By Kellie Whitehead
There are a lot of labels flying around these days, aren’t they?
I’m a firm believer that sometimes, people just behave badly- often consistently, and whilst I don’t condone it, a typical keyboard warrior diagnosis of an official personality disorder based on a single Facebook post is neither helpful nor true.
The word ‘narcissist’ is thrown around a lot - and it’s easy to see why. A narcissist is someone with a grandiose sense of self-importance, and we all know a few of those.
Everyone has their moments, I am sure, but living or working with a true narcissist can be at best, exhausting, and at worst, blight our day-to-day wellbeing to the point of erosion.
True narcissism is a recognised personality disorder, and not just an unfortunate social trait.
Spotting a true narcissist, versus someone who just likes the sound of their own voice, or is a bit vain, for example, isn’t easy. In fact, due to their very nature, we will often question ourselves before them. Interestingly, narcissists always present as supremely confident, however, it’s a deep rooted lack of self-esteem that lies beneath.
Diagnosed Narcissists - those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) have behavioural patterns that will not change - this is the difference between someone who displays the odd trait versus someone who cannot change. Interestingly, this seems to manifest itself from the teen years up into the early twenties - yes, kids may be selfish little show offs from time to time, but they are not narcissists (yet).
In the wild, you would think narcissists are easy to spot - and that they are, however there are 3 different types.
The ‘obvious’ narcissist
The overt type, the ones the word ‘grandiose’ was made for - These are the people you will automatically think of when you think of narcissism. They are self-absorbed and start to display more hostile ways to get that attention from you that they crave.
The covert narcissist
Much less obvious - these people crave the same attention and validation but go about it differently. These are the ones who give you the silent treatment for any perceived slight. These are the ones who make you wonder what on earth it is that you’ve done wrong. These people have a ‘covert’ sense of superiority but are especially vulnerable to criticism and their own perceived failures.
The exhibitionist narcissist
SO knowledgeable - and they like to show and tell it! It’s all an attempt to minimise you and your own knowledge, to make you feel small. Experts on ‘everything’ - what could you possibly know about a subject that they don’t? They appear outwardly confident and successful, in an attempt to maintain stability of their own, very fragile ego.
Common narcissistic personality traits
Self-importance - Reality aside, they believe they are superior to those around them and want to be treated accordingly.
Status - Money, looks, fame, and more. Obsession with outward perceptions is key to a narcissist. They pursue people who they think will elevate the status they crave.
The special one - As they consider themselves special or superior to others, they will want to only be associated with other ‘special’ people.
Admire me! - Admiration is key to a narcissistic personality - What’s the point in being special if people do not recognise or appreciate it? Love and admiration is a need for narcissists - it is when this is revoked that relationship problems appear.
No empathy - Selfish, demanding and manipulative. They simply do not care about anyone else's feelings. We are there to serve them.
Jealousy - Not only are they jealous of others who they believe to have ‘more’ than them, they can also be convinced that others are jealous of them, due to their superior status.
Entitlement - Special people deserve only the best. They are the best, and regardless of actual status, they know best too.
Rude - often rude to others, behave arrogantly or are ‘stuck up’ - terrible snobs.
Narcissism is not just presented to us via romantic relationships - but it is relationships that lead us to narcissistic prey. Parental relationships can also be controlled by narcissism and those within the workplace or with platonic friendships also. From a parental point of view, the damage is already done. We only recognise these traits in our Mothers and Fathers as we too become adults or even parents ourselves. If we are not overly experienced in romantic relationships, we can often fall prey. ‘Love Bombing’ is a narcissistic trait that new partners often display, and it works. We want to feel loved and safe by those around us, and it is natural to enjoy the care and attention these people provide us initially. Specialist and expert support exist to help us heal from relationship trauma and work through our experiences to lead the happier and fulfilling lives that we all deserve - whatever the age and legacy
If you are questioning your own worth in any relationship, or feel manipulated or just ‘badly treated’ - spotting the signs above in an individual is the first step in thinking about what it is you might do to extricate yourself from the situation you find yourself in.
Narcissists walk amongst us every day, but what their behaviour does to us as individuals is something we do not have to put up with.
Everyone loves a ‘charmer’, right? A narcissist? Not so much.