The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach & specialist in cluster B personality disorders, with a popular YouTube show and clients worldwide.
How to avoid narcissists. We could say things like "Avoid dating apps and social media and jobs and life and in fact, just never go anywhere or talk to anyone ever again," but the truth is, you can encounter a narcissist anywhere. It's better to have a more concrete plan. You can't avoid them in life, but you can avoid getting involved with them and we are going to talk about 5 ways to do that
1. Have Strong Boundaries
One of the best ways to avoid becoming entangled with narcissists is to create and keep strong boundaries. Narcissists push people's boundaries as a matter of course; they generally don't understand them nor do they respect them. They see no delineation between themselves and other people, therefore no need for personal sovereignty and no necessity to take anyone's needs, space or feelings into consideration. What they feel is what you feel. What they need is what you need. What they want is what you want. If it isn't, it should be. If they feel someone was rude to them, you should also feel that someone was rude to them. If they feel they need to be the most important thing, you should also feel that they need to be the most important thing. This is not just about agreeing with them. It goes deeper than that. In a narcissistic relationship, you as a separate person do not really exist for any practical purpose or in any true way. Boundaries help you assert and retain your sovereignty so that you do not become engulfed and absorbed into other people. They are the definitions of you as a sovereign, individual person, and the epitome of self-care. Boundaries help you avoid narcissists because not only do narcissists have no use for someone with strong boundaries, but you will know that someone is toxic and unhealthy by the way they regard your boundaries.
For example, let's say a new friend makes a joke about you that you don't really like. It happens. Sometimes someone can't know the line until they step over it. You tell this new friend, "Hey, you know what? I know we don't know each other that well, but just so you know, I don't really like jokes like that." If someone is respectful and cares about you, they will apologize but more importantly, they won't do it again. This is one of the most tell-tale ways you can recognize toxic people. They don't respect boundaries. They want you to take more of the responsibility for them, the situation or the relationship than you should. They want you to push your feelings, needs or concerns to the side for them. They want to take advantage of your time, your money or your emotional resources. They want the relationship to be unbalanced and mostly one-sided. Strong boundaries prevent you from getting into these relationships before they even start.
And remember: boundaries are not just about saying NO to other people. They are about saying NO to yourself. They are about making decisions in your own best interest, even if it isn't really what you want to do.
2. Pay Attention
Many times when narcissistic people are able to get past someone's defenses, it's because the person was vulnerable for some reason. They may have been going through a hard time financially, or maybe a loved one passed away. Maybe they temporarily lost their confidence somehow. Maybe the narcissist was someone they knew previously and because of that, they were less vigilant than they might have been. It's important to remember that toxic, predatory people will take advantage of vulnerabilities or someone who is not alert, therefore it is very important to pay attention. Listen to what a person says - to you and to others. When someone's story does not make sense, ask questions. If your questions are ignored or not really answered, pay attention to that. Don't ignore red flags. Don't excuse behavior that makes no sense or is hurtful. Don't ignore attempts to push against or violate your boundaries. Take negative, irresponsible, immature or deceptive behavior seriously. Pay attention to how a person behaves, to how they treat those around them. And don't think you'll be the exception to the rule, because you won't.
It's your job to make sure that you are safe, and that you are making decisions in your own best interest. Remember, if you are too vulnerable to pay attention to your own safety or to enforce boundaries, it's not a good time to start new relationships or rekindle old ones - of any kind.
3. Trust Yourself
This is so important. Often, people see red flags but they question their perception or don't want to believe it. Toxic people of course play right into that and it becomes easy to simply write off or excuse many things. This is a mistake. You know what happened, you know how you felt, you know what you saw. Trust yourself. Trust yourself to know what's right for you. Trust yourself to know what's wrong for you. Trust yourself to show up for yourself and to show the same commitment to you that you show to others. Trust your gut. Your head may be confused. Your heart may be confused. Your gut never is. Learn to listen to it even when you don't want to do so.
Another side of this can be that people are afraid to trust others - even in situations where they should. This is because they are don't trust themselves. How can you trust others not to betray you when you betray yourself? How can you trust others to treat you as if you matter when you don't do it for yourself? The unhealed heart fears trusting others. It believes everyone is out to hurt it. But trusting others is only scary when you are depending on them to do for you what you should be doing for yourself, such as validate you, validate self-worth or give you purpose and identity. When you can do these things for yourself, trusting others is a lot less scary.
4. Listen to Yourself
Just as important as trusting yourself is listening to yourself. Validate your own experiences, take your own concerns seriously. Don't talk yourself out of your feelings or your experiences. Once again, pay attention to your gut and what your body is telling you. If you are feeling anxious, if you are feeling nervous, if you are feeling upset, if you are feeling exhausted... pay attention to that. Listen to your feelings, to your body and what these things are trying to tell you. If something doesn't make sense, if it doesn't feel right, if it seems off, if it seems to good to be true, listen to these things. You experience them for a reason and they should not be ignored.
Part of listening to yourself and trusting yourself is speaking your truth. If something doesn't feel right, say so. If you need time alone, if you are feeling sometype of way, assert that. Stand up for you. Show up for you. No one else is going to do it. It's up to you.
5. Do The Work to Heal
Besides boundaries, the most important thing you can do to avoid getting entangled with narcissistic people is to do the work to heal. The most common way people end up stuck in these relationships (whether they are family, romantic or any other kind) is because they were conditioned to accept that kind of treatment. This conditioning can happen in different ways, but it usually has its roots in childhood. Find the patterns in your life. Break the conditioning. Address the old wounds so that you can create new patterns and make healthy choices. We cannot hope to change things without changing them, and the thing we must change most is ourselves. Just so happens, that's also the only thing we can change.
Identifying toxicity in others is only half the battle. We must be willing and able to identify unhealthy behaviors in ourselves as well. Otherwise, the face of the person we are in the toxic relationship with may change, but the situation never will. The truth is, the only toxic relationship we truly have is with ourselves. All our other relationships mirror that. The treatment we are willing to accept from others mirrors the way we treat ourselves. If we betray ourselves, we will accept others betraying us. If we disregard our own well-being, we will accept others disregarding our well-being. Once we start treating ourselves better, we stop accepting mistreatment from others as well. This is where healing truly lies.