Do you know what narcissistic personality disorder is? Would you be able to spot it if you had to? For most people, their belief is that narcissism is “easy” to spot because laymen and pop psychology characterize narcissism as: selfish ambition, arrogance, cockiness, inconsideration for others, and a strong desire to be at the top of the game. But narcissism is truly difficult to spot in everyday life because some of the kindest and nicest people could be a narcissist. Narcissism doesn’t always shine through the moment you meet someone. In fact, narcissism may not fully bloom until you’ve married the person, accepted a job from a company led by a narcissist, or after many years of knowing the person. In reality, narcissistic personality traits are often hidden by the person’s ability to “act” ways they know other people like.
Támara Hill, MS, LPC is a licensed therapist and certified trauma professional who specializes in working with children and adolescents who suffer from mood disorders, trauma, and disruptive behavioral disorders. Hill strives to help clients to realize and actualize their strengths in their home environments and in their relationships within the community.
Editor: Nadeem Noor
Although you are probably familiar with the millions of article already written on this topic, this article will highlight narcissistic personality traits you should run from. Next week’s article will discuss ways to cope with the narcissist.
Did you know that narcissistic personality disorder could co-occur with other disorders? For example, someone diagnosed with a personality disorder (narcissistic personality disorder) could also be diagnosed with depression and anxiety (because of incorrect perceptions of self, lack of confidence, incompetence, or a fear of being found out). In other words, the narcissistic person could very well become depressed and anxious in the event their competence or knowledge (or social charm and astuteness) are challenged by someone else. In fact, many narcissists set out to harass, compete, or defeat others when they believe others may show them up, do better than them, or receive more attention than them.
The narcissist is often an adult with an inability to share their ideas, talents, or strengths with other people. Their main goal is to be the center of attention, to be better, to compete, and to achieve, even if that means the truly talented or competent person is destroyed. Sadly, because of this incorrect perception of self and life in general, the narcissist will go to any length to ensure they are not overshadowed or forgotten which can result in trouble for the innocent person on the other end. A loss of employment, stolen ideas, stolen property or funds, belittlement, etc. are the consequences of being in the life of a narcissist.
As a result of narcissists weak ego, incompetence, and skewed perception of self, you’ll want to know how to spot them and cope with them. Below I have listed a few traits of the narcissist. I have seen my fair share of narcissists so my best advice to you, if you come across a narcissist, is to avoid them at all costs because they:
- Will try to compete with you in any form: Narcissists are well known for their fragile egos, self-centered worldview, and lack of perspective. The moment you try to be yourself, improve yourself, or advance in some form the narcissist will try to belittle you, reduce you, or minimize you. Why? Because the best defense for the fragile person is to make others appear smaller than them, less than them, or unintelligent. My experience with narcissists is that they lack the ability to show empathy (i.e., the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes) which creates a variety of challenges in multiple relationships. If you have a supervisor like this, they will likely belittle you, use you, or manipulate you. If this is your parent, you will likely be treated poorly and possibly worse than your siblings. If it is your spouse, you may find your significant other trying to control you.
- Will see their interactions with you as a game: Narcissists are weak. They have no real substance and because of this, they are more likely to play the social game much more than other people or people who are genuine and confident. You most likely have seen this type of narcissist. They appear so very friendly to everyone and may use their unfortunate circumstances to gain social prestige, attention, or compassion. Once they receive this and have everyone fooled, they turn on those who truly know them and would rather stay miles away from them. What has always disturbed me about a narcissist who plays the social game is that they are skilled at tricking people and deceiving them. They may even go so far as to target your positive reputation to cause others to look to them in some fashion.
- Will be passive-aggressive or aggressive in communication: Narcissists are immature and often behave as if they have the mental age of a teenager. In some cases, you may meet some narcissists who truly seem empathetic, compassionate, friendly, and honest only to later find out that they were “playing the social game.” It is very likely that a narcissist will engage in passive-aggressive behavior which often includes: pouting or having an attitude over something minor, taking stabs at you or picking a fight, ignoring you and acting like a “mean girl” from high-school, creating tension when there doesn’t need to be tension, and attempting to control your emotions by switching up on you in their behaviors.
- Will never give you peace: Some narcissists are so vulnerable and weak psychologically and emotionally that they will keep a disagreement or arguing going for days, months, and maybe even years. They are incapable of interacting with others in a mature fashion. Their age, job title, degree or certification, family-life, etc. doesn’t mean a thing to them and doesn’t have the slightest bit of influence on their behaviors once they are triggered. The narcissist, once they are angered, is very difficult to apologize to or ask for forgiveness from. They hold grudges, create tension and anxiety, and struggle to let things go.
- Will express their 5 year old ego when they are challenged: Again, the narcissist is emotionally and psychologically immature. Your best line of defense with a narcissist who presents to everyone as a 5-year-old child is to ignore it as much as you can. Try your best to placate their ego by complimenting them or staying out of the way.
- Will cause unnecessary drama: The narcissist almost thrives on drama. Drama gets attention off of them and allows them to express their “immature social skills.” For example, a narcissist may get involved in gossip or a situation that doesn’t involve them at all and will seem to make things worse. Narcissists are rarely peacemakers.
- Will form cliques all around you: Narcissists need to feel powerful and empowered. The best way for them to feel empowered or powerful is to create a group of people who believe in them, are afraid of them, or look up to them in some way. Their cliques allow them to maintain some kind of positive reputation and when things go wrong in the narcissist’s life, those in the clique will run to the rescue. These people should not be called “cliques” but rather “blind servants.”
- Will use their social and emotional intelligence to gain notoriety: Although we all use social media to reach out to those we want to help, support, or learn from, the narcissist will find some way of making themselves look better than anymore else. This narcissist may embellish their accomplishments, brag, or seem very unauthentic.
- Will behave immaturely: Narcissistic individuals struggle to be mature, especially when maturity is necessary. For example, the narcissistic personality will struggle, in the workplace or in public, to let things “slide” or leave things alone. Most narcissistic personalities go the extra mile to make trouble, get revenge, or be vindictive. It is almost as if the narcissist feels empowered by the effort they put into making life miserable, unbearable, or uncomfortable for everyone else. Don’t be deceived. If you go wrong with the narcissist, you will be next.
- Will pull in other people who are vulnerable to them to conquer and divide: Have you ever seen cliques where if one person is angry with someone, everyone else involved in the clique will be angry with the person too? You will likely see this kind of behavior in office settings, very small neighborhoods or rural areas, and in certain professions.