Meghan Markle has been the focus of much gossip ever since her entry, and exit, from the Royal Family. Now, some are branding her as a “narcissist,” comparing her to Kanye West, Donald Trump, and Elon Musk. But where is this coming from and is it true?
In Politico Opinion Piece, Joanna Weiss Calls Meghan Markle, Prince Harry “Narcissists”
In an opinion piece for Politico, author Joanna Weiss argued that 2022 has seen a paradigm shift. Her article, entitled “2022 Is the Year We All Finally Got Tired of Narcissists,” lumps together a slew of public figures whom she claims the public no longer is interested in. Why? Because of their tireless self-aggrandizing behaviors and needs to stay in the spotlight.
It’s an interesting claim, and almost makes those who have truly suffered narcissistic abuse giddy. Truly, is the world seeing past clinical narcissism? Are all the narcissists of the world about to get their comeuppance?
Weiss drew this conclusion from a phone John P. Harden, a political science professor at Ripon College. Harden isn’t a psychiatrist but had created a presidential narcissism index for a 2021 International Studies Quarterly paper. He did this by correlating psychology research with surveys conducted by presidential historians.
Importantly, Harden noted that narcissism and narcissistic qualities are not the same things. Indeed, narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a clinical diagnosis that greatly differs from the narcissistic spectrum, which everyone falls on somewhere.
Expert on Narcissism & Recovery, Dr. Elinor Greenberg, Describes NPD vs Spectrum
In fact, Elinor Greenberg, Ph.D., is an expert on narcissism and a regular contributor to Psychology Today. She notes that there are several differences between “normal, healthy narcissism” and “pathological, defensive narcissism.”
Greenberg describes healthy narcissism as a “realistic sense of positive self-regard that is based on the person’s actual accomplishments. It is relatively stable because the person has assimilated into their self-image the successes that came as a result of their actual hard work to overcome real-life obstacles.”
Conversely, pathological narcissism involves “a defense against feelings of inferiority. The person dons a mask of arrogant superiority in an attempt to convince the world that he or she is special. Inside, the person feels very insecure about his or her actual self-worth.”
Greenberg adds the following list of qualities generally seen in people with pathological narcissism:
- They are continually trying to prove that they are superior.
- They tend to misperceive and overreact to other people’s behavior.
- They are extremely self-centered.
- They lack empathy for other people’s feelings.
- They are willing to devalue and humiliate other people.
People With Narcissistic Personality Disorder Lack Whole Object Relations, See Everything & Everyone as “All Good” or “All Bad”
Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, people with NPD lack whole object relations and object constancy. The former is “the capacity to see oneself and others in a stable and integrated way that acknowledges both the person’s good and bad qualities.” The latter is “the ability to maintain a positive emotional connection to someone that you like while you are angry, hurt, frustrated, or disappointed by his or her behavior.”
Someone lacking whole object relations tends to see the world in black and white, or all good and all bad. They cannot see themselves or anyone as having some positive and negative qualities, which leads to extreme cognitive dissonance and a need to always be perceived as all good. Otherwise, to them, the only other option is to be all bad. Hence why people with NPD act in disproportionate ways, whether they are reacting to external forces or painting their self-images.
Are Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Actually Narcissists?
Back to Meghan Markle. Politico contributor Joanna Weiss briefly mentioned that Harden differentiated between the narcissistic spectrum and grandiose narcissism.
Quoting Harden’s reference to grandiose narcissists as “charismatic attention hogs,” Weiss says “they believe they’re the absolute best at what they do. They go to great lengths to protect and defend their egos. They strive to be unique and promote themselves energetically… That’s the story, in a nutshell, of Harry and Meghan.”
Weiss continued to explain that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s narcissism is obvious due to, primarily, their Netflix series. Firstly, they landed a $100 million contract with Netflix for the 6-part series. And on that note, says Weiss, Harry also landed a $20 million contract upfront for his forthcoming memoir, Spare.
She describes the Netflix series, Harry & Meghan, as containing “chilling” accounts of the British tabloid media as well as dramatic shots of Princess Diana being “hounded by paparazzi.” But then, everything that has to do with Harry and Meghan themselves, to Weiss, is narcissistic.
