I don't care what you think unless it is about me
~ Kurt Cobain
Everyone's flippant with the term 'narcissist' these days. It's fashionable, almost, to label a difficult person as a narcissist. The majority of people have narcissistic traits but they're not narcissists. It's likely you will recognise yourself in the following, but don't worry -- it's normal to have some markers.
What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)?
Basically, a person with NPD is an adult that has low empathy and relies on others to regulate their self-esteem. They are known to have 'black & white' thought patterns. For example, they will see a target as all special, perfect, beautiful, worthy and good. But...
Before long, the narcissist will notice a flaw or feel offended when the target refuses a request or defends a personal boundary. The narcissist will immediately switch opinions. The target, fallen from grace, is now seen as flawed, ugly, worthless and all bad.
Narcissists are incapable of accepting the combination of both good and bad qualities in other people.
Narcissists are doomed to repeat their toxic patterns and often end up alone in the world, having depleted the energy and good will of those around them.
Here are some common telltale signs or RED FLAGS:
The narcissist needs to be at the centre of everyone's world. Because they have an inconsistent or underdeveloped sense of self, the narcissist doesn't know who they really are.
Narcissists need others to reflect back a constantly updating array of snapshots in order to feel as though they actually exist. It is this collection of reflected images that allows the narcissist to to render themselves in reality.
They are overly needy of attention and praise, often fishing for compliments or approval. They believe they truly deserve to be the centre of the universe. In their quest for constant feedback, the narcissist's behaviour may strike the new target as inappropriate, excessive, clingy, needy or downright weird.
A narcissist is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power and ultimate beauty. Their goal is to take over the world and have their own slave army of worshippers, fans and sycophants.
They are extremely competitive. They don't just aim to outdo their competition; they plan to destroy it.
People in positions of power or esteem are most at risk from the narcissist's attention. The narcissist will jockey for a closer position, all the while believing they could do a much better job. The narcissist's intention is to ultimately overthrow the person in top position and claim that place as their own.
Hard to Please
They will criticise others who fall short of their ideals, making life almost unbearable for those doomed to proximity. This is especially difficult for a child incapable of escaping a narcissistic parent.
The narcissist is never satisfied with a target's behaviour, appearance, achievements, attitude, tone of voice, choice of perfume, etc. and will constantly point out these shortcomings, often comparing them to impossible, unattainable standards of perfection. It is exhausting, often leaving the target feeling completely drained.
Hypersensitive, Touchy & Overly Defensive
The narcissist has an inferiority complex but wears the mask of superiority as a defence mechanism. They are terrified of being seen as mediocre. They create a persona that, in their mind, is an ideal person. They are often prone to exaggerating their qualifications, achievements and abilities to construct this false persona. When challenged, this brittle mask dissolves leaving the narcissist feeling insulted, exposed and vulnerable.
Due to this fragile ego state, narcissists are very easily wounded. They can interpret even the most innocent comment as a deliberate and vicious assault. Anyone daring to challenge or disagree with a narcissist is quickly devalued and attacked.
Narcissists overreact and rage about things that usually don't bother other people. When challenged, the narcissist becomes preoccupied with thoughts of revenge. These feelings will not subside until the narcissist feels the target of their fury has received just punishment or been totally destroyed.
Paranoia & Projection
Because a narcissist will act in an underhanded way, often behind the scenes, they believe everybody else operates with the same devious intentions. Narcissists will complain that people are cheating them, snooping on them, stealing their ideas or trying to take something they believe is theirs. They will often paint themselves as the victim, knowing they are the ones acting out in a malicious way. This can go to ridiculous and sometimes dangerous extremes.
Entitlement & Exploitation
Narcissists see themselves as being so special that no one else matters.
~ Joe Navarro, former FBI Counter-intelligence Agent
The narcissist's sense of entitlement is high. They expect special treatment at all times. It doesn't matter that everyone else has to wait in line; the narcissist feels entitled to jump this queue and take their rightful place at the front, because they are special. Rules are for fools. As a result, they are known to be impatient and pushy.
Narcissists believe they deserve what you have. The narcissist is the master of the freebie. Without explicitly requesting it, a narcissist can spin a story, manipulating the target into feeling obliged to shower them with gifts.
In their quest for – fame, riches, adoration – the narcissist is a master manipulator. They are often charming on the surface, capable of using others to achieve their selfish goals without regard for their helper's well-being. They will manipulate helpers into doing their dirty work for them, demolishing any viable competition. Helpers are so preoccupied with carrying out the narcissist's wishes they often neglect working on their own personal goals. They effectively become a puppet.
A narcissist can, without regret, destroy or discard their helpers when they are no longer useful. All that matters is what the narcissist wants.
The narcissist demands unbending loyalty at all times without giving any in return.
People under the narcissist's control often experience feelings of fear, obligation and guilt. This causes them to act in ways they believe will please the narcissist, which, of course, is the narcissist's goal all along.
Narcissists have trouble maintaining relationships and friendships and will often be at odds with their family members. This is because they constantly need to occupy the superior position, always be right.
Another factor that causes problems in their relationships is their tendency to overreact and behave selfishly.
The narcissist is a malicious gossip and character assassin. Many will notice how the narcissist enjoys devaluing and humiliating others behind the scenes whilst projecting a saintly image in public.
They will flatter people who are currently providing them with positive feedback. They will love bomb new targets, showering them with praise, constant attention and flattery only to devalue and discard them when their flaws begin to show or when the narcissist suspects the target has discovered who they really are.
