Narcissism is by far one of my favorite topics to learn about, and write about. I’ve said it many times before that I believe in “me time” and making things all about you every so often. I know the importance of putting yourself first, and demanding a certain amount of attention from the world. That is called Self Care and it is very important. Narcissism, however, is not to be confused with taking care of yourself, or having a high self esteem. I think I enjoy discussing narcissism so much because those who are truly narcissistic in nature either fully embrace the label, or are completely oblivious to it. Many times the very subject of my musing will comment and agree without ever noticing that they fall into the category.
I mean, aren’t we all guilty of that? Don’t you always notice the flaws or weaknesses in others before you see it in yourself? That’s the way our minds are wired. We cope with our own needs by seeking to see similarities in others and magnifying those weaknesses, so that by comparison we appear to be in a much better place. Basically, we operate in forced denial.
So let’s discuss some of the identifiable attributes of a narcissist.
- Overly Ambitious
- Overly Competitive
- Grudge Holders
These are easier to notice, but there are a few sly ones as well:
They must be the center of attention – “Narcissists dominate conversations,” says psychotherapist Joseph Brugo, PhD, the author of The Narcissist You Know “They feel compelled to talk about themselves, and they exaggerate their accomplishments.”
In fact, many times if there is a story being told, they will be able to top it. They cannot resist stepping into the spotlight again, even if you are currently center stage. This happens as a result of creating and idealized version of themselves. It comes from a fear of being inadequate, which the narcissist cannot let you see. In friendships they need to be the best friend. Sure you can eat lunch with Sally…but guess who’s taking you out for steak dinner and posting it on Instagram? Sounds lovely, until the narcissist feels slighted. It is then you will be the villain in their twisted plot.
No Follow Through
Here is another common trait of our friend the narcissis. You can see a pattern of not following through when you review their history a bit. Agreements made and obligations stated don’t faze them. This can range from skipping appointments and tasks, to abandoning major responsibilities. Being self-centered and conceited, the narcissist will generally meet his or her obligations only when they suit their agenda. Basicallly, of the idea benefits them they will follow through with gusto, when it doesn’t they tend to move on to greener pastures.
They use people
Chronic narcissists do not relate; they use. They talk a good talk, but often fail to back it up. Research and writings have linked high narcissism with traits such as unreliability, infidelity, manipulativeness, and overall lower levels of trustworthiness. When you have something they need, whether it’s physical, emotional, or monetary – they will be there for you. However, once that need has been fulfilled, or they can get it fulfilled by another, you are yesterday’s news. They often cannot have multiple friendships at the same time. Inevitably, they find a newer, shinier friend and abandon the old ones until they are necessary again. What the narcissist uses a person for varies. Money, power, and fame seem the likely choice, but using someone for attention is just as likely. I’ve seen the narcissist use people to prove they could pull apart friendships, so there isn’t a limit.
They give unsolicited advice…all the time.
Is there anything worse? Probably, but this is really annoying. Receiving advice that wasn’t sought out makes us feel as if we should’ve been able to figure it out. It makes us feel as if something is wrong with us for missing the obvious. The truth is that most of us mean well when we prescribe the cure to our friends. Maybe we had the same problem, maybe we read a cool article, we just want to help. Sharing in honesty is caring. But the narcissist is in it for another reason. They are seizing an opportunity to demonstrate their superior knowledge and insight Brugo explains:”Narcissists are always a little more in the know,” he says. “They seem to have the inside info on everything.” By acting more sophisticated than everyone in the room, they bolste an inflated sense of self—unfortunately at the listeners expense.
I’m Here for You / I Care About You / I Love You!”
