When young, beautiful Dorian Gray spies himself in the mirror and realizes he will age while his painting remains ageless, he wishes that he could sell his soul to remain beautiful while the painting ages. Miraculously, Gray's wish is granted, allowing the narcissistic Gray to live a life of beauty. But Dorian Gray may not have possessed the self-awareness that modern day narcissists have—most narcissists know they annoy others.
Erika Carlson, a psychology graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis, conducted two studies about narcissism and wrote about them in a paper called "You Probably Think This Paper's About You." In the first study, 110 college students (41 men and 69 women) participated in small groups weekly for an entire semester. When the groups initially met, the students rated one another on 10 personality traits and completed a self-evaluation. Then the groups repeated the exercise during the last week. Narcissists awarded themselves high marks on intelligence, likability, and physical attractiveness during self-assessments, and initially their peers gave the same stellar marks. But by the end of the semester, the narcissists wore on their peers and most lowered their opinions of the more self-involved students. The surprising thing is that the narcissists realized they annoyed the others. (Experts had believed that narcissists weren't able to determine how others thought of them.)
In the second study, 374 Air Force recruits (254 men, 120 women) who spent six months of basic training together evaluated each other at the beginning and end of the time. Because they spent more time together, they were more than mere acquaintances and perhaps better able to evaluate one another. The results were the same—narcissists came off very well at first, but soon became irritations.
Even though they might realize they aggravate others, narcissists most likely believe that they are less popular because others do not realize their genius.
Shown above is Caravaggio's classic painting of Narcissus, the namesake for narcissists