How Do You Know if Someone is a Narcissist or Not?
Someone recently asked me to assist them with a problem.
They were concerned that a person they knew might be a narcissist, however they were also concerned that perhaps they were the one being narcissistic, and that their narcissism was seeing this person as a narcissist.
They had one of those moments of wondering if perhaps they were the narcissist.
How could they know if they were the narcissist or if this other person was the narcissist?
This is a brain teaser along the lines of this:
Am I the narcissist or are you the narcissist? – can you look something like this up and get the answer to it?
Yes, you can, especially online with so many people weighing in on it – but is it the right answer?
In this kind of scenario right and wrong depend more on you and your criteria for such things, and what you want and need, than they do on facts, figures, statistics and other things like that created by humans to know something with certainty about other humans – which is always going to be biased, usually in our favour (in favour of the person created the criteria).
Humans are complex, trying to simplify them, us, is never going to be easy. Yet we still try to make it easy, in as much as – we want to classify others with a black or white system, but hate it when others do that with us.
Someone commented today on one of my ‘Capricorn’ posts to make clear to all that all Capricorns suck. They did not specify their Sun Sign while doing that, which is a pity as this Capricorn who sucks would like to know what Sun sign they are who thinks all Capricorns suck no matter what so I can avoid their Sun sign so as not to bother them with my brand of suck and there life can be lovely without any Capricorns in it.
The formula for NPD, compiled by and for experts, and also used by anyone who happens upon it, in that guide for ‘crazy’ (as in personalities which form a disorderly orderly queue) known as the DSM is:
This guide is accurate… however many of these accurate traits aren’t displayed obviously.
The narcissist in your life (even if that narcissist is you) isn’t going to be a machine, a robot, about their Narcissistic Personality Disorder (or disorderly order).
1. A grandiose sense of self-importance… can be exactly what you think it’s going to be – I’m the greatest, I’m the biggest, smartest, bestest, mostest… or… it can be the opposite of that.
Covert Narcissists in particular will appear anything but grandiose, however that appearance of being the least grandiose person in the world will be grandiose.
They’re the worst person ever. Everyone hates them. No one could ever understand them. They’re the weirdest, worstest, stupidest, leastest, invisiblest, insignificantest…
Argue with them about it for their benefit, in support of them, to help them, to bolster their non-existent self-esteem, and they will make mincemeat out of your sympathy for them.
You’ll feel guilty about your happiness, your self-esteem, your few good things in life and about yourself.
How dare you! How dare you have a happy when they have a sad! How dare you have anything when they have nothing! They’ll make having nothing seem trendy and desirable in some way which will make you feel bad about having anything which is more than nothing, even if all you have is less than they have.
2. They can be very preoccupied with themselves, their brilliance, power, beauty, etc… however they are also just as preoccupied with others, their brilliance, power, beauty, etc…
In fact they’re very adept at obsessing over others more than they do about themselves. Their obsession with others is about themselves. But it can go unnoticed because they make everything about others.
If you become the focus of their obsession, they will get to know you and your life, past, present and their chosen future for you, in a way that no one else ever has. You’ll find it overwhelming and will be seduced by it whether you want to be or not.
They will get to know you better than you know yourself (and worse than you know yourself)… and then they will try to fix you because U R Doing It Wrong!
Their fixing of you is all for you, not for them… or is it?
3. They are special – that can’t be denied. The term ‘special’ was never more accurate or sinister.
They know it. You know it.
And you’re special for knowing them and them acknowledging your existence. They’ve chosen you as their special friend… sounds so appealing until you read (in chilling hindsight) the smallprint of this very special contract.
They’ll tell you secrets they’ve never told anyone else, share with you their deepest and darkest, and bind you into silence.
4. Requires excess admiration. Yes. In the obvious way – You look marvelous, you’re amazing, you’re brilliant, unique, out of this world, an angel, a goddess, god, etc… but also in a not as obvious way. You’re the worst, evil, demon spawn, demonic, you’re just like a Bond villain, satan, etc… those work too. As do many things in between those common extremes…
It’s not about the obvious, that’s ordinary, mediocre, it’s about what makes someone different from others, makes them extraordinary. Each individual narcissist has a different admiration requirement.
Their unicorn is no ordinary unicorn.
Don’t worry, they’ll train you without you being aware of it to say what they want to hear. You’ll get a dog biscuit every time you do things the right way, their way, and will get admonished when you don’t… and retrained until you’re almost but never quite good enough.
5. Has a sense of entitlement. This can be in your face, and in those instances their lack of reason is splattered all over your face and the place. The minor (or not at all) celebrity screaming – Don’t you know who I AM!!!!… but it can also go on behind your back with the face to face interactions seeming very reasonable.
They’ll have you making excuses for them, and fighting their battles before you know it. You’ll be committed to getting justice for them for whatever mistreatment they’ve suffered at the hands of others… which is never their fault, never their responsibility, never their problem (even though they have a big issue with it)… it’s the problem of others and now it is also yours if you care about them. You do care about them, don’t you?
