How to Recognize and Respond to a Narcissist
It can be challenging to identify a narcissist at first glance. Narcissism often comes across as confidence or enthusiasm, but when you know what to look for, you will be able to recognize the signs.
The signs below define the characteristics of a narcissist. The first twelve are about the narcissists themselves, while the final three are about the kind of people attracted to them.
Recognize the signs
1. They lack empathy
When you speak to someone and they seem to be listening to what you are saying, but they don’t hear what you have said, this could be a lack of empathy. This might look like someone failing to react to what you have said. They may claim they were listening, but their reaction doesn’t mesh with the information you shared.
Now, this doesn’t mean that a person failing to listen is a narcissist. Sometimes our attention is not where it should be. However, if the behavior is consistent or the empathy seems fake or forced, the person is exhibiting narcissistic behavior. They do not feel remorse because they are incapable of it.
2. They feel entitled to special treatment
When you go out with someone, are they constantly looking for ways to receive special treatment from the employees? Whether in a restaurant, from a mechanic, or any store, this entitlement signifies narcissism. Things like receiving the wrong order at a restaurant will set a narcissist off. They will constantly feel they have the right to be elevated above everyone else.
Someone who advocates for themselves and speaks up against mistreatment calmly and leveled way is not a narcissist. On the other hand, responding to mistakes and perceived mistreatments in a violent or abusive way because they feel entitled to perfection makes someone narcissistic.
3. They have grandiose fantasies
Everyone has an idea of what they want to achieve and do in life, but a narcissist is rarely realistic. They will often claim they are going to do something huge but fail to deliver. Or they will claim they have skills that they don’t. These aren’t lies but rather delusional beliefs. This is grandiosity and can set unrealistic expectations in a relationship.
4. They put appearance above everything else
A narcissist’s appearance matters to them more than anything else. The term itself comes from Greek mythology’s Narcissus, who was obsessed with his reflection. Even the appearance of those they associate with is paramount to them – they want those around them to be beautiful because they equate beauty to power.
Obsession with social media comments and likes is a form of narcissism. It is prevalent for narcissists to compare their appearances and social standings, and success to others. It becomes obsessive for them to be externally validated as better than everyone else.
5. They only associate with the powerful
Narcissists are invested in social connections and how they can climb the social ladder. This is common in social media as well. They need to be around powerful, attractive, famous people because they see themselves as the same.
They will make snap judgments about people based on external factors such as social standing, appearance, popularity, or any number of other superficial things. A narcissist will tear down anything they don’t view as worthy.
6. They are incapable of regulating their emotions
Narcissists are easily angered and will often throw tantrums if they are upset. However, they are so skilled at manipulation that they can appear to be keeping it together.
Psychologist and narcissist specialist Dr. Ramani Durvasula uses the analogy of a rubber band. If you stretch out a rubber band far enough, it will eventually snap; that is the temper tantrum and anger. They can never sustain their deception and will always bounce back to who they are.
7. They are highly sensitive to criticism
Narcissists do not like to be critiqued or criticized but will have no problem being highly critical of you and everybody else. They view themselves as infallible; suggesting otherwise is an insult to their carefully curated perception of themselves. If they feel like they are being criticized, they will lash out.
8. They don’t think they need to change
A suggestion that they may need help or may need to learn more – than the problem somehow resides in them – will shut them down immediately. Their lack of empathy comes into play here as they refuse to listen to anything more than you have to say. All their dysfunctions, including rage, will come out to protect that sense of grandiosity.
9. They tend to be extremely jealous
They tend to be jealous of anyone you interact with – from a simple conversation to time spent. People of higher statuses than them are also a great source of jealousy for a narcissist. The idea that there is someone out there who might be better than them threatens their image of themselves.
Everyone gets envious now and then, but narcissists tend to be driven by jealousy, which triggers that rubber band and causes them to snap. Their jealousy consumes them.
10. They gaslight people
When you start to feel like you must record your conversations with a narcissist, you are likely being gaslighted. You begin to question yourself and think negatively about yourself because of their effect on you.
If you start a conversation with a critique, suggestion, or request aimed at a narcissist, they will find a way to turn it around on you so that, by the end of the conversation, you are the one apologizing because you were so wrong and out of place. It’s tough to protect yourself against a narcissist who is gaslighting you.
11. They are disloyal
A narcissist will leave you. Always. At any opportunity for higher status or anything advantageous to them, they are out the door. They will never put anyone before themselves, including you.
12. They get pleasure from others’ misery
When they cause you discomfort, anger, or pain, they will feel joy. For them, it feels like receiving that one Christmas gift they’ve been eyeing all year. If a narcissist does something to hurt you, you will generally understand that they are enjoying seeing that hurt in you. This is when you know it is time to get out.
The part we play
We always must take ownership of who we allow into our lives. We need to understand that we are not innocent bystanders in a relationship with a narcissist; we have a say about who can influence our lives.
Refusing to take ownership of all aspects of our lives is inherently narcissistic in and of itself. The following three behaviors inside us are part of the reason we are in a relationship with a narcissist to start with:
1. We think we can love them out of it
When they feign weakness or hurt, we start rationalizing what we can do to make it better. We may think that dressing or acting a certain way or changing some other part of ourselves is how we will get them to love us.
2. We think that we’re not good enough
With this mindset, we fall into the trap of thinking things like “if I were better looking” or “if I were thinner” or “if I wasn’t so needy” or “if I had more money” to rationalize away their behavior. This is based on low self-worth and a sense of shame, which makes gaslighting so easy for a narcissist. We internalize their behavior and blame ourselves.
3. We look for ways to change
A key indicator that we’re with a narcissist is researching, reading, and resourcing everything we can, not to learn how to save ourselves, but to figure out the narcissist and how we can get them to like us.
So, essentially, a person attracted to a narcissist is putting 90% of their energy into the relationship instead of themselves.
So, how do you respond?
If you have realized that you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, there are two options for how you can respond:
1. Get out
The chances of a narcissist ever doing work and healing are slim to none. But, just like that rubber band effect, they might do some of it, but they don’t see an advantage to it and are likely to snap or bounce back to who they indeed are.
Your situation may be complicated; marriage, kids, religion, finances, etc., can make it difficult for you to get out. But, in that case, you must…
2. Lower your expectations
Realize that 90% of the time, you will get nothing from them. So, you need to cope in other ways and practice massive self-care. Instead of making your whole life about them, you need to make most of your life about you.
The only person you have control of is yourself. So, practice self-care by creating friendships, joining groups, and getting into therapy; you need to see how your childhood trained you to spend so much of your energy putting others ahead of yourself. You’re replaying behavior learned as a child, and you need to know how to heal from this.
Learn to meet your needs and stop trying to get them to do that for you. At this point, you have been with this behavior for years and know it isn’t going to change, so don’t fight it. Instead, embrace yourself and discover how to find happiness in meeting your needs by yourself.
Enjoy The Journey 🕺🏼
To learn more, check out the video here:
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