Narcissism is common across the genders, but is there a difference between a male and a female narcissist?

You would think that there are shared narcissistic traits for both male and female narcissists, but, in actual fact, there are some interesting differences. However, before we go on to explore these differences, let’s just recap on the main aspects of narcissism:

Main Narcissist Traits

  • An extreme sense of self-worth
  • Craving attention from others
  • Over-exaggerating achievements
  • Expecting special treatment
  • Wanting the best of everything
  • Believing they are special
  • Lacking empathy for others
  • A sense of entitlement

So how does a female narcissist differ from a male one? One study examined data from over 470,000 college students over time. It looked at three crucial aspects of narcissism to see if there were any differences between male and female narcissists:

  1. Leadership/authority
  2. Grandiose/exhibitionism
  3. Exploitative/entitlement

Although men are more likely to exhibit narcissistic traits than women, the study showed there are clear differences in scores for genders across the categories.

So what are the main differences between a female and male narcissist, according to the study?

The study found the largest difference in the exploitative/entitlement trait with men more likely to exploit others and feel entitled than females. Men also ranked higher than females in the leadership/authority trait.

However, there was no difference at all in the grandiose/exhibitionism trait.

“Compared with women, men exhibit more assertiveness and desire for power, says, but there was no difference in the exhibitionism aspect, meaning both genders are equally likely to display vanity or self-absorption.” Emily Grijalva – study author

Why are there differences across genders when it comes to narcissism?

This study shows the main differences between a female narcissist and her male counterpart. However, there are other, more subtle ways that the two differ. If you think about it, it stands to reason that there will be differences.

Different things matter to men and women. Men are interested in power, status, money, and achievements. On the other hand, women value appearances, security, and bagging the best partners. I am being very broad here, but it all goes back to evolution.

Thousands of years ago, men had to be better, stronger and have leadership status in order to bag the most desirable women to produce their offspring. The women were looking for the strongest men to father and protect their children. Women, therefore, had to be beautiful and desirable.

So these traits now filter down through the years into a personality disorder and split into each gender. Narcissist men, who believe they are the best, will think they are leaders, they have the status, the power, the money, everything their peers recognise as being worthy of having. A female narcissist will value beauty, the best husband, the cleverest children, the nicest house, everything her peers value.

So let’s drill down a little deeper and examine the finer details of the female narcissist. What makes her tick?

How does a female narcissist differ from a male?

  1. Appearance

Both male and female narcissists pay attention to their appearance, but females value it more than males. Men tend to use their appearance as a package alongside their charm to beguile their victims. A female narcissist uses her beauty to get one up on her rivals. They want to be the best and being the prettiest, the most beautiful is what society values now.

  1. Children

Men are not really that interested in children, but females see them as a way of boosting their own profile and status. Children are pawns in their narcissistic mother’s game. They are status symbols, to be used and shown off as competition against other children. Having children that go to the best grammar schools, that attain the best grades and marks all reflect well on the female narcissist.

  1. Confidence

Male narcissists have an inbred sense of confidence. Their self-esteem comes from within, deluded as this might be. Conversely, females get theirs from feeling superior over others.

Female narcissists feel confident when they compare their achievements with others who have failed or are beneath them on the social scale. This means their sense of self-worth can, at times, be shaky and inconsistent.

  1. Control

Female narcissists use guilt as a form of control, particularly when it comes to family members like their own children. Men, on the other hand, will use their power and status to frighten people into doing what they want.

Both men and women will blow up without warning and have tantrums or violent outbursts. However, women use guilt to make people feel sorry for them and men use aggression to make people feel scared of them.

  1. Finances

Female narcissists are more frivolous when it comes to spending money than their male counterparts. Men believe that money gives them power and status so they like to hold onto it. Women, however, like to splash the cash. For them, having money to spend whenever they want gives them a sense of status and makes them feel special.

  1. Friends

No narcissist ever has true friends, but male and female narcissists treat their ‘so-called friends’ very differently. Men view their friends as rivals or competition they need to beat at all times. They will blatantly compete against them in order to win. Women use their friends to manipulate a situation to get what they want in a more underhand way.

So, are we any closer to understanding why there are differences between a male and a female narcissist? The study raises some interesting points. Grijalva suggests it is all to do with the genders themselves. Society dictates which traits to encourage in women, i.e. subservience, politeness and a meek attitude. In men we encourage strong leadership and a sense of authority.

“Individuals tend to observe and learn gender roles from a young age, and may face backlash for deviating from society’s expectations,” says Grijalva. “In particular, women often receive harsh criticism for being aggressive or authoritative.”

It seems that the very traits we admire in men and women are reflected in male and female narcissistic traits. Until we start encouraging different traits that are more altruistic, then these narcissist ones are not going to change.



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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. marcia graham

    This brings it on out! Great explanation, simple and how it really is.
    Thank you!

  2. Fari

    Great article, felt I’ve met both gender narcs. However this is the grandiose type for men, and more malignant for women. Just my thoughts 🙂

  3. David George

    Many of the narcissist articles (and the definition) I’ve read speak about the dysfunction from the perspective of needing to somehow dominate or be better than their peers. However, I’m interested in how the narcissist personality shows up when combined with other dysfunctions. Do you have any suggested readings in that direction?

  4. Stephen Malip

    This is so so accurate mehn!

  5. Ruth

    I’m confused by your final paragraph. You seem to be saying that if we valued altruism, narcissists would become unselfish. Of course not! They would just find a way of appearing altruistic in order to further their own narcissistic ends! You seem to blame gender roles for people’s particular narcissistic characteristics. The male and female “roles” you refer to at the beginning, are for males to be strong and to be leaders, and for women to be attractive and desirable. These seem to be neutral with respect to altruism: an unselfish man will try to lead with an attitude of wanting to serve and take care of those under his leadership, an altruistic woman can still be beautiful. You describe narcissistic women as subverting their caring role by using their children as trophies, thus turning an unselfishness role into a selfish one. So it does not seem to be traditional gender roles that either cause narcissism or make it worse, so to suggest that changing these will make narcissism go away is wishful thinking at best.

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