Narcissists. You have either dealt with one, seen one in action from a safe-ish distance, heard about one at length through the rants and raves of your loved ones or… you, unfortunately, are one. 😊
But more than likely you are reading this blog because you are sure you have encountered a narcissist – dated one, worked for/with one or suspected in whatever situation you know of one. You just knew there was something off about the person. Not off as in they-are-a-bit-different; but off as in something disturbingly, off-the-chain, almost psychopathically wrong, type of off with them.
Perhaps the realisation came in hindsight when you walked away and pulled unexpected daggers out of your back. Perhaps it’s something affecting you now … you sometimes feel as though you are crazy and ask yourself “am I making these things up; am I the problem; did this really just happen?”. Or perhaps you have just realised, you have started doubting yourself and your abilities lately; or “oh wow, I’m actually overeating, binge-watching series, becoming withdrawn” or whatever your coping mechanisms are in response to this person’s behaviour.
But what is a true narcissist, what is Narcissistic Personality Disorder and are you in fact a narcissist? 🙂 Here are a few sources unpacking exactly that.
What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Physcologytoday.com explains that Narcissistic Personality Disorder is categorised as a mental disorder, in which a person has an over-inflated sense of self and their own importance and at the same time needs people to deeply admire, revere, envy and placate them. A person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder believes they are superior and disregard other’s feelings. They present a mask of super confidence but have a fragile self-esteem, which makes them extremely sensitive to the slightest criticism.
According to Physcologytoday.com, everyone can exhibit signs and symptoms of narcissism especially in high-pressure situations (like lockdown), but someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder will show many of the signs, consistently over a period of time.
Signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
Here are some of the more common signs that you may identify in a narcissist.
Conversation hogger and interrupter;
Name and status dropper;
Takes all the credit or too much credit;
Charming and persuasive especially if they can benefit from you or get a higher status through association with you (but no follow-through);
Cocky, manipulative, selfish, patronising, and demanding (in all relationships – family, romantic and work);
Coldness or rages (at slightest perceived disagreement; seeing this as a personal attack);
Need for constant praise and admiration; and
Frequently demeans, intimidates, bullies, or belittles others. (Helpguide.org)
A Quick Summary of Narcissistic Personality Disorder Signs:
Most narcissists are super full of themselves (like a shaken champagne bottle) and constantly talk about their own projects or accomplishments, they love to brag or humblebrag and show little empathy or real interest in others. If the focus or conversation shifts, they are quick to turn it back to themselves.
In addition to dominating conversations, narcissists are chronic status droppers. They will constantly mention prestigious people/VIPs they mingle with, exclusive groups they part of, any fancy schools/degrees/institutions they are affiliated with and high-profile projects they have and are working on.
A common trait is that narcissists like to take credit for other’s work (or take more credit for something than they are due).
According to Helpguide.org, people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are very charismatic, charming, persuasive, manipulative and convincing but lack substance and follow-through; and on the other hand can be bullies, insulting, belligerent and nasty. They also feel they are entitled to or more “special” than others and don’t have to abide by the rules and norms the rest of the mere mortals have to abide by. Narcissists are sensitive to criticism and become aggressive, indifferent, and brimming with excuses when given any feedback — seeing it as personal attacks. They are also quick to blame others for their failings.
Psychologytoday.com explains that narcissists are often associated with negative emotions. Because they love to spread and evoke negative emotions in people to feel powerful. They also do it to make people feel off-balance and to gain attention. When disagreeing with a person or feeling “slighted”, a narcissist will either fight (in a form of a heated argument) or flight (in form or cold detachment or ignoring the person for long periods of time). Plus, narcissists are often quick to judge, criticise, ridicule, and blame, and can be very emotionally abusive and dismissive. They operate by making people feel inferior while boosting their own fragile ego.
How to do Deal with a Narcissist:
What to remember
#1 It’s easy to fall for a narcissist’s charm and to get addicted to the feeling of being alive because of the rollercoaster of emotions you experience with them or due to the fantasy life they may spin for you. But don’t fall for the deception or thrill. The costs far out way the benefits. This is especially true in romantic relationships.
