What is a narcissist?
In the dictionary a narcissist is someone who has excessive interest in or admiration for themselves. They are selfish and self centred. They need people around them who feed this and generally don't consider others needs. When things in life don't go their way, they can resort to childlike behaviour - sulking, blaming, avoiding, arguing, being selfish, patronising, denial, being stubborn, demanding, manipulating or twisting things to make themselves a victim.
Narcissists also don't like change, even when it causes problems in their relationships with family, friends or marriage.
Narcissists can be a 'wolf in sheeps clothing'. They can be confident and attractive, but the more time you spend with them, the more they can leave you feeling insecure, anxious and questioning yourself. You can end up a co dependant, a people pleaser with low self esteem being the result.
A narcissists arrogance can often stem from insecurity and lack of self-esteem. Interestingly narcissistic traits can also be similar to those of people on the autistic spectrum.
- Narcissists think they are better than everyone else and expect recognition - even when they’ve done nothing to earn it.
- They want constant praise and admiration. They like to be around people who will compliment them and pander to their ego.
- Lack of empathy. Narcissists usually don’t identify with other peoples feelings. The only thing they really understand is their own needs.
- Belittling others when they are jealous. Narcissists quite often feel threatened when someone around them has something they don't - they become jealous and lash out. They can throw insults, make sarcastic comments, belittle you or your friends or be back stabbing.
- Having Feelings Is Your Fault. If you confront a narcissist about how you feel, they will just tell you that it's your fault for feeling that way or one that’s used on me a lot … “Look at you, Lying again!”.
- Boasting. A narcissist loves to boast.
You cannot change the behaviour of others, but you can change the way you respond to their behaviour. From personal experience, it is very hard to deal with someone close to you who is a narcissist, as they try to erode your self belief in order to control you. Most relationships can get back on track with good communication and compromise, whereas, narcissistic relationships are about setting boundaries that are more realistic for them and for yourself.
Set healthy boundaries
Many of my clients have difficulty in saying ‘no’. I use several techniques in my sessions to help them to understand why they are ‘boundary impaired’ and get to the root cause of why they stay in their relationship with a narcissist. Sometimes it can be because of their own fears - potential break up of a marriage, financial worries, scared of being alone, unloved, unneeded, being judged or guilt. But you can protect yourself by creating healthy boundaries - you just need to learn how.
Setting boundaries is all about saying no. Don’t set a boundary unless you can stick to it - just like with children - if you give an inch they take a mile - it's the same with a narcissist! If you back down, you are sending the wrong message and won't be taken seriously.
Stop giving and look after number one!
Relationships with narcissists can be very one sided. If you keep giving to someone who only takes and doesn’t appreciate it, you are sending them the wrong message and not helping yourself. They will keep on taking and it will end up with resentment building on your part. Start being kind to yourself and do what’s right for you. If you don't look after yourself, you will end up with nothing left to give.
If a narcissist in your life is important to you, you will have to be very careful how you approach change. By pointing out their bad behaviour you will cause conflict. Try to talk kindly and without blame, focussing on how they make you feel as a result of their behaviour, rather that blame or throwing insults. It is quite likely they will respond badly - if they do, suggest ending the conversation calmly and revisit another day.
Prepare for change.
A narcissist might feel threatened by the new you - trying to make changes - creating chaos in their lives. They are used being in control. In retaliation they might try something new, try new tactics to make you do things their way. If you really feel you need to make things work, it's important that you remain strong and stand firm, no matter how hard that might be for you.
Don’t take things personally
It’s horrible to get blamed for something that’s not your fault, try not to take it personally. However I know personally how hard this can be and I needed professional help to feel strong enough to do so. Hence this was a factor that steered me into this profession myself.
Try not to argue
When being accused for something you did not do, the natural instinct is to defend yourself and prove the the accuser wrong. Unfortunately no matter how strong your argument, a narcissist is unlikely to take any notice. Don’t waste your breath. Simply tell the narcissist you disagree and move on.
Stop needing their approval
It’s important to stop needing a narcissists approval - stop asking their opinion, stop trying to please them constantly - it will only feed their needs and you will end up worse off.
Learn what healthy a relationship should be
If you have lived with narcissists in your life for a long time, you may not have or have lost the sense of what a healthy relationship is. I know for me, it turned me into a people pleaser as felt there was no point me being happy unless everyone else is happy first. Something that is impossible to achieve and never my responsibility. In a reciprocal relationship, you will feel respected, listened to, and free to be yourself.
Surround yourself with people who are not narcissists.
Spend time with people who know you and love you for who you are, not what you can give to them. They can support you and help you feel good about yourself again. Maybe join new clubs and make new friends - getting away from the bad influence of narcissistic people and that environment, it will help you become the real you, the old you, not the person the narcissist in your life has made you become.
I work with many clients who are struggling with narcissistic people in their lives and also those who are themselves unhappy with their lives as their narcissistic views make them feel a victim all the time and blame everyone around them for making them unhappy and therefore feel stuck in life.
If this blog resonates with you and you are looking for help to set your boundaries or maybe worried that you have narcissistic traits and want to do something about it, please do get in touch for a free 15 minute phone consultation.