What The Heck Is A "Narcissist"?
There are plenty of people who may have heard the word “narcissist” before who either thinks it’s a person who’s just really arrogant or they don’t know what it really means.
So for starters, let’s define the term “narcissist.” According to the Mayo Clinic a “narcissist” is: “someone who has an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others.”
A narcissist’s relationships with others are usually empty and disconcerting. Their reality doesn’t measure up to their beliefs of what they see in themselves. It’s hard for them to accept that the world doesn’t revolve around them alone. If you have a hard time relating to what type of person this is, the one prime example is our current leader of the free world (#45). He is the true epitome of a narcissist in its fullest and most dangerous sense.
But you don’t have to be rich and famous to come across a narcissist. You’d be surprised how they are all around you. I’m sure you know someone in your life right now that falls under this label. You see not all are as public with their narcissistic personality as #45. From my experience, the public image is so vital (and fragile) that they put on quite a façade to the “public” compared to how they are behind “closed doors.” It’s so important to them to be liked, admired, respected, adored, praised…"worshipped." You’ll think they’re the greatest guy on the planet. They are often the life of the party and “everybody loves them”, but that’s what they want you to see.
I actually ended up in a toxic marriage to one. We were together a total of eight years. I still remember the day the “lightbulb” went off and my girlfriend called with this epiphany. She’d known me since I first moved to Maryland from Chicago. We started working at the same company the same day. She’d been there with me from the first day I met him and through all the drama that came shortly after. One day she called me to say that she’d been dating someone who reminded her of my ex-husband. Her therapist said that her guy friend was probably a narcissist and then gave her info on “narcissistic personality disorder” (NPD). She called me immediately after reading up on NPD. We compared notes and then I began my own research.
I was dumbfounded! By this time, I’d been in an abusive, toxic relationship with this man for at least a couple years, if not more. What I read described him to a tee! For years, I and a few close friends thought he was maybe bi-polar. We definitely said he needed medicating. But there it was in plain black and white describing him and his absurd behaviors as if it was talking specifically about him. The crazier part is that since learning all about this I’ve come across good friends of mine who either had gone through the same thing or were still in relationships with their narcissist. I read tons of articles on the subject. I then found several Facebook groups dedicated to the topic and survivors of narcissistic abuse. I joined those and “shared my story” or commented by offering affirmation and support for others’ stories.
The truly “unique” common denominator is that this type of abuse doesn’t discriminate against race, age, education levels, income or economic status. A narcissist could be your spouse, your parent, your child…your sibling. But for the purposes of this article and most on this site (unless a guest blogger writes from a different perspective) we will be referencing narcissism from the perspective between a husband (narcissist) and a wife.
So what are some traits or signs of a narcissist? There may be others, but listed below are eight (8) key characteristics:
- They exaggerate their achievements and talents. He will overplay any life event to look as if he was the star of the show. And, when he shares his achievements over and over, they actually become a reality to the person. They believe they have accomplished all the things that they share with others.
My Ex-Narc was his high school and entire neighborhood’s “star basketball player” and he had achieved some “celebrity” status during his years of being a male dancer (before I met him). My step-sons and I heard the same tired stories at nausea for years!
- They are master manipulators. The narcissist will utilize your weakness to ensure that they get what they want. They will degrade you, using your weaknesses to add more power to their personality. If they do you a favor, be sure you’ve sold your soul to the devil because they won’t let you ever forget it and it will come back to haunt you. They will hold it over your head for all eternity.
My Ex-Narc was a master manipulator for sure. He definitely knew all the right buttons to push to manipulate a situation or us mere humans until he got exactly what he wanted.
- They don’t recognize or accept your feelings. The only thing that counts is how the narcissist feels. They will be sure to bulldoze your emotions to make themselves feel worthy. A person who suffers from NPD is only concerned with how they feel. Emotions are driven by their needs and desires.
My feelings were always dismissed, disregarded and disrespected. My feelings on important topics much less our relationship never mattered. His feelings were the only ones that were relevant. I had strong feelings about a particular “female best friend” that he had the entire time we were together, but those were never important enough because she remained the 3rd person in our relationship the entire time.
- They are arrogant. The narcissist is NEVER wrong. They believe they are entitled to everything. They will brag and step over anything or anyone along their path to get the things they want. This disorder doesn’t allow for the person to have a rational moral compass. They aren’t sensitive to anyone’s feelings. They show no (real/sincere) empathy or apathy. They have a self-righteous “air” and tend to act like they are above or better than everyone else.
