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Why Do People Confuse Individualism With Narcissism?

Individualism is one of the most desired traits in the present times. But why do people confuse individualism with narcissism? Do they share a relationship? Dive in to know more.

It was back in the summer of 2020 when my father and I were discussing some essential traits required for a job interview. We went through the things required to make a person worthy of working in multiple environments.

It isn’t a mere fact that good leadership and communication skills are essential in the workplace. It has become the norm. Many interview processes consider these traits essential as they help in managing most of the chores in the work environment.

Now, my father was explaining to me the importance of being an emotionally intelligent person, while I, being the obedient child as always, listened carefully to the wise words of my father.

However, there was this question that always clouded my thinking. 

“Why do most people give a fake impression to the interviewer?”

“Why can’t they accept who they are and show themselves without fear?”

To this, my father said, “Because showing your true self isn’t going to get you selected. Companies require a person to work for them, not for himself. Anything that goes against the company’s welfare is not acceptable.”

But, when I asked him his thoughts on individuality and self-expression, he said, “It’s narcissism… nothing else. Just some people trying to establish their selfish motives with personal reasons.”

I knew what narcissism is but I was always confused as to why individualism is misunderstood as narcissism.

So, “Why do people confuse individualism with narcissism?”

Let’s find out.

Why do people misunderstand individualism?

I think this is part of the larger problem of the unhealthy correlation between individualism and narcissism. The truth is people misunderstand individualism.

Individualism is a great aspect of humanity that helps one to realize the bigger picture of the significance of one’s desires, ambitions, motivations, and goals. 

An individualistic transgender man
Photo by Kamaji Ogino from Pexels

It has absolutely nothing to do with narcissistic traits or narcissism. The fact that people often confuse them with each other tells us a lot about their desire to conform to a norm of thinking.

But, “Why do people misunderstand individualism?”

Well, here are 3 real reasons why people misunderstand individualism.

1. Individualism is subtle:

A lot of people in real life and also on the internet have this false notion of individuality as a person’s aversion towards change. They believe that individuality is responsible for stagnation.

However, this is far from the real truth. Individualism is very subtle and works below the surface. Only the person using it knows about its nature and its influence on human experiences.

Therefore, people misunderstand individualism because its subtle and is not very superficial as one would think.

2. Individualism is highly personal:

The second biggest misconception of individualism is that it is highly personal to the individual. The truth is it is not for just an individual but many individuals out there who others view as a part of society.

A person with high individuality will never consider anyone under a convention. He tries to look for things that separate one from others. Individuality is sensitive to the true self of others.

Hence, people misunderstand individualism because it is highly personal.

3. Individuality is unconventional:

The third reason is that individuality defies the norm and is very unconventional concerning its ideas and perspectives. Most of the time, these are not accepted by society.

Moreover, they are also labeled as creeps and weirdos with their heads above cloud nine. Due to its non-conformity, most people perceive it as a threat than learning something about it.

Therefore, people misunderstand individualism due to its unconventional and non-conformist nature.

So, we have discussed the reasons why people misunderstand individualism and its quirky and unexplainable signs.

But, “Why do people confuse individualism with narcissism?”

Let’s learn about it in the next section.

Why do people confuse individualism with narcissism?

We know why people misunderstand individualism. Most of these notions come from the mysterious and unknown nature of individualism. 

The perspective of society never matches the nature of individualism. Moreover, whatever they learn comes from people who consider individualism as a highly contagious disease.

People confuse individualism with narcissism.
Photo by Waldir Évora from Pexels

Individualism and narcissism do share something in common, i.e., they act in self-interest. However, narcissism does not care about it and would judge others as selfish, while individualism allows every individual to stand up for himself to be their own person.

So, “why do people confuse individualism with narcissism?”

Well, here are the 5 most prominent reasons why they do it.

1. They believe both are selfish and self-centered:

I do not know why people believe individualism is selfish or self-centered. For the most part, individualism, especially healthy individualism, is beneficial for the greater good and serves others with utilitarian principles.

Now, when they come across a narcissist who betrays them or mentally abuses them, they begin to treat his behavior as individualistic. However, individualism doesn’t use abuse or torcher as a weapon, not even unhealthy individuals.

Hence, people confuse them with each other because they believe both are selfish and self-centered.

2. They think both obsess with personal values:

People act in a way that seems to come off as inauthentic and ingenuine. Reason? The lack of personal values that do not come with social skills. However, obsessing over them is a completely different thing.

A narcissist has no personal values at all. He is just a person who feeds on the energy of others by blaming and criticizing them. An individualist, on the other hand, is mature enough to not impose his values upon others. He takes care of himself and his values but does not criticize others for not following them.

Therefore, people confuse them with each other because they believe both obsess with personal values.

3. They think both are toxic to an individual:

I think most people out there have a hard time understanding the implications of individualism on society. They ultimately fail to understand its significance in a world that routes for conformity.

But believing that individualism is toxic to a person is not rational at all. Unhealthy individualism may make things tough for people to handle, but even then, it is never toxic to anyone, let alone the self. Narcissism is toxic and malignant. It can make your life a living hell without any regrets.

Hence, people confuse them with each other because they believe they are toxic to an individual.

4. They believe both are a threat to society:

Individualism, at its best, embraces social decisions and conventions in contrast with its own. It never tries to be a threat to society but guides it when it is wrong.

Narcissism is, without a doubt, a threat to society. People who manipulate and exploit others are never going to be beneficial to society. Moreover, there is nothing to narcissists that an individualist has. No energy, no willpower, and no empathy at all. 

Therefore, people confuse them with each other because they believe both are threats to society.

5. Lastly, they believe both are manipulative:

Manipulation is not a personality trait. It can be practiced by anyone. Even a person who is nice to everyone around can be a master manipulator. Likewise, individuality has nothing to do with manipulations. 

Individualists seek authenticity and personal ethics that prevent them from becoming manipulators of all sorts. They value personal harmony more than impersonal chaos. Narcissists have a history of manipulation skills that make others bound to them and their desires and motives.

Hence, people confuse them with each other because they believe both are manipulative to others.

Final Words:

To sum up, narcissism and individualism are very different and do not share a relationship. People might confuse them for one, but narcissism is unhealthy, and individualism is not.

Therefore, it is better to be aware of who you are dealing with and what kind of a person he is, before labeling them, narcissists or individualists.

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