It would be a mistake to think that just because someone has a personality disorder they can’t make a significant impact on the world. There have, in fact, been several famous narcissists in the past and in our recent history who have shaped world events and contributed — for good or for bad — to our shared cultural history.
While narcissism causes numerous dysfunctional traits in a person affected by NPD, it can also result in a perseverance and focus that helps the individual achieve their goals if for no other reason than to emphasize their importance.
Here are the top 13 famous narcissists from our past and present who have significantly impacted the lives of others:
- Alexander the Great
- Napoleon Bonaparte
- Henry VIII
- Adolph Hitler
- Donald Trump
- Kim Kardashian
- Kanye West
- Steve Jobs
- Jim Jones
- Kim Jung Un
- Mark Zuckerberg
- Ted Bundy
It’s interesting to see how many famous people have narcissistic traits that have worked in their favor. These 13 influential people have left their mark on history in many cases because of their narcissism rather than despite it.
1. Alexander the Great
While there wasn’t a psychologist there to examine Alexander the Great, he definitely showed many of the stereotypical characteristics that indicate he suffered from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
He thought in binary terms. You were either with him or against him. Those with him — his faithful soldiers — he took on numerous military campaigns, which cost many their lives, just for his personal conquests and glory. He never showed any emotion at the loss of his soldiers or generals. Instead, he focused solely on his grandiose vision for his life.
2. Napoleon Bonaparte
The phrase, “Napoleon Complex,” which means to act overly aggressively in order to compensate for feelings of inferiority and low self-esteem, was named for Napoleon Bonaparte. Everyone who knew him believed him to be a tyrant, but his grandiose ideas prevented him from seeing that and caused him to believe he was special.
In his book, Thoughts, he wrote, “It was precisely that evening in Lodi that I came to believe in myself as an unusual person and became consumed with the ambition to do the great things that until then had been but a fantasy.”
3. Henry VIII
Though Henry VIII was considered handsome and charismatic, he was among the cruelest and most egotistical leaders throughout history. His vain quest for a son to be the heir to his throne caused him to behead two of wives and break ties with the Catholic Church and found the Church of England so he could divorce another. He lacked empathy and was said to be overly concerned about his appearance, all of which are typical narcissistic traits.
4. Adolf Hitler
There’s perhaps no better example of a narcissist than Adolf Hitler. He was without a doubt the cruellest leader in our modern history. He oversaw the slaughter of millions of innocent people, and he incited World War II. He did all of this because he believed himself and other white Germans to be a superior race to anyone else on the planet.
He showed no ability to empathize with his victims, many of whom he had tortured or experimented on prior to their deaths. He lied and spread false propaganda regarding the superiority of the aryan race, and he demanded total acquiescence from his followers. He typifies the worst qualities found in narcissists.
5. Donald Trump
Donald Trump is a leader in our recent history who shows all the qualities of a typical narcissist. He cares only about his needs, even dismissing the needs of his family members as unimportant when compared with his own. He is hypersensitive to any criticism and frequently interpreted any resistance to his policies as a suggestion that he failed or did something wrong.
He was constantly promoting himself above all others and that overshadowed any discussion of his policies as President of the United States. He was incredibly derisive of his political rivals, and like Hitler, he also demanded total acquiescence from his supporters. He showed no empathy for anyone he hurt and had frequent childish outbursts on his Twitter feed, the wording of which suggested he was in a narcissistic rage.
The singer Madonna is among some of the most famous entertainers who exemplifies the typical exhibitionistic narcissist. She has admitted that she craves the limelight and has found ways to reinvent her image when she felt that the attention of her fans was waning. She is also rumored to make unreasonable demands of her employees and apparently has little empathy for making them work long hours in difficult working conditions.
7. Kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are a typical example of two narcissists who got married. Her narcissistic self-promotion has made her one of those people famous for no real reason other than their personality. She has constantly posted online updates of her daily life, and she is rumored to have released certain controversial materials like a sex tape in order to garner more fame.