The narcissist's history will be haphazard and inconsistent. They are likely to have hopped from relationship to relationship, job to job, town to town. This is because they repeat the same malignant patterns, burning many bridges along the way. Sources of narcissistic supply (positive feedback reflections) are used up and discarded as the narcissist moves on to newer, better, shinier objects of their affections.
Before long, the narcissist's mask slips. They are unable to maintain the false image they projected to lure a victim in. They will revert to their natural behaviour. Ultimately the relationship is destroyed and the narcissist is doomed to start over from scratch with another unsuspecting victim.
Abuse, Toxicity & Control
Narcissists are toxic. They are often verbally, emotionally and physically abusive to those near to them. This happens when the target notices cracks in the narcissist's 'perfect image' and the real personality peeks through.
The narcissist cannot bear the thought of someone seeing them as less than perfect. To counteract this, the narcissist will first try to undermine the target with passive-aggressive comments or 'jokes'. When this fails to put the target back in its place, the narcissist will respond with rage. Challenges to the narcissist's idea of self will not be tolerated.
Hate is the complement of fear and narcissists like being feared. It imbues them with an intoxicating sensation of omnipotence.
~ Sam Vaknin, Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited
Some have been known to confuse their target by 'gaslighting' them. This involves deliberately misleading the target into thinking their grasp of reality is slipping. It is a desperate ploy by the narcissist to maintain control of the situation. The victim becomes confused by the narcissist's lies and starts to question their own interpretation of reality. The narcissist has no feelings of guilt about this; their priority is to protect their false image of perfection at all cost.
If a narcissist shows a kindness or does someone a favour, they expect to be repaid tenfold. The narcissist will moan and complain that nobody is as kind or as giving as they are, that everyone is taking advantage of them. This is just another tactic to coerce the target into behaving the way the narcissist wants. And the narcissist wants everything.
The narcissist will overstep boundaries and constantly place unrealistic demands on their target. The narcissist needs to occupy, own and control everything and everyone. By overstepping a personal boundary, the narcissist has caused the victim to shrink a part of their world, opening up more room for the narcissist to occupy.
When a boundary is crossed without challenge, the narcissist feels victorious and instilled with confidence, happy to repeat this until all boundaries have been conquered and dissolved. The aim is to turn the target into a worshipful automaton whose only purpose is to serve the narcissist.
Narcissists are overtly jealous. Because of their high sense of entitlement, a narcissist cannot bear to see other people enjoying benefits they believe are rightfully theirs. If another is described as – handsome, pretty, popular, talented, intelligent, etc. – the narcissist will be filled with jealous rage because they believe they are more deserving of the accolade. The same goes for job promotions, higher status, wealth, awards.
They are master shit-stirrers. When the narcissist has decided to destroy someone, they will enlist others to help them in their quest, working behind the scenes to undermine and discredit the target.
Narcissists often say/do things that can cause pain and suffering to others. The narcissist is so preoccupied with themselves they don't notice the fallout around them (and they don't care).
Most people refrain from mentioning another's less-than-glorious physical traits because they would think it cruel and inappropriate. Not the narcissist. They have no filter. Narcissists are incredibly bitchy about others without caring about the impact this may have on the other person's feelings. They believe themselves to be the most handsome or pretty, blinding themselves to the beauty in others.
Never Wrong, No Apologies
Narcissists are incapable of admitting they are wrong and will almost never claim responsibility for any wrongdoing. Being wrong causes great shame to a narcissist so they manage this by devaluing others and re-framing the history of a situation to ensure their perfect image is protected. When challenged, they immediately attempt to flip the story, placing blame on their accuser. They are afraid the other person will use this opportunity to degrade them, so they generally refrain from saying they're sorry.
Status Awareness & Grandiosity
Narcissists need to be admired, worshipped. They are preoccupied with status; their own and that of others.
They compare themselves to others and are constantly fearful of losing out. They have their nose in everything.
They consider another's rise in status as a great injustice towards them personally.
They will treat those they perceive as higher status (and therefore useful to their own trajectory) with fake respect. They will shower them with compliments whilst demeaning, mistreating or ignoring those they consider below them or inconsequential to their strategy to climb socially, politically, financially.
They will make outrageous claims about their own abilities, often blowing their own trumpet whilst simultaneously devaluing another person's skills in the process. The narcissist is not shy of self-praise.
Inability to see another's point of view
Like a small child, narcissists are emotionally underdeveloped. They see things only from their own point of view. They are incapable of assigning value to another equally valid perspective. In the narcissist's mind, if a person disagrees with them, it is interpreted as an attack. And someone will have to pay for that.
There is currently no cure for NPD. Various forms of therapy exist but narcissists tend not to seek treatment. They believe their problems result from others being at fault rather than themselves.
There are ways to protect yourself from narcissists. This warrants a lengthier discussion but, in short, it's important to protect your boundaries. If you feel someone is moving too fast, aiming to hurry intimacy or friendship to a level you're uncomfortable with, it's time to put on the brakes. Slow things down. The narcissist relies on this whirlwind of activity, overwhelming you with information, to prevent you from analysing the situation rationally.
Don't open up to the narcissist. Take your time. Let things unfold at a natural pace. Narcissists rush things because, deep down, they know you'd have nothing to do with them if you knew the real person beneath the mask.
NPD is a pernicious, vile and tortuous disease, which affects not only the Narcissist. It infects and forever changes people who are in daily contact with the Narcissist. In other words: it is contagious. It is my contention that Narcissism is the mental epidemic of the twentieth century, a plague to be fought by all means.
~ Sam Vaknin; Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited
Love, Anj xx
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