Narcissistic Personality Disorder Types (2023)

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition that causes someone to rely on others for praise, admiration, and self-esteem.This may lead to harmful interactions, including attention-seeking behavior or superficial relationships based on personal gain.

While there's only one official diagnosis for NPD, some researchers have identified several different types of narcissism:

  • Overt narcissism: Entitled; concerned with power and image
  • Covert narcissism: Blaming; manipulative
  • Antagonistic narcissism: Driven to win, even at others' expense
  • Communal narcissism: Insincerely caring in an effort to garner attention
  • Malignant narcissism: Aggressive, paranoid, and potentially abusive

This article will help you to learn more about narcissistic traits, symptoms, and treatment, as well as the different narcissistic personality disorder types.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Types (1)

Narcissistic Traits

NPD is one of the 10 personality disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5).

Personality disorders cause impairments in functioning at work, in school, with self-esteem and identity, and in relationships.

NPD is one of the cluster B personality disorders. Cluster B personality disorders are associated with dramatic, emotional, irrational, and erratic behavior. Other examples of cluster B personality disorders include borderline personality disorder (BPD), histrionic personality disorder (HPD), and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).

How Common Is NPD?

While many people have narcissistic traits, researchers estimate that up to 5% of the population meets the criteria for NPD.

The main hallmarks of narcissism include grandiosity, extreme self-focus, an inflated sense of self-worth, and a strong need for praise and recognition.

For a therapist to diagnose someone with NPD, someone must exhibit these traits in pathological (unhealthy) ways that interfere with their daily functioning and their ability to relate to others.

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Grandiose Feelings

A person with NPD might exhibit grandiosity or a sense of superiority. They may believe they're entitled to special favors, praise, or admiration from others. They might also come off as condescending or arrogant. People with NPD might also be overly focused on impressing other people, whether through outward displays of wealth, status, intelligence, or beauty.

Extreme Self-Focus

Extreme self-focus is another common narcissistic trait. While many people are self-absorbed to an extent, someone with NPD will focus almost exclusively on themselves and their own personal gain. They might talk about themselves constantly or have a hard time feeling empathy for other people. This can lead many people with NPD to face challenges in areas of intimacy and relationships, as they relate to others only superficially. They might even exploit others to get what they want.

Inflated Sense of Self-Worth

An inflated sense of self-worth is another common narcissistic trait. People with NPD might expect special treatment for no reason at all. They might brag about or exaggerate their accomplishments and see themselves as uniquely gifted and deserving.

Strong Need for Praise and Recognition

People with NPD usually struggle with their self-esteem and sense of identity. They often rely on others to maintain a positive view of themselves, resulting in an overwhelming longing for praise and recognition. This leads many people with narcissistic traits to require constant external ego-stroking. They might also feel obsessively jealous about someone else’s positive traits or accomplishments.

Personality Disorders: Types and Characteristics

Types of Narcissism

NPD is the only official diagnosis related to narcissism in the DSM-5. However, many mental health therapists who have worked with patients with NPD, as well as researchers who study personality disorders, have identified various possible narcissistic personality disorder types.

They include overt narcissism, covert narcissism, antagonistic narcissism, communal narcissism, and malignant narcissism. Some experts also distinguish between adaptive and maladaptive narcissism.

Overt Narcissism (Agentic Narcissism)

Overt narcissism, also called agentic narcissism, is what you might think of as the “classic” and most obvious form of NPD.

Someone experiencing overt narcissism is excessively preoccupied with how others see them. They're often overly focused on status, wealth, flattery, and power due to their grandiosity and sense of entitlement. Many overt narcissists are high-achieving and deeply sensitive to criticism, no matter how slight.

Covert Narcissism (Closet Narcissism, Vulnerable Narcissism)

Covert narcissism, also known as closet narcissism or vulnerable narcissism, isn't as obvious as overt narcissism. Like other people with NPD, someone with covert narcissism has an inflated sense of self-importance and craves admiration from others.

