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Grandiosity is defined as an unrealistic sense of superiority, value, powerfulness, and uniqueness over other people. It is believing that you are better than others yet in reality you are not. 

Grandiosity is exaggerated and overestimated high self-esteem with no firm foundation of self-mastery. Authentic high self-esteem comes from self-mastery. The fake high self-esteem of grandiosity comes from an illusion or fantasy of self-mastery. It is similar to a superiority complex.

Terry Real Author of ‘’I don’t want to talk about’’ describes shame and grandiosity as two sides of the same coin. Low self-esteem, low self-worth, inadequacy, and self-hate are the foundation and root of both shame and grandiosity.

However, the difference is the response to the above in a person. Shame is contempt turned inward. In other words, a result of one noticing the feelings of low self esteem and holding oneself accountable. On the other side,  for grandiosity, one holds others accountable for the low self-esteem or contempt inside them.

They put on a show yet are very different behind the curtains

Examples of grandiosity and shame.

Two people with low public speaking skills.

The one with shame will say, ‘’I am very poor at speaking to the public. Everyone is better than me”

The one with grandiosity will say, ‘’I am very good at public speaking. Everyone should listen to no one but me’’

The person with grandiosity will ask to be given undeserving special treatment like jumping the queue at the bank.

Characteristics of grandiosity

  • Criticizing and dismissing what others achieve.
  • Constantly talking big about oneself.
  • Constantly talking about oneself
  • Lack of empathy.
  • The belief that you are more intelligent than others
  • Looking down on others.
  • Exaggerating your achievements
  • Believing that you are above the rules
  • Continuous selfish behavior
  • Treating others with disdain or contempt
  • Getting angry if challenged
  • Believing yourself to be infallible and never vulnerable
  • Blindness to how unrealistic your beliefs and actions are.

Types of Grandiosity

1. Intended Grandiosity.

Intended grandiosity means exaggerating your achievements, assuming oneself superior and better than others with complete awareness and intention to do it. This is usually done by salesmen to portray a complete conviction or convey a message to a potential customer or client so they can make a purchase.

Men sometimes play grandiose to corner women

This kind of grandiosity should not be taken seriously since a person does not use it compulsively and can easily get rid of it. It is however deceptive and unrealistic as it comes.

2. Clinical Grandiosity.

It is hard to separate grandiosity from personality disorders like Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and Borderline Personality Disorder. Clinical grandiosity occurs when a person is diagnosed with one of the above personality disorders.

A person with clinical grandiosity acts on autopilot when it comes to exaggerating themselves. They have exaggerated illusions of superiority and entitlement.

Grandiosity in Narcissistic Personality disorder.

According to documented research, grandiose narcissists are characterized by a sense of personal superiority, high self-esteem, overconfidence, entitlement, a willingness to exploit others for self-gain, aggression, and hostility when challenged.

Grandiosity in narcissism happens when the grandiose narcissist is in a situation where they notice implicit low self-esteem and confidence so they mask it with explicit high self-esteem and confidence.

The grandiose narcissist grows to become aware of their inflated sense of superiority but because it became second nature to them and lack empathy they find no other way to face their inadequacies other than grandiosity.

Grandiosity occurs all through the life of a person with a narcissistic personality disorder.

Grandiosity in Bipolar Disorder

In people with bipolar disorder, grandiosity occurs in episodes of mania. During episodes of mania, the patient exhibits all characteristics of grandiosity. They get an exaggerated sense of one’s importance, superiority, power, and intelligence. They start to talk big about life with very big dreams that sound more like a fantasy.

Their character becomes unusual compared to what people know of them. When experiencing episodes of mania, bipolar disorder patients can not realize their grandiosity. It is the people around them that can notice the unusual behavior.  

Bipolar polar patients become grandiose during manic episodes

However, grandiosity is not consistent throughout life. In absence of episodes of mania and hypomania, one does not have grandiosity.

Causes of grandiosity

Personality disorders.

 Grandiosity is caused by personality disorders like narcissistic personality disorder and bipolar disorder. These disorders can be genetically acquired or developed. A traumatic childhood is one of the extraneous causes of personality disorders that have grandiosity as a symptom or characteristic.

Low self esteem.

Often people with low self-esteem that fail to develop high self-esteem resort to grandiosity as a way of numbing their inner negative feelings about themselves.

Fraudulent behavior

People that have ill intentions of getting money, material staff, or any gains from others often portray grandiose behavior as a way of tricking people into giving them what they want. Common with conmen, adulterous men, and women.

Societal beliefs

If one is raised in a society with leaders or influencers who portray grandiosity, they will most likely take on the trait. People with a conformity attitude are at high risk of falling victim to such a society.

How to deal with people with grandiosity.

Once you identify any signs of grandiosity in a person, it is important to always watch their actions instead of following their words.

People with grandiosity are usually very idealistic and not pragmatic. They make plans they never work on. If you are promised money or a job by a grandiose individual, do not believe them until you actually receive it. Otherwise, you will get heartbroken and they won’t care how you feel.

If you are dating a person with grandiosity, judge their commitment and love for you by what they do and never by what they say.

Do not follow their words. Watch their actions

Do not confront a person with grandiosity about their deceptiveness unless you are ready to go at war with them. A grandiose person hates to be challenged. They are vulnerable to criticism and at the cost of anyone or anything, they can do anything to protect their fantasy of themselves.

In case you notice excessive or compulsive grandiosity that may negatively affect one’s finances, health or family, find a way to take the grandiose person to a psychotherapist.

Do not engage in business or an important activity with a grandiose person. The impulsivity and unreliable exaggerated abilities may not bring the results you expect.

Do not share any achievements or good news with a grandiose person. Because they believe they know better and are superior to the rest, they develop a dismissive attitude towards the achievements of others.

In case they fail at something, do not try to hold them accountable. They would rather find something or someone to blame than take responsibility.

Treatment for grandiosity.

To effect therapy and treatment of grandiosity, one has to accept its presence in them in the first place.

Unfortunately, it is very hard for many of them to even realize that they are grandiose in any way. The chances of a grandiose narcissist to admit their grandiosity are as low as 2%. A bipolar person can realize this through therapy after recovering from episodes of mania and hypomania.

Once a person admits to having grandiosity, a therapist can help them deal with the behavior.

Conclusion. Underneath the superficial surface of a person with grandiosity lies the complete opposite of the fantasy or fake persona they portray. If you are certain someone has grandiosity, respond to the opposite of what they try to show you. If you remove the surface of a brave and hardworking personality of a grandiose person, you will find a lazy scared coward. That is the person you should take them for. True high self-esteem comes from great efforts of mastering oneself which often involves humility, failure, and empathy. True high self-esteem is open to criticism and embraces it. It is everything grandiosity is not.