Even when he was clearly wrong, he would argue up and down, flip everything around on me and was notorious for bringing up my past mistakes to take the focus off of him and his wrong doing. Don’t think you’re getting an apology! That rarely happened and if it did, it wasn’t sincere.
- They require constant admiration and adoration. When the attention is no longer available, they will move onto another person. They cannot keep relationships for long because no one can keep them on a golden pedestal. They have difficulties keeping jobs and focusing on school as well because they lose interest quickly.
I used to say my Ex-Narc had a black hole or bottomless pit of an ego and that he expected…no he demanded that I stroke his ago 24×7. It was one of our biggest sources of contentions for the entire eight years. He’d constantly remind me how many times he told me he needed “verbal affirmations and quality time.” He’d throw up in my face how I’d make encouraging and supportive comments to my friends on social media.
- They take advantage of others. The narcissist will take advantage of anything and anyone to suit their needs. This means stepping over anything to reach their level of twisted goals. The narcissist appears to have self-confidence and high self-esteem, but it’s a facade. They are lacking self-worth but compensate it by using others to their best interest.
I saw this constantly and it would be so embarrassing. I always said I’d never want to be in a situation where he was either buying something from me or in negotiations with him. He was relentless and ruthless to get what he wanted from people and businesses.
- They are envious of others. The narcissist cannot accept anyone better than themselves, therefore, when the attention is on someone else, they get angry. They suffer from severe depression and frustration. They become enraged. They are envious of anything that doesn’t come to them and their attention.
In his world, there was no one better than him. He acted like a “know it all” and “only he knows best” all the time. I definitely saw his rage more times than I could count. He had me constantly walking on eggshells and obsessed with checking my cell phone every few seconds. God forbid if I missed a text or phone call from him and wasn’t at his beckon call! I’d have hell to pay and he would surely “teach me a lesson” when I got home. He was jealous of any attention I’d give to anyone else whether they were friend or family member. How dare anything or anyone have my attention that was supposed to be all for him!
- They believe they are superior. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a mental health issue. They aren’t making it up. They are mentally incapable of seeing the world like everyone else. They believe they are above anyone. Their grandiose attitude is overwhelming. They do no wrong. When something doesn’t go their way, it’s because of someone else who messed up. There is no way to rationalize with their behavior.
What I can attest to after 8 years of being with one is NOTHING is EVER a narcissist’s fault. It will always be your fault, your child’s fault, their parents’ fault, their siblings fault…but never theirs. And they will conjure up bold face lies to avoid being to blame for their actions. They will create another argument to deflect from their wrongdoing and make that one your fault. Or, they will go back to the laundry list of grievances they've kept and throw something from the past up in your face again.
It’s not fully understood how a person becomes a narcissist, but they do have some common background influences. This personality disorder can be diagnosed as early as puberty and preteen years. Usually a parent gave excessive pampering or excessive criticism in childhood years. They might have come from a broken home, having abandonment issues that forced them to rely only on themselves. These people have substituted the lack of love and support from a parent by over-emphasizing their own worth.
My Ex-Narc had severe daddy issues. He was stuck at a certain age or time in his childhood where even as a grown man he was still seeking his father's love, affirmation and approval. He'd told me that as a child his father never told him he loved him. It wasn't until he was a full grown adult that his father started really saying those three words. I remember one weekend we went up for his father's birthday and he threw a full blown temper tantrum because his father didn't spend quality time with us like he'd promised. He managed to make that whole family celebration into being all about him because he'd threatened to boycott the party. I'd never seen a grown ass man act like such an infant to get his way all the damn time.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder seems to affect more males than females. It’s important to recognize the boundaries between an unhealthy ego and that of a narcissistic personality disorder. Sometimes the lines seem to overlap. The above signs are some of many that differentiate a narcissist from a person who has self-assurance and confidence.
If you think you're in a toxic, unhealthy relationship with a narcissist, I urge you to do your own research on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse. I encourage you to talk to a therapist or contact your local resources for domestic violence. I had to learn the hard way that even though my Narc-Ex never put a finger on me physically, I was still in an abusive relationship. After eight years of it, I realized it was killing me slowly from the inside out due to all of the harmful effects it was having on my life, especially my physical and mental health.
I wish I'd learned about this much earlier than I did! But, I'm forever grateful for the girlfriend who brought it to my attention when she did. I vowed to one day do all I could to bring awareness to this topic in hopes that it would help other women. No, you're NOT crazy! No, you are NOT alone. There is an entire community of us women who've gone through what you're going through.
My next blog in the "Warrior Diva" category will dive into what exactly narcissistic abuse is and why each of should not only know about it, but CARE about it.