However, someone living with covert narcissism might display more subtle and passive negative behaviors. Rather than bragging about themselves or demanding respect, a they might engage in blaming, shaming, manipulation, or emotional neglect to get what they want and keep the focus on themselves. They also might see themselves as a victim.

Antagonistic Narcissism

While all people with narcissistic traits might be overly concerned with how they appear to others, antagonistic narcissists are particularly concerned with coming out “on top.”

Antagonistic narcissism is defined by a sense of competitiveness, arrogance, and rivalry.

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Someone with antagonistic narcissism might try to exploit others to get ahead. They might also put others down or start arguments in an attempt to gain the upper hand or appear dominant.

Communal Narcissism

Like someone living with covert narcissism, someone experiencing communal narcissism might not appear to be ego-driven at all. They might initially come across as selfless or even as a martyr. But their internal motivation is to earn praise and admiration, not help others.

To that end, these people often place themselves at the forefront of social causes or communities, usually as the leader or the face of a movement. People with communal narcissism see themselves as more empathetic, caring, or selfless than others and often display moral outrage.

Malignant Narcissism

Malignant narcissism is often seen as the most severe or potentially abusive form of NPD.

Someone with malignant narcissism has the same egocentric self-absorption and sense of superiority as other narcissists. They also have traits associated with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), such as aggression, paranoia, and a lack of empathy. They might even have a sadistic streak.

Narcissistic Traits and Violent Crime

Narcissistic traits may be associated with a higher likelihood of violent crime. In one study, over 21% of inmates in a single prison met the diagnostic criteria for NPD.

Adaptive Narcissism vs. Maladaptive Narcissism

It’s important to recognize that not all people with NPD will look, act, or behave the same way.

For example, a person with NPD might be a very well-dressed, charming overachiever who cultivates a certain image to impress others. Another person with NPD might be an underachiever who sets low expectations for themselves because of a sense of entitlement.

Some researchers refer to narcissistic traits like a sense of authority and a drive to become self-sufficient as “adaptive narcissism."

These traits can actually help someone succeed in certain areas of life, such as their career, education, or finances.

Meanwhile, narcissistic traits like exploitativeness, condescension, and aggression are called “maladaptive narcissism.” These traits negatively affect both the person who exhibits them and those around them.

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Treatment and Outlook for All Narcissistic Personality Disorder Types

Because personality disorders are complex mental health conditions, someone who appears to have NPD might actually have another cluster B personality disorder, such as HPD. They might also have a mood disorder, such as bipolar disorder. That’s why it is important to be diagnosed with NPD by a licensed mental health professional.

Diagnosis

To diagnose you or your loved one with NPD, a psychotherapist will use the diagnostic criteria for NPD in the DSM-5 as laid out by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). They might use diagnostic tools such as surveys and ask you questions about your life, identity, past, and relationships.

According to the DSM-5, a person with NPD must have chronic, long-term impairments in social and personal functioning due to their narcissistic traits.

They must also display pathological personality traits that affect their relationships and well-being. Also, the challenges faced by a person with NPD can’t be attributed to their developmental stage (such as adolescence) or other issues with their mental or physical health, such as substance abuse.

Treatment

Someone with NPD might not seek treatment because they may not realize they have a problem. Instead, their loved ones might notice their symptoms before they do. Other people with narcissistic traits may realize that they are struggling but might feel sensitive to criticism from a therapist. However, people with NPD can seek out and benefit from treatment.

Researchers don’t entirely understand what causes someone to develop NPD, but it’s likely due to a combination of neurobiological factors, childhood trauma, genetics, and/or environment and upbringing.

The mainline treatment for NPD is psychotherapy. People with NPD might also benefit from couples’ counseling, family counseling, and support groups.

