Spotting and Dealing with Narcissists

The term “narcissist” comes from the Greek myth of Narkissos, who fell in love with a reflection of himself and was cursed by nymphs for his self-absorption. Thus, a narcissist is one who appears to love themselves beyond all others.

It is unlikely that one can go through life without encountering a narcissist. They can range in personality from likable to downright malignant. The closer one is to a narcissist, the more toxic their effect is likely to be.

Here are some guidelines to spot a narcissist (or realize someone you’ve known for a long time is one).

  • The person is generally incapable of apologizing, and when they do apologize they negate it with a “but” or justification for their actions in the same breath. For example, “I’m sorry I yelled at you, but you made me so angry.”
  • The person typically takes every opportunity to compare themselves favorably compared to the negative traits of another person. For example, “She missed church again yesterday. I don’t understand that because I manage to make it to church every week.”
  • The person generally pushes fault for everything off to someone else, ignoring their own part in a situation which turned out negatively. In the Pink Panther movies, Inspector Clouseau stated that he should have the architect of the building he was in investigated when he walked on the wrong side of a door and into the wall.
  • The person seems incapable of taking criticism without defending themselves or justifying themselves.
  • The person “re-writes history” rather than admitting obvious mistakes. Narcissists may claim to always have had a certain belief rather than admit that they were once wrong but changed their mind to a more reasonable way of thinking.

It may help to understand why a narcissist is a narcissist in the first place. I view narcissists as, at their core, being emotionally wounded people. They were so wounded (probably in childhood) that they developed a defensive personality layer whose sole purpose is to protect the wounded core from any negativity being directed at them. In essence, the personality layer refuses to allow any fault or criticism to be applied to themselves. In doing so, little to no thought is given to other peoples’ feelings.

In order to fulfill this mission, the personality layer embarks on a lifetime mission of self-glorification. One hundred percent of their resources are directed towards ensuring they are seen in a positive light and others are marginalized. If you observe a narcissist and look at every action they take as a way to self-glorify, they may well become a different and less powerful person in your eyes. Every attack on you or another person can be seen as merely a desperate attempt to self-glorify. Every frustratingly stubborn refusal to accept that they are wrong in a situation can be seen as merely an attempt to defend their fragile ego as opposed to evidence that they don’t care about you. Almost bizarre incidents of incorrectly remembering past events can be seen as an attempt to protect themselves as opposed to leading one to question their own memory.

The key to dealing with a narcissist is not being overly worried about their opinion. Changing their opinion is likely a waste of effort. Spend no more time correcting them than you would trying to have a discussion with a television… and for much the same reason. Neither one listens to you.