by Ellen Blake
I recently made a new friend – or so I thought. We worked together for a short time. She was extremely charming, fun, confident, and supportive…at first. I realized later that she was not the person she pretended to be.
I don’t have much experience with people with narcissistic personalities. I’m sure I’ve come across others over the years, but fortunately, the relationships were superficial enough that their behavior did not impact my life. This particular woman seemed to be someone with whom I had a lot in common and I was excited about our budding friendship. Unfortunately, over a short period of time, her controlling and selfish behaviors became obvious. Her endearing qualities were short-lived, surfacing only when she wanted something.
Sure, there were red flags at the beginning I wish I didn’t ignore. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, right? I try to be open-minded and accept people for who they are and the gifts they bring to the table. I believe we can all learn something from each and every person we encounter in life. Though not always positive, each lesson is important. My takeaway from this experience was to learn to recognize the signs of narcissism in future relationships and protect myself when I start to see this now familiar pattern of behavior. Here are seven common behaviors of narcissists:
Common Narcissistic Behavior
How do you recognize toxic friends with narcissistic behavior? Here is a list of characteristics to look for.
They make a great first impression but wear out their welcome quickly
The charismatic behavior of narcissists tends to draw people to them in the beginning, but their self-centeredness and lack of empathy eventually cause people to run in the other direction. They can manipulate you into believing they care about you, but don’t be fooled; narcissists live in their own make-believe world where they are queen (or king). These individuals will turn on you without hesitation if you cross them.
They boost their egos by telling others how great they are
My new so-called friend often made comments like, “I know I’m just too nice, everyone tells me that.”, usually in reference to an overly dramatic story about how someone took advantage of in some way. She also bragged about her intellect, skills and experience, and smugly implied everyone else was inferior. People with healthy self-esteem do not need to publicly build themselves up to ensure everyone knows about their awesomeness; in contrast, narcissists expect and need to be constantly recognized and admired.
They think they know everything
Narcissists don’t hesitate to give advice under the guise of being helpful on just about any topic. In reality, they want to show off how smart they are; you offend them greatly when you don’t follow through on their brilliant suggestions. They make comments like, “Why didn’t you do what I said?!!” or “If you listened to me, you would not be in this position.” A narcissist takes every opportunity to tutor others about the “right way” to handle a situation. They apparently know what’s best for everyone else.
They take credit for the accomplishments of others and blame others for failures
My favorite quality in a person is humility, a trait narcissists lack. They do not have the self-confidence to give others credit where credit is due or take responsibility when they make a mistake. If all goes well, it must be the result of their own contributions. And if an endeavor fails, they find someone to blame – after all, narcissists are far too good at everything they do, so a mistake can’t possibly be their fault. Playing the victim comes very naturally to people with this personality disorder.
They believe they are the exception to the rule
Narcissists are exempt from rules less superior people must follow. Why would you hold to the same standards you demand of all others? For example, while a narcissist may not respond to an email in a reasonable amount of time – or at all – they may become enraged if their email is not attended to within their time frame which they did not bother to communicate. I received some incredibly inappropriate and unprofessional communications from my so-called friend when I dared disrespect her this way. It didn’t matter that I had other things going on in my life at that moment – for reasons obvious to only her, her needs were the priority. We were peers working at the same level, but she treated me as a subordinate – though was far more condescending than any boss for whom I ever worked.
Remember Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction? She told Michael Douglas on the tape he listened to in his car, “I will NOT be ignored!”. I don’t believe my colleague has the same degree of mental illness as the character in the movie, but make no mistake, a narcissistic personality is a form of mental illness.
They care tremendously about their image
Most of us care what others think to some extent, but a narcissist is extreme. They need to make sure they appear wealthy, popular, and elite. They’re usually materialistic and enjoy name-dropping. Expensive things and famous friends make them feel important. Although ultra-sensitive to criticism, they outwardly dismiss negative comments about their appearance or behavior. Beware: They often try to punish anyone who dares to express an unfavorable opinion about them. Narcissists fear public humiliation more than anything and will exact revenge with a vengeance. It is not unusual for a narcissist to file a lawsuit to right a perceived wrong. I heard my “friend” make untrue statements repeatedly that completely contradicted documented facts when retelling stories to make herself look good. The scary part is I do not think she was even aware she blatantly lied; she seemed to have convinced herself that her manufactured version of the story was absolutely the truth.
