Narcissism is a term that has been thrown around a lot as of late. There’s a theory that we are becoming more narcissistic as a society, self-absorbed in this Kardashian-life of selfies, Tinder, fillers, gym culture and mantras about “just do you” and “money over everything”. Are we becoming more shallow? Sure. Does it mean that there are more un-feeling energy vampires on the loose? Hell no.
Narcissism as a disorder is part of the “Cluster B Disorders” along with antisocial disorder, borderline personality disorder, and histrionic disorder. All cluster B disorders are characterized by dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior. There are 9 traits of someone with narcissistic personality disorder: belief that you are more important than others, preoccupation with success/attractiveness/power, lack of empathy, arrogance, grandiosity, excessive need for admiration, exploitation of others, sense of entitlement, envious of everyone. A modern classic example is aptly found in Donald Trump.
Everyone has a bit of this and all addicts when caught in their addiction exhibit narcissistic traits – similarly, children and teenagers are pretty narcissistic. Just cause you identify with some of the traits does not make you a narcissist, but if you have any dealings with someone who exhibits 5 or more of these traits (the number needed in order to be diagnosed with the disorder), then get out of that person’s way immediately.
Here’s what the modern narcissist is like
They are unable to empathize and may even say they cannot put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They cannot feel love, so don’t expect any real love from them. Narcissists only feel a bottomless need for admiration. They will find targets (usually the weak one in the herd) and pay extra attention to them to get them to soften then they will start to treat them like sh**t. All narcs, when they are getting what they want, are lovely. In pursuit of “supply” (a term for attention and admiration) they are charming, outgoing and giving lovers – they will make you feel like you are the most special person in the world. But it does not last – as soon as you exhibit any level of resistance, i.e. being human, they will turn on you. Then they start to abuse you subtly at first, and more overtly later with silent treatment, gas lighting (a form of psychological abuse where the abuser convinces their victim that their reality is not true, classic example: “she was asking for it”), triangulation (when they pit someone else against you like a sibling or new supply), cheating, lying etc. You are suddenly running around trying to please them and get back the prince you had in the beginning.
Here’s how to spot a narcissist
They hate birthdays and celebrations of you of any kind. My narc ex showed up almost 45 minutes late for my Bday then got me a cheese board unwrapped after taking me to a hotel restaurant for dinner. I remember crying in his car in front of my house at the end because he wanted to drop me off and go home to play video games with his cats instead. And that was my birthday.
They treat people they consider beneath them like sh**t. Usually, it’s wait staff, people working in banks and sometimes it’s sex or race related. They hate children, the elderly and the weak. They are only nice to people who have something they want.
They lack empathy and give zero f**ks. I was attacked brutally in broad day light and went to my narc’s work to ask for his help in contacting my roommate. He sort of brushed me off. It was subtle but he barely helped, didn’t take me seriously and I had to keep reminding him to call my roommate. I was so scared when they robbed me, I had peed my pants and I was standing at his work waiting awkwardly for my roommate to arrive like I was upsetting his day.
You feel you are crazy for expressing normal boundaries. If you ask your narc to listen to your feelings on anything at all, they will most likely blow up at you. This causes you to be on eggshells at all times. If you feel crazy and you are not the one doing anything, then it’s the other person. They know when you are vulnerable and will use that time to blast you. I had one narc friend block me on social media, her phone, everything just because I confronted her in a lie she told, and it wasn’t even aggressive, I asked her what was going on, trying to keep an open mind that I may not have understood – she called me crazy and then blocked me.
They compartmentalize you. My narc used to go out on “boys night” but really he was just cheating on me. I was only invited to his work and out with his family, otherwise he was always making excuses not to go to public events with me and always wanted to go to quiet restaurants. He exposed me to the people that I could make him look good too, then spent the rest of his time keeping other women in compartments as well. He cheated on me with one woman who he would only meet at an out of the way ceviche place that no one knew of and tried to spin it that is was “their place” – I had similar places with him.
They are constantly hot and cold. If they feel you pulling away, they will write you a text about how they can’t wait to watch a movie on the couch with you and give you a massage, but if you ask for any sort of intimacy or commitment from them, then suddenly you are being clingy. My narc would regularly want me to move in with him but if I moved anything in his house when I was over, I was crowding him. Continuously moving the target like this will keep you on your toes, reaching to be “good enough” but it’s a finish line you will never get to. Confusion is their main tool.
All their exes are crazy and they have no friends. If you are hanging out with someone who has nothing but bad things to say about their ex’s, that’s a good sign that you will be that person one day too. Also, narcs love to cut down everyone around them. Some are overt about it, but most are subtle. They will tell you how unprofessional they think someone is, or not funny, or not that great of a boss and then they will use that same person to get ahead. They usually have a couple friends whom they use when they need something, kind people who are willing to help or who have known them since childhood, but other than that it’s a revolving door or short-term relationships.
