10 signs you're dealing with a narcissist
One of the most painful things I’ve found in those suffering in abusive relationships is the fact that they don’t realise they’re in a toxic relationship to begin with.
It’s where you may find yourself stuck, unable to comprehend what’s going on.
Feeling torn between a gut instinct that says something is off and like you may just be exaggerating the whole thing, unsure why you feel like you’re out of your mind or worse, that you’re going to die.
The feelings are so intense and the events in the relationship have you on an emotional and psychological roller coaster.
How do we sort through these feelings? How do we know what we’re dealing with?
These are 10 of the most distinguishable signs that you may be dealing with a narcissist to help you confirm and validate the feelings you’re experiencing.
One: Lack of Empathy
A narcissist knows what empathy is and certainly can employ it, when necessary, and this is usually when they have something to gain.
But in your relationship with them, you will find that they don’t have any genuine compassion or empathy.
They’re able to be cut-throat toward you and others, they’re harsh with their words regardless of how it would make you feel.
More than that, they’re oblivious to how you feel as they see you as a means to an end, merely someone whose existence is to serve them.
They say and do things to make you feel like if you aren’t of use to them, you’re nothing. It’s extremely difficult to have a relationship with someone who doesn’t have the capacity to read your emotions, let alone care for them.
However, sometimes it can be confusing as they somehow are able to show an incredible about of compassion when they’re worried that they might lose your service to them, so they will shower you with appreciation and ‘kindness’ to keep you under their hold.
But of course, this disappears once again as soon as you succumb to them and they’re back to their usual manner.
Narcissists believe they are superior and are deserving of everything, at any time, and in their way.
They demand to be in control of any situation and they’re usually disappointed with suggestions, events, and outcomes that come from others if it doesn’t suit their agenda, even in the most mundane daily practices.
They must have a say in it and insist they come up top.
At times, this can also present itself differently – one-upping you in negative matters, to take the lead in being the most hard-done-by, or most ill or endured the most struggle.
For example, if you tell them about your busy 8-hour shift at work while feeling really under the weather, they’ll respond with how difficult their day has been and how they’re dealing with a lot worse, both dismissing and minimising your experience and amplifying theirs.
This is usually to entitle them to more of your sympathy, and ways for you to make up for their 'distressing’ day and channel the subject and attention back to themselves.
Three: Verbally Abusive & Critical
Everything with a narcissist is lose-lose. There’s no winning. Anything and everything you do is never good enough, you’re criticised over even the smallest things that you would never have considered could be an issue (and has never been a problem with other people in your life).
You learn very quickly to try to avoid their outbursts and criticisms and try to do things their way to get their approval stamp, only to find yourself being insulted over something else on the way. It’s stressful, demeaning, and hurtful every time.
The reality is a narcissist is deeply insecure (contrary to what they choose to show the world – see point 10) and believes the people around them are the ones with the defects, so they lash out at every opportunity, a sign of their own inner turmoil (which is not your responsibility nor place to fix), so sadly you become the receiving end of their cruel words and actions.
Four: Great Need for Control
A narcissist, with their sense of entitlement, believe they must be in control of everything, naturally to better suit their needs and their narcissistic supply whenever they want it.
If they’re at risk of losing control (via regular events that occur, or someone placing boundaries with them) they become very upset and angry and will implement their tried and tested techniques (gaslighting, lying, threatening, criticising, guilt-tripping, etc) to regain it.
There is no rationale to this other than wanting to have the upper hand and manipulate the circumstances to their benefit once again.
They aren’t to be negotiated with, they are not open to other suggestions; what they have in mind for how things go is the only one and almost nothing stands in their way and if others involved don’t play their part, there are usually dreadful consequences.
Five: Lack of Responsibility
A narcissist will never take responsibility for their actions. It’s always somebody else’s fault, even if they strike their hand, it’s the other’s fault for ‘making them do it’.
They are simply unable to show any signs of remorse or accountability for their behaviour.
They see no fault in how they behave at all and believe they have never done people wrong, throughout their lives, even when history seems to keep repeating itself.
In their view, the ‘drama’ and ‘falling out’ with people is always somebody else’s doing, never themselves to blame.
This extreme inability to see any faults of their own and their mastery at deflecting drives you up the wall as you can’t believe how it could be possible that they can’t see their mistakes and wrongdoings.
It’s unfathomable and feels very unsettling to be around somebody like this.
