When I randomly came across this online, I thought the whole idea was crazy. Then I started thinking about it and reading more. Is a narcissist really given away by his or her eyebrows?
The answer to this question is surprising and expected at the same time. It is surprising in that indeed, a narcissist can be given away by eyebrows that expose how he or she is feeling. And it is expected in the sense that the maintenance of eyebrows is not necessarily based on their narcissism or level of narcissism. Let me explain.
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All About the Study that Started it All
So, when I researched this, everyone was saying that the fact that you can identify a narcissist before even meeting them and hearing their first words based on their eyebrows, I kinda called bullshit right away. Both of the narcissists in my life had very unimpressive, non-maintained, lackluster eyebrows. So I had to look deeper.
As it turns out, there actually was a study. It is the University of Toronto study conducted by Miranda Giacomin and Nicholas O. Rule in 2019. While I appreciated their original idea to find a way to identify and avoid narcissists before you get tangled in their messy webs, unfortunately, I found it to be quite silly and unfounded in the end because narcissists come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and eyebrow styles.
Many reports claimed that this was an award-winning study. While it did win an award, let me clarify that it won an Ig Nobel Prize as opposed to an actual Nobel Prize. According to Wikipedia, “The Ig Nobel Prize (/ˌɪɡnoʊˈbɛl/ IG-noh-BEL) is a satiric prize awarded annually since 1991 to celebrate ten unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research. Its aim is to “honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.” The name of the award is a pun on the Nobel Prize, which it parodies, and on the word ignoble (“not noble”).”
So, I guess I can say the award worked for what it was intended for because it did make me laugh. And then I rolled my eyes because there really is no basis in the fact that you can tell a narcissist by their eyebrows alone.
Is There a Particular Eyebrow Shape that Identifies Narcissists?
Referring back to the infamous narcissist eyebrows study, Ms. Giacomin and Mr. Rule contend that prominent, bushy, but well maintained and kept eyebrows are indicative of a narcissist. They say that narcissist have the need to be noticed. And obnoxiously loud eyebrows would certainly do that. And they have to be well maintained so they can be seen as the prettiest person in the room, also true in the narcissist’s world.
But what this study misses is that there are narcissists that are unkempt and covert narcissists actually don’t necessarily want to stand out in obnoxious ways. And what about the fact that female narcissists would not prefer to have bushy eyebrows, but well sculpted eyebrows. So does that mean that women cannot be narcissists?
And one final thought is that genetics has quite a bit to do with the eyebrows we get. My sisters and I were “blessed” with a unibrow from our lineage. We have been plucking, waxing, and shaving our whole adult lives. Oh, also, none of us are narcissists. But our mother shows heavy narcissistic tendencies, and she barely has eyebrows at all.
I could show you pictures of narcissists with thick, bushy, sculpted eyebrows. Or I could show you pictures of narcissists with thin, perfectly sculpted eyebrows. Further, I could show you pics of normal people with all of the above. And I could show you pics of narcissists with messy unkept brows. My point here is that it literally doesn’t matter. There are narcissists with all types of eyebrows and there are non-narcissists with all types as well. It cannot be an indicator of narcissism, especially if you have not seen or heard anything else that would allow you to see some sort of evidence.
It is this fact that shows you the study totally falls apart.
Can Narcissists’ Brows Exclusively Reveal Whether They are Narcissists?
I know I have already touched on the aspect of the study that says narcissists can be identified by just their eyebrows alone. Not their voice, words, body language, or any other feature about them. This can’t possibly make sense. And the reason I have for this is the mask that they put on every time they try to be the perfect person to whoever they are trying to impress.
If you have been with a narcissist for any significant length of time and know them well, you will actually be able to see them put on a new mask/role as they are mentally preparing for what they have to show to the person they are about to interact with. Honestly, it is kind of freaky to watch. But intriguing at the same time. It’s the train wreck you can’t turn away from because you know they are representing a lie. And you know they are trying to suck the life force out of whoever they are targeting with that “role,” all for their own narcissistic supply.
So, no, you can’t really tell exclusively by their eyebrows that people are narcissists. Because they may or may not be. And they may change their very brows from one day to the next, so there is no consistency whatsoever, which is not indicative of anything, except that someone changed how they chose to wear their eyebrows.
Dr. Ramani, a notable therapist in the narcissism space, actually put out a short video recently speaking about a similar study that was conducted, also with the University of Toronto, but with different authors. Some different things were done in their research and their conclusions, while similar, had some different details. You can check out what Dr. Ramani says here:
Dr. Ramani points out that in this study, there were more women than men. And many of those women, as part of their narcissistic behavior, spent larger than normal amounts of time on their appearance so they could be seen as the most beautiful in the room, a way that both male and female narcissists seek narcissistic supply. But, there are many more people in the world who feel they have to look their best at all times and are not narcissists. And that is where I agree with Dr. Ramani, that while this study is intriguing, it is flawed because there is so much more to narcissism than one simple feature. It is a combination of expressions, which eyebrows emphasize, body language, tone and words that show us traits of narcissism. But on the other side of the coin, there are many non-narcissistic people who care deeply what they look like and maintain their eyebrows accordingly.