Psychotherapy can help people with NPD in several areas, such as:

  • Developing a sense of self that doesn’t rely so heavily on outside recognition
  • Setting realistic goals
  • Dealing with and healing from past traumas
  • Improving relationships with partners, friends, colleagues, and relatives
  • Developing a greater sense of empathy for others

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Summary

NPD is a mental health condition that causes someone to exhibit traits like grandiosity, self-absorption, and an excessive need for praise and admiration. There's only one official diagnosis related to narcissistic traits: NPD.

However, researchers have identified several possible subtypes of NPD, such as overt narcissism, covert narcissism, antagonistic narcissism, communal narcissism, and malignant narcissism. People with NPD and their loved ones can benefit from psychotherapy, including family counseling, support groups, and couples’ counseling.

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A Word from Verywell

Whether you suspect that you have NPD, or that your partner or loved one has narcissistic traits, it’s important to get help. Psychotherapy can help you or your loved one improve relationships, build self-esteem, and set more attainable, realistic goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many types of narcissistic personalities are there?

    There is only one formal diagnosis in the DSM-5 related to narcissistic traits: narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). People with NPD have an inflated sense of self, an overwhelming need for praise and admiration, and go to extremes to impress others.

    Within the broader diagnosis of NPD, however, some researchers have noticed up to five subtypes: overt narcissism, covert narcissism, antagonistic narcissism, communal narcissism, and malignant narcissism.

  • Is narcissistic personality disorder treatable?

    Many people with NPD don't seek out mental health treatment. Some might not recognize their negative traits and behaviors. Others might feel criticized or judged in therapy.

    Still, people with NPD can benefit from psychotherapy, including family counseling, support groups, one-on-one treatment, and couples’ counseling. In talk therapy, people with NPD can improve their relationships, build self-esteem, learn to set more realistic goals and expectations, and work through past traumas.

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FAQs

What are the 7 types of narcissists? ›

What Are the Different Types of Narcissism?
  • Grandiose (also known as agentic and overt narcissism) Narcissism is often seen in a negative light, but grandiose narcissistic personalities are typically charming and well-liked. ...
  • Vulnerable (also known as closet or covert narcissism) ...
  • Communal. ...
  • Antagonistic. ...
  • Malignant. ...
  • Seductive.
Jul 27, 2022

What are the 4 types of narcissism? ›

As a personality trait, narcissism can be overt, covert, antagonistic, communal, or malignant.

What are the 5 types of narcissists? ›

They include overt narcissism, covert narcissism, antagonistic narcissism, communal narcissism, and malignant narcissism. Some experts also distinguish between adaptive and maladaptive narcissism.

What are the nine types of narcissists? ›

According to Dr. Stevens, there are nine types of narcissists: Craver, Special Lover, Power Broker, Body Shaper, Rager, Trickster, Fantasy Maker, Martyr, and Rescuer.

What is the highest form of narcissism? ›

Malignant narcissism is considered by many to be the most severe type. 2 That's why it helps to recognize when you have someone with this condition in your life and what to expect from interactions with them. This knowledge can also provide insight into how to deal with them in the healthiest way possible.

What are the top five traits of a narcissist? ›

Common Narcissist Characteristics
  • Inflated Ego.
  • Lack of Empathy.
  • Need for Attention.
  • Repressed Insecurities.
  • Few Boundaries.

What are the six traits of narcissism? ›

Signs and symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder
  • Grandiose sense of self-importance. ...
  • Lives in a fantasy world that supports their delusions of grandeur. ...
  • Needs constant praise and admiration. ...
  • Sense of entitlement. ...
  • Exploits others without guilt or shame. ...
  • Frequently demeans, intimidates, bullies, or belittles others.
Dec 5, 2022

Which type of narcissism is worse? ›

Malignant narcissists are often regarded as having the most extreme form of NPD, and while they will have the regular qualities of someone with narcissistic personality disorder, their self-absorption and self-obsession is accompanied by some darker behaviors as well.

