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 behaviors are to us. A narcissist can be anyone in our circle, family, friends, even our spouse.
Here are some narcissistic behaviors to look for in terms of personality traits
An intense and 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 like my blog, 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.
“Blowing out someone else’s candle won’t make yours shine brighter. Remember that.”Unknown
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 and their narcissistic behaviors in your life
Set healthy boundaries
What are the goals in dealing with a narcissist and their narcissistic behaviors? 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 behaviors 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 behaviors, 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.
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 narcissistic behaviors are not acceptable for you. Say No.
Accept the reality
A narcissist may never be willing to change. Changing their narcissistic behaviors 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.
“Be who you are and say what you feel. Because those tho mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”Dr. Seuss
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!
“Sometimes we have to forget what is gone, appreciate what still remains, and look forward to what is coming next.”Unknown
Narcissistic Behaviors Discussion
Have you dealt with narcissistic behaviors in people in your life? How did you handle the narcissistic behaviors? Let me know about your experiences in the comments!
Thank you so much for sharing tips on how to manage toxic people. Reminding people that they don’t have to accept the mistreatment & brainwashing but can instead set boundaries, remember their worth, and cut ties if needed is SO valuable!
The Prepping Wife
Thanks, Desiree! That was exactly my hope in posting this. To help people realize and give them the strength to stand up and say that is not acceptable behavior. Because I think far too often, especially in the cases with family members, we just learn to tolerate it and accept it as being the normal. It is not easy to do so either. It takes a lot of strength and courage. Which I hope I gave even one person in posting this. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment.
Thanks for the tips. Your article is written extremely well.
Unfortunately, I had a run in with many toxic people in my lifetime. Two of them nearly broke me. It’s good to know what to look out for.
Will definitely keep this in mind. I’ve been doing a lot of research lately about narcissist and how to deal with them. I am also looking at it through a lends of Christianity as well. I think that may be coming soon to my blog, with more research! Great read!
Well written! My friend is currently dealing with a Narcissistic Son-In-Law. For years she couldn’t quite understand why her daughter (who was always so close to her mom) was slowly drifting from her until one day her counselor brought up this concept. A Narcissistic person drains a person so close to them that the person finally gives up the fight and gives in to them. It’s so hard to watch this process happen, but fortunately this young lady has her Mom & Dad there to support her while she climbs her way out of this toxic relationship!
Scott J DeNicola
I have dealt with quite a few narcissistic people in my lifetime, and it can be exhausting! I despise telling someone how I’m feeling yet it always gets turned around to them and what’s going on in their life. That’s not what the conversation is about! They think they’re more important than you and that their time is more valuable than yours. You will not change a narcissist so it’s best to just get away as soon as you can.
The Prepping Wife
I cut three of them out, and it was literally life changing. When my best friend died, it became clear my circle wasn’t a good one. They say that you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with. The real question is, is that what you want to be? The answer became no for me, and so I changed my circle. It isn’t easy, but healthy is more important than easy.
Sometimes you need to put yourself first and ignore or walk away from those type of people. They will drag you down. You don’t deserve them in your life. And they certainly don’t deserve to have you in their lives. I’m glad you’ve been able to turn your back on the narcissists who were affecting you. That takes strength and you have obviously been able to grow within yourself without them being around you.
Narcissistic people are very toxic and I agree with everything you have mentioned; how to identify a narcissist and how to separate yourself from them. I’ve had a few in my lifetime. Sometimes it’s hard to see how manipulative and all consuming they are (energy drainers). Especially when you love them so much. When the time comes to part ways, it is a difficult and sad experience, but once that band aid is ripped off. Life does get better and much happier.
The Sunny Side Lifestyle
Life is short. We all need to surround ourselves with people that bring us job, fill us up and have our best interest at heart. Your advice and permission to sever ties with a narcistic person is right on target. A toxic relationship is not worth pursuing and rarely will the person change.
Great write up Erica, on the dangers of narcissistic people in ones life. You hit the nail on the head with this one, I can see you’ve had some history with dealing with these sorts of people. I’m really glad you added these tips on how to deal with narcissists. Usually, yes cutting them out is the best and most beneficial way to create a healthier and happier you, however sometimes cutting them out is simply not an option, So your other tips are very helpful! Thanks for sharing such an informative and well written post!
Live Learn Better
I’m reading this and clapping. How many more life truth can be dosed into one post? Unfortunately, this is the reality of today and having the right knowledge to handle individuals like this will do one a whole lot of good in the long run.