While a narcissist can spew out insults and criticisms left, right, and centre at anyone in their way (and of course proceed to tell you that you’re too sensitive for any reaction to this) if you were to attempt to highlight a mistake or a behaviour of theirs that was inappropriate or hurtful to you, they would use any tactic at their disposal to deflect it.
They’d project back onto you and say you’re the one with the problem. They’d criticise you even further, they may blame you and convince you it was only because of what you did that they behaved in such a way, that it was warranted.
They’re on high alert for threats and ‘attacks’, even an innocent joke or sarcasm from your end could set them off, claiming you’re out to get them or disrespect them and a list of their accusations would go on.
Seven: lack of Boundaries
Just like a two-year-old consumed by their world and wanting everything for themselves, a narcissist is unable to see division between what belongs to them and what belongs to you, in every sense you may think of.
Your time belongs to them, your emotions are to be held under their control, your decisions, your life is to be used to serve them, and nothing else. And if you’re to create boundaries to gain back some of your ownership, they are in utter shock and will employ their tricks to trod over these ‘restrictions’.
Eight: Extreme Emotional Reactions
Every emotion is magnified and blown out of proportion.
When they’re angry, they’re in a rage. When they’re sad, it’s devastation And more often than not, the trigger is minuscule and when you query the narcissist as to why they’re in a huff, it’s absurd that their reaction came from such an insignificant incident.
If they can’t find their keys, they’re screaming the house down, complaining and criticising everything and everyone in their path, and likely to blame you for your ‘shortcomings’.
They’ll recruit you to leave whatever you’re doing, regardless of how important it is, to attend to them and their needs (referring back to lack of boundaries).
nine: Charming one minute, devaluing the next
Love-bombing, is a common term used when describing the initial courting stages in a relationship with a narcissist, where they will overwhelm you with good feelings, through grand gestures, constant attention, building you as the centre of their world.
This is in fact priming you to become so emotionally attached to them that no matter how poorly they treat you, you would always feel helpless without them and keep you hanging from their hook.
And that’s when they flip to their abusive mode, devaluing you, insulting you, gaslighting you and perhaps discarding you altogether. A cycle is created where they switch back and forth from these hot and cold modes, reminding you of their ‘good side’ and the nice memories from time to time among all the abuse, to keep you tethered to them.
When the narcissist is not a romantic partner in your life, the cycle is still in the same design. You may feel like you’ve gotten to a good point with them, understanding each other and communicating your feelings to them and they’ll tell you how much they appreciate you but the next minute, they’ll snatch that safety net from right under you and you’re back to being inadequate, your name etched on their blacklist.
The goal is always for them to remain the centre of everybody’s world.
Ten: Glorified Self & Achievements
Aside from loving to dominate conversations and always spinning any tangents right back to them again, a narcissist loves to glorify their sense of self to others.
When they tell stories of their past or their achievements, they’ll fabricate and exaggerate how great, special, and unique they are and how anybody else in those situations wouldn’t have matched their remarkable abilities.
Some narcissists have a deeply repressed low self-esteem, one they are unaware of at the conscious level, but this has created a reactionary false sense of self (the False Self).
This is the façade they attach to and present to the world, one of superiority, of excellence, of grandiosity. The same one they paint also for themselves, believing their own lies, to uphold this higher fictitious version, the one that is entitled (point number 2), deserving of all glory, and for people to bend over backward for them, to step on others to get what they want, no matter the consequences (number 7 - lack of boundaries).
Attention, no matter what kind, is always up for grabs for the narcissist.
It’s what supplies them, they get their source of energy from this, if the conversation or the attention is diverted away from them, they will revert it back to them, cause a disruption that turns heads back to them or simply won’t engage with anything that isn’t about them, or serves them in some way (leading a lack of emotional connection in the other parties involved or in some instances this can result in the victim being discarded during these times – number 9).
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the narcissist’s traits, but it is clear to make connections and overlap between them, how one influences the other.
A lack of empathy allows for extreme abuse, a grand sense of self predisposes behaviours of entitlement. A narcissist may have several or all of these traits, some more dominant than others, depending on what they’ve needed to employ in their manipulation of those around them.
Identifying someone as a narcissist or trying to prove they lie on the spectrum of Narcissistic Personality Disorder isn’t a necessary goal when dealing with one.
It’s enough to know that these traits and behaviours aren’t something to want to stick around for long-term due to the detrimental emotional, psychological, and sometimes even physical effects on the receiver. It’s enough to make sense of your experiences, that what you have been going through doesn’t need to be blurry anymore - they are recognised, they are common, they are real.
With this, you can validate your telling of the events, be sure of your story and how you want to write the rest.