Do you have a human in your life who seems to have a fragile ego, an inflated sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy and constantly requires attention and admiration? It's just a given that you need to lavish them with praise while at the same time, walking on a trail of eggshells (land mines?) that never seems to end. You must shrink yourself down to minimize their strong reactions to anything in your experience that they might perceive as better than theirs or, weird enough, worse. You can't win. And in their presence, you don't want to, because it will be ugly. These are some of the key traits of a narcissist; a personality disorder characterized by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, entitlement and a need for admiration.
Narcissism can manifest in various ways, from the classic overt narcissist who constantly brags about their achievements and seeks to be the center of attention, to the more subtle, covert narcissist who passively discourages you and puts you down but still presents themselves as a victim and uses manipulation to get what they want.
While it's easy to label someone as a narcissist, it's important to understand that this personality disorder is complex and often stems from deep-seated insecurities and a fragile sense of self.
HOW TO SPOT A NARCISSIST:
Grandiose behavior: Narcissists often display an exaggerated sense of self-importance and may brag about their accomplishments, talents, or possessions. They may also feel entitled to special treatment and privileges.
Lack of empathy: Narcissists have a difficult time empathizing with others and may appear indifferent or insensitive to others' feelings and needs, while sometimes, at the same time claiming to be an empath.
Attention-seeking behavior: Narcissists have an insatiable need for attention and admiration. They may seek the spotlight and crave praise and recognition. For themselves. Not you. You have to go sit down.
Manipulation and exploitation: Narcissists may manipulate and exploit others to get what they want. They may lie, charm, or guilt-trip others into doing their bidding. They also to love to pit people against each other.
Fragile self-esteem: Despite their grandiose behavior, narcissists often have a fragile sense of self-esteem. They may be easily offended or hurt and may react with anger or defensiveness when challenged.
Lack of accountability: Narcissists may have a difficult time taking responsibility for their actions and may blame others for their mistakes or shortcomings, often projecting those shortcomings onto people around them, and then criticizing those people for the projected shortcomings. Narcissists are highly critical.
THE NARCISSIST IN RELATIONSHIPS
Narcissists typically feed on attention, admiration, and validation from others. They have a need to be seen as special, important, and superior to others, and they may go to great lengths to maintain this image. They often seek out situations and relationships where they can be the center of attention. If they feel they aren't the center of attention, they'll make it so, or they'll figuratively or literally huff out the door to alleviate the emotional dysregulation not being the center of attention causes them. They may be situationally charming, charismatic, OR (seemingly) confident, and they may use their charisma and charm to manipulate and control others.
Let's go over how those traits might manifest in different relationships!
Flattery and admiration: Narcissists may flatter their friends and shower them with compliments to gain their admiration and loyalty.
Competition: Narcissists may see their friends as competition and may try to one-up them or prove their superiority in various ways.
Exploitation: Narcissists may use their friends for their own personal gain, such as borrowing money or using their connections to get ahead.
Lack of empathy: Narcissists may have difficulty empathizing with their friends and may appear indifferent or insensitive to their feelings and needs.
Disregard for boundaries: Narcissists may ignore or disrespect their friends' boundaries and may try to push their own agenda or needs onto them.
Inconsistency: Narcissists may be inconsistent in their friendships, often changing their attitude or behavior towards their friends depending on their mood or perceived usefulness.
Narcissists are inconsistent in their friendships because they tend to prioritize their own needs and desires over the needs of others. They may only want to be friends with someone if that person can provide them with something they want, such as attention, admiration, or validation. Narcissists may also be inconsistent with friendship because they tend to view themselves as superior to others and may become bored or dissatisfied with friendships that don't meet their elevated expectations. They may constantly be seeking out new sources of attention and validation, leading them to discard or devalue existing friendships.
Love bombing: Narcissists may "love bomb" their partners, showering them with attention, affection, and gifts in the beginning stages of the relationship to win them over.
Idealization and devaluation: Narcissists may idealize their partners at first, seeing them as perfect and putting them on a pedestal. However, as time goes on, they may start to devalue their partner, criticizing and belittling them for their perceived flaws.
Lack of empathy: Narcissists may have difficulty empathizing with their partners and may appear indifferent to their feelings and needs.
Manipulation: Narcissists may manipulate their partners to get what they want, such as by using guilt or playing mind games.
Gaslighting: Narcissists may engage in gaslighting, making their partner doubt their own perceptions and reality.
Controlling behavior: Narcissists may try to control their partner's behavior, such as by isolating them from friends and family or dictating how they should dress or act.
Infidelity: Narcissists may be prone to infidelity, as they may seek out new sources of attention and admiration.
Narcissists may also struggle with maintaining romantic relationships due to their difficulties with empathy and emotional intimacy. They may have a hard time understanding and relating to the feelings and experiences of others, which can make it challenging to build and maintain strong relationships.
NARCISSISM + EMPATHY
And now, coming straight outta left field, it's actually not uncommon for a narcissist to claim they are an empath! How is this even possible? The reasons for this belief can vary and may be rooted in the narcissist's personality traits and behaviors.