Yes i have met a couple of such characters in my life and one of them is my cousin! Honestly such people exhaust me so i like to keep a safe distance! Just saying… 🙂
I had the displeasure of dating a narcissist once. They gaslit me constantly and manipulated me into being an “obedient admirer.” I wish I had recognized and didn’t ignore the signs, but I was in love so I overlooked their flaws. Luckily, I got out of that relationship and avoid toxic, narcissists whenever possible.
Sadly, you just described my mother. This is a very good article and I’m saving it! This is jam-packed with good information!
My ex was a narcissist, and it totally destroyed my self-confidence. He thought he was smarter than everyone else and tried to control every situation. My advice to anyone in that situation: get out as soon as you can. I waited much too long.
The Prepping Wife
I have found self confidence to be such an issue too! I’m working on building mine back up and really having confidence in my abilities.
I do believe narcissts are very hard to handle and impossible to work with. We really don’t need them in our lives
Oh, this hit a chord – dealt with a couple of people like this. Just had to walk away. I think another thing with narcissists is that they often reserve the narcissistic behaviour for one or two people – everyone else thinks they’re wonderful. Important post, Erica, thank you.
The Prepping Wife
That is absolutely true, Trish! They are masterful at manipulating most people into thinking they are just the best. Like anyone who thinks otherwise has to be an alien or have brain damage. I am always amazed at how well they hide those personality traits from most people.
We have all dealt with people like this at one time or another. This is a clear and relatable breakdown of traits and what to do when faced with toxic and narcissistic people. I have to be honest and say that I recognized some of my own traits in the description, but aware of them and working on them. Awareness is key!
The Prepping Wife
A true narcissist completely lacks awareness, or the ability to admit they have these traits! So I don’t think you are a narcissist, Stella! I’m glad you recognize them and are working on them. Nobody is perfect, and there are times that even I have some of the same behaviors too. I always think that admitting flaws or behavior issues is a huge step in the right direction toward becoming the best version of myself, and something I always encourage others to do too.
Well this was deffo a good read and so much to think about. I think we have all met someone who has these kind of traits. It is all about being able to spot these for sure x
This is an amazing and comprehensive post. I’m glad you were ultimately able to stand up for yourself, as this can be very difficult when dealing with a narcissist. I have definitely met people with some of these qualities. I wonder how much of it is innate and how much of it is made through the way someone is raised? One of my family members displays many of these behaviors and he was so spoiled as a child that it makes me think part of the reason is his upbringing. Regardless, your advice is great.
The Prepping Wife
For me personally, before I broke that cycle, it was my upbringing. It took a lot to break the cycle for myself, and I’m so very glad I did. When I think about the spoiled child you mentioned, I’m presuming they never had to face consequences for their actions, and that can be a big part of it. Kids from bigger families, or who play team sports, or have good social skills have both awareness and consequences. Someone who isn’t made to face either tend to have more narcissistic personality traits because they think they’re special.
Very nice read and very much that I can relate to. I know someone and who is quite a near relative who displays all these behaviors that you have talked about. Didn’t know how to handle first except trying to stay away. Thank you for these great tips on how to deal with such people.
I’m 54, married for the past 26 years and only after reading your article I realise I am the obedient admirer to a narcissist. I have always thought I was subjected to strange behaviours and have spoken with my doctor about how I have been made to feel for many many years. I have even been prescribed medication to help me cope with the depression that builds up inside of me when I am treated in this way. Reading your article is like reading about my life with the exception that I haven’t walked away from the relationship.
Word for word, line by line and paragraph after paragraph, this is a fascinating read and now everything that has happened over nearly three decades of my life makes sense.
I don’t know what I will do now but I don’t think walking away is an option as this could be too damaging for our kids even though they are 20 and 24 and live at home.
Let’s see if I can use this new found understanding of NPD so the criticism, intimidation, bullying and belittling has a minimal effect on my responses and overall wellbeing.
Not in a million years will my wife ever admit to having NPD or seeking any help as I now know that acceptance will NEVER happen.
The Prepping Wife
You are absolutely correct when you say your wife will never admit to being a narcissist. A narcissist is completely incapable of admitting any kind of flaws. Since divorce isn’t an option for you, I would recommend visiting with a therapist to talk about these experiences. Even if your wife won’t go (that’s ok), you can go for yourself. They should be able to help you gain some self confidence back and try to get you off the anti-depressants, if that is your goal. Recognizing the narcissistic behaviors is a huge step toward taking care of your mental health! That changes your response to their behavior because you can see it for exactly what it is now.