Elaine Lieberman is a psychologist specializing in victims of crime.
What do we know about narcissism?
In recent years, narcissism has been put under the spotlight. We now know a lot more about it than we used to. We now know that it’s not as simple as someone being “full of themselves.” It’s a lot more complicated than that. Narcissists are bad people, plain and simple. But the focus on narcissism still tends to be on men. And whilst there are more male narcissists than female ones, they’re both equally as dangerous to be around.
And whilst the narcissistic traits of men and women tend to be the same, due to social conditioning these traits are expressed differently.
My cousin taught me a saying recently “you’ve been to Tenerife, she’s been to elevenrife.” This phrase suits Dorothy perfectly, everything is a competition to her, and one that she’s going to win no matter what.
She talks endlessly about how her children are the greatest, which is a natural thing for a mother to do. But she attempts to bring up her children's “accomplishments” even when the subject is unrelated or someone else is talking about her children.
But when her children are present, it’s a very different story. She continues to talk about how wonderful her sons are and how much they’ve accomplished, even though they’re unemployed. But she constantly berates and belittles both her daughters in front of other people. She tries to shame one of her daughters about her weight, even though she and Dorothy are roughly the same size. The daughter is also much smaller than both of her sons.
She believes this behavior elevates her status and makes her the most attractive and interesting person in the room. When all it does it damage her daughter’s self-confidence and breeds resentment between her sons and daughters.
Overbearing and Superior
No matter what you’re doing, Dorothy knows a much better way to do it. And she isn’t afraid to tell you. She lives with her husband and mother in law who I know are both excellent cooks, but they aren't “allowed” to cook anymore. She says it’s her kitchen so she does the cooking. She doesn’t let anyone else cook, but because she thinks cleaning is beneath her she’ll let her 82-year-old mother-in-law clean the house. And then complain about how the house isn’t as clean as she would have made it.
Her children have repeatedly expressed their annoyance at her attempts to undermine their authority in front of their kids. They’ve stated that their upbringing lacked discipline and as a result, some of the kids got into trouble with the police. They’re actively trying to stop this from happening with their children.
Every time they try to discipline their kids in front of Dororthy she overrides their decision. She says that she’s raised enough kids to know they don’t need to be disciplined at that age, they need to be children.
She keeps children's clothes at her house and changes the children into different outfits every time she babysits.
Shallow And Superficial
Despite being on benefits, the clothes Dorothy wears are very expensive. She regularly shops for new clothes and shoes whilst still complaining of having no money. Dorothy is a size 20 but will call people bigger or smaller than her fat. She is scathing and unpleasant behind their backs but charming to their faces.
Her only concerns are what other people think of her and how her family reflects on her.
Controlling And Invasive
Dorothy is married to her 2nd husband Paul. In his previous marriage, Paul admits to having been a “control freak” with his wife. Every aspect of their lives was controlled by him, even down to what they watched on TV.
Dorothy is in control now, Paul isn’t even allowed to watch sports on the TV. Dorothy has a tracking app on his phone so she knows where he is at all times.
Due to her constant need to be the center of attention, Dorothy’s jealousy has spiraled out of control. Her current husband was married when they got together (textbook behavior for a female narcissist) So Dorothy views every woman as a threat to her relationship. Even Paul’s stepdaughter from his previous marriage. She’s told Paul that he spends too much time talking to her and that she’s not his real daughter. Although he raised her for 32 years.
Whenever Dorothy feels threatened she lashes out. She’s insulting and rude, even to her husband. She calls him stupid and useless despite asking him to do all kinds of things around the house.
I don’t believe the statistics about female narcissists are correct. I believe the number is much higher, but people misdiagnose or dismiss these traits in women. They’re given different names which minimize the significance of their actions. We call them things like battleaxes, control freaks, ball-busters, or bitches.
And as accurate as these words might be, they’re not right. They’re not serious enough to do justice to the suffering of the female narcissists' victims. Of which there are plenty.
The misdiagnosis of female narcissism doesn’t just come from society as a whole. Clinical misdiagnosis is often a problem too. Many women are told they have a histrionic personality disorder because many of the characteristics are very similar.
Signs of Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD) include:
- A constant need for attention
- Being Selfish
- Being overly concerned with physical appearance
- Having difficulty maintaining relationships
- Being seen as “dramatic”
- Having a low tolerance for criticism
- Becoming easily frustrated
- Having a lack of empathy for others
- Being manipulative
Most of these are signs of narcissism too, so misdiagnosis could potentially be quite common. It might not sound like a huge problem because they’re so similar. But treatment for all personality disorders needs to be tailored to the individual. So getting the diagnosis wrong means that the treatment won’t be as effective as it should.
How Do I Deal With A Narcissist?
How you deal with them will depend on your relationship with them. If they’re a casual acquaintance then my advice is to limit your contact. The less you see of a narcissist the better. If they’re closer to you then it makes things trickier.
Again, it depends on your relationship but there are a few basic rules to follow when dealing with a narcissist.
Look After Yourself
Narcissists will drain the confidence, positivity, and energy from your soul. You need to make sure you do things to replenish all of these. Self-care isn’t selfish, taking time out to tend to your mental health is important for everyone. But for someone dealing with a narcissist, it’s crucial.
Do Not Tolerate Abuse
Of any kind. Narcissists aren’t always abusive, but NPD makes domestic abuse more likely. It doesn’t matter what kind of abuse it is, people often dismiss verbal abuse as “name-calling” within a marriage. It’s much more serious than that, it can have lasting psychological effects and even lead to suicide.
Financial abuse is common in narcissists. This is where the narcissist controls all of the money that comes into the house, whether they earned it or not. Partners are told to hand over their wages and leave them in charge of the money. Sometimes the partner will be given an “allowance,” other times they will be given nothing and have to ask the narcissist for things they need. If this is happening to you then you need to seek help, do it sooner rather than later. This behavior won’t get better, it will get significantly worse.
Don’t Engage Them
All a narcissist wants is the chance to show how amazing they are. Don’t give them one, if they try to turn the subject around to them, keep turning it back. If you’re arguing then just tell them they’re right and go about your business.
If you can limit contact then do it, I recommend eliminating all contact if it’s possible. But if it’s not then keep the visits to a minimum. The less you see them the less drama there will be.
Female Narcissists Are Dangerous
Female narcissists might not seem as dangerous as male narcissists. But they are, they’re equally as dangerous, spiteful, and damaging to be around. And like male narcissists, you probably won’t realize until it’s too late.
Nayanjyoti Mirdha on May 21, 2021:
Elaine Lieberman (author) from Warrington on May 21, 2021:
Thank you Nayanjyoti Mirdha, much appreciated.
Nayanjyoti Mirdha on May 20, 2021:
Excellent content.keep writing.