Have you ever known a narcissist? Chances are you’ve met one or two in your life, or even quite a few. Their behavior is very frustrating, and can become quite toxic to your own mental health. I am here to talk about this and my dealings with it, and how to make healthy changes to ourselves when dealing with one.
Because so many times we just try to live with it, especially when it is within our family or our close circle of friends. That behavior is normal and within our comfort zone. Yet when we are out of that environment, it becomes easy to see how destructive narcissistic behavior is to us. A narcissist can be anyone in our circle, family, friends, even our spouse.
Here are some things to look for in terms of personality traits:
An intense/insatiable appetite for attention from others, as well as seeking out praise and positive reinforcement from others. They demand constant attention, multiple phone calls, hours spent just listening to them babble on about themselves or telling stories about themselves. They are easily upset if they are not getting the proper amount of attention. When I started cutting out a narcissist from my life, I started leaving the Do Not Disturb function on my phone turned on about 95% of the day. This meant that the calls and messages still went through, I simply had no notifications.
Their need to always be able to reach me was intense and overwhelming, and the response to leaving my DND on was less than positive from them. I had 4 back to back missed calls one day. Thinking there is an emergency, I call back expecting the worst. Nope, just wanted to chat and say hi. If you’re not dying or having a medical emergency, 4 calls is honestly excessive. That was my thought, which of course was considered criticism and met with hostility. They want obedient admirers.
Extreme feelings of jealousy. If they are not the center of attention, they will make themselves be the center of attention. Even if it is negative attention. That is still attention, and they can steer the negativity to reflect on you instead of them. One narcissist did not like a friend of mine because we started spending a fair amount of time together. To this day, when the friend’s name comes up in the presence of the narcissist, I can see a visible change in their face. That jealousy is almost paralyzing. It’s actually kind of disturbing to witness.
Another narcissist would constantly call if and when they knew I would be doing things with other specific people. If you’ve ever had someone basically try to steal your friends, that is a narcissist. They say things like, your family member is mine too, or that is MY friend too. Even if the narcissist has never met the other friend and all they know about the friend is what you’ve told them. They still manage to act like they know that person.
An expectation of special treatment. They are number one in their mind, and expect to be treated as such by you. If you don’t, the level of drama you will likely face feels like a punishment. This is especially true when the narcissist is a family member.
In many cases like this, it is far easier to give in to that expectation instead of dealing with the meltdowns. They really feel that whatever they want, they should get it and they deserve it. They are special and important. Beyond special and important, actually.
Exaggerating achievements, talents, and importance. Many narcissists just like hearing themselves talk because it makes them feel important. They have an opinion or advice about everything, and I do mean everything. They have no idea how to simply listen. Any story on your part will be met with a disruption to turn the conversation to where they can talk.
If you’ve ever picked up the phone to call your bestie and take your five minutes to vent, no talking, no interrupting, no advice. Just be quiet and listen for a few minutes. We all need that. A narcissist is completely incapable of doing that. They literally don’t know how to just shut up, listen, and be a good friend.
Extreme sensitivity and tendency to be easily hurt or feel rejected with little provocation. It basically becomes a constant complaint from them about how you respond to a simple text message. They don’t like the “tone” of a text, or you didn’t answer the phone after they’ve called 6 times back to back with no real reason past they just want to demand your attention.
The rest of us feel like we have to walk on eggshells to keep the narcissist from having a meltdown. Which having to walk on eggshells to keep them happy is both mentally and physically draining.
Once I cut one out of my life and ceased walking on eggshells, it is amazing what kind of positive things started happening and how much my perspective changed. I was able to relax, to just enjoy the great people around me, I started appreciating them even more, and telling them so.
My sleep habits became so much healthier because even my sleep quality improved. My relationships with several people improved pretty significantly once I was rid of the narcissist. I knew I had finally surrounded myself with the perfect people. The ones who really did care about me and made sure I was doing well. That supported the things I was doing and really went out of their way to help me out.
Difficulty maintaining healthful relationships. Imagine that. Not to be mean, but seriously. How can anyone have a meaningful relationship when all they know how to focus on are themselves? Relationships require a partnership. If you only know how to focus on yourself, it isn’t a partnership. That is a dictatorship.