Does Being in a Documentary That Makes You Look Pretty Make You a Narcissist?
“But the legitimate complaints are wedged between glamour shots, from footage of Meghan getting fitted for ballgowns to a vast collection of flattering photos and videos they took during their royal exit, apparently preparing for a photogenic tell-all,” Weiss writes.
She then references a Guardian article, saying that it calls the Sussexes out for being vain.
However, upon further reading, I beg to disagree. It seems to me that Marina Hyde’s opinion piece was actually pointing out the public’s obsession with the Sussexes. Harry and Meghan, for their part, are just retelling their story over and over again. Hyde wonders how much longer this can last, but then points out that the British tabloid industry will always have something to complain about. In a way, it’s almost as if the British tabloid press, and the court of public opinion that it caters to, suffers from NPD.
Could the British Tabloid Industry Be Inherently Narcissistic?
“Those people behaved weirdly and appallingly, yet would never dream of recognizing their behavior as such,” Hyde writes.
Many of them are the same people now howling about the Sussexes, the same people who absolutely hoovered up the intrusive coverage of Diana, the same people who then pretended to be disgusted by it all after she died. The same people who demanded the late Queen leave off comforting her young grandsons at Balmoral, despite the fact they’d lost their mother, and come back to London to … what? Comfort them? Grow up…. They love the drama, love to take it personally, love to get angry about it, love to act as if they know the family, love to paw bereaved children, love to comment, love the whole endless shooting match… Whatever you think of Meghan and Harry and their truth, it’s difficult not to judge that much of the British public has a long, long way to go before it faces up to its own.Marina Hyde via The Guardian
In a way, it seems that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have found themselves caught up in a world of narcissistic abuse. From the systemic racism and unconscious biases they’ve claimed to encounter, to claims that the Royal Family planted stories just to f*ck with them. In the Harry & Meghan trailer, they even reference “institutional gaslighting.” They had their security pulled while having no privacy, which they wanted to flee from.
So then, we are left with the question: Does making a documentary about your story about wanting privacy actually contradict your whole point? Is this a way of staying in the spotlight in a grandiosely narcissistic way?
Is Markle a “Narcissist” Because She Stood up Against Institutional Racism?
Weiss certainly isn’t the only person to express a profound dislike of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Commentators have accused them of “pursuing a royal vengeance.” Megyn Kelly has called Markle a “B-list actress,” “fraud,” “social-climber” who engages in “obsessive image-crafting” and calls Harry “my husband” too much.
Author and investigative journalist Tom Bower published an unofficial biography accusing Markle of the same kind of clout-chasing but while leaving behind a trail of “victims.” And the Globe accused Markle of being a “mastermind” over her “puppet” husband’s actions and a secret ambition to get into the White House.
Most of Markle and Harry’s critics circle back to the fact that they’ve called out the Royal Family for racism, and in doing so, have sinned against their financial benefactors. Some critics have gone so far as to say that Markle and Harry are fabricating their claims about racism.
If the worst thing that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have done is call out systemic racism and then run away from a toxic system that gaslights them, I have to disagree that we can call them narcissists. Similarly, merely obtaining a fat paycheck from Netflix and a book publisher doesn’t a narcissist make, either. Telling your story and making money from it is pretty much every influencer in the world’s modus operandi.
We’re All Tired of Narcissists
Lastly, do Meghan and Harry deserve to be lumped in with all the other people that Weiss describes as narcissists? And on that point— I don’t actually disagree with her list once she segued away from her scathing Netflix documentary review. She’s listing people who have defrauded, bullied, and taken advantage of large groups of people. Some of those people have been directly racist and antisemitic. Others have engaged in megalomaniacal behaviors in an attempt to, say, overthrow the government, or monopolize communication platforms.
Is this really the same level as the Harry & Meghan documentary? I have to disagree. And while I wish with all my heart that the world’s malignant narcissists would indeed get theirs, I don’t think it’s right to falsely project this kind of blame on the abused. This is just my opinion, but I think Markle and Harry are trying to heal from institutional narcissistic abuse. And sometimes, that often requires telling your story again and again — until you can finally let it go.