I never expected to meet a narcissist.
When I was younger, I was naïve, and more than a little insecure. I didn’t expect anyone to have bad intentions and would do my best to keep other people happy. I was easily manipulated, and quick to react if provoked.
This is fertile ground for being narcissistic prey.
A narcissist’s personality is divided equally between self-loathing and self-importance. Their self-hatred is only matched by their sense of entitlement. They convince themselves of being superior to others to avoid looking at who they are.
A narcissist can take the form of a parent, a lover, or a close friend. If someone you know fluctuates between harming you and charming you, then you need to start considering how their mind works. You may be in the same situation I was in.
Here are ten ways to know you have a narcissist in your life, and what you can do about it.
1). They Try to Dominate You
Narcissists try to establish dominance over you in every situation. Through degradation, confusion, and bullying they keep you in an established place. This way you can’t threaten their imaginary throne. They see the world as a game of hierarchy and status, and the more they put you down, the more they can solidify their status.
2). They Target Your Weaknesses
Narcissists prefer targets they can easily influence. In most cases, their targets are empathic and impressionable people. Your empathy is seen as a weakness they can exploit. They target the person who isn’t comfortable with conflict and will have a hard time fighting back. Consequently, they don’t target those they see as high status. Those are the people they seek to earn the favor of while they harm you behind closed doors.
3). They Subtly Manipulate You
Gaslighting and mind games are the most well-known weapons of a narcissist. Playing with the truth and watching you suffer is a way of exercising power over you. Narcissistic gaslighting can be summed up in two steps:
- One is harming you
- The other is convincing you it was your fault you got harmed. You hear things like, “You’re too sensitive. You screwed it up. It’s not my fault you’re an idiot.”
This can also take the form of simply lying. In plain English, they’ll tell you something that isn’t true and expect you to go along with it. Even if you manage to prove yourself right, they were “obviously just messing with you.”
4). They Never Stop Lying
Honesty is foolish to a narcissist. The self they show to the world is already a front, so why stop there? A narcissist will lie to hurt you, charm you, get ahead, or orchestrate any desirable outcome. Lying makes their life game easier, and their lack of empathy takes ethics out of the equation.
- It should be noted that narcissism is not the same as sociopathy. Some traits are shared between the two, but it’s safe to say a narcissist is something like “sociopath-lite.” A narcissist cares about receiving approval and adoration, while a sociopath might not. Regardless, both individuals can cause enormous harm.
5). Arguments Go Nowhere
Arguing with a narcissist is like playing someone in a chess match, but when you make a clever move, they start throwing pieces at your face. Arguments you have with a narcissist are not about the arguments. They may or may not believe in what they’re arguing for. All they are trying to do is confuse, irritate, and establish dominance. And if your argument is sound, they start telling lies. It’s only about them being right, and you being wrong.
6). They Charm You
When you meet a narcissist, they are notably charming and seem like someone you could genuinely connect with. But this doesn’t last. Some days they’re kind, and some days they’re cruel. If you try and distance yourself from a narcissist, they use flattery and “love bombing” to win you back. Love bombing is showering you with praise and companionship to keep you from leaving them. This works well on anyone who hates conflict and is afraid to stand up for themselves.
7). They Never Truly Apologize
Narcissists cannot take responsibility for the awful things they do. In their mind, nothing could possibly be their fault. An ugly world is the problem, not their ugly traits. Demand for an apology, or an expression of how much they hurt you, will be met with more gaslighting, lies, deflection, and manipulation. Even if you do get something like an apology, it will seem forced.
8). They Attack Your Reputation
A narcissist may recruit others in their fight to harm and sabotage you. Some will join in abusing you to avoid being a target themselves. They may speak ill of you when you’re not around or convince others you’re as manipulative as they are.
9). They Feed Off Your Reactions
Driving you to a boiling point and witnessing the explosion is the ultimate victory for a narcissist. Exercising power over you feeds them like little else. It’s a chance for them to say, “Look how unhinged and unreasonable he is! You’re saying I’m the crazy one. Look at this behavior!” Having an audience amplifies this effect (See #8).
Dealing with a narcissist is not the same as standing up to a bully. Raging against them, despite how badly you want to, is only playing into their hands. It gives them more opportunities to sabotage you.
10). They Are Incapable of Meaningful Self Reflection
Being so deluded, it’s difficult for a narcissist to reflect on their actions, feel regret, and change for the better. If their sense of worth is so deranged that they must lie to themselves about who they are, what would it take for them to change? To be honest, I don’t know. I don’t want to believe they are completely incapable of change, but it’s often the case that they rarely do. This is not something you should expect.
What to Do
Enduring years of narcissistic abuse can have devastating effects on your self-esteem, and on your sanity.
There are internal signs to watch out for if you believe you have a narcissist in your life:
- Constantly questioning your competence
- Feeling out of control
- Intense feelings of degradation and maltreatment
- Rage, preoccupation with the narcissist
- Putting up with unacceptable behaviors because they’ve convinced you it’s normal
I can’t speak for the circumstances of every person with a narcissist in their life, but I can tell you that the solution is not to seek vengeance or wait for a change in behavior. It’s always some form of leaving.
This means setting a strong boundary, or if possible, severing them from your life permanently. Forever. Without exceptions.
If you express a desire to leave, then you may be met with more love bombing and inauthentic promises of change. They could even bring up the good memories you’ve shared. And they might be right. But it’s not worth the price of their presence.
For community support, I would recommend r/raisedbynarcissists.
Otherwise, you can seek out friends, therapists, or domestic violence helplines for guidance.
For anyone being put through the misery of a person like this, you don’t deserve it. There are tools and there are ways out. You just need to respect yourself enough to make the change. Emancipate yourself, not by fighting, but by drawing a line in the sand and leaving. Save your soul.
The more you understand what they are, the less they can harm you.