Narcissists have the ability to be charming and charismatic when they choose. Like a master salesperson, they know how to say the right things to entice your attention, and steer you into believing their sugar-coated persuasions. In interpersonal and/or romantic relationships, narcissists are often quick to profess their admiration of and attraction for you, usually without bothering to really know you as a person. In reality, the narcissist wants you to feel special not because they really care about you, but because they want something from you. Sweet talk is a form of emotional manipulation calculated to seduce and exploit. In romance, the narcissist is often more enamored with the seduction process than he or she is with you, for you represent a “conquest” to them. Like a master con artist, they will hook you in, get what they want, and then leave you hanging out to dry. You’re left picking up the tattered relational pieces, perhaps wondering whether YOU did something wrong. Worse is when this is done in the name of friendship. A call out of the blue, an invitation to join them for an event, special attention to all of your musings. When we look at that list as whole it seems great, and it would be if the end of the line wasn’t attached to the narcissist. However, when a fair weather friend is suddenly overly interested in your well being, red flags should go off. Many times this attention is the result of ulterior motives.
It’s all your fault/ you let me down
Pathological narcissists often demand constant attention and sacrifices from those around them, for such placating makes them feel important. When someone in the narcissist’s manipulative orbit has the courage to be independent and chooses her or his own priority, the narcissist will often become highly agitated, sometimes fly into a (narcissistic) rage, and accuse the other person of being “selfish”, “disappointing”, or “not here for me”. In reality, the narcissist is simply throwing a child-like tantrum for not getting his or her way.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of these accusations, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I being treated with genuine respect?
- Are this person’s expectations & demands of me reasonable?
- Is the giving in this relationship primarily one way?
- Ultimately, do I feel good about myself in this relationship?
If one or more of your answers to the questions above are in the negative, the truth may be that the narcissist is actually the one who’s not there for you
They are two faced
In a group setting a narcissist can laugh, hug and chat with just about anyone. When you scale down the party a bit you may get a glimpse of who they are. Narcissist love to dish the dirt. They will have a wonderful assortment of stories to share about the attendants, mostly negative. In fact in a narcissist mind, everyone else comes up short. They will fill your ears with wonder and excitement getting the reactions they need. What you don’t realize is they will be doing the same thing regarding you. We are all fair game to the narcissist . They will exaggerate the truth, rearrange some of the details and in many cases, just lie about the events. The story will always cast the narcissist as the good guy and bring you deeper into their web.
Because narcissists often operate on inauthenticity and falsehoods, the consequences of their actions may eventually catch-up to them, and exact a heavy price. These are the moments of life-crisis for the narcissist, which may include family estrangement, marital separation or divorce, trouble with the law, damaged personal and/or professional reputation, etc.
During these moments, some narcissists will dramatically profess their wrong-doing, promise to change their ways, and ask for forgiveness. After all, they need to control the situation.
I’m sure you felt guilty checking off one or two areas on the list. We all have a few areas we should be aware of. And if you fear you could be confused with the narcissist, make changes today.
But if the face of someone in your life popped up, maybe you need to do some serious evaluation. Relationships with narcissists are only beneficial to one side. I found myself trapped in a friendship with one such person. I felt as if I was the most important person in the world. We had dinner, we shopped, we shared, we were friends. What I didn’t realize was I was only a friend when it benefited her. When she needed something, when she wanted to know something. It took longer than it should have to realize it. In fact it took hearing an awful story about a mutual friend to make me realize she used personal information as a weapon. She shared things confided in secret to me in an effort to make me angry. Instead I felt aware. I knew then that she would manipulate every conversation we had ever had, she would twist words, she would leave out context. She would do the same to me as she did to her friend. Once I knew what I was dealing with, I backed away. I declined the invitations. I screened the calls. I removed her power over me, and as a result I became the villain. The stories make their rounds and give me a good laugh every once and awhile. The beauty of living an authentic life is that the people around me know who I am, and no sensational story could sway them. Those who believe the stories, are not my concern. I chose to place my value high, and as a result I don’t settle for phony friendships anymore.
I suggest the same for you. Really evaluate who you are allowing to speak into you life. Give yourself permission to let go.