Every one of us have some narcissistic traits to a greater or lesser extent. You can recognize traits of narcissism without necessarily having a narcissistic personality disorder. In periods when you are under particular pressure, these traits may be more prominent.
Narcissistic disorder is about being caught between a very large self-image and a very low self-esteem. You may swing between feeling very special, perhaps superior to other people, and feeling like a failure, unloved and indifferent. The feeling of shame can hang over you like an ever-present catastrophe that falls on you if you fail. You may be an admired and popular person, but at the same time be plagued by inferiority, inner loneliness and emptiness, and not least by the fear of shame.
Your existence may be driven by such a strong compulsion to maintain success in your own and others' eyes that you are constantly required to top-perform both professionally and socially. Perhaps it has become such an ingrained part of you that you can't really imagine other ways of living. And maybe you're really good at it.
But the emptiness and loneliness continue to haunt you.
Somewhere deep inside, you may long to "just" be an ordinary mediocre person and still be loved. Like everyone else! At the same time, it may seem like one of the most frightening things to be mediocre - and not the best, funniest, most beautiful, most interesting or original. Perhaps you wonder how others get love when they are so mediocre?
Many people with narcissistic traits are skilled at many things. It can help maintain the superior self-image. But when a setback hits, it can hit really hard. It can be, for example, a failed exam or a partner who leaves you. Or maybe a friend who no longer seeks you out. The feeling of shame has hit you. The catastrophe is unbearable. You wish you were away from yourself and away from the gaze of others.
All people need sincere closeness with other people. However, it can be difficult to achieve sufficient closeness if you have the above traits. There is constantly a threat that the other person sees how I really am! You may need to keep the other person down to keep yourself up. For example, you may choose a partner who admires you and never sees your flaws. Or you may need the other person to be a kind of ideal person, with whom you can feel connected and thus "hang" your self-esteem on. For example, parents may sometimes need their children to become something particularly successful. Or partner choice may be more about getting a trophy than caring for the other person.
It can be shameful to acknowledge narcissistic traits, despite the fact that these are common in moderate degrees and are sometimes idealized. The word "narcissist" evokes in many people an image of an unsympathetic and manipulative person. - This belongs to the extremes.
When you recognize some of the narcissistic traits and seek help for them, you will probably not be "a narcissist", but a person who suffers from an unrealistic notion of how you should be to be good enough for other people's love. And probably, you long for a life with more meaning and closeness.
The notion of who we are and who we should be is established in childhood. In therapy, it may therefore be relevant to look back to get a better understanding of who you are now. With increased awareness of your background, you can get a better understanding of how it has shaped you and how it affects your current life. Therapy can help you work on your self-esteem and develop healthier ways of relating to others.