#2 Remember narcissists aren’t looking for partners or equals, but subservient admirers. The sole reason a narcissist needs you is to prop up their own egos. Sorry neh but your feelings don’t count.
#3 When you are feeling conflicted about your relationship with a narcissist (whether professional or personal), especially when they are charming you, look at how they treat others. If they lie to, manipulate, hurt, and disrespect others – you can guarantee your time is coming too.
#4 Don’t excuse a narcissist’s bad behaviour either or minimise the hurt you experience or think denial will make the pain and discomfort go away.
#5 Remember to focus on your dreams and don’t get lost in a narcissist’s delusions.
#6 Narcissists cannot have mutually respectful and caring relationships. They don’t see you other than what you can do for them and their needs and they often violate boundaries (and do so with a breastplate of entitlement and a belt-buckle of arrogance). Set healthy boundaries and deal with them in a calm approach (channel Gandhi).
Don’t take anything to heart
#7 Narcissists protect themselves from their feelings of inferiority, mistakes, shortcomings etc. and project them on others. It’s tough as mampoer to be blamed for something that isn’t your fault in reality. But don’t take it personally. Don’t believe the narcissist’s version of who you are – don’t let their shame-and-blame-game undermine your self-worth. Refuse to accept undeserved blame or negativity even if it is dished out to you with a side of hot chakalaka.
#8 It’s easy when you feel attacked to lash back with vengeance – but this will only make things worse. No matter how valid your point – a narcissist will never hear you out. You are only chucking fuel on that already blazing fire. You can simply say – you don’t agree with their assessment and move on.
Strong sense of self and moving away from approvaladdiction
#9 The best way to handle a narcissist is to have a quiet confidence and know yourself down to every last freckle. This makes it easy for you to reject unfair criticism (because you know who you are).
#10 It’s also important to deal with your approval addiction (if you have one). Helpguide.org explains: “It’s important to detach from the narcissist’s opinion and any desire to please or appease them at the expense of yourself. You need to be okay with knowing the truth about yourself, even if the narcissist sees the situation differently.”
#11 You cannot always remove yourself from having the pleasure of a narcissist’s company (example if it is a colleague/boss or if it is a close family member). But you can ensure you find a support system that gives you emotional support and personal fulfilment. A cheer squad. People who remind you what healthy relationships look like and help you not to get used to the dysfunction. Surround yourself with people who can give you an honest reflection of you and support your thoughts and feelings. Also, find meaning and purpose outside of the environment you and the narcissist share (volunteering, hobbies, work etc).
Know when you need professional help
#12 Sometimes you can read all the self-help articles in the world and educate yourself on a matter and it’s still not enough. Know when it is time to see a psychologist, counsellor or expert about the situation to give you the tools to make the right decision. Don’t feel ashamed or like a failure. There are more people out there than you know in need of professional help and more people than you know who are suffering at the hands of a narcissist.
Am I a narcissist?
You may ask – am I narcissist? Probably not, if you were a true narcissist you probably wouldn’t even read this far into the blog. But Businessinsider.co.za put together a list of common factors that narcissists tend to share. According to this source you may be a narcissist if you are a bad sport/ sore loser, you constantly feel underappreciated; hypersensitive, defensive, and anxious. You may think everyone else is stupid, you are self-righteous (your views are superior to others), you enjoy swearing at people, you feel justified for being mean to people, you like being in charge and bossing people, you’re an entertainer, you hate having to feel emotions, you are more attractive than other people (or so you think), instead of listening you can’t wait to speak or interrupt, you are a serial romantic, you cheat in relationships, you put some people on pedestals, you like to put other people down, your parents ignored and adored you, you choose your friends to look cool or take advantage of people, and you always have to be in control.
And if you still need assistance or interested, take the Narcissistic Personality Quiz. But for reals, go see a psychiatrist if the above signs fit like an uncomfortably snug glove (like a pair of jeans during lockdown).