They lead, you follow, and there is no other way except what they want. This is a huge part of what makes severing a relationship with a narcissist so difficult. Because they always expect you to follow them around and jump when they demand it. Anything short of that, and it is a personal attack on them. You’ve now insulted them and their importance.
I’ve had moments where I found my voice and said, this is not an acceptable way to treat me. Which is basically the end of the world for them. Because that is a huge attack on their ego, and if there is ever a falling out, I’m the one who is completely at fault. I’ve taken my leash back, so to speak, or started tugging on it, resisting.
A narcissist doesn’t like that. I am automatically the villain in all of their stories, because they will never admit any sort of wrongdoing. That is something I’ve had to come to terms with. Knowing they will never understand their own mistakes or own them. I’ve made the choice to make sure I admit mine and keep moving forward to be a better person. A narcissist has no idea how to have any sort of emotional growth like that. Because they already feel they are perfect.
Fantasizing about their own intelligence, success or appearance. They think because they look “nice” then they’ll be taken more seriously, and get upset if they aren’t. That magically makes them a better person than everyone else. A shower and a haircut doesn’t automatically mean anyone deserves better treatment than anyone else. They feel based on their appearance or type of vehicle they drive and/or how they take care of it that they’ll be treated better or people will think they’re more intelligent.
A lack empathy, or ability to understand the feelings of others, and a tendency to disregard others’ feelings. My perspective is the only one. That’s it. You don’t matter, your feelings don’t matter, and I’m not even going to pretend they matter. That is how a narcissist will treat you. This also goes back to the inability to just listen. How can someone be empathetic if they can’t even let a full story be told? They can’t, it is just that simple.
This also goes back to when I talked about the complaints about “tones” in a text message earlier. The narcissist is offended by something they are perceiving instead of reality. That is what matters. Never mind asking for clarification. It’s all perception followed by trying to bring you down and make you feel bad about something as ridiculous as a “tone” of a text message. I can absolutely understand voice tones, but text is a bit overly dramatic, in my opinion.
Which is funny because when we would speak on the phone, there was never that kind of complaints. It was only through text. Which made me wonder what kind of bubble this person was living in to be able to hold down a regular conversation, yet throw fits over texts? I honestly just tapered off texting or even calling. It was too much for me to handle.
Responding to criticism with anger, humiliation, and shame. They are absolutely certain they can handle criticism gracefully, but nothing in the world could be farther from the truth. They instantly become hostile or defensive when faced with any sort of criticism. Any other response would mean they would have to own their flaws and admit to them, along with an apology. They are incapable of that.
The best defense they have to any sort of criticism is “sorry, I can’t be perfect.” That is about as close to an apology as they are capable of. If you are thinking, that isn’t anything even close to an apology, you are completely correct. But that defense is all a narcissist has. Or they will turn it around on you. You are always in the wrong when it comes to dealing with a narcissist. Nothing you will ever do is correct. It is always your fault.
The expectation that others will agree with them and go along with what they want. This is a control technique. They want to control any and all situations and you as well. They love to feel important and will try to control you while calling it “helping” because they love you.
This is the one where any kind of rejection to their help is treated like it is the end of the world, basically. If you reject following their “advice” which is more like demands, then you are ungrateful. The narcissist feels rejected because they need blind followers.
I have always found the rejection aspect of it all to be interesting. I used to lift with a guy who I would ask advice from periodically, and he gave amazing advice. It usually turned out to be genius, honestly. Helped me in my weight lifting tremendously on a couple of occasions.
Whenever I would thank him for his advice, he would always say, take it with a grain of salt. I’ve kind of adapted the same mentality. If someone wants my advice, I’ll give it. But in no way do I feel that makes them obligated to do exactly what I have told them I think would be best. A narcissist is incapable of taking that kind of approach to their advice or directions. We must follow it to the letter, or it is a personal rejection to them. Like there is something wrong with them and you automatically hate them.
How to deal with a narcissist in your life:
Set healthy boundaries. What are the goals in dealing with a narcissist? Make a plan on how you want to set your boundaries and how you will enforce that. Do not set any boundaries unless you are willing to keep it, and stick with a follow through. You deserve to be taken seriously with your request for boundaries. But if you do not follow through, you will not be taken seriously and the narcissistic behavior will simply continue.
Think about a gentle approach. If you are wanting to continue the relationship with a narcissist, approaching the subject gently is the only way to go, and even then it will not be smooth sailing. Because by talking about their narcissistic behavior, you are damaging their perfect self image.
