Being 'self-absorbed' like Kim Kardashian can actually be a good thing

Kim Kardashian admits to having a controversial personality trait. (Photo: Getty Images)
Kim Kardashian admits to having a controversial personality trait. (Photo: Getty Images)

Kim Kardashian has been called a lot of names and has admitted that getting slammed on social media hurts. But there’s one descriptor she agrees with: self-absorbed.

On Sunday, the reality star and mother of three shared a tweet from Twitter user @kevinjames4good that read, “Is it me, or is @KimKardashian Sooo Self-absorbed.. even when she’s saying Nothing.. lol.I Like the Kardashians #KUWTK.”

Kardashian assured him, “No it’s not you, I totally am!”

Self-absorbed is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “absorbed in one’s own thoughts, activities, or interests.” The trait not only gets a bad rap — it can describe someone ruminating in their successes or failures — but it’s also often confused with or linked to someone who is a narcissist, generally defined as “an extremely self-centered person who has an exaggerated sense of self-importance.”

“Narcissists have inflated, grandiose views of themselves and need to be validated as such,” Gail Saltz, MD, a psychiatrist at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “They can also lack empathy for others.”

To be diagnosed with a full-blown disorder such as narcissistic personality disorder, people have to meet at least five criteria, per the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM): exaggerates her talents, is preoccupied with fantasies of success, believes she is unique and can only be understood by like-minded people, demands “excessive admiration,” feels entitled to special treatment, takes advantage of others, and lacks empathy for others.

Night Cap

A post shared by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on Jan 18, 2018 at 11:53pm PST

“Someone with narcissistic personality disorder might ask, ‘How are you?’ with no interest in the answer or always finds a way to steer the conversation back to themselves,” Saltz says, adding that these people may follow formalities, not necessarily because they care, but because they’re expected to, per social norms.

Research has indicated, however, that there are some benefits for people with narcissistic traits. A review of five different studies published in the journal Personality Processes and Individual Differences found that people who were “normal narcissists” (those who display narcissistic traits without a clinical diagnosis) have higher self-esteem and feel less depressed and lonely.

Another study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that narcissism is associated with less social anxiety in an exercise setting, like a gym where people may feel more self-conscious than usual.

“People with narcissistic personality disorder may become more successful because if one has an intense desire to be seen as special, they’ll go to great lengths to cultivate that,” says Saltz.

And yes, that includes celebrities: Research by the University of Southern California determined that people with narcissistic tendencies tend to gravitate toward the entertainment industry.

The study, co-authored by Dr. Drew Pinsky, a celebrity in his own right, found that not only do stars have higher narcissism scores compared to business folks and the general public, but reality TV stars are the worst offenders even when compared to actors and musicians.

So is it advisable to harbor self-absorbed or even narcissistic traits? Saltz says both can fall on a continuum of normal behavior. “It’s healthy to have self-love, but not if it’s an all-consuming preoccupation to the exclusion of everything else.”

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