The narcissist may have an inflated sense of self-importance and a need to be perceived as a kind and caring person. They may also be skilled at reading people's emotions and using this ability to manipulate others for their own gain.
Narcissists often lack empathy, but may try to compensate for this by imitating the behavior of empaths. They may use their knowledge of emotional cues to mimic empathy, even though they are not genuinely experiencing the emotions of others.
The narcissist may be engaging in "empathy seeking." This means that they are seeking attention and validation from others by portraying themselves as empathetic and compassionate.
A narcissist's claim that they are an empath is likely rooted in their own need for attention, validation, and control over others, rather than a genuine concern for the well-being of others. Any compassion they might muster up is often conditional. You might hear them say, 'I just don't have compassion for (insert anything here)'. It's their way of comfortably and naturally not having compassion while giving off the impression that they DO have compassion available at other times. They don't. They also think it makes them look like less of an asshole. It doesn't.
NARCISSISM + COMMUNICATION
Narcissists often have a sense of entitlement and believe that others should cater to their needs and desires. With their insatiable need for validation and attention from others, they may use various tactics to get these needs met. One of these tactics is sending a text message which can provide a quick and easy way to elicit a response or attention from someone.
However, because narcissists are primarily focused on their own needs and desires, they may not be interested in having a meaningful conversation or in connecting with the other person on a deeper level. Basically, they don't care about your response (but you DAMN WELL better respond) - instead, their primary goal may be to satisfy their own need for validation or to manipulate the other person in some way.
So, a narcissist may send a text message that seems friendly or fun, but then ignore the other person's response or just abruptly end the conversation, because it's only about what THEY wanted to say or convey. This can leave the other person feeling confused or hurt, and it may be part of the narcissist's strategy to maintain control and keep the other person off-balance.
A narcissist might also engage in something called "breadcrumbing," which is a manipulative tactic used to keep someone hooked and interested without actually committing to anything. By sending a text message but not responding, the narcissist may be trying to keep the person on the hook and maintain control over the situation.
NARCISSISTS DESPISE YOUR GOOD + BAD NEWS
Narcissists may become angry or upset when someone else shares good OR bad news because they feel threatened by the attention being directed away from them. Because of the narcissist's deep need for attention and validation, they may become jealous or envious when someone else is receiving attention or feedback.
If someone shares good news, a narcissist may feel like their own accomplishments or achievements are being overshadowed or diminished. They may become angry or resentful and may try to shift the focus back onto themselves by bragging or talking about their own accomplishments.
Similarly, if someone shares bad news, a narcissist may feel like their own problems or concerns are being overlooked or minimized. They may become angry or dismissive, and may try to invalidate the other person's experiences by telling them that their problems are not that serious or that they should just "get over it."
In both cases, the narcissist's reaction is rooted in their own insecurities and need for attention. They may feel threatened by any situation where they are not the center of attention or where someone else is receiving praise or sympathy. This can make it difficult to have a healthy and supportive relationship with a narcissist, as their reactions may be unpredictable and self-centered. It's pretty tough to feel safe.
NARCISSISM + ONE-SIDED COMPETITION
When I say competition, I mean Olympic-level competition, mostly with someone who has no idea they're competing against the narcissist at the Olympics. Narcissists tend to see everything as a competition because they have an intense need to win in order to be perceived as superior to others. Here are some possible reasons why a narcissist might view everything as a competition:
To feel validated: Narcissists need that validation and approval from others. By competing with others and winning, they can feel validated and affirmed in their belief that they are superior.
To maintain their self-esteem: Narcissists often have an inflated sense of self-importance and see themselves as superior to others. By competing with others and winning (if they lose, take cover!), they can reinforce their belief in their own superiority and maintain their rickety self-esteem.
To control others: Narcissists often use competition as a way to control and manipulate others. By competing with others and winning, they perceive that they can gain power and influence over others.
To avoid feelings of inferiority: Narcissists often have a deep fear of being seen as inferior to others. By competing with others and winning, they can avoid feelings of inadequacy or inferiority.
Basically, narcissists view everything as a competition because they see the world as a zero-sum game, in which they must win in order to feel validated and maintain their sense of superiority. However, this can be harmful to themselves and others, as it can lead to a monumental breakdown of relationships.
NARCISSISM + UNSUBTLE SUBTLETY
Narcissists may use subtle put downs as a way to control and manipulate others while maintaining plausible deniability. Here are a few possible reasons why a narcissist might use subtle put downs:
To maintain power and control: Subtle put downs can be a way for them to assert their dominance and superiority over others without overtly attacking them.
To avoid confrontation: Narcissists may use subtle put downs as a way to criticize others without risking a direct confrontation which may cause them to feel vulnerable or insecure.
To undermine others' confidence: Narcissists may use subtle put downs to undermine the confidence of others, making them feel less sure of themselves and more reliant on the narcissist for validation and approval.
NARCISSISM + STOLEN IDENTITY
Narcissists are known for their lack of empathy and their tendency to exploit others for their own gain. They may see other people as objects to be used for their own purposes, rather than as individuals with their own thoughts, feelings, and desires. As a result, they may be more likely to steal the passions, hobbies, and identities of others they feel threatened by. If they're so keen on their own self-identity and importance, why would they do this?