What type of person is best for a narcissist? ›

People who are impressive in some way, either in their career, hobbies and talents, their friendship circles, or family. Someone who will make the narcissist feel good about themselves, through compliments or gestures. Anyone who will reflect well on them in the eyes of other people.

What is the extreme opposite of a narcissist? ›

The opposite of a narcissist is called an 'empath'— here are the signs you could be one. People who are very receptive to the emotions of others are known as empaths. They are also very sensitive to noise, smell, and being around people. This means they are overwhelmed in crowds, and get exhausted in social situations.

Can a narcissist have empathy? ›

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) occurs on a spectrum. People with narcissism can, in fact, show empathy and work to develop it further if they choose to do so. Many myths about narcissism stem from the belief that all people with this condition are evil and incapable of change, but that just isn't true.

Can a narcissist be a good person? ›

Bottom Line. Narcissists can sometimes be helpful and caring. However, more often than not, they only pretend to have these qualities. Moreover, even when they act giving and helping, they are not motivated by empathy because they severely lack it, and as a result, their help is often not very productive.

What are classic narcissistic traits? ›

Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements. Make achievements and talents seem bigger than they are. Be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate. Believe they are superior to others and can only spend time with or be understood by equally special people.

What is the root cause of narcissism? ›

While an outward show of superiority is a definite part of the narcissistic personality, a sense of superiority (or pursuit of it) is not the central factor of the disorder. The root of the disorder is actually a strict resistance to feeling vulnerable with anyone at any time.

What kind of trauma causes narcissism? ›

Narcissism tends to emerge as a psychological defence in response to excessive levels of parental criticism, abuse or neglect in early life. Narcissistic personalities tend to be formed by emotional injury as a result of overwhelming shame, loss or deprivation during childhood.

How does a narcissist treat their children? ›

A narcissistic parent will often abuse the normal parental role of guiding their children and being the primary decision maker in the child's life, becoming overly possessive and controlling. This possessiveness and excessive control disempowers the child; the parent sees the child simply as an extension of themselves.

Can someone be mistaken for a narcissist? ›

Based on overlapping symptoms, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are often mistaken for one another. The two personality disorders even have a rate of co-occurrence of about 25 percent, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Can someone act like a narcissist but not be one? ›

People oftentimes throw the term "narcissist" around without much awareness of its clinical meaning. It is possible for a person to demonstrate narcissistic traits without having a narcissistic personality disorder, and there is such a thing as healthy narcissism.

What is a covert narcissist like? ›

Covert narcissism (also known as vulnerable narcissism) is the more introverted side of NPD. A covert narcissist experiences the same insecurities as an overt narcissist, but internalizes their self-importance, often while hyper-focusing on their need for attention.

What is shallow narcissism? ›

Shallow emotions narcissists are unable to tolerate feelings of true sadness or guilt, or the strong emotions of others. Their comfort level is on the emotional surface.

What are the four subtle signs of a narcissist? ›

People with narcissistic personality disorder often present with five or more specific symptoms, including:
  1. grandiosity and self-importance.
  2. sense of specialness and uniqueness.
  3. fantasies of perfection and superiority.
  4. need for praise and attention.
  5. strong sense of entitlement.
  6. lack of empathy.
  7. jealousy, envy, and distrust.

What are narcissists good at? ›

Empathy for others and recognition of their needs. Authentic self-concept. Self-respect and self-love. Courage to abide criticism from others while maintaining positive self-regard.

What do narcissists say during gaslighting? ›

They may try to make you feel like you're overreacting or being too sensitive by saying things like, “You're being paranoid,” or “You're imagining things.” They might also try to control what you do and who you see by trying to isolate you from your friends and family.

Do narcissists use gaslighting? ›

Gaslighting Defined. Gaslighting is the use of a patterned, repetitive set of manipulation tactics that makes someone question reality. It's often used by people with narcissistic personality disorder, abusive individuals, cult leaders, criminals, and dictators.

