Narcissistic Traits + Relationships – This article is an empathic perspective on what it means to be narcissistic, including how to spot narcissistic traits, in yourself and others, and narcissistic relationships.
The aim of this article is not to ridicule or shame. Instead, it is to understand people with strong narcissist traits, our own narcissistic behaviours, and any narcissistic relationships we have, better. This is so that you can avoid the pitfalls of narcissistic traits and empath / narcissist relationships.
It’s important to make clear that this article is not about narcissistic personality disorder (NPB). Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition at one extreme of the narcissistic spectrum.
This article is about narcissistic traits and how to spot narcissism in yourself and others.
It could be said that WE ALL exhibit some narcissistic traits occasionally. Therefore, it’s very important not to berate yourself if you recognise a few of the narcissistic traits listed below.
The point is that, with awareness, we can limit any narcissistic tendencies within ourselves, as well as learn to recognise – and protect ourselves – from the narcissistic traits of others.
Some traits of narcissism include:
- Lack of empathy: being unaware of and unable to imagine how others feel.
- Being unable to understand the effects of their attitudes + behaviour on others.
- Disregard for other people’s feelings and needs.
- Self-absorption and self-centredness to the point where it harms key relationships.
- Excessive need for attention, praise or validation.
- Inability to take criticism and a striving for perfectionism.
- Always maintaining a perspective of superiority over other people.
- Entitlement, believing they are special and deserve special treatment.
- Being envious and believing others envy them.
Other narcissistic symptoms and traits include:
- Manipulativeness or cunning.
- Mood swings: feeling depressed, ashamed and humiliated when they do not live up to their internal image of perfection.
- Rage in the face of criticism or not having superiority validated.
Despite the outer display of confidence, narcissists are deep down deeply insecure and often lonely.
Cause of Narcissistic Traits + Relationships
The root cause of narcissism may be a variety of factors, that include:
- Excessive praise or emotional neglect during childhood.
- Parenting styles with an over emphasis on achievement and recognition, leading to an adult trying to ‘win’ love or approval.
- One or more parents with narcissism or narcissistic traits.
- A lack of parental attunement to a child’s inner world, leading to the development of a false inflated identity, as an attempt to keep feelings of vulnerability, dependence and powerlessness at bay.
In addition to the above, this new media age that we live in saturates us with messages, values and images that subconsciously influence us to become more narcissistic.
From taking selfies to posting updates about ourselves to social media, to self-promotion in order to stand out for job opportunities or make our businesses more successful.
According to Jean M Twenge and W. Keith Campbell in their book The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, data collected from 37,000 college students showed that narcissistic personality traits rose just as fast as obesity from the 1980s to the present.
The shift was especially pronounced for women. In fact, the rise in narcissism was shown to be accelerating, with data scores rising faster in the 2000s than in previous decades.
How to spot narcissistic traits?
You could argue that many of the standards and values we absorb from commercial advertising have normalised narcissism.
Narcissim thrives in many industries where there is a strong narcissistic supply of attention, praise and external validation, such as entertainment, business, politics and public affairs.
Can you spot a narcissist in any of these industries?
Perhaps you have your own ideas about which people in public life are narcissistic?
Though some narcissistic traits and hidden and therefore harder to spot, traits like:
- lack of empathy
- the inability to imagine how behaviour or actions affect other people
- superiority, and
- a strong need for attention and admiration
…can all be signs of a narcissist that are visible in photographs, film, words, actions, behaviour and attitudes.
The empath + narcissistic relationships
As a highly sensitive person, it’s important to be aware of narcissistic traits in others, so you can avoid the harmful effects of being in relationship with a narcissist.
The key issue is your empathy. Being a highly sensitive empath, you most likely have a keen awareness of other people’s feeling and needs, with a tendency to put others first.
By contrast, people with narcissistic traits have low awareness of other people’s feeling and needs, with a tendency to put others last.
Clearly, these natural tendencies can cause a great imbalance in a narcissist / empath relationship.
There will be a tendency for the narcissist to get their own needs met by the empath, without reciprocation.
Over time, this can be very damaging for someone with an empath personality.
How to deal with Narcissistic Traits + Relationships
With regard to narcissistic traits, a few things to bear in mind if you’d like to let go of them:
- Try to develop a sense of self worth and esteem that does not depend on outer validation, achievement, popularity or attention.
- Learn to see the value in ordinary people and human qualities such as kindness.
- Treat yourself with compassion when you make mistakes and don’t strive for perfection.
- Ask questions about how people are feeling and really listen to their answers.
- If you notice many narcissistic traits in yourself, think about how your behaviour, words and attitudes might affect others…
However, do not follow this last tip if you are a highly sensitive empath. As an empath, you will already be overly attuned to other people’s feelings and needs.
Managing Narcissistic Relationships
Regarding narcissistic relationships, this is a tricky one and it depends on the kind of relationship that you have. Some ways of dealing with a narcissist include:
- Generally, if you are not in a personal relationship with the narcissist – i.e. they are not family – then try to minimise engagement with them.
- Do not try to educate a narcissist about narcissism. Remember: they don’t genuinely care.
- If the narcissist is in a position of authority over you, tread very carefully. Consider your options to get out from that position. Do not try to outshine or ‘out do’ a narcissist. See Escape The Toxic Office for tips.
- Try to detach from the narcissist’s behaviour. For example, if you have a colleague, neighbour or family member who is narcissistic, try not to take their behaviour personally. Narcissistic traits can be annoying, but deep down they are deeply troubled individuals who behave the same with everyone.
- