They are becoming more and more common, and it may have something to do with the fact we’re saturated with media building up our self-esteem and blasting the need for self-confidence from an early age. It’s filling our heads with the idea that as long as you love yourself, you can achieve anything through belief. And that’s simply not true… for most of you.
My wife got me to a do an online narcissism test and my results came back as “Kardashian level”. This, as you’d imagine, is fairly high on this obviously very technical scale. It’s gold-medal-level narcissism, that. Really top shelf. The greatest. Everyone says I’m the best at narcissism.
Enough about me. What about you — what do you think of me?
For a moment I was taken aback, but I realised it didn’t have to be a bad thing, or make me a bad person. Just as there are “white-hat” hackers who help companies fight against the “black hat” hackers who want to wreck their IT systems, I’m here to be a white-hat narcissist, helping you spot the telltale signs and deal with your self-obsessed lover. Using my powers for good instead of toxicity.
But then, you know, no narcissist thinks of themselves as toxic, so take my words with a grain of salt. (Also, I’m not a trained psychologist, but no one’s officially diagnosing anyone here — yet.)
How to tell if your partner’s a narcissist
The honest ones will tell you with a shrug like it’s a badge of honour instead of a personality disorder. We’re rare and special. Most of the time you’ll have to look out for the warning signs that can be slow to emerge, and can have you trapped in a terrible relationship before you realise what’s happened.
Unless they’re carrying a mirror around all the time like Vanity Smurf, it might not be straightforward.
Here are some of the more common signs:
- being intensely self-occupied
- requiring excessive admiration and compliments
- low regard for other people’s sensitivities
- inability to cope with criticism
- grandiose behaviour and overconfidence that hides an interior fragility
- being consumed by OTT fantasies of success and power
- a tendency to go nuclear when challenged
If you’re feeling stressed out reading this, because these are the landmines you’re tiptoeing around with your loved one, well, I hate to be the legend to break it to you, but you’re potentially dealing with a toxic narcissist.
Of course, there’s a line between your friendly neighbourhood narcissist like me, who has a high self-regard as well as empathy for other human beings and animals, and a person demonstrating what could be clinically diagnosed as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Those people are in a different league.
What to do once you know
If you discover your partner has NPD, most experts will advise you to run, or at least tactically withdraw in a way that leaves the narcissist with their ego intact so they don’t feel the need to regain face at your expense. Toxic narcissists are highly manipulative, and will have no problem blaming you for everything that goes wrong in the relationship, gaslighting you and/or projecting their weaknesses onto you.
The main thing to remember with a toxic narcissist is that it’s all about them. There’s not a great deal of room for other people in their hearts, and the main time you’ll find a narcissist on your side is when they see you as being on their team — so an attack on you is an attack on them.
This means you can wind up spending a lot of time working around their feelings, trying to keep them happy as much as possible while also… maybe… realising there’ll never be enough adoration or compliments to fill that void. Which I suppose is fine if you like that sort of thing, but it can be a terrible emotional drain.
Here’s the thing about narcissists — they’re generally very charming, but nobody can keep up that façade forever, so you should keep an eye out for the “real” them.
It’s also important to set boundaries for yourself, and ensure you’re not constantly being swept up in their drama or need for attention. Don’t let yourself be isolated from friends and family, recognise when you need support and don’t let this label excuse bad behaviour.
The good news is, for the most part narcissists can be house-trained — the trick is to make them see consequences for their actions. If you’re sticking this relationship out, insist on immediate action over soothing words. Carry through with those consequences.
Hmmm… after writing all that, I’m not feeling as great about being Kardashian-level as I did at the start.
Maybe there’s hope for me — and you (but mainly me) — yet.
Featured Image: Columbia Pictures