How To Spot an Egotistical Personality—And Protect Yourself From It

Photo: Getty Images/Valentin Casarsa
It can be fun to assess your personality through personality tests, like the Myers briggs personality test or any of the popular personality apps. One trait that may surface in common personality tests is your level of egotism, which is associated with an inflated sense of self. Placing yourself on a pedestal is often both a valid and valiant act, requiring you to surface your own beliefs publicly, advocate for them, and actively pursue your needs and wants. But if you’ve ever met someone who seems to have taken up permanent residence on that pedestal, you may have an egotist on your hands. While egotistical personality traits resemble narcissism on paper, they’re often less obvious in person, making them tougher to pinpoint. But, learning how to spot them can make setting self-protective boundaries more feasible.

Experts In This Article

First, though, it's helpful to note that the words egotist and egoist carry different meanings, despite often being used interchangeably. Here, we're talking about the former, which refers purely to someone with excessive self-interest, whereas the latter traditionally means someone who believes in egoism, or the philosophical belief that self-interest is the motive of all action. That said, the root of both words is "ego" or the Latin word for "I," which reflects a focus on the self that reads as total self-centeredness in the egotist. “They believe they’re somehow better or more important than everyone else,” says Lesli Doares, LMFT. And that can translate, quite literally, into an overuse of "I" in conversation.

“The egotist believes they’re somehow better or more important than everyone else.” —Lesli Doares, LMFT

While people with narcissistic personality disorder tend to demonstrate this kind of egotism, not all egotists can be called narcissists, says clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula, PhD, author of Don't You Know Who I Am?, which focuses on how to handle widespread narcissism and incivility. “A narcissist is egotistical, but they also seek validation and admiration, are highly sensitive to feedback or criticism, and lack the capacity for reciprocal relationships, as well as the ability to self-reflect,” she says.

More specifically, how a person responds to praise and critique is a particularly helpful point of difference when it comes to differentiating egotistical personality traits from narcissistic tendencies. “Narcissists have a need for constant admiration and will actively seek it out, and they’re often shattered by criticism, reacting poorly to it,” says Doares. As for an egotist? They tend to have a ballooned sense of self-confidence, meaning they're actually less likely to grasp for praise (they know they're great) and more likely to simply dismiss criticism as being uninformed or rooted in envy, says Doares.

Below, the experts walk through the most common egotistical personality traits, share examples for how they might appear in everyday behavior, and offer advice for how to deal.

5 common egotistical personality traits, plus how to handle them:

1. A near-constant tendency to be self-referential

In a conversation, the egotist frequently says ‘I’ and is someone who always shifts the focus back to themselves in whatever way possible, says Dr. Durvasula. This is a person who finds ways to offer personal stories in contexts that don’t suggest a need for them—and sometimes to the effect of alienating friends and loved ones.

If you’re close with the person, you’d be best off going along for their ride and listening to the stories, rather than attempting to re-route their course, says Dr. Durvasula.

2. An inability to commit to anything that doesn’t serve their interests

Ask them to attend your child’s dance recital or accompany you to a work event (or do anything else that isn’t directly self-serving), and you’ll get the same evasive "no." That's because the egotist doesn’t show up to anything that isn’t useful to them, says Dr. Durvasula—meaning, anything that won’t include the people they want to talk to or network with, or offer opportunities they deem worthwhile, she adds. As such, it’ll create less tension to simply leave them off the invite list.

3. An exaggerated view of their abilities

In any situation, they consider themselves to be the best, says Doares, regardless of whether that’s true. “This can lead to an egotistical person rewriting history, claiming they did not say or do what you experienced, if it was negative,” she says. “And they can often do this with such ferocity that you question your own recollection.”

Rather than springing into defensive mode when this happens, though, it’s helpful to anticipate that an egotistical person may write off your negative experience as unimportant or invalid and, in turn, take their comments with a grain of salt.

4. A lack of personal accountability

At all costs, they’ll redirect blame or fault from themselves, particularly if someone else tries to hold them accountable for a mishap or wrongdoing. “An egotist will not take ownership for anything they do that is not excellent,” says Doares. It may be helpful to reduce your expectations of them in this regard, so that you don’t become frustrated or disappointed in seeking what you won’t receive, says Dr. Durvasula.

5. Difficulty empathizing

While a narcissist typically lacks all ability to show empathy, an egotist tends to find being empathic tough in most situations—particularly when the upset of another person could be written off as hyper-sensitivity. “The egotist is not particularly supportive or understanding of others’ struggles or concerns,” says Doares.

To that end, it'd be wise not to turn to an egotist when you’d like to talk about a difficult experience you’re having or to receive emotional support, says Dr. Durvasula. In fact, if you're managing a relationship with an egotist, it'll be immensely helpful to maintain a positive support system of other loved ones (non-egotists, that is). “Being able to process your feelings with a person who’s capable of understanding them and of keeping your best interests in mind can make all the difference,” says Doares.

And if you must have frequent contact with a certain egotistical person—say, they’re a co-worker or family member—you’d also be wise to create boundaries surrounding what you will and won’t discuss with them from the jump, in order to keep sensitive issues off the table.


1. What is the difference between a narcissist and an egotistical person?

The degree to which someone possesses traits that make up their personality, even if those traits are considered healthy personality traits, happens on a spectrum—some people have more of some traits than others, and each person is unique. According to clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD, author of Joy From Fear, someone’s level narcissism is also a continuum; we all possess a certain level of narcissism.

However, someone who is a true narcissist is on the furthest end of this continuum. Narcissists are defined by an extremely inflated sense of self, coupled with an "alarming lack of empathy for others," says Dr. Manly—taken together, these behaviors interfere with their ability to form and maintain healthy relationships. “It's 'The world is about me and I’m the center of everything,' and it is more consumptive of all of who they are, their attitudes, their thoughts, and their behaviors,” she says. Someone who truly falls in this category has narcissistic personality disorder, which is recognized as a personality disorder, while someone who possesses egotistical personality traits doesn't.

In comparison, someone who is egotistical is extremely conceited, says Dr. Manly, and is more focused on broadcasting their accomplishments to others—their behavior is self-centered and boastful. “An egotistical person is more like, ‘I’m wonderful, come look at me,’” says Dr. Manly. “It’s about drawing attention to their accomplishments, successes, or their appearance—life for them is about drawing attention to how wonderful they are.”

2. How do you deal with an egotistical person?

In general, according to Dr. Manly, dealing with an egotistical person is about creating balance between their more self-centered tendencies. To do this, it's helpful to draw attention to the effects of their egotistical behavior, and then gently modeling better behaviors. “It’s about allowing them the ability to reflect on others’ accomplishments,” she says. “It’s about getting them to see, ‘yes, you’re important and this is wonderful, but let’s turn toward others’ accomplishments.'” However, she points out that it's not necessarily the job of others' to heal these tendencies and that the best way to handle these behaviors is to uncover the roots of the behavior because this behavior often is "compensatory in nature," and stems from their past.

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