It is important to remain calm here, because I can almost guarantee that the narcissist will not remain calm. They will become not only emotional, but angry, and aggressive in their verbal attack on you. It is ok to simply walk away if they resort to hostility or verbal abuse because they are defensive.
Refuse to be brainwashed. A narcissist will try to shame you and undermine your self esteem. Do not take undeserved blame, criticism, or responsibility from them for their behavior. That negativity is theirs to keep! Make sure they keep it and are not permitted to pass it to you. Many times they will claim that you have changed. Which may be absolutely true.
I’ve had traumatic events change my life before. The difference in your view versus a narcissist is how that event changed you. For me, it was traumatic, but some very positive things came out of it. Unfortunately, that meant that I was not willing to blindly follow the narcissist(s) in my life any longer and it was time to cut ties.
Be confident! When you know yourself and what your strengths and weakness is, it is easier to defend yourself against a narcissist attacking you by rejecting their unfair criticisms. You are not a doormat sitting on the porch where people wipe their feet before going in the house. Do not allow yourself to be treated as such. It is perfectly ok to stand up for yourself and say that this kind of behavior is not acceptable for you.
Accept the reality. A narcissist may never be willing to change. Changing their behavior involves admitting fault and exposing flaws. That isn’t likely to happen, and it may come down to a narcissist becoming toxic enough that it is time to say goodbye. That is perfectly ok. It isn’t fun, by any stretch of the imagination.
But, it will feel incredible once you’ve taken a stance on the way you expect to be treated by those around you, and stick to that expectation. Those who refuse to treat you in the way you expect can simply go away. It isn’t an easy decision to make, but the positives of removing a narcissist from your life simply outweigh the negatives.
Know your value! You deserve to be treated with respect, and that isn’t something a narcissist is capable of. You deserve healthy relationships, and never let anyone convince you otherwise. Just keep standing up for yourself. Don’t allow them to project their insecurities on you. You also deserve to be happy and not in a toxic relationship. You are not selfish in making the choice to understand your own value and to say goodbye to a narcissist.
It is OK to cut ties with a narcissist. Sadly there are times when that is the only healthy thing you can do for yourself. It will not be easy because we question our choices and second guess ourselves. It is almost like grieving for the loss of a relationship, even though the person is still very much alive. If it is a close friend or family member, this is exceptionally tough because we all wonder if we could have handled it differently.
People judge us, wondering how we could just cut someone off. Like we have no soul and the relationship meant nothing. But that is really not the case. That relationship may have meant the world to us, but it was simply unhealthy. People don’t see what happens behind closed doors, therefore they rarely know how toxic a relationship was to us, and judge based on what little they actually know.
The narcissist will not easily let go. They will send you messages like, “hey I want your opinion on something, can you call me?” Or, I have advice on something you’re working on and can’t wait to tell you about it. Another favorite is, I miss my best friend and just need to hear their voice.
A narcissist will try hard to get you to call them back. They don’t understand boundaries at all and constantly try to breach them. This will be a constant and ongoing battle you may have to deal with. Which is exactly why it is OK to say goodbye for good.
It isn’t fun to say goodbye, especially when it is a close friend or family member. But sometimes we have to sacrifice what is easy in the interest of our own mental health and sanity. That is more important. Because the positive outcome will be absolutely worth it. I find it interesting how once I exposed one for exactly who they were, the others became easy to identify.
Almost like they all worked together, if that makes sense. Once a flaw was revealed, the rest were impossible to ignore. I am here to tell you that saying goodbye becomes easier as time goes on, because it becomes obvious just how negative of an impact they had on my life when they aren’t there and that impact is no longer happening.
I have experienced amazing changes and I am more confident in myself because I finally stood up for myself and my own best interest. It strengthened other relationships because I ceased to be so guarded in my feelings during conversations. I could finally be myself because I had surrounded myself with the right people who would support me completely. Once I made the wrong people go away, it was obvious who the right ones were.
You can do it too. As I said before, it isn’t the easiest choice to make. But I firmly believe that the positive outcome of doing it far outweighs the short discomfort of making this choice. You are strong enough to make healthy choices for yourself, and never let anyone tell you any different. I have faith in you and I want to see you happy and healthy!