5 Signs That a Teen With Narcissistic Tendencies Is a Bully

Teen girl walking away from a group of girls who are bullying her

Kevin Dodge / Getty Images

People talk causally about narcissism all the time. They may label their friends, their coworkers, and their neighbors as having narcissistic tendencies. They might even decide that their in-laws, their spouses, and their child’s teacher have narcissistic tendencies.

Teens are often labeled narcissistic, too, because of such behaviors as creating incessant selfies and over-the-top posts on Instagram and Twitter. However, research tells us that a period of intense self-focus is developmentally appropriate in adolescence as teens explore who they are.

In fact, experts indicate there is a big difference between teens who post excessively on social media and true narcissism. There is much more to narcissism than having an inflated sense of self, though.

Technically, narcissistic personality disorder describes someone who is extremely self-centered and has a heightened sense of self-importance, essentially believing that they deserve special treatment and that their needs and feelings always supersede those of others. Teens who struggle with narcissism also exhibit some distinct characteristics that make them prone to controlling and bullying others.

Here is an overview of the top five signs that a teen who displays narcissistic tendencies is also a bully.

Lack of Empathy and Emotional Intelligence

Teens who struggle with narcissism find it hard, if not impossible, to empathize with the feelings of others. For this reason, they often are uneasy around displays of emotions. They also often lack insight into the emotions of others and even struggle to identify their own emotions.

In fact, when they are upset, they will often deny feeling that way at all. And when they are hurt or frustrated, they will often go on the attack and explode with rage. These qualities make them very prone to bullying others.

Not only do teens who struggle with narcissism lack the empathy necessary to keep them from hurting others, but they also may be so out of touch with their own emotions that the only way they know how to behave is with anger and rage.

The end result is that these teens tend to humiliate and intimidate other people.

Demonstrating Feelings of Entitlement

Teens with narcissistic tendencies have strong feelings of entitlement and often make decisions without a lot of forethought to the impact on other people. As a result, they feel entitled to better treatment than other people. And when people do not give them what they feel they are owed, they can be cruel in return.

They also may feel entitled to treat people as if they are beneath them. This means bullying kids on the bus for being in “their seat” or taking things that belong to others. They also feel entitled to the best position on the team, the first spot in line, the best lunch spot, and so on.

Showing Signs of Being Self-Absorbed

Teens who struggle with narcissism think only about themselves and cannot see the needs or feelings of others. They believe they are entitled to special privileges. In addition to being self-absorbed, they also tend to be controlling and exploitive, and they often bully others to get their way. They dominate conversations, talk loudly or interrupt others.

Friendships with others usually require total and uncritical loyalty from their friends. If friends do express dissatisfaction, the narcissist will turn on them. Tactics used might include ostracism, gossip spreading, name-calling and cyberbullying.

Teens who struggle with narcissism also tend to struggle with jealousy and envy and question the motives and loyalty of others. No matter how well a person treats a person with narcissistic tendencies, they feel that it is never good enough.

Struggling With Self-image and Social Comparison

Although most narcissists appear aloof and arrogant, they are actually preoccupied with the way they are viewed by others. What’s more, they are easily insulted and often misinterpret every comment or remark to be a put-down or an insult. As a result, it is not uncommon for them to protest that they are victims of bullying or abuse instead of the other way around.

What’s more, they often ridicule and humiliate others, especially those closest to them. They also make contemptuous remarks about others behind their back and will engage in rumors and gossip about others, often destroying reputations in their wake.

Lack of Moral Compass

Many times, teens who struggle with narcissism will engage in unethical behavior, distort the truth or manipulate situations and others. They also refuse to accept responsibility for their mistakes and often engage in blame shifting.

They also will use guilt to manipulate others or engage in victim behavior to get sympathy.

Teens with narcissistic tendencies also are extremely self-righteous and judgmental of other people. As a result, when they bully others, they often believe that the victim deserves the treatment or brought it on themselves. Consequently, they never take responsibility for their choices to hurt other people.

A Word From Verywell

Whether you're a parent or teacher, being able to identify the traits of a teen with narcissistic tendencies is an important part of bullying prevention. Knowing when someone leans toward narcissism can help you mitigate any offensive actions as well as lend support to those who are targeted.

Was this page helpful?
4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Pfeifer JH, Berkman ET. The development of self and identity in adolescence: neural evidence and implications for a value-based choice perspective on motivated behaviorChild Dev Perspect. 2018;12(3):158-164. doi:10.1111/cdep.12279

  2. Brummelman E, Thomaes S, Nelemans SA, Orobio de Castro B, Overbeek G, Bushman BJ. Origins of narcissism in childrenProc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015;112(12):3659-3662. doi:10.1073/pnas.1420870112

  3. Grapsas S, Brummelman E, Back MD, Denissen JJA. The "why" and "how" of narcissism: a process model of narcissistic status pursuitPerspect Psychol Sci. 2020;15(1):150-172. doi:10.1177/1745691619873350

  4. Reijntjes A, Vermande M, Thomaes S, et al. Narcissism, bullying, and social dominance in youth: a longitudinal analysisJ Abnorm Child Psychol. 2016;44(1):63-74. doi:10.1007/s10802-015-9974-1