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By Katie Bailey, MA, LPC

What is a narcissist?

I hear a lot of people using the word narcissistic these days.

“Steve is so narcissistic! He only thinks of himself!”

“Joanna always makes everything about her, she’s such a narcissist.”

The reality is maybe Steve and Joanna both have a bit of narcissism in them. However, they might not be full on narcissists. Narcissism is a continuum. It’s when someone hangs out only on the far end of the continuum that creates a problem. True narcissists are in love with feeling special. Everything they do, and everyone they encounter are used to help fuel their deep need to always feel special. Their efforts to feel special are beyond selfishness. We are all selfish sometimes. Narcissism isn’t just wanting to get your own way. It’s truly believing you should always have your own way because you are entitled and better than everyone else.

Here are some of the most common ways to recognize a narcissist. They are people who usually:

1. Dominate the conversation

Talking with a narcissist is never a reciprocal conversation. The narcissist will dominate, and not let you get a word in at all. And if you happen to get a word in, he or she will twist the flow of dialogue to get the topic back on him or herself.

2. Have no empathy

What is empathy? Empathy is the very important emotional skill of identifying with how someone else feels. Narcissists do not have this skill set. They cannot see how others feel, and really, they don’t care. Life is all about them.

3. Don’t care about your boundaries

When in a relationship with a narcissist, whether a spouse, parent, sibling, friend or coworker, you will most likely try to set a boundary in an effort to reclaim your own sanity. The narcissist won’t respect it because he or she feels entitled to do whatever he or she wants. You might ask them to not interrupt you when talking. Maybe you ask for the volume of the music to get turned down and the narcissist turns it up. What you think, feel or ask for doesn’t matter.

4. Controlling others with negative emotions

At the root of narcissism is actually a deep fear of worthlessness and insecurity. Most narcissists won’t really be able to articulate that fear. The insecurity fuels the unending need to feel special. One way to help meet that need is to put others down. Narcissists will often criticize others to feel superior themselves. They know what buttons to push to get people upset and actually enjoy the power they have to manipulate others this way.

5. Charming initially, until they get what they want…or get bored

When you first meet a narcissist, that person may seem very charismatic, charming and attractive. He or she will likely flatter you, tell you what you want to hear. This is another way they manipulate people around them. They make you warm up to them to fulfill their own needs. Once they no longer have use for you, they don’t pay you the same attention. Again, it’s all about them without any regard for you.

6. Rules don’t apply to them

Narcissists believe they are so special rules don’t apply to them. They should get to go to the front of every line, drive however they want, never get searched at the airport, not wait for a table at a restaurant, basically do whatever they want when they want.

7. Others can’t live without them

Narcissists have a false belief of how important they are. They think others can’t live without them, they are too important. They seem themselves as the hero, the only one who can make things happen, everyone else is useless without them. We call this having a grandiose view of self – thinking you are way more special and “grand” than anyone else.

If you think that you have a narcissist in your life and it’s negatively impacting you, please reach out for help. You need to take responsibility for your own emotions and reactions and learn to regain emotional health. This process can be very difficult. You must create some space with the narcissist, learn to speak up for yourself and set necessary boundaries. Take the power back; this person should not be running your life with emotional abuse. You might feel scared, that you can’t rock the boat. Or maybe you are afraid to lose the relationship. I understand those fears. I also believe your emotional well being is more important, and I want to teach you the skills you need survive life with a narcissist. Depending on the context in which you know the person, you might need to end that relationship. I can help you see what is your responsibility and what is not, and what changes you need to make so you are in charge of your own life again. Your own happiness and joy in life is worth it. As a counselor specializing in abuse therapy, I have helped many people find healing. Contact me today for a free consult and let’s get started.