Narcissism in the gym

I am far from being a narcissist. In fact I’m the opposite. I’m one of those brand of people who find amusement in loathing themselves, or something quite like that. Popular culture has oversimplified the definition of narcissism that it simply is “excessive self-love” which is partly correct.

But according to the American Psychiatric Association, narcissism or Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a pattern of traits and behaviors which signify infatuation and obsession with one’s self to the exclusion of all others and the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one’s gratification, dominance and ambition.

Most narcissists (75 per cent) are men.

NPD is new (1980) mental health category. There is only scant research regarding narcissism. But what there is has not demonstrated any ethnic, social, cultural, economic, genetic, or professional predilection to NPD. It is estimated that 0.7-1 per cent of the general population suffer from NPD.

Pathological narcissism was first described in detail by Freud. The onset of narcissism is in infancy, childhood and early adolescence. It is commonly attributed to childhood abuse and trauma inflicted by parents, authority figures, or even peers.

Narcissists are either “Cerebral” (derive their narcissistic supply from their intelligence or academic achievements) – or “Somatic” (derive their narcissistic supply from their physique, exercise, physical or sexual prowess and “conquests”).

Going back to pop culture’s definition, most of people who are branded narcissists are not of the pathological type. They simply are people who succumb to vanity and society’s pressure to look good, achieve as much, or conquer as many possible mate as one can obtain.


Since most narcissists are men, 75 per cent, the best places to study them are in areas like gym and beauty salons where mirrors abound, an important aspect of the metaphor of Narcissus. As an example, the gym where I go to every afternoon right after my class has mirrors on all its walls. Although most of the men that go there to work out do look at their reflections on the mirrors in a subtle, non-obvious manner, some go beyond and do it in a very conspicuous way, sometimes even bordering to exhibitionism.

For in the modern society, body-building, which used to be done for health reasons, is now morphing into a capitalistic endeavor that thrives on the market’s demand for bulging muscles in men who breed hidden narcissist in all of them. I do not say I am immune from it; in fact I sometimes have hidden pleasures in marveling on the reflections of my body on the mirrors in the place where I work out. But I just reason that I worked hard to achieve the definition I see.

We humans are such subtle narcissists.

17 thoughts on “Narcissism in the gym”

  1. Pingback: Force Factor
  2. actually im quite enjoying exchanging words.
    your so welcome..
    it’s 6pm in my place time for punching out..
    gotta say bye and g’nyt.

  3. hahaha. i can’t stop myself from laughing…
    i’m happy for the time you spend here. thanks for reading my posts.

  4. hahaha. i’ve written more than 400 entries in a year and a half of this blog’s life. sometimes, i’m taken aback by what i’ve written a long time ago.

    haha. oh my. i’m sorry for my impertinence.

  5. haha.. that’s the beauty of it!you almost forgot then all of a sudden kaching!!instant ego boost..don’t get me wrong more of like a smiley.

    oh come on.. you know what it means.. “oh my”
    and yes how dare

  6. what is the ‘oh my’ for? haha. i’ve almost forgotten that i actually wrote this. and the picture, how dare me.

  7. just letting you know that I’m still continuing reading your journey.
    and I’m in this post..
    and can’t say anything but “oh my”

  8. I cannot recommend the exact number of crunches, but you can start with fewer repetitions and sets. I myself seldom do crunches these days.

  9. Not getting any younger…I have been entertaining thoughts of going to the gym and eating healthy… makes me wonder: how long did it take you to develop the abs? how many crunches (arggh) should I undergo (on a daily basis) to achieve that? Pardon the ‘yahoo! answers’ type of question. thanks anyway.

  10. for some odd reasons, the environment in a gym seemed to be different from ordinary life set-up. and i agree with almost all your observations. i think the best thing to do is to do your thing, smile if needed, and leave the place as soon as you’re done.

  11. I just got back from the gym, which I hate going to. I usually go to keep fit. Yes, I look better being fit and am healthier, but I do not go to look “hot.”

    I hate going principally because of the stuck up attitudes — Most are of my fellow gym mates are narcissists or perhaps are just ill mannered. They walk with their noses in the air as if to say, “I’m hot…I know you want me.” Arrogant, hard, soulless people. The women are just as bad. Also aloof, unkind, arrogant, and totally fixated on their appearance. Many are bullies who will shove other people off equipment or fight, as opposed to waiting in line for their turn. Few will deign to hold the doors for others entering or leaving the establishment. An even more bizarre dynamic is the hosts who greet people coming and going. Usually I just run in and do my thing and then leave. I get a happy “hello” when I come in and a “have a nice day” when I leave — to which i respond “hello” and “thank you” back. Bizarrely, if I initiate the greeting – and say hello first, they only respond with an indifferent grunt. Weird. Don’t know what to make of it. Are they so fawning for attention that they have to seek mine — and then if I say hello first — is that communicating to them that I must “want” them since I am actually being friendly — and that they must act like a bad ass, so I will want them more or to be nasty to dissuade me in case I get any ideas. Usually in non-gym establishments — people are consistently friendly on arrivals and departures, whether or not you initiate the greeting. At the gym, it’s all about nacissism, egos, vanity, people strutting around, arrogance. It has an unpleasant vibe.

  12. I kind of agree with Peter, sometimes it becomes a life style. It has actually happened to me at some point. I was literally obsessed with how I looked, what I wore, what I said, how I said it!

    That was terribly exhausting. It sometimes pushes you to the other extreme. So I’ve been moving around between the two extremes until I settled somewhere in the middle.

    Great post, John!

  13. And sometimes, narcissism becomes a life-style,
    with all the excesses for public enjoyment.
    The town where I live seems to thrive on it,
    given the never ending stream of festivals focusing on “that perfect look”.

    I blogged about it quite often, but apparently forgot to label these post. Feel free to check out one of them:

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