12 signs of narcissism
The word “narcissism” is derived from the name of a Greek mythological figure: Narcissus, the son of a god, fell in love with his own reflection in the waters of a spring. The term “narcissism” is commonly used to describe anyone with an inflated sense of self-worth. Everyone has narcissistic tendencies from time to time. However, those tendencies become a personality disorder when a person’s ability to function and engage with others is affected. Here are 12 signs that you or someone you know may have narcissistic tendencies
1. Superiority and entitlement
The world of the narcissist is all about good-bad, superior-inferior, and right-wrong. There is a definite hierarchy, with the narcissist at the top—which is the only place he feels safe. Narcissists have to be the best, the most right, the most competent; do things their way; and control everyone. Interestingly enough, narcissists can also get that superior feeling by being the worst; the most wrong; or most injured for a period of time.
2. Exaggerated need for attention and validation
Narcissists need constant attention and validation which can only come from others. No matter how much you tell narcissists you love them, admire them, or approve of them, they never feel it’s enough—because deep down they don’t believe anyone can love them. Despite all their self-absorbed, grandiose bragging, narcissists are actually very insecure and fearful of not measuring up. They constantly try to elicit praise and approval from others to shore up their fragile egos, but no matter how much they’re given, they always want more.
3. Lack of responsibility—blaming and deflecting
Although narcissists like to be in control, they never want to be responsible for the results—unless, of course, everything goes exactly their way and their desired result occurs. When things don’t go according to their plan or they feel criticized or less than perfect, the narcissist places all the blame and responsibility elsewhere. It has to be someone else’s fault. Sometimes that blame is generalised, but most often, the narcissist blames the one person who is the most emotionally close, most attached, loyal, and loving in his life—their spouse. To maintain the facade of perfection, narcissists always have to blame someone or something else. A spouse is the safest person to blame, because they are least likely to leave or reject.
4. Lack of boundaries
Narcissists can’t accurately see where they end and you begin. They seem to lack maturity and believe that everything belongs to them, everyone thinks and feels the same as they do, and everyone wants the same things they do. They are shocked and highly insulted to be told no. If a narcissist wants something from you, he’ll go to great lengths to figure out how to get it through persistence, cajoling, demanding, rejecting, or pouting.
5. Lack of empathy
Narcissists have little ability to empathise with others. They tend to be selfish and self-involved and are usually unable to understand what other people are really feeling. They may announce that they ‘can’t tell what mood you’re in’ or tailor their responses and behaviour to whatever they believe the person or situation needs, rather than responding with authenticity or genuinely. Narcissists expect others to think and feel the same as they do and seldom give any thought to how others feel. They are also rarely apologetic, remorseful, or guilty. At the same time, narcissists are highly attuned to perceived threats, anger, and rejection from others. This lack of empathy makes true relationships and emotional connection with narcissists difficult or impossible.
6. Emotional reasoning
You’ve probably made the mistake of trying to reason and use logic with the narcissist to get him to understand the painful effect his behaviours have on you. You think that if he understands how much his behaviour hurt you, he’ll change. Your explanations, however, don’t make sense to the narcissist, who only seems able to be aware of his own thoughts and feelings. Although narcissists may say they understand, they honestly don’t.
Therefore, narcissists make most of their decisions based on how they feel about something. If they’re bored or depressed, they want to move or end the relationship or start a new business or try a new adrenaline sport. They always look to something or someone outside themselves to solve their feelings and needs - alcohol, drugs, gambling, an affair, a new sport. They expect you to go along with their “solutions,” and they react with irritation and resentment if you don’t.
The narcissist’s personality is split into good and bad parts, and they also split everything in their relationships into good and bad. Any negative thoughts or behaviours are blamed on you or others, whereas they take credit for everything that is positive and good. They deny their negative words and actions while continually accusing you of disapproving. Narcissists aren’t able to clearly see, feel, or remember both the positive and the negative in a situation. They can deal with only one perspective at a time—theirs. If a friend has a different opinion to theirs, they distance themselves or belittle the other for seeing things ‘incorrectly’.
The narcissist’s entire life is motivated and energised by fear. Most narcissists’ fears are deeply buried and repressed. They’re constantly afraid of being ridiculed, rejected, or wrong - found out. They may have fears about their appearance, about losing their money, about being betrayed, about being seen as bad or inadequate, or about being abandoned. As they age, they may become more preoccupied with their appearance and weight. Fear of being ‘found out’ makes it difficult and sometimes impossible for the narcissist to trust anyone else.
In fact, the closer your relationship becomes, the less he will trust you. Narcissists fear any true intimacy or vulnerability because they’re afraid you’ll see their imperfections and judge or reject them. No amount of reassurance seems to make a difference, because narcissists deeply hate and reject their own shameful imperfections. Narcissists never seem to develop trust in the love of others, and they continually test you with worse and worse behaviours to try to find your breaking point. Their gripping fear of being “found out” or abandoned never seems to dissipate.
Anxiety is an ongoing, vague feeling that something bad is happening or about to happen. Some narcissists show their anxiety by talking constantly about the doom that is about to happen, while some hide and repress their anxiety. But most narcissists project their anxiety onto their closest loved ones, accusing them of being negative, unsupportive, mentally ill, not putting them first, not responding to their needs, or being selfish. All this is designed to transfer anxiety to the loved one in an attempt to not feel it themselves. As you feel worse and worse, the narcissist feels better and better. In fact, he feels stronger and more superior as you feel your anxiety and depression grow.
Narcissists don’t feel much guilt because they think they are always right, and they don’t believe their behaviours really affect anyone else. But they harbour a lot of shame. Shame is the belief that there is something deeply and permanently wrong or bad about who you are. Buried in a deeply repressed part of the narcissist are all the insecurities, fears, and rejected traits that he is constantly on guard to hide from everyone, including himself. The narcissist is acutely ashamed of all these rejected thoughts and feelings. Keeping his vulnerabilities hidden is essential to the narcissist’s thin veneer of self-esteem or false self. Ultimately, however, this makes it impossible for them to be completely real and transparent. They lack integrity, authenticity and don’t seem genuine.
11. An inability to be truly vulnerable
Because of their inability to understand feelings, their lack of empathy, and constant need for self-protection, narcissists can’t truly love or connect emotionally with other people. They cannot look at the world from anyone else’s perspective. They’re essentially emotionally blind and alone. This makes them emotionally needy. When one relationship is no longer satisfying, they often overlap relationships or start a new one as soon as possible. They desperately want someone to feel their pain, to sympathise with them, and make everything just as they want it to be. But they have little ability to respond to your pain or fear or even your day-to-day need for care and sympathy.
12. An inability to communicate or work as part of a team
Thoughtful, cooperative behaviours require a real understanding of each other’s feelings. How will the other person feel? Will this action make both of us happy? How will this affect our relationship? These are questions that narcissists don’t have the capacity or the motivation to think about. Don’t expect the narcissist to understand your feelings, give in, or give up anything he wants for your benefit; it’s useless. Any kind gestures or acts of generosity are strategic and have an ulterior motive – they give to get.
If you know or live with a narcissist, I am afraid that they are unlikely to change and they will certainly not be open to your suggestions that the above characteristics remind you of them! How you cope and respond is more important – If you’re unsure how to navigate your relationship with a narcissist, a therapist can help support and guide your path. Contact us.