Tips on spotting the Narcissist. Narcissists can be difficult, even dangerous people. Identifying them, especially if they are close to you, is important. Even if you cannot be rid of them, knowing how their mind works is half the battle.
The word itself comes from Greek myth. Narcissus was a beautiful but arrogant youth, whose vanity so incensed the gods they made him fall in love with his own reflection.
Though the story itself is amusing, the narcissist is anything but. At their worst (and it must be remembered that some are worse than others), they are not only obnoxious, arrogant and attention-seeking but manipulative, grandiose and devoid of empathy.
The narcissist is self-centered. He, or she, needs constant praise, attention, and admiration. Usually, these traits first appear in adolescence, when they tend to be excused as “teenage dramatics.” Of the various traits, the most surprising is sensitivity to criticism. Most people assume that a narcissist is impervious to insults, that they have an unconquerable ego. In fact, this is not so. Though self-obsessed, they often have fragile self-esteem and can be easily hurt.
Spotting A Narcissist
A narcissist will bring everything back to them. For example, your colleague’s mum has died. Naturally, when he returns to work, you gather round and offer sympathy and comfort. A narcissist would find this unbearable. Instead of joining in, she throws a crying fit. Her mother died a couple of years ago, but no one thinks of that! This has brought back painful memories! How do you think she feels? Then she bursts into tears, slams down her laptop, and runs to the bathroom.
If they resent another’s grief, you can imagine how they feel about their success. Let’s take another example. Your cousin has just won a record deal. That evening, he comes over with a bottle of wine, eager to tell you the details. Your boyfriend, a narcissist, seems cold and aloof. Though he has never shown any interest in music, and can’t play an instrument, he offers advice, disagrees with everything, and then, when your cousin has gone, tells you he could write songs if he wanted to and that they’d be much better than that. Then he storms off to bed, without saying good night.
You may also feel that they are acting a part. Everything they do seems exaggerated and over the top. They will often be late, for example, and when they make their entrance it is grand and dramatic. Of course, this is simply another way to gain attention.
Narcissists are often fantasists as well
That does not mean they are outright liars, simply that they twist and distort everything, blowing it out of proportion: a fall in the street becomes a dreadful accident, a small startup becomes a business empire.
To make things worse, they also lack conscience. Narcissists aren’t sadists, simply thoughtless and indifferent. All that matters is what they want. If the house is a mess, that’s fine so long as it doesn’t bother them; if it does bother them, someone else needs to tidy up.
They lack a social conscience as well. Rules and regulations, such as not walking on the grass, not talking in a library, etc., are dismissed. Other people ought to obey them, of course. If the narcissist herself was trying to read and someone in the library began chatting, they’d be furious. But those same rules do not apply to them.
Spotting The Narcissist In Relationships
The narcissist in your life may not be a neighbour or work colleague. It could be someone close, like a parent, for example, or even your partner.
In a close relationship, the narcissist will often become parasitic, happy to live off other people’s hard work. They think nothing of returning to the family home, for example, sitting around the house all day, using the hot water, eating the food, and never offering any rent.
They will also be patronising and dismissive. If their wife is better educated, for example, or went to a more prestigious college, they will assure her that it doesn’t matter since they have “intuition,” which she lacks, or that they didn’t need to pursue their education since they’ve already read all they need to read.
Narcissists often consider their background unworthy of them. And they may feel the same about the town or city in which they live. Their family, their town, even you, are beneath them. They ought to be a famous novelist or rock star, living in some cool part of London or New York. Instead, they have to make do.
In company, they can be unbearable
If you throw a dinner party, for example, and invite your old friends, this is their opportunity to shine. Throughout the evening they show off, steer the conversation onto topics they love, talk over everyone else, and generally behave like rude, insufferable monsters.
A narcissist takes no pleasure in conversation itself. The exchange of ideas, the chance to hear about other people’s vacations, their favourite novels, and movies, etc., means absolutely nothing. For them, a conversation is a battle. They have to dominate and win. If someone disagrees, they will batter them down. And in truth, they are only happy when correcting someone, impressing them, or explaining how something is done.
Thankfully, full-blown narcissism is relatively rare. If you suspect that someone close to you is a narcissist, however, be wary. Such people, while not evil, are certainly toxic.