For the study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, 340 adolescent students were recruited from three different Italian high schools. They took part in two assessment waves.
“Narcissism is considered as a socially malevolent trait and it is part of the Dark Triad of personality traits – narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism,” said Kostas Papageorgiou, from Queen’s University Belfast in the UK.
“Previous studies indicate that narcissism is a growing trend in our society but this does not necessarily mean that an individual who displays high narcissistic qualities has a personality disorder,” said Papageorgiou.
“In our research, we focused on subclinical or “normal” narcissism. Subclinical narcissism includes some of the same features of clinical syndrome – grandiosity, entitlement, dominance, and superiority,” he said. “If you are a narcissist you believe strongly that you are better than anyone else and that you deserve reward. Being confident in your own abilities is one of the key signs of grandiose narcissism and is also at the core of mental toughness,” he added.
“If a person is mentally tough, they are likely to embrace challenges and see these as an opportunity for personal growth,” Papageorgiou added. The research suggests that in some ways, narcissism might actually be a positive attribute. “People who score high on subclinical narcissism may be at an advantage because their heightened sense of self-worth may mean they are more motivated, assertive, and successful in certain contexts,” Papageorgiou said.
“Previous research is our lab has shown that subclinical narcissism may increase mental toughness. If an individual scores high on mental toughness this means they can perform at their very best in pressured and diverse situations,” he said.
The research suggests that the relationship between narcissism and mental toughness could be one of the personality mechanisms that leads to variation in school achievement. However, at this stage, the findings have mainly theoretical rather than applied implications, researchers said.
“It is important that we reconsider how we, as a society, view narcissism. We perceive emotions or personality traits as being either bad or good but psychological traits are the products of evolution; they are neither bad nor good — they are adaptive or maladaptive,” Papageorgiou said. “Perhaps we should expand conventional social morality to include and celebrate all expressions of human nature,” he said.