- Narcissistic tendencies can be recognized and successfully addressed. A personality disorder is more ingrained and continues throughout life.
- Recognizing narcissistic warning signs is the first step to changing them.
- Increasing awareness of potential red flags in your relationships will improve your ability to maintain long-lasting, healthy connections.
Someone can display narcissistic tendencies without having developed a fully-fledged narcissistic personality disorder. Most personality disorders find their roots in early adulthood, but people can develop disordered personality traits at different junctures in their lives.
Life experiences often bring personality issues to the surface, leading to an uptick in maladaptive traits that wreak havoc interpersonally. Researchers have started identifying potential genetic factors that could be a contributing factor as to why some individuals develop personality disorders, but environmental circumstances also play an immense role in how individuals learn to interact with others.
Narcissistic Tendencies vs. Narcissistic Personality Disorder
It is crucial for those who have developed unhealthy personality traits without progressing to a clinically identifiable personality disorder to increase self-awareness to deal with and replace these maladaptive attributes.
Narcissistic tendencies should be viewed through an alternative lens than narcissistic personality disorder, with a key difference being in the frequency, intensity, and duration of those characteristics — narcissistic personality disorder constitutes a pervasive pattern that has been ongoing and manifests in several known ways.
Narcissistic tendencies can be recognized and successfully addressed, whereas a personality disorder is more ingrained and will continue to be an issue throughout one’s lifetime. Although personality disorders can be treated, research tends to show they never completely disappear.
Narcissistic Traits That Could Be a Warning Sign
If you have been wondering whether you possess narcissistic tendencies, here are some warning signs of counterproductive thoughts and behaviors:
1. You use other people to meet your needs. It is probably a normal experience to have manipulated someone or a situation to produce your desired outcome at some point in life. It should be an immediate red flag when this occurs without remorse or regret and builds into a repetitive pattern. If you find yourself measuring relationships based on how they will benefit you, as opposed to thinking about your contributions to make the interactions meaningful, this could be a narcissistic tendency.
Are you able to recognize easily how to manipulate someone? Do you attempt to manipulate others without a second thought about how it may affect them or your relationship? Do you believe getting what you want from them is more important than how your actions may impact them?
Using someone to get what you want should create feelings of remorse and a desire to make amends, or at the very least to avoid repeating the behavior in the future. Relationships need to be reciprocal to last long term, and manipulation always impedes the forward progress of any interpersonal connection.
2. Your feelings are the only ones that matter. Though self-advocacy is an important skill in healthy relationships, an extremely self-centered focus is detrimental interpersonally. These tendencies can be directed at everyone or manifest only in certain relationships. When your feelings become paramount and supersede all other aspects of a relationship, it could be a warning sign that needs to be evaluated.
Do you consistently believe your feelings are not appreciated in the way they should be? Do you think that your thoughts and emotions should be recognized above the opinions of others? Are you willing to put others down, belittle them, or become aggressive to be sure they validate your emotions?
Seeking healthy validation of your feelings is much different than believing your views should be given more recognition than anyone else's. When self-centeredness becomes the key to getting what you want out of a relationship and consistently disregarding other viewpoints, empathy will fall by the wayside. Relationships characterized by self-seeking inevitably fall apart or become toxic in some fashion.
3. You believe in a double standard regarding how you are treated. Healthy relationships are built on a foundation of mutual respect and trust. The Golden Rule really does improve interpersonal connections, and when respect is not a common denominator, everyone suffers. Many individuals with narcissistic tendencies employ a double standard in relationships — more of a “do what I say, not what I do” motto. This creates an imbalance of power that eventually leads to increased conflict and relational distress.
Do you feel that your thoughts and statements should not be questioned or discussed? Do you believe you can say or do anything to someone else because the situation or their behaviors justify your actions? Do you get angry or resentful when others disagree with what you have said — or do you become irritated when someone tells you how they feel about your actions?
Communication is a two-way street, and healthy communication is key for successful relationships. When you start to feel that your opinions and thoughts should always be shared in any way you desire, and regardless of the cost to others, your relationships will eventually break down.
4. The way other people feel doesn’t really concern you. Empathy is vital when interacting with others. The ability (or desire) to truly understand what someone else is thinking and feeling will go a long way toward developing healthy relationships. Individuals who operate in a vacuum by overlooking what other people are going through will undoubtedly struggle to maintain healthy relationships.
Do you notice that others’ emotions and thoughts annoy you and seem irrelevant, regardless of the situation? Do you get frustrated when someone asks you to understand where they are coming from? Do you act on your thoughts and feelings without considering what other people may be experiencing in the same situation?
Empathy will make or break sustainable relationships. If you notice a pattern in your life of relationships that don’t last or seem to become quickly unfulfilling, there may be a reoccurring issue with your ability to grasp what other people are thinking and feeling – a skill that will immensely help you navigate the ups and downs that accompany all relationships.
Change Narcissistic Tendencies Before They Become a Pattern
Increasing awareness of potential red flags in your interpersonal relationships will only improve your ability to maintain long-lasting, healthy connections with others. This basic human need requires a lot of work for everyone involved.
Though maladaptive and dangerous to relationships, narcissistic tendencies can be addressed and improved with honest self-analysis and a willingness to work through challenging issues.
Catch the unhealthy patterns in your interactions and take the steps necessary to fix them before your relationships become a casualty.
Huff, C. (2004). Where Personality Goes Awry. Monitor on Psychology, 35 (3). https://www.apa.org/monitor/mar04/awry