My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
Why do some narcissists end up being overachievers, pillars of their communities, and accomplished professionals, while their brethren, other narcissists, fade into obscurity, having done little of note in their lives?
Well, there seems to be two types of narcissists, those who derive ample narcissistic supply from mere appearances, and those whose narcissistic supply consists of doing substantial deeds, of acting as change agents, of making a difference, and of creating and producing things of value.
The former type of narcissist, the narcissist that is content with appearances, make-believe, facades, and so on, they aim for celebrity, defined as being famous for being famous.
The latter type of narcissist, the substantial narcissist, the narcissist who is interested in doing real things and having real impact, they aim for careers in the limelight, but still careers.
The celebrity narcissist has a short attention span. He repeated his cycles between the idealization and devaluation of subjects, ideas, ventures, places, people, hobbies, professions, vocations, and avocations.
This rapid cycling renders the narcissist unfit for teamwork and for developing the long-term career path.
Though energetic and manic, this type of narcissist is indolent. He prefers the path of least resistance and adheres to shawty standards of production and shady deals.
His lack of work ethic can be partly attributed to his overpowering sense of entitlement and to his magical thinking. Both these give rise to unrealistic expectations of effortless outcomes.
The life of the celebrity narcissist, the narcissist who is interested in appearances, is very chaotic and characterized by inconsistency and by a dire lack of long-term planning and commitment.
This kind of narcissist is not really interested in people or immersed in their lives except in their roles as instruments of instant gratification, sources of narcissistic supply.
For him, people are two-dimensional cardboard cutouts fulfilling certain functions in his life.
His learning and affective erudition are designed solely to impress and are therefore shallow and anecdotal.
Such narcissists usually completely forget what they have learned a few years or months after their learning or knowledge has lost its appeal to others.
The celebrity narcissist's actions are not geared towards creating works of lusting value towards affecting change or making a difference. All he cares about is attention, provoking and garnering it in copious quantities.
The celebrity narcissist is therefore not above, confamulating, plagiarizing and otherwise using shortcuts to obtain his daily fix narcissistic supply.
Well, this is massively different to the other type of narcissist.
The other strain of narcissist, the career narcissist or substantial narcissist is very concerned with leaving his mark and stamp of the world with his legacy. He feels a calling often of cosmic significance. He is busy reforming his environment, transforming his milieu, making a difference and producing and creating an oeuvre of standing value.
This kind of narcissist has a grandiose idé fix, which he cathexes, invests with emotional energy. To scale these lofty, self-imputed peaks and to realize his goals, the career substantial narcissist acts with unswerving passion and commitment, he plans and inexorably and ruthlessly implements his schemes and strategies, a workaholic pursuit of glory and fame.
The career substantial narcissist does not recoil from cutting the odd corner, preferring the occasional confabulation or absconding with the fruits of someone else's labor.
But while these amount to the entire arsenal and the exclusive modus operandi of the celebrity narcissist, they are merely auxiliary as far as the career substantial narcissist is concerned.
The career narcissist's main weapon is hard toil. He is not indolent or lazy, on the contrary.
The career narcissist is a natural-born leader as well. When he is not a guru at the center of a cult, he operates as the first among equals in a team.
This is where the differences between the celebrity narcissist and the career narcissist are most pronounced.
The relationships maintained by the celebrity narcissist are ephemeral, manipulative, exploitative. The career narcissist, the substantial narcissist by comparison, is willing and able to negotiate, compromise. He is well aware and well accustomed to give and take.
He motivates others, he induces loyalty, he forges alliances and coalitions, and he benefits from these in the long term.
It is this capacity to network that guarantees the career substantial narcissist a place in common memory and an abiding reputation among his peers.
The celebrity narcissist, the ephemeral narcissist, simply vanishes off the stage, never to be remembered again.