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5 Ways to Deal With Narcissists at Celebrations and Holidays

Narcissists may ruin a celebration if they aren't the center of attention.

Key points

  • Narcissists care more about celebrating themselves than celebrating anyone else.
  • Narcissists give gifts that represent an investment in their own desires—not in the desire to please others.
  • Grandiose and vulnerable narcissists ruin parties and social gatherings for different but related reasons—it's all about them.

When everyone is in a party mood, if a narcissist enters the room, the mood can change in the blink of an eye. If a narcissist isn’t the center of everyone’s attention, they waste no time sucking all the air out of a celebration without a second thought. Narcissists have to be the focus of every guest, and if they don’t feel others see them as the “life of the party,” they will either go to great lengths to get a response to their “look at me!” antics or else they’ll grab their date, if they brought one, and make a hasty exit. All the way home and into the next day, the narcissist will be complaining about the low-quality guests, bad host, and disappointing party.

Finding Their Joy by Ruining Others' Enjoyment

When someone suffers from narcissistic personality disorder, or displays significant narcissistic tendencies, celebrations are often when the greatest chaos and calamity can occur. Narcissists don’t enjoy celebrating the milestone events of others and will try to turn the attention to themselves regardless of who the guest of honor was meant to be. Narcissists can be especially disruptive during holiday celebrations since there is no single rival for their attention, but an entire day, season, or event. Narcissists feel the holiday steals the spotlight that they, themselves, should own.

There are two general types of narcissists, the grandiose and the vulnerable. Grandiose narcissists do everything in a big way and genuinely believe that they lead “larger than life” lives that are the envy of everyone who knows them.

Vulnerable narcissists don’t necessarily seek as much public attention, but they demand that they are the center of attention in one-on-one relationships. When denied their narcissistic supply, they can unexpectedly lash out with surprisingly hostile and vicious aggression fueled by narcissistic rage.

No matter what type of narcissist you’ve got in your life, you should be very wary of accepting gifts from them. Narcissists don’t give gifts to make you feel loved, they give gifts to make themselves out to be something they’re not—loving and generous:

5 Truths About Narcissists and Gift Giving

  1. Narcissists give gifts that represent an investment in their own desires—not in the desire to please others.
  2. Narcissists give gifts in an effort to keep the recipient’s devotion or allegiance strong.
  3. Narcissists give gifts only as a means to maintain control in a relationship, not as a way to give pleasure to another.
  4. Narcissists don’t give expensive gifts become they think you’re awesome; they give expensive gifts so that you and others will think that they are awesome. They’ll even give pricey gifts if they’re deep in debt to maintain the façade of wealth and success.
  5. Narcissists don’t give gifts out of love; they give gifts out of fear.

The Vulnerable Narcissist at Celebrations

When vulnerable narcissists are invited to celebrations for others’ milestone events, such as anniversaries or birthdays, they may not want to make an appearance at all. It’s hard for them to keep their narcissistic appetite fed when everyone around them is raising a glass to the success of someone else. The vulnerable narcissist gets their supply from the downfalls and missteps of others. If they show at all, they will be desperately hoping to find a reason to feel superior to others. They will find fault with the venue, the guest list, the drink options, the decorations, the clothing worn by the other guests, or the accomplishments of the guest of honor.

If these petty comments aren’t enough to meet their supply needs, the vulnerable narcissist may stoop so low as to sabotage the event to make the partygoers and host feel bad. They may start an argument, spill red wine on the white carpet, or accidentally bump into or trip someone carrying a plate of food—whatever they can do to leave others looking bad or feeling bad. They can go to any length to access their supply to bring a moment of narcissistic satisfaction and stave off narcissistic rage.

The Grandiose Narcissist at Celebrations

Grandiose narcissists need to feel superior to everyone else at an event. They engage in self-aggrandizing behavior with no shame and will demand the best of everything and make a scene if they are denied. Their level of entitlement is off the scale, and they will push to the front of any line and unabashedly grab the best and biggest of anything on offer. They’ll exaggerate their successes to prompt the praise of others and will easily lie to make themselves seem much more deserving and accomplished than they are. If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, it shouldn’t surprise you when they take credit for gifts that you buy others, for meals you’ve prepared or parties you planned, or for the good behavior of your children. They may make promises of special gifts or vacation trips but fail to deliver after bragging to everyone about what they were going to provide.

The best way to handle narcissists at important celebrations is to leave them off the guest list. However, if you can’t exclude the narcissist from your guest list, here are five suggestions for keeping the celebration on track and minimizing the damage the narcissist can do:

5 Tips for Managing Narcissists During Celebrations

  1. Don’t start an argument as this will merely fuel their narcissistic rage.
  2. Don’t tell them how to behave or what to do; they resist following others’ directives.
  3. Don’t assume you can convince them to see your perspective; they can only view the world through their own jaundiced perspective.
  4. Don’t expect to reach them through heartfelt, emotionally vulnerable conversations. They are notorious for the absence of empathy for others and have no interest in understanding another’s viewpoint.
  5. Especially be careful not to humiliate them or challenge them in front of others.
More from Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.
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