They may feel threatened by someone who has a passion or interest that they lack, and so they may try to adopt that interest as a way to prove that they are just as capable or talented as the other person.
They want to manipulate and control others. By adopting the same interests and hobbies, they may be able to establish a false sense of connection and intimacy, which can make it easier for them to manipulate the other person's emotions and behaviors.
In any case, the behavior of stealing the passions, hobbies, and identities of others is ultimately driven by the narcissist's need for attention, admiration, and control. They may use any means necessary to achieve these goals, including exploiting the interests and identities of those around them.
SHUTTING DOWN A NARCISSIST
Shutting down a narcissist can be challenging, but there are a few strategies that may be effective:
Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries and communicate them assertively to the narcissist. Let them know what behavior is acceptable and what is not. Be consistent in enforcing these boundaries.
Don't engage in power struggles: Narcissists often thrive on power struggles and conflicts. Don't get drawn into these types of interactions. Stay calm, avoid reacting emotionally, and focus on your own needs.
Use "gray rock" technique: This technique involves being emotionally neutral and unresponsive when dealing with a narcissist. Limit your emotional reactions and avoid providing them with excessive praise or attention. This can help to reduce their need for attention and validation.
Don't take the bait: Narcissists may try to provoke a reaction from you by saying or doing something provocative. Don't take the bait. Stay calm, and refuse to engage in their game.
Seek support: Dealing with a narcissist can be emotionally draining. Seek support from friends, family, or a therapist who can provide you with emotional support and guidance.
It's important to remember that dealing with a narcissist can be challenging, and it's not always possible to shut them down completely. However, by setting clear boundaries, staying calm, and focusing on your own needs, you may be able to reduce their power and influence over you.
CHALLENGING THE NARCISSIST
This is where it gets really sticky! It can be hard to effectively challenge a narcissist due to their strong need for control and their tendency to react defensively to criticism or perceived threats to their self-esteem. Here are a few reasons why it may not be productive to challenge a narcissist:
It can escalate the situation: Narcissists may perceive challenges or criticisms as a threat to their sense of self, and they may react with anger, aggression, or retaliation. This can make the situation worse and can potentially put you in danger.
It can reinforce their behavior: Narcissists thrive on attention, even negative attention. Challenging a narcissist may give them the attention they are seeking and may reinforce their belief that they are special or powerful.
It may not lead to change: Narcissists tend to be resistant to feedback or change, as they may see any criticism as an attack on their character. Challenging a narcissist may not lead to any meaningful change in their behavior or attitude.
It can be emotionally draining: Dealing with a narcissist can be emotionally exhausting and may take a toll on your mental health. Challenging a narcissist can be particularly draining, as it requires a significant amount of emotional energy and can lead to feelings of frustration, anger, or hopelessness.
Of course, there may be situations where it is necessary to challenge a narcissist, particularly if their behavior is harmful to themselves or others. However, it's important to approach the situation carefully and to prioritize your own safety and well-being.
FORGING COMPASSION FOR THE NARCISSIST
Forging compassion for a narcissist can be a difficult and complex process, as it involves balancing your own emotional well-being with the desire to empathize with someone who may have caused you harm (over and over and over). Here are a few tips on how to forge compassion for a narcissist without compromising yourself:
Understand that compassion does not mean excusing or condoning the narcissist's behavior. It is possible to feel empathy and understanding for someone without condoning their actions or enabling their destructive behavior.
Practice self-care and set healthy boundaries. It's important to prioritize your own emotional well-being and set boundaries to protect yourself from further harm. This may mean limiting contact with the narcissist or without a big to-do, ending the relationship altogether.
Seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can help you to process your emotions, develop coping strategies, and work on building empathy and compassion in a healthy way.
Remember that narcissism is a personality disorder. It's important to recognize that narcissism is a complex disorder that often stems from deep emotional wounds and insecurities. While this does not excuse the narcissist's behavior, it can help you to understand where they may be coming from and cultivate empathy for their struggles.
Focus on the positive qualities of the narcissist. While it may be difficult to see beyond the negative behaviors, try to identify positive qualities in the narcissist. This can help you to connect with them on a human level and cultivate empathy for their struggles.
Ultimately, forging compassion for a narcissist without compromising yourself requires a delicate balance of empathy and self-care. By prioritizing your own well-being and seeking professional help when needed, you can develop healthy coping strategies and cultivate empathy in a way that does not compromise your own emotional needs.
At the end of the day, dealing with a narcissist can be one of the most challenging experiences of your life. It can leave you feeling broken, battered, and unsure of yourself and your worth. But the good news is that you can survive a narcissist and come out on the other side stronger and more resilient than ever before.
Understanding their behaviors and tactics can help you to recognize the signs of a narcissist early on and protect yourself from their manipulations. Support is essential when it comes to surviving a narcissist. Having a strong support system of friends, family, or a therapist can help you to process your feelings, build your self-esteem, and help you to move forward, with no egg shells on your path to tap dance around!