash decision-makers.
It’s all about knowing oneself.
A humble narcissist is extremely confident in the skills that they think they are good at – such as decision-making – but is always open to feedback so that they can move forward on their self-development journey.
5) They don’t overextend themselves on their quest for greatness
If you’re too much of a narcissist, you’ll think you can do anything in the world.
But once you combine narcissism with humility, you’ll realize that while you have almost limitless potential, it takes a lot of painstakingly slow effort to get there.
Success isn’t in the ground-breaking once-in-a-lifetime things. It’s in the everyday. It’s in completing each individual step, day by day, week by week.
What’s more, success lies in knowing how much you can take on without falling apart. It’s all about balance.
And it takes an extra ounce of humility to recognize you need to slow down and take a break.
Your visions might be so grand they reach beyond people’s wildest dreams, but you’re still only human. You need your downtime.
6) They are strong and personable leaders
A leader is someone you look up to, someone you respect, someone who endlessly inspires you to become a better version of yourself.
And while humans sometimes latch onto idealized versions of people, from religious figures to political speakers or activists, the one thing that will inspire loyalty the most is relatability.
People root for those who remind them of themselves.
This is why the main characters in movies and books are often quite likable – if the protagonist was a bad person with no traits you could relate to, you’d find it incredibly difficult to care about what happens to them.
This is why humble narcissists thrive in leadership positions. Whilst they are confident enough to lead with strength and inspire a sense of respect in those around them, they’re also humble enough to show their humanity.
They make fun of themselves. They don’t take themselves too seriously. They ask for feedback, take other people’s opinions into consideration, and admit to their mistakes.
A humble narcissist isn’t just an idol you can worship. It’s a real person whose humanity speaks to you on a deeper level.
Thus the power of humility and confidence.