Let me give you an example by quoting a couple of the comments from Dr. Ramani’s video:
- “My mother is a malignant narcissist (child abuser inc). She’s actually plucked her brows to death BUT she has a permanent scowl on her face now in older age. Mostly, the furrowed brow, with very deep lines. I think to myself that it’s what she deserves for scowling all the time to control and hurt people. . Even when she smiles she had a “dark” look about her.”
- “I’m a stickler about my eyebrows and I’m most definitely not a narcissist. I believe what you are saying. I just know that there can be a different conclusion too. I never liked my eyebrows because they grow very low on my face, and they make me look angry. So I used to tweeze them really high, but then there was only a thin line of hair, which also doesn’t look right… So I have the rest of my brow tattooed on with micro blading, right above my natural brow, to make the whole thing higher, so that the overall impact is that my eyes look more open and awake. Now I’m nervous that people who don’t know me will think I’m a narcissist. “
- “My mother was a flaming narcissist. Yes, it’s all about the eyebrows. She shaved hers off and she would draw them on everyday with a VERY HIGH arch. She was obsessed with Joan Crawford. She also could not get enough of Mommy Dearest. This is very interesting.”
- “OMG! I would fall into the narcissistic camp! I darken and widen my eyebrows with eyebrow wax, because the tops are wonky. And, eyebrows are big in the beauty world right now. Wider brows tend to look younger. Personal observation: Interestingly I have noticed that very tweezed eyebrows tends to show someone who has had a very hard life, and possible victims of abuse–and this shows the control they are trying to have over their lives.”
- “I work in the beauty industry and literally everyone is getting thick eyebrows because it’s what’s currently popular. Different looks and thickness are popular in different years. I think it’s the soulless state that a narcissist has. It’s unnerving and frightening. I wouldn’t take this eyebrow theory very seriously. And I totally value your work.”
Final Note: This video garnered over 10,000 comments and a million views soon after it was published because it caused a strong reaction in many different ways from so many people.
Narcissist Eyebrows Give Away Their Expressions and Emotions
There is actually one time that you can tell a narcissist by their eyebrows. And that is when it is part of their expressions and they are exhibiting narcissistic behavior. Their eyebrows, in conjunction with their eyes, pupils, gaze, smirk, evil eye, side eye, and overall body language will all give the narcissist away. Add their words and tone of voice and you will have even more evidence of narcissism.
But, more importantly than one’s physical appearance, is the behavior that would indicate narcissistic traits in people. Narcissism may be suspected in someone’s appearance, but is never a solid diagnosis, as you can see from the criteria that the DSM5 sets out. The only definite way is to gauge their words, behavior, and body language together to see the whole picture. And, you will definitely see some connection to what their eyebrows are doing more than what they look like. This is because the narcissist’s eyebrows will give away their expressions and emotions, just like the rest of us. What we think and feel always shows up on our faces, unless we are working hard to hide or deceive.
Sometimes what a narcissist is thinking and feeling does not come across in their eyebrows and expressions. When you watch some narcissists pause, show a look of deep thought or concentration, then change their posture, facial features, expression in their eyes, and then start speaking as though they are an entirely different person, you have just watched them step into a character that they are now playing. You are seeing an actor’s rendition of someone instead of the true narcissist. And in that case, you will be seeing the performance and not the narcissist. Which is still narcissism, but also not how they appear in reality.
Narcissist eyebrows can certainly be one in a series of identifying factors, especially when combined with facial expression, body language, words, and tone that a narcissist takes with you. But on their own, eyebrows are as unique as the people who maintain (or don’t maintain) them.
The study was fun to look into, research, and think about. But at the end of the day, I have personally experienced narcissists that both confirmed and refuted this study. I have written a few articles you may want to check out that talk about narcissist’s eyes, examples of narcissistic behavior, and even how your narcissist feels when they see you looking good.
What has your experience with a narcissist been like? Did they have distinctive eyebrows? Could you tell by their eyebrows, even with or without all the other signs? How did you determine you were dealing with a narcissist? I would love to hear your perspective. Feel free to comment below!
Hugs and love,
Source: Miranda Giacomin, Nicholas O. Rule. (April, 2018). Eyebrows cue grandiose narcissism. chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://rule.psych.utoronto.ca/pubs/2019/Giacomin2019.pdf