Narcissism is a term that is used more frequently and broadly now than it has been in the past; clinically, it describes a person who is focused on glorifying themselves to the exclusion of others and someone who uses relationships as a means to shore up their own self-image or to their own benefit. It’s important, though, to bear in mind that a narcissist’s self-esteem teeters on a shaky foundation. The inflated self-importance is a delicate construction and that is why the narcissist is so desperately trying to protect and enhance it.
Unfortunately, it seems that the advent of the “selfie” and our cultural obsession with looks and personal success have given more support to the development of narcissistic tendencies. However, there’s a significant difference between checking mirrors to make sure you’re “selfie-ready” versus checking others’ egos, achievements, and appearances to bolster your own sense of pride.
Narcissists can be experts at reeling us in
Narcissists are often masters of getting what they want, so they know exactly what to do to win over a “fan.” True narcissists have a difficult time acknowledging that another person has their own needs or desires that are valid, although they may actually play to another’s needs in order to get what they want from a relationship. Most of us enjoy being told what we want to hear, and lifelong narcissists may not be revealed for who they truly are until you are already heavily invested into the relationship.
Warning signs of a narcissist
- Narcissists may go out of their way to give you a compliment, but will make sure that you and others realize just how awesome the person giving the compliment actually is.
- If a person you’ve just met hangs on your every word, seemingly focused intently on the conversation, but uses the first break in the conversation to direct the topic straight to themselves and their own “awesomeness,” this should be a red flag of a potential narcissist. These individuals work hard to create a self-aggrandizing opportunity and can be amazingly patient in laying the groundwork. That’s how narcissists are able to move relationships forward before they are revealed. They can play the long game, if necessary, to earn your trust.
- Narcissism might also be behind an unexpectedly generous offer of assistance if there’s an unexpectedly demanding need for praise and acknowledgment for having done the favor, as well. Be wary of individuals who go out of their way to do you a favor while making sure you are aware just how “out of her way” they went for you in doing that favor.
- If a person crafts a relationship in which he has all of the power and you are left with no choice but to go along with what he wants, while being told how lucky you are to have him in your life.
- Narcissists frequently use the “bait and switch” technique as their self-promotional modus operandi. They turn on the charm and make you feel as if you are the center of their universe, but the illusion will evaporate when they feel confident that you’re hooked.
- When someone consistently needs to turn every conversation into a reason to boast about their own accomplishments, either real or imagined, this can be a warning sign. We all need to feel heard and validated, but when
- In healthy relationships, people make room for a partner’s mistakes. Unfortunately, when you’re involved with a narcissist, the blame for any bump in the road or misunderstanding falls on you. Narcissists are unable to accept ownership themselves for any relational issues or personal problems. Narcissists blame others for their own failings as any threat to their self-esteem is simply unable to be tolerated.
- When you’re in the company of a narcissist, you quickly realize that these individuals will actively seek ways to make you feel small in order to make themselves feel larger-than-life.
Breaking it off with a narcissist may be easier said than done
At first, narcissists use their skill set to get you to fall for them, they make you feel valued, treasured, or needed. Unfortunately, the longer you stay, the more likely they are to make you feel small and insignificant and unlikely to “make it” on your own.
Narcissists can twist you around their finger which can leave you reeling and self-doubting of your ability to accurately judge another potential partner. When you have been fooled by someone’s charm, it can leave you less likely to trust another person for some time.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a litmus test that you can use to determine early on if a person who seems “too good to be true” really is just that: false, not true. However, some signs that a person is what they claim to be include having—and introducing you to— – some long-term friends. If there are individuals who are “constants” in another’s life – and people that you feel good about meeting, it’s likely that the person is who they say they are. Everyone has a limited tolerance level for true narcissists—patience and sympathy run out eventually.
If someone is trying to rush you into a relationship before you’re ready, being honest and holding your ground is totally advisable. Having your friends spend some time with you and the possible partner is also a good idea—sometimes friends can pick up on things both bad and good—before we are able to do so ourselves.
~ Salvador Dali