They truly believe they are adored by everyone
Narcissists lack self-awareness and confidently assumer all others respect them highly. They truly believe anyone who doesn’t like them has a problem or is jealous of her greatness. I observed my “friend” in various networking situations where she aggressively overtook the conversation, talking mostly about herself, completely oblivious to the negative body language of the others at the table.
Why You Need to Distance Yourself From Narcissists
A lack of empathy is the most telling characteristic of narcissists. They don’t care what other people need or how they feel. Instead, their behavior centers around their own needs. They tend to be unsupportive and manipulative but can fake empathy very well when it helps them look better. Narcissists have an inflated sense of their own importance, an endless need for admiration and attention, and extensive boundary issues. Behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to even slight criticism. Be careful; their world starts and stops with them. They may go to great lengths to disguise themselves from others, but at some point their true nature inevitably surfaces.
You can’t always avoid people with narcissistic personality disorders, but you can recognize that you’re dealing with one. Work to establish healthy boundaries and keep an emotional distance. This condition can be treated with therapy, but not cured. Don’t waste your time; they need to admit they have a problem in order to be open to help and that’s not likely that will happen with a true narcissist.
Here are some frequently asked questions about narcissists and narcissism we hear from our readers.
1. What is narcissism?
Narcissism refers to a personality trait or personality disorder characterized by an excessive preoccupation with oneself, an inflated sense of self-importance, a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others.
2. What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a diagnosable mental health condition characterized by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy, which causes significant distress and impairment in various areas of life.
3. What are the common signs of narcissism?
Some common signs of narcissism include:
- An exaggerated sense of self-importance
- Preoccupation with fantasies of success, power, or beauty
- Belief in being “special” and unique
- The constant need for admiration and praise
- Exploitative behavior in relationships
- Lack of empathy for others
- Envy of others or belief that others envy them
- Arrogance and haughty behavior
4. What causes narcissism?
We need more research on what causes narcissism to better understand the cause, but scientists believe this personality results from a combination of genetic, environmental, and developmental factors. Childhood experiences, such as excessive pampering or neglect, could also play a role.
5. Can narcissism be treated?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is notoriously challenging to treat because individuals with NPD often lack insight into their condition and are resistant to seeking therapy. However, some therapeutic approaches like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic therapy can be beneficial for some individuals with narcissistic traits.
6. Are there different types of narcissism?
Yes, narcissism can manifest in various forms. Some researchers have proposed subtypes of narcissism, such as grandiose narcissism (overt and attention-seeking), vulnerable narcissism (covert and hypersensitive), and communal narcissism (seeking validation through selflessness and helping others).
7. Can narcissism be mistaken for confidence?
Yes, sometimes narcissism can be mistaken for confidence, as individuals with NPD may display an outward appearance of self-assuredness. However, there’s a significant difference between healthy confidence and narcissism. True confidence is based on a realistic assessment of one’s abilities, while narcissistic confidence tends to be overinflated and not supported by actual achievements.
8. Can narcissism be harmful to relationships?
Yes, narcissism can be highly damaging to relationships. Narcissists often have difficulty forming genuine connections and tend to exploit others for their own gain. They may struggle with empathy and be emotionally unavailable or manipulative, leading to toxic and unhealthy dynamics in relationships.
Can someone with narcissistic traits change?
While it is challenging, some individuals with narcissistic traits can experience personal growth and change over time. It often requires a strong willingness to acknowledge the problem and engage in intensive therapy and self-reflection.
How can I deal with a narcissistic person in my life?
Dealing with a narcissistic individual can be difficult. Setting boundaries, practicing assertiveness, and seeking support from friends, family, or a therapist can be helpful. It’s crucial to prioritize your well-being and protect yourself from any emotional or psychological harm.
Remember that a proper diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder can only be made by a qualified mental health professional. If you or someone you know is dealing with narcissistic traits or NPD, seeking professional guidance is essential.
Have you been in a relationship with a narcissist? Your comments may be helpful to others. We’d love to hear from you.