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What is Narcissism and How to Relate to a Narcissist

Michelle is a professional freelance writer who loves music, poetry, pets, and the arts. She is a techno-geek as well.

If you have a narcissist in your life, you will empathise with others who have low self-esteem or don't like what they see in the mirror. The put-downs that you've received from this individual may have dealt more than a few blows to your confidence.

So what is this destructive personality trait, and crucially, how do we deal with it before it consumes our self-worth entirely? This article sheds like on what it is, its traits and how to cope with narcissistic family members or loved ones.

The Definition of Narcissism

So, who is a narcissist? A clear definition will help you identify qualified suspects.

Narcissists are people who have excessive self-love. They have an extreme need for validation and are obsessively self-entitled. They have an alarming lack of empathy for the difficult situations that others face.

Everyone has narcissistic tendencies; there is nothing wrong with much-needed entitlement and care. The behaviour becomes worrying when the narcissist tears you down so badly that it robs you of all self-esteem and love.

Characteristics of a Narcissist

How do you know if you have a narcissist in your midst? There are telling signs that one is, however challenging, part of your life.

1. Excessive Superiority

Each of us wishes to be the best at a sport, or at a job; this is not unusual, and to this effect, everyone has narcissistic tendencies. Issues surface when the need to be on top is overwhelming and comes with grating put-downs.

Narcissists have to be right about everything and acknowledged as the best at all activities. Interestingly enough, they must have gone through the tough experiences someone else has. If Harry was bitten by a vicious Rottweiler, you can bet safely on the narcissist having been bitten by Pitbull. The narcissist has a need for the limelight, no matter how glaring it is.

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2. The Need for Attention

A narcissist must always have a pair of tennis shoes that are better than yours; if you have gone to Disneyland, they must have too. Interestingly, if your experiences are negative, theirs must be worse; if you've been bitten by an aggressive dog, they must have fought with wolves.

The behaviour is due to a need for attention. Narcissists simply cannot have the limelight taken away from them. They must have the focus of others on them at all times, even if it is for negative reasons.

3. The Alternative Name: Mr/Ms Perfectionist

A narcissist is also a perfectionist. You must do things to their specifications and in no other way. No other idea is as sound as theirs. Life must always be as they envision; any disruption of that vision throws them off-kilter and makes them extremely unreliable.

4. A Need for Control

Narcissists have in mind how people should behave or react, and will manipulate circumstances to fit their perspectives. If they believe that you are not aligning with their viewpoints, they will make arrangements to ensure that you are on board with them.
They will turn on the charm if needed or gaslight (the technique of making a person feel inadequate) if necessary to do so.

5. Lack of Responsibility

The narcissist cannot make errors, even if he clearly has. They will not apologize or own their mistakes; someone else must have been at fault. Challenging them sends them into a tizzy.

6. A World with No Bounds

Narcissists have little regard for the boundaries of others: the only ones he cares about are his. It's perfectly fine for him to impose on a friend even if he is engaged in other activities. But woe betides the person who forgets that he only eats Waldorf salad or uses a particular brand of tissues.

7. Lack of Empathy

This is perhaps the most glaring sign of narcissism. Narcissists find it difficult to put themselves in the shoes of others. They don't understand that you won't come to their party because you're too exhausted; they'll only feel angry because YOU disrespected them because it was their birthday. They don't understand how feelings happen.

8. Everything is threatening

Narcissists see everything as threatening. They seldom take positive perspectives. Apologizing or saying I love you puts him on edge.

9. Emotional Decisions Making

Narcissists make decisions based on how they feel. They must wear that red dress because it makes them ecstatic wearing it. They move on to new relationships when they are bored. External factors are responsible for their needs; it is never themselves.

10. A Matter of Convenience

Narcissists assign blame for anything negative and take credit for the positive. If there is a quarrel, it is your fault; if someone graduates successfully from the university, it's because of their tutoring. The good and bad twins within them surface as a matter of convenience, making them experts at double standards.

11. Fear of rejection

Narcissists hate to admit it, but their relationships and cavalier demeanour are fear-driven. In other words, they are the most insecure people you'd ever meet.

The closer you get to a narcissist, the less they trust you. They worry that doing so would make them vulnerable to rejection.

12. Feelings of Shame

Although narcissists always stand by their views. they conceal deeply entrenched feelings of shame. They fear being thought of as incompetent, unworthy, and useless more so than others. They are extremely ashamed of any perceived inadequacies or challenges to their self-esteem

13. Inability to understand another's perspective

Narcissists have an infamous inability to empathize or connect with others. Consequently, they cannot understand situations from the viewpoints of others. They find it difficult to form relationships.

They also find it hard to work as part of a team, unless they are in charge of its operations.

Relating to the Narcissists in Our Lives

Living with a narcissist or what's worse, a family or group of narcissists can drain positive emotions quickly. However, Can't Live with Them, Can't Live Without Them situations trap us without us being able to do much.

While we may not be able to stop the trap from being set, we can respond or protect ourselves in a healthy way. Here are a few tips.

!. Education

It is in the nature of human beings to put their mental health on the back burner; it's intangible and thus seen as a low or non-priority. Hence, many don't think of narcissism as consequential.

But it is, and seriously so. Reading up about the disorder will help you empathize with the narcissist and develop relationship strategies. It will also help you to set realistic expectations.

2. Boundaries

Once you are clear that the person in your life is a narcissist, state your boundaries clearly. It may disappoint the narcissist, but remember that it's not your duty to help them to manage their feelings. Remember that you want to distance yourself from them.

3. Speak up

Be clear about what you want. State your requests in no uncertain terms.

4. Watch your words

Narcissists hate criticism, so refrain from insults. Be positive with your words.

5. Be cool

Remember that the narcissist is like a three-year-old who throws tantrums when he does not get what he wants. Stick to your guns if he tries to pick a fight with you.

6. Create a support system

A narcissist can leave you without a sense of self-worth and feelings of insecurity. Find friends who will give you a high-five whenever you need it.

The High Five Method Explained

A narcissist can leave you feeling completely drained and devoid of self-worth. It's practically impossible to expect anyone to validate us; we have to take the time to give credit to the first person we look at in the mirror in the morning.

Yes, we must take the time to give ourselves a High Five, particularly if we have narcissists in our lives. Renowned motivational speaker Mel Robbins created this method early one morning when she looked at herself in the mirror and didn't take to what she saw. Something pushed her to lift her hand in a High-Five posture.

That posture turned out to be life-changing. A simple High Five tells the person in the mirror (ourselves) that he is doing his best and is worthy of encouragement. It is what we need when we feel alone or are having a difficult time making it through the day.

I find this method restoring my positivity every day. According to Mel Robbins, it's impossible to retain negativity after making this gesture. And I'm in complete agreement.

The next time a narcissist gaslights you, remember to give yourself a High Five. You may not be able to stop him from trying to rob you of your self-confidence, but you can certainly make sure that it is always intact.

1. Web MD How to Handle A Narcissist


2. The Effects of Narcissistic Abuse Very Well Mind

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2022 Michelle Liew

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