What is gaslighting in narcissism? ›

Narcissistic gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that involves intentionally manipulating or distorting the truth to instill self-doubt in someone. 1,2,3. Gaslighting is a form of narcissistic abuse that involves tactics that cause a person to question their sanity and doubt their perception of reality.

What is a high level narcissist? ›

Being extremely arrogant and self-centered. Disregarding the feelings and needs of other people. Manipulating, using, or exploiting others for personal gain or pleasure. Having an extreme need for power.

What personality type is similar to a narcissist? ›

Narcissistic personality (NPD) and histrionic personality (HPD) are both cluster B personality disorders. These personality disorders are characterized by the following: Patterns of thinking and behavior that seem erratic or unpredictable.

Is there a mild form of narcissism? ›

They may be very successful on the surface, but underneath, they have low self-esteem and are often depressed. The negative effects of narcissism can range from mild to severe: Mild: A mildly narcissistic person might be egotistical or boastful about their accomplishments but still function well in society.

What should you not do to a narcissist? ›

What Not to Do With a Narcissist
  1. Don't argue or confront. Manly finds it's best not to confront a narcissist directly. ...
  2. Don't try to direct them. Narcissists like to have control and often fear losing it. ...
  3. Don't expect them to see your point of view.

Who attracts a narcissist? ›

In fact, narcissists are often attracted to strong, confident, and self-assured women. While this may seem counterintuitive, it is important to realize that the narcissistic traits of grandiosity and confidence are really a mask for deep insecurity.

Who can make a narcissist happy? ›

The truth is that nothing can make a narcissist happy, because their agenda of dominance, exploitation and oppression creates an ever-expanding chasm within their soul. The narcissist can take pleasure in the exercise of power and the subjugation of others, but they can't feel happiness from any source.

What is an insecure narcissist called? ›

A covert narcissist has narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) but does not display a sense of self-importance often associated with the condition. They may deal with insecurity and low self-esteem.

Is narcissism a chemical imbalance? ›

Is narcissism a chemical imbalance? The answer isn't so simple. Due to the complex interplay between brain development, neurotransmitters, mental health and narcissism, young people who are more narcissistic may also be at higher risk for certain psychological disorders.

What is a dark narcissist? ›

People with “dark personality traits”, such as psychopathy or narcissism, are more likely to be callous, disagreeable and antagonistic in their nature. Such traits exist on a continuum – we all have more or less of them, and this does not necessarily equate to being clinically diagnosed with a personality disorder.

When a narcissist cries and apologizes? ›

2. Narcissists are comfortable with lying. When a narcissist apologizes, they're not admitting they were at fault or did something wrong. Narcissists lie all the time, and an apology is just another lie they use to get back any attention or admiration they may have lost.

Are narcissists emotionally intelligent? ›

Some narcissists have supreme confidence in themselves, and also have the emotional intelligence — the ability to read people and to act accordingly — to nurture lasting allies. At the extreme of both, such a person could be a presidential candidate or a manipulative sociopath — or both.

Do narcissists get jealous? ›

They get jealous about everything

They talk a good game, but narcissists actually have very low self-esteem. Low self-worth/confidence/esteem is at the core of a narcissism. This low sense of self naturally makes it extremely easy for them to become jealous – very jealous.

Can you have a happy relationship with a narcissist? ›

It's certainly possible to have a relationship with a narcissist, but it's going to be emotionally and psychologically exhausting. Narcissists drain all the life and spirit from their partner, using them as an emotional — and sometimes literal — punching bag.

Can a narcissist genuinely love you? ›

Narcissistic personality disorder (narcissism) is a psychiatric disorder characterized by a pattern of self-importance (grandiosity), a constant need for admiration and attention, and a lack of empathy for others. Because of this lack of empathy, a narcissist cannot really love you.