8. Kanye West
Like his self-promoting wife, Kanye West will stop at nothing to stay in the limelight. This was perhaps best demonstrated when he grabbed the microphone from Taylor Swift at an awards show to proclaim his belief that another artist should have won that award. He humiliated Swift and made himself the center of attention. It didn’t even matter that much of the attention was negative.
He also declared that he was running for President during the 2020 elections in an attempt to grab the limelight from Donald Trump whom he claimed to support. It’s typical for narcissists to try and defeat people they admire because they believe that shows just how good they are. Though he and his narcissistic wife stayed married for seven years, they have since parted ways as is common for narcissistic couples.
9. Steve Jobs
While his charisma and charm attracted numerous investors and made him a billionaire, Steve Jobs was notoriously narcissistic to the extent that he was ultimately fired from his job. He was always preoccupied with how important he felt himself to be and his brilliance.
He lacked empathy for other people and consistently bullied and exploited those around him. He was also envious of the attention paid to other people, he was arrogant, and he was extremely controlling and manipulative. All of these characteristics make it obvious he suffered from narcissistic personality disorder.
10. Jim Jones
Jim Jones was one of the most notorious cult leaders in US history, and he was clearly narcissistic. He attracted over 900 followers whom he convinced to follow him to a commune he called Jonestown — named after himself — in Guyana in the 1970s. Later, when threatened with official action to free some of his followers, he incited them to commit mass suicide. Those who would not drink his poison Kool Aid were murdered by those followers who refused to question his orders.
He was clearly a narcissist, having no regard for the feelings of others as well as delusions of grandeur. He told his supporters he was the savior, and justified his abhorrent behavior, that included sexual abuse and violence, as a way to help people overcome their problems.
11. Kim Jung Un
As Christina Robinette notes, Kim Jung Un is a “classic narcissist.” He has claimed to have cured SARS, Ebola, and AIDS as well as to have climbed the tallest peak in North Korea despite the fact he’s physically unfit. He makes these outrageous claims while abusing the citizens of North Korea who risk being jailed or even put to death for not reacting with an obvious emotional response to news he might be in danger or even the simple fact that he’s just losing weight.
He has also allegedly killed potential rivals including his own brother who he reportedly had poisoned by a perfume sprayer. He lacks an ability to maintain relationships with other world leaders and demands constant attention and praise from those around him. He lacks any semblance of empathy as his citizens starve to death because of his leadership failures. Like many dictators, he is clearly narcissistic.
12. Mark Zuckerberg
Zuckerberg, who is the founder of Facebook, is what many people would call a productive narcissist. These are narcissists whose grandiose visions include a desire to change the world. They don’t believe, however, that they need to follow the same rules that everyone else has to follow. Zuckerberg definitely has broken many rules in his quest to transform the way we communicate. He is also aggressively competitive, a trait typical of productive narcissists.
13. Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy was a psychopathic narcissist who confessed to having killed more than 30 women though many people believe he killed more than that. He was convicted of murder and executed in Florida in 1989. He had many narcissistic characteristics including his ability to charm women into helping him, a ruse he used to capture his victims.
He also was an accomplished manipulator and managed to escape custody twice. He was extremely self-centered and loved to be in the limelight. His narcissism was such that he represented himself at trial, and in a surreal spectacle, he referred to himself repeatedly as Mr. Bundy.
These 13 famous or infamous narcissists all of whom have or had several traits consistent with NPD do not represent an exhaustive list of famous narcissists throughout history. Some of them are or were positively productive while others have used their focus, charm, and any talents they might have had to commit unbelievably cruel acts.
Regardless of whether they have done good deeds or bad, however, all have shown the typical characteristics of narcissism. These include a lack of empathy, a desire for the limelight, and the inability to consider the needs of others. Even those who have contributed positively to our culture or to the world have not necessarily done so for altruistic reasons.
Now that you have a better understanding of how narcissism can manifest for good or for bad, you might also be interested in this articel about how narcissism is categorized in the DSM-5.
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