Do you have a narcissist in your life? Most everyone knows or has been involved with one. They may be in your family, office, or social circle. The narcissist may be tolerable or even charming—until they decide to come after you. It can be very confusing, because when they are not threatened by you, they can present a pleasant manner and fool you. But if they feel threatened or think you have injured them in some slight manner, the critical and judgmental side comes out to play—and they don’t play nice.
At the core of the narcissist is a fragile ego, a thin skin, and self-loathing behavior. They project their bad feelings onto others, and tend to find scapegoats for their own feelings, because they do not embrace or deal with their own emotions. This is why we see them not being accountable and seeking someone else to blame when things go wrong.
When you listen to the worldview of the narcissist, it is unpredictable and confounding. Because they swing from grandiosity to depression, it is hard to keep up with their moods and behavior. You feel the negativity in how they view the world and others. It usually does not make sense, because it is being projected from their own issues. If it is directed at you, you will often feel blindsided.
I recently had a strange experience with a narcissist I know. He was visiting with some old friends of the family that none of us had seen for years. There was a new baby in this family, and some pictures were being taken to send to the rest of us. After the visit, I got a call saying he had seen the old friends and took some pictures. But stunningly, he felt the baby was “too ugly” for a picture. When the pictures were sent to me, sure enough … no pictures of the 6-month-old. Wow, I wondered, how could a tiny baby be considered ugly—so ugly that no pictures were taken? What kind of judgment and harshness is this? I can only hope that these friends did not learn about this.
You hear narcissists talk about how people look, how much they weigh, if their clothes or hairstyles are acceptable, and on and on. How things “look” is important to them. They do comparison thinking while looking at others to see if they measure up or not, and if they themselves are bigger or better. If they can take you down a notch, they'll feel larger and more important. Jealousy is a major factor: They tend to either think that people are jealous of them, or else they are jealous of others. This thinking is based on external validation for themselves rather than internal validation. Because they lack a solid sense of self, their world is all external, based on how they appear to others. Events can become quite strange, as in the baby-picture scenario above. The narcissist did not want to associate with an "ugly" baby. This makes no sense to most of us, and we find ourselves in utter wonderment about such individuals.
An anonymous writer to my blog gave this great example:
“I have found that narcissists are like mosquitoes. They anesthetize you, so they can bite you and suck your blood. Before long, they find another person to attack. As long as you offer a good supply of whatever it is they need, they’ll stick around. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’ve been bitten, until the anesthetic of narcissistic love bombing has worn off, and we are covered in lumps.”
Like mosquitoes, narcissists are swarming out there. How do you protect yourself? In many instances, you can just stay away when you realize who you are dealing with. But if the narcissist is in your office or family, these tips may help:
8 Tips for Coping with a Critical Narcissist
1. Ignore. Like dealing with a bully, if you ignore the harshness, it gives them no satisfaction, and they will find someone else to pick on.
2. Don’t take the bait and fight with them. Turn the other cheek, and don’t justify or defend your actions to them when you do.
3. Understand their criticism for what it is: It is not about you. It is about their disorder. Don’t personalize what is said to you.
4. When you communicate, set clear boundaries, and use clear communication. Say what you mean directly.
5. If you have to make a decision to stay away, make it clearly and boldly, and follow through.
6. Believe in your own intuition and feelings. Our bodies tell us when something is not right, and when people are treating us badly.
7. Remember, you get to protect you, and you can do it. Don’t expect other people to rescue you from a narcissist. It is empowering to stand up to them and claim your voice.
8. Remember that we all deserve to be treated with kindness and compassion. It’s a worthwhile goal to work to bring more kindness into the world for others. Be an example for your kids, friends, and family.
Empathy is the antithesis of narcissism. What can you do today to bring love into your world and stamp out the impact of narcissists?
- Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers Virtual Workshop. Work recovery in the privacy of your own home, complete with video presentations and homework assignments.
- Therapist Training for Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers. Share the 5-step recovery model with your clients.