What is a humble narcissist? ›

Humble narcissists bring the best of both worlds: they have bold visions, but they're also willing to acknowledge their weaknesses and learn from their mistakes. Humble narcissists have grand ambitions, but they don't feel entitled to them. They don't deny their weaknesses; they work to overcome them.

What kind of childhood creates a narcissist? ›

Social learning theory holds that children are likely to grow up to be narcissistic when their parents overvalue them: when their parents see them as more special and more entitled than other children (9).

At what age does narcissism develop? ›

Often, NPD will begin in the teenage years or early adulthood. Personality disorders are typically diagnosed at 18 years or older, according to Hallett.

What signs are usually narcissists? ›

Five zodiac signs that are narcissistic in nature
  • Taurus. Taurus tends to believe they're the best and they deserve everything better than most people. ...
  • Leo. Leos want all the attention in the room. ...
  • Scorpio. ...
  • Aquarius.
Jan 2, 2021

Can a narcissist ever change? ›

The truth is, everyone is capableof change. It's just that many people with narcissism lack the desire or face other barriers (including harmful stereotypes). People with narcissistic tendencies may display: grandiose behavior and fantasies.

How do you fix narcissistic behavior? ›

Treatment for narcissistic personality disorder is talk therapy, also called psychotherapy. Medicines may be included in your treatment if you have other mental health conditions, such as depression.

What attachment style do narcissists have? ›

Narcissists have insecure attachment styles that are either avoidant or anxious, or some combination. People with insecure attachment styles feel a basic insecurity stemming from relationships with early caregivers.

How do you spot a narcissist easily? ›

They think highly of themselves (elevated sense of self-importance), exaggerate achievements, and expect to be recognized as superior. They fantasize about their own success, power, brilliance, beauty or perfect love. They believe they are special and can only be understood by other special people (or institutions).

What personality type do narcissists have? ›

Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental health condition in which people have an unreasonably high sense of their own importance. They need and seek too much attention and want people to admire them. People with this disorder may lack the ability to understand or care about the feelings of others.

What are common things narcissists do? ›

Narcissistic personality disorder involves a pattern of self-centered, arrogant thinking and behavior, a lack of empathy and consideration for other people, and an excessive need for admiration. Others often describe people with NPD as cocky, manipulative, selfish, patronizing, and demanding.

How do narcissist act in the beginning? ›

One of the most common early indicators of narcissism is what's known as the love-bombing phase. At the beginning of the relationship, the narcissist will often come on very strong, put you on a pedestal, and make you feel incredibly special.

How can you tell a narcissist at first glance? ›

These criteria include:
  1. overblown sense of self-importance.
  2. fantasies of unlimited success, brilliance, and more.
  3. belief that they're special and should only associate with high status people.
  4. need for excessive admiration.
  5. sense of entitlement.
  6. exploitation of others for their own benefit.
  7. lack empathy.
Feb 28, 2022

How can you tell a hidden narcissist? ›

Signs of a covert narcissist
  • High sensitivity to criticism. NPD typically involves insecurity and an easily damaged sense of self-esteem. ...
  • Passive aggression. ...
  • A tendency to put themselves down. ...
  • A shy or withdrawn nature. ...
  • Grandiose fantasies. ...
  • Feelings of depression, anxiety, and emptiness. ...
  • A tendency to hold grudges. ...
  • Envy.

Can a narcissist have a healthy relationship? ›

Generally speaking, however, narcissists do not have healthy relationships. They can be very demanding and controlling, which leads to a lot of conflict and unhappiness in the marriage. Studies show that narcissists are more likely to get divorced than people who do not have a narcissistic personality disorder.

What is the opposite of a narcissist? ›

The opposite of a narcissist is called an 'empath'— here are the signs you could be one. People who are very receptive to the emotions of others are known as empaths. They are also very sensitive to noise, smell, and being around people. This means they are overwhelmed in crowds, and get exhausted in social situations.

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