We use the word narcissist often when we talk about someone who puts up pictures on their instagram constantly, or seems full of themselves. However, a true narcissist is someone who actually has NPD (narcissistic personality disorder). This is characterized by particular traits, such as feeling an inflated sense of importance, a need for constant attention and admiration, lack of empathy for others, and troubled relationships. Essentially, we’re talking about extreme selfishness, even at the expense of others. Not considering anyone but their own feelings. Narcissism falls on a spectrum. Technically, there are nine official criteria for NPD, but you only need 5 traits to be considered.
So what are those nine criteria?
- Extreme sense of self-importance
- preoccupation with fantasies and dreams of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- The belief that they’re special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people
- The need for excessive or constant admiration
- A sense of entitlement
- interpersonally exploitative behavior
- lack of empathy
- envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them
- demonstration of an arrogant attitude
Just because you know the official diagnostic criteria doesn’t mean it’s easier to spot a narcissist, especially when you’re dating or involved with one. If you’re wondering if how you are being treated is healthy in the long-run, read on to learn about the signs.
1. At first, there’s a charm.
It starts as a fairy tale relationship. Experts call this love bombing – they compliment you non stop, text constantly, tell you they love you quickly. They may emphasize how compatible you are, even if you’ve just started seeing each other. Narcissists think that they deserve to be with other people who are special, and that special people are the only ones who can appreciate them fully and to the best ability. However, as soon as you do something that disappoints or upsets them, they’ll turn on you.
How narcissists treat you, or when they turn on you, actually has nothing to do with you and everything to do with their own beliefs and twisted mindset.
2. They talk about how amazing they are.
Narcissists love to talk about their own accomplishments and achievements. Oftentimes, they inflate what they do and how important their role is. It makes them feel better and smarter than everyone else, and helps them create an appearance of being self-confident and assured.
They’re so busy talking about themselves, that they neglect to listen to you. Ask yourself: What happens when you do talk about yourself? Do they ask follow-up questions, or express interest to hear more? Or do they twist it back to being about them?
3. They thrive off of your compliments.
Narcissists may appear as if they’re super self-confident, but most people with NPD actually have very low self-esteem and self-confidence.
They need and crave a lot of praise, and if you’re not giving it to them, they’ll bait you for it. That’s why they’re constantly looking at you to tell them how great they are. Narcissists use other people to boost their sense of self-worth, and make them feel powerful and important. Their egos can be hurt very easily. The biggest difference between partners who are confident and those with NPD is that narcissists need others to lift them up, and lift themselves up by putting others down.
4. They don’t have or show empathy.
Lack of empathy – the ability to feel how another person is feeling- is one of the trademark characteristics of a narcissist. Narcissists don’t have the skill to make you feel seen, validated, understood, or accepted because they don’t understand the concept of feelings. Does your partner care or make an effort to talk it out when you’ve had a bad day at work, or a fight with your best friend? Do they get bored when you express the things upsetting you?
The inability to empathize is often the reason why narcissists’ relationships eventually end, whether they’re romantic relationships or friendships.
5. They don’t have a lot of friends for long.
Many narcissists don’t have any long-term, real friends. Dig deeper into their connections and you may notice that they only have casual acquaintances, buddies they trash-talk, and enemies they pretend to be close to.
This will often cause them to attack you, make you feel guilty for spending time with your friends, or talk down about the types of friends you have.
An important set of questions to ask is how your partner treats someone they don’t want anything from? Do they have any long-term friends, or friends from school?
They put you down often.
They’ll say they’re just teasing you, or making a joke. But eventually you realize it’s constant, all the time. Everything you do, from what you wear, what you eat, who you hang out with, and what you do in your free time, becomes a problem.
The goal is for them to lower your self-esteem because it makes them feel powerful and better. When you react to what they say, it reinforces their behaviour. They love to see you react, because it shows them they hold the power. They want you to believe that you’re not better than them. In their eyes, nobody is better or more successful than they are.
7. They gaslight you.
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation and emotional abuse. Narcissists may tell obvious and constant lies, twist your words, and make you question yourself and your feelings.
Signs of gaslighting include:
- You no longer feel like the person you used to be.
- You feel more anxious and less confident than you used to be.
- You often wonder if you’re being too sensitive.
- You feel like everything you do is wrong.
- You always think it’s your fault when things go wrong.
- You’re apologizing often.
- You have a sense that something’s wrong, but aren’t able to identify what it is.
When you decide to break up with them, a narcissist will try harder to keep you in their lives. They may love-bomb you. They’ll say all the things you want to hear to make you think they have changed. They may claim to be going to therapy, or say they feel bad for all they’ve done to you. However, if you choose to stay, you’ll see they never changed. If you put your foot down and make it clear that you’re done with the relationship, they’ll make it their goal to hurt you. Their ego and confidence will be so bruised that their rage and hatred comes out. They believe you wronged them, because everything is always someone else’s fault.
Ok, we’ve talked about narcissistic tendencies. What do you do if you’re in a relationship with one? Being in a relationship with someone who’s always criticizing, belittling, gaslighting, and overall treating you badly is emotionally exhausting. That’s why you should get the hell out of it.
Prepare yourself for the breakup, because it will be nasty. Remind yourself that you deserve better. Get a therapist, because talking it out with an unbiased third party can help a lot.
Realize that you’ll never be enough for them, because they’re never enough for themselves. Cut ties. Don’t give them a second chance.