Their sense of entitlement can be so subtle that you’ll never see it coming, entering and taking over your life. And you’ll never question how come your life now belongs to them and is all about them, because they’ve got you thinking that it is all about you – this person was mean to me, made me cry and stuff, how can you let them get away with being evil to us that way!?! They said you were stupid (for liking me), I didn’t defend you (I agreed because it’s true), because they were mean and bullies (whom I was provoking against you), please defend poor, poor me, you can’t let them get away with treating me, us, we’re together in this, this way! Help me, my saviour (Put yourself on the line while I hide behind you and root for them)!
6. Is interpersonally exploitative. Yes, but isn’t always as aware of this as has been credited with being.
Narcissists, as long as they are really narcissists and not sociopaths with narcissitic tendencies, are mostly oblivious to how much they’re playing mind games with people. The mind games they think they’re playing aren’t the ones which get us as much as the ones they have no idea that they’re playing because… narcissists didn’t start this game play, they became it due to extenuating circumstances.
They’re messing with us because they were messed with, and are passing on what was passed onto to them.
I get it… you want them to be Hollywood evil. They’re not that orderly in the mess that they make.
This issue really messes with people trying to figure things out. Does the narcissist know what they’re doing? Have you been used, a pawn, all along?
Yes and No.
Using others is a survival basic for the narcissist. They do it without necessarily knowing they are doing it. Some narcissists are more aware than others. Those who aren’t aware actually cause more damage to others than those who are aware. When someone believes their own BS, they sell it far more convincingly to others because it comes across as genuine.
This lovely self-improvement quote (above), which is so inspiring… if you follow it to the letter it will help you become a magnet for narcissists, especially the ones who think they’re as far removed from being narcissists as is humanly possible.
The worst narcissists are the ones who don’t know… the ones who know, they tend to want you to know that they know even if you refuse to hear and listen.
7. Lacks empathy. Yes, but doesn’t know they lack empathy. In fact they are the ones most likely to see others as lacking empathy and see themselves as the greatest empath in the world… who suffers the at the hands of the lack of empathy of others.
A narcissist will regularly tell you how much they care about others, how much they feel what others feel (and how it impacts them very deeply, usually always negatively – how come it is never positive? – Empathy is a predominantly positive experience, imo), how much they suffer because of their highly sensitive selves, and how much they get used by others because of their uncontrollable empathy, sympathy, pity and sorrow for others, and depth of feeling… the kind of sensitivity which is completely irresponsible and always blames others while pretending not to do that because that would look bad for their persona.
8. Is envious of others and believes others are envious of them. This may be up front… as in someone who regularly tells you they have ‘haterz’, and it sounds more like a boast than a concern.
Why do they pay so much attention to their ‘haterz’ and those who ‘unfollow’ and ‘unfriend’ them online and offline, diss them, etc… than they do those who are ‘loverz’, who follow them, who are friends, who compliment and support them?
Answer is… bad stuff gets our attention more than good stuff because it hits us in our gut, our survival instinct gets turned on (and not usually in a sexy way). When we feel unsafe, threatened… we pay attention to the source of that threat to our safety (in a ‘this person needs to be killed before they kill us’ kind of manner) and react with the claws of fear.
Some people have learned that the way to get our attention is to threaten our safety.
Narcissists play this out in a myriad of ways. Both as the attention-seeker and the attention-giver. Their admiration for others is a threat to their identity and self-esteem. So is their envy.
Their envy is admiration, their admiration is envy.
They see that in how others look at them too. They want you to envy them more than admire them, because that’s more powerful = they are more important.
The more they envy someone, the more that certain someone is who they want to be = someone special enough for them to envy.
Their envy is exactly the same as admiration. They see no difference between the two… except that when they say they admire someone, it means less than when they rip that person to pieces due to envy. If they ignore someone very deliberately… then that person may be their ultimate nemesis. Someone beyond admiration and envy is a threat even a narcissist keeps quiet about. They want to be them so bad… it hurts where a narcissist does not want to feel…
If Susie says nothing about Sally really loudly… watch out, Sally!
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviours and attitudes…
…you may miss this, especially if the Narcissist is Covert.
Some will be very Overt, but you may still miss this because we can all be A-holes, prone to mockery and faux-arrogance. We all have moments of lashing out in the hopes that it will cover up our lack of self-confidence. We can all be trolls to others.
Bluffing our way through life every now and then. It’s kind of encouraged by society at large.
We all posture a bit, sometimes a lot, especially when we’re nervous and trying to pretend that we’re not.
Narcissists use this differently, but the difference can be hard to suss, particularly when we’re using empathy to understand them.
Oh, they’re just doing that stuff and bluff we do.
Some of the greatest displays of narcissist arrogance… are in the reverse of what we would recognise arrogance as being.
The common garden variety narcissist does it in an expected way, and is easily outed as a narcissist.
Are they really a narcissist?
The most insidious narcissist is the kind who fools you into thinking that they could never be a narcissist because… they’re busy outing others who are narcissists… for your benefit, not theirs.
How did I answer the person who asked me the question which inspired this post?
I told them to focus on how they felt when they were with this person.
If you think someone is a narcissist – you think they’re a narcissist, that’s all you need to know.
If you are seriously considering that you may be the narcissist. Take a time out.
Narcissist are consistently narcissists.
Get to know this person for a while longer.
Get to know yourself for a while longer.
Things will gradually become clear.
We’re all complex… take the time to explore that complexity before you make a final decision.