To answer the question “are ENTJs narcissists” briefly, I would say the obvious thing: some of them clearly are, but most of them aren’t. We will go into a lot more detail in this article.
I also must say that I’ve noticed a trend lately of calling all kinds of people you don’t like “narcissists” and people should know that narcissists can also call other people narcissists, as a manipulation tactic. A diagnosis should be left to the professionals, or in the very least, their stated criteria should be used before throwing around such big words.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5, 2013) indicates that a person with NPD possesses at least five of the following nine criteria, typically without possessing the commensurate personal qualities or accomplishments for which they demand respect and status:
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g. exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
- Believes that they are “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
- Requires excessive admiration.
- Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with their expectations).
- Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve their own ends).
- Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
- Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of them.
- Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
As a person who actually IS an ENTJ I can admit to having some of these traits when I was younger, namely the preoccupation with success and power, believing I’m special, requiring a lot of admiration and feeling envious. Statistically speaking ENTJs are only 1.8 percent of the population so I guess I had a reason for feeling special. It doesn’t have to mean “better than others.” I grew up in a poor family, so a grandiose sense of self-importance or arrogance were never an option. A poor person who thinks they’re super important or acts arrogant just comes off as ridiculous.
After going through puberty and adolescence and a couple of years of serious depression, I’ve lost the belief that I’m special, except maybe in the way that fate has cursed me by putting me in a poor family from a poor country, with a chronic illness and ADHD on top of that. But I’m sure there must be another person on this planet who has had the exact same sh*tty luck. As you grow up you also realize that you can’t rely on praise and admiration so much to drive you, because it’s unreliable. And when I started making some decent money I also stopped envying people so much, since I could now afford all the normal things they had. The only thing that stayed with me is the preoccupation with success and I think that one will never go away, neither for me, nor for other ENTJs. We just like turning everything, even our worst experiences, into productive things, lessons for others at least.
The real ENTJ narcissist
All this said, there are ENTJs that fulfill most of the diagnostic criteria. They are usually overt narcissists, but I believe ENTJs can also be covert narcissists, since every extroverted intuitive type seems to be more introverted than most extroverted sensing types. Overt narcissist ENTJ types are obvious to the trained eye and I believe there are many of them in politics and business. The worst part is that they achieve considerable success just by being overly confident and assertive. The covert narcissist ENTJ is a rarer breed and much harder to detect. Those are the ENTJs that have a high degree of self awareness but not enough drive to achieve what they dream of, so they spend a lot of time online, in a perpetual shifting from feeling better than others to loathing themselves. Some ENTJs are so unfamiliar with psychology and terminology that they might even brag with their narcissism, because they think it’s just “self-love”. For most narcissists their condition is their worst enemy, but it’s really hard to get out of those chains and become a normal person. Trust me, you do NOT want to be a narcissist. For some people, like Donald Trump, not even billions can cure the insecurity and the pettiness that they will take to the grave with them.
Why most other ENTJs are NOT narcissists
I’ve tried very hard to find data about the prevalence of narcissism among all MBTI types but to my knowledge there is still no such study. The ENTJ profile does seem to overlap a little bit with the traits of narcissism but looking over the profiles I would say that so do the ESTJ, INTJ, ENTP, INTP, ISTP and ESTP profiles. There are probably feeling types who also exhibit narcissistic traits, namely those who are histrionic and can’t live without being the center of attention.
Most ENTJs are not narcissists because their personality traits seem to include brutal honesty towards themselves and others, not self-indulgence.
ENTJs take a long time to mature emotionally, but usually the older they get the more they understand that a lack of humility will never provide for great outcomes and great outcomes are what they strive for. At some point you realize that your ego is fooling you and robbing you of a clearer picture of reality. ENTJs are probably not more or less vain than any other MBTI type. It’s just that they don’t like to fake being humble. If something about them is great, they will tell you. They will also tell other people directly all about their good and bad sides. They will tell somebody that they’re good looking and it could be interpreted as flirting while the ENTJ was just stating a truth, an observation. In the same way they feel comfortable saying something good about themselves if it’s objectively true.
ENTJs are a prideful bunch, but most ENTJs I’ve met would rather cut off their own hand than take advantage of someone or steal from someone, exactly because it would take away from the pride. Many of them even have problems accepting offered help, because this too would take away from the pride they feel when they achieve something on their own.
Subsequently added: there was actually a study done on MBTI types and personality disorders and it found no correlation between ENTJs and NPD!
Additional thoughts on narcissism
The weird thing about narcissism is that once a narcissist achieves considerable success in life, most of the traits on that DSM list are offset by the success. The grandiose sense of self importance isn’t much of a problem when you are actually important, the fantasies about success and power are mostly fulfilled, you are allowed to feel special if you are a doctor or a mayor of some town, people WILL give you favorable treatment if you’re rich and even the envy loses it’s punch since there are less people to envy because you are more successful than most people. There was actually a lot of debate about even including narcissistic personality disorder in the latest DSM edition. This is why I think narcissists shouldn’t be vilified so much, but helped. Only the exploitative ones deserve a bad rap in my opinion. The others are just trapped by their own mind. There is a certain kind of narrowness of mind that comes with narcissistic personality disorder and to me it frankly seems like a prison.
The scariest part is that NPD is on the rise in the last decade because of social media. The prevalence of lifetime NPD is 6.2% according to this study and amongst the new generation raised online the rates are going up. This is another reason to stop vilifying and start investigating what is causing people to become so obsessed with themselves and how to fix it.