What is a Narcissist?
Before we dive into knowing if someone is or isn’t a narcissist, we need to first really understand what a Narcissist is. The use of the word Narcissist is quite common and can apply in many different contexts therefore it can be misleading. Let’s first learn where this term is coming from and why it’s so commonly used.
The meaning of the word Narcissist
According to Cambridge Dictionary , the meaning of Narcissist is simply explained as “Someone who has a lot of admiration for him/herself”. This is quite simple, everyone understands and has used this word at some point in their life. We all have somehow narcissistic traits but that does not make us one. In the context of abuse and abusive relationships, what does Narcissist really means?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD
As the name suggests, we are talking about a Personality Disorder or a mental condition in which the person has a lot of admiration for him/herself and a deepened sense of higher importance and need for attention and validation. It is known that people with NPD also struggle with insecurities, and low self-esteem and are very sensitive to criticism. There are very different types of Narcissists meaning, different kinds of ways in which they act in order to obtain said validation and sense of importance from others. But the foundation of all is very much the same. In order to feel important they need to control and manipulate others into making them feel that way.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder has no cure!
The question I am always asked is: Can a Narcissist change? In short, NO! In order to seek treatment of any kind, you’d have to first acknowledge that there is a problem. Well, Narcissists are not capable of admitting that there is anything wrong with them due to their inflated Egos, therefore, would never seek treatment. The few that might, will do it due to other struggles related to drug abuse, depression, problems in maintaining relationships, and other things. It is known that the symptoms of NPD, when worked through psychotherapy, can diminish for a certain period of time, but would always come back. Some of the most common and easily recognizable symptoms are the need to always be in the center of attention and reacting poorly (anger, passive aggressiveness) when not. There is no treatment or medication that could offer a cure.
Now, when we talk about the word Narcissist in the context of abuse, we are not diagnosing someone or confirming that they have NPD.
It’s not about that, it’s about having a common name, hence, understanding, for people who tend to have the same type of behaviors that will affect you and others in the same way. It will result in abuse, control, and manipulation, trauma bonding. And this is the part that is important for you to recognize, what are the common traits, diagnose or not.
As mentioned above, having narcissistic traits, which we all do in some way, is very different from being one. If you’re wondering how to tell them apart see below the most common signs.
When we talk about a narcissistic partner, these are the most common signs to look out for:
- They will “Love Bomb” you at first. If you are not sure what love bombing is, read my other blog post here.
- They will manipulate stories to make themselves look greater than reality.
- They normally struggle with addiction ( drug use, alcohol, medication, porn, could be anything).
- Some will be obsessed with their physical image others with their intelligence. Obsessed in a way that makes them believe they look better and/or are more intelligent than anyone else.
- Overt Narcissists will use tactics that feel a little more obvious like they usually take the center of a conversation, they occupy leadership positions, and are very concerned with titles. Covert Narcissists are more low-key, they tend to show as very humble and kind people that for no fault of their own end up in the drama. They are always the victim in every story.
- They are normally very charming people that anyone would “fall” for, but when they do not get what they want they will have a temper, and difficulty managing their anger.
- They cannot keep long-term relationships or jobs. Again, for no fault of their own ( or so they say) but there is always something that happens that despite them being the best at anything they can’t keep friendships and/or jobs for long periods of time.
- Their Ex is always crazy! (I love this one as it’s very easy to spot when you’re just starting to date). As mentioned above, they tend to victimize themselves and when it comes to relationships, theirs never worked out because their exes were crazy. But if you pay close attention you will understand that how they describe their ex is normally a description of their own behavior. Their Exes were always a liar, cheaters, crazy, would not understand their point of view, manipulative, and controlling.
- They lie. A lot. And with no remorse. Narcissists have to master the art of lying so that they can always manipulate the stories for their own interest. I know it’s hard to believe they are lying to you but listen to how they interact with others, at work, with friends, and with family. Are they comfortably lying to them? Why wouldn’t they lie to you?
- They Gaslight you. Gaslighting means when someone is trying to make you feel crazy for your own feelings and thoughts. A typical example is, when you have proof of a lie and confront them, they will make you believe that you are the crazy one for believing what first felt like a fact. You will end up asking yourself many times if you are the crazy one indeed. They will turn it around and you’ll be the one who ends up apologizing. No matter what the facts are, everything is your fault, never theirs. If you ever caught yourself thinking “I should have recorded the conversation” because you don’t know anymore what is true and what is not, this is a major red flag.
- They will try to separate you from your friends/family. “Separate to conquer” is their tactic. Through various ways of manipulation they will start making you question if your friends are really your friends, ” they don’t get you like I do”, “They don’t like me it’s better we don’t spend time with them”. Your family “doesn’t love you like I do”. That guy who’s been friends with you for years ? “that’s not really appropriate behavior to have a male friend”. They will find the most sneaky excuses to make you slowly spend less and less time with the ones who really care for you so that they can be the center of your world and free to manipulate you.
- They will justify their unacceptable behavior with their childhood trauma. Pledging to your empathy and understanding, they will make you feel as if you are a bad person for not empathizing with their misbehavior and forgiving them for something that just isn’t their fault.
- You’re responsible for how they feel, everything is your fault. And if they have a bad day, they will make you have one too by making you responsible for their feelings.
- They will ruin birthdays, holidays, or any other celebration that is not about them. Because if you’re not celebrating him, it’s not worth celebrating.
- They will cheat. We already know of their need to feel important and once they feel they already got you on the hook they will look for another person, often called the “supply”, to help them boost their ego again.
- They have no empathy. This is the most important proof that you’re dealing with a narcissist. They can fake it, and this is what makes it extremely difficult especially when you’re being gaslighted and are not sure anymore of what to believe. But they feel absolutely no empathy. Here I would suggest you do the same as with the lies, watch how they interact with other people, and whether they show any empathy or not. Not to the other person directly but behind their back, how they talk about the situation. My ex was the best at faking empathy and always pretending to care for my wounds. It became clear to me that my ex was not capable of feeling empathy when his sister called desperately asking for help as she was beaten up by her boyfriend, leaving her body completely bruised, and his comment to me of the situation was, “Whatever, she deserved it for being out with her friends so late at night”, having no reaction or whatsoever to the voice of his own family member crying in despair asking for help.
Did any of the sings above feel familiar to you?
If you read through the above signs and found yourself saying “Yes” to most of them, I am really sorry but chances are you are dealing, dealt, or know someone with a narcissistic partner. That being the case, here is the good news, narcissists cannot change, but you can! You can learn the signs and work on yourself to transform whatever it was that attracted you to one. If you fell for abuse know that this is not your fault, it happened to you, not because of you. But there are ways in which you can prevent it from ever happening again, and I can help you.