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Narcissism vs. Selfishness: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on November 18, 2023
Narcissism; Excessive self-focus and self-admiration. Selfishness; Lack of consideration for others' needs.

Key Differences

Narcissism involves an inflated sense of self-importance and a deep need for admiration. Selfishness is more about prioritizing one's needs over others without the inflated ego.
While narcissism often includes a lack of empathy and manipulative behavior, selfishness does not necessarily involve manipulation but is rather a disregard for others.
Narcissism is recognized as a personality disorder in severe cases, where it affects social functioning. Selfishness is generally a behavioral trait and not classified as a disorder.
Narcissists seek admiration and attention and may belittle others to feel superior. Selfish people may simply act in their own interest without seeking admiration.
Narcissism can lead to destructive relationships due to a lack of empathy. Selfishness can also strain relationships but doesn’t always involve a lack of empathy.

Comparison Chart


Excessive self-focus and need for admiration
Prioritizing own needs with little regard for others


Inflated ego, lack of empathy, manipulative
Lack of consideration, disregard for others' needs


Can be a personality disorder
Not classified as a disorder


Seeks admiration and attention
Acts in own interest without needing admiration


Often lacks empathy
May or may not lack empathy

Narcissism and Selfishness Definitions


Narcissism involves an inflated sense of self-importance.
“Her narcissism made her believe she was superior to her colleagues.”


Selfishness is a lack of consideration for others.
“His selfishness showed when he refused to share his notes with the class.”


Narcissism can involve manipulative behavior to maintain superiority.
“His narcissism was evident in the way he manipulated people to get what he wanted.”


Selfishness involves little regard for others’ needs.
“Her selfishness was apparent when she ignored her friend’s request for help.”


Narcissism is characterized by a deep need for admiration.
“His narcissism drove him to seek constant praise from others.”


Selfishness can involve ignoring others' feelings.
“His selfishness was clear when he disregarded his partner’s feelings during the argument.”


Narcissism is an extreme self-love.
“His narcissism was evident in the way he constantly admired himself in the mirror.”


Selfishness is prioritizing one's own needs over others.
“His selfishness was clear when he ate the last slice of cake without offering it to anyone else.”


Narcissism often includes a lack of empathy for others.
“Her narcissism prevented her from understanding her friend’s feelings.”


Selfishness often means not sharing with others.
“Her selfishness was evident when she wouldn’t share her umbrella in the rain.”


Excessive preoccupation with or admiration of oneself.


Concerned chiefly or excessively with oneself, and having little regard for others
A selfish child who wouldn't share toys.


A personality disorder characterized by an exaggerated sense of self-importance, need for admiration, and lack of empathy. Also called narcissistic personality disorder.


Showing or arising from an excessive concern with oneself and a lack of concern for others
A selfish whim.


Pleasure derived from contemplation or admiration of one's own body or self, considered in psychoanalytic theory to be a fixation on or a regression to an infantile stage of development.


The quality of being selfish; the condition of putting one's own interests before those of others.


Excessive love of oneself.


The quality or state of being selfish; exclusive regard to one's own interest or happiness; that supreme self-love or self-preference which leads a person to direct his purposes to the advancement of his own interest, power, or happiness, without regarding those of others.
Selfishness, - a vice utterly at variance with the happiness of him who harbors it, and, as such, condemned by self-love.


Sexual desire for one's own body.


Stinginess resulting from a concern for your own welfare and a disregard of others


An exceptional interest in and admiration for oneself.


An exceptional interest in and admiration for yourself


Do narcissists lack empathy?

Yes, a common trait of narcissism is a lack of empathy.

Is selfishness considered a disorder?

No, it’s generally a behavioral trait, not a disorder.

What defines selfishness?

Selfishness is prioritizing one's needs with little regard for others.

What is narcissism?

Narcissism is excessive self-focus and self-admiration.

Can narcissism be a disorder?

Yes, in severe cases, it’s recognized as a personality disorder.

Can a selfish person be empathetic?

Yes, selfishness doesn’t always involve a lack of empathy.

Does selfishness include manipulation?

Not necessarily; it’s more about disregard for others.

Can narcissism affect relationships?

Yes, it often leads to destructive relationships.

Does narcissism worsen with age?

It can, if not addressed through therapy or self-awareness.

Is manipulation a trait of narcissism?

Yes, narcissists often exhibit manipulative behavior.

Can a selfish person be a narcissist?

A selfish person may exhibit narcissistic traits but isn’t necessarily a narcissist.

How is narcissism diagnosed?

It’s diagnosed by mental health professionals based on specific criteria.

Are there degrees of narcissism?

Yes, it can range from mild traits to severe narcissistic personality disorder.

Can selfishness be changed?

Yes, with self-awareness and effort, one can become less selfish.

Does selfishness strain relationships?

It can, due to disregard for others’ needs.

Are all narcissists selfish?

Narcissism often includes selfish behavior, but it’s more complex.

Are narcissists aware of their behavior?

They may not be fully aware or may not see it as a problem.

Can culture influence selfishness?

Yes, cultural norms can impact what’s seen as selfish behavior.

Is narcissism treatable?

Therapy can help manage narcissistic traits, but it’s challenging.

Can selfish behavior be occasional?

Yes, some people may act selfishly in certain situations.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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