The biggest tell is that you just feel uneasy, never really knowing where you stand, and feeling like if you try to bring it up, even in the most gentle way, that you will be yelled at, punished or hurt in some way. I had one narc friend who was super close to me, but would never invite me out in group outings (compartmentalization), she would never tag me in photos on social media, but I felt we had a close, intimate friendship. She also flirted with my boyfriend but when I confronted her about it, she ended up trying to turn it on me, and I paid dearly since she spoke poorly behind my back to anyone who we mutually knew for daring to speak up about it. If you feel scared to express yourself to anyone in your life, you need to rid yourself of that person.
What to do if you want to leave a narc?:
First off, you can’t expose them. They have been preparing for your eventual abandonment (their real fear) since the beginning. They do this by prepping everyone in your life to think you are crazy or that you are the one clinging to them, long before you leave so that if you ever mention the abuse, you look crazy. My ex fabricated a story to his boss that I tried to ruin their online profile so that when I did catch him brutally cheating on me, I would look like a crazed ex who brakes into computers regularly. He had also prepped his family for a long time, subtly calling me crazy and pointing out inconsistencies in my behaviors so that if I ever called him out it would be easy to call me a liar. They also deny being with you to all their new supply so that when they get caught cheating, you just look like a desperate woman trying to hold on to a man who never cared about you.
You need to leave. If the narc in your life is your mother, sister or someone you share custody with, then you can apply extremely limited contact. If you want to know how to do that or go completely no contact, you can here: letmereach.com. There are only two ways a narcissist will act when you leave them: 1. They will begin to stalk you and act hella crazy, threatening to kill you or themselves, constantly calling, showing up at your house etc or 2. They will aim to destroy you with gossip, threats and amp up gaslighting. There is no telling how far they will go and the only thing you can do is cut that sh**t off before they get started. Block them on your phone, social media and anywhere you can think of. Get a restraining order if you need one, and try to rise above. There is a low-level narcissist who is close to me in my life who is not so crazy that they need a restraining order, but there are subtle remarks putting me down all the time and a healthy dose of gas lighting. I mostly just ignore it. I know this person is incapable of empathy and real love or intimacy and that they are scared of abandonment. I put about as much stock in their jabs as I would from a moody teenager.
There is no cure for narcissism. They will regularly agree to or even suggest therapy as a way to keep you if you try to walk – don’t do it. They will only lie in therapy or get the therapist on their side to make you feel like you are not being equal in the relationship. Both my ex and my low-level narc got me to go to therapy and both lied through their teeth, my ex even went as far as to tell the therapist that he had never told me he loved me; five minutes before we went into the first (and only) session in the parking lot, he looked at me and said “whatever happens, I love you”. Therapy is another weapon for them to shut you down in expressing yourself and it makes you feel like royal sh**t when a therapist agrees with the person you are being abused by.
It’s hard to watch a narc move on with someone else and seem all happy and in love. They break you down over the course of your relationship so that you think that you are not doing enough or good enough or even that no one else will ever love you. Trust me, that next person is just in the beginning stages and they will never love anyone more because they cannot love. I used to be jealous of the last girl my narc cheated on me with because he was always complimenting her and going out of his way to make her feel wanted and attractive in a way I never felt. In the end, she told him she loved him and he discarded her so badly, he won’t even follow her on social media and give her even that much attention. He told me of her later that he just wanted to “f**k her, not get feelings” like she was a piece of meat; this woman thought that he was the love of her life. Be happy they are gone and distracted with someone else so they aren’t bothering you anymore.
If you have been in a long term relationship with a narcissist, then you need to seek professional help. There is a trauma bond that is formed from long term abuse that can be very hard to break. Plus, if they are any good at gaslighting you, then no one will believe how bad it was when you do leave. The hardest part for me was how easily people were willing to believe his victim story when I finally got out, how little support I had. Getting a good therapist who works with psychological abuse recovery and co-dependence is key to getting out.
And don’t forget (tattoo this sh**t on your face if you have to) they are dumb. You are smarter than them just by virtue of the fact that you are not spending all day trying to fill a bottomless ego. They are gullible. They will believe anything you tell them that looks like flattery. They are driven by fear. Even if your narc is stalking you, threatening you and making you feel really unsafe, just remember that they are dumb and scared. Get help to deal with them, get away and get back to being you and loving yourself.
The best resources I know are:
Kim Saeed for how to move on – She has a no-contact Bootcamp that is incredible, helped me so much:
Sam Vaknin – he’s a narc who helps people to understand narcissism
There are tons on the internet on how to understand narcissism and how they were created, but really, who gives a sh**t about understanding these people? The less time you can spend on trying to understand (i.e empathize) them or figure out how their particularly dysfunctional family created them, the more you can focus on getting yourself some help and moving on.
Please feel free to contact me anytime if you want help getting help or if you just need to talk to someone who will believe you that this sh**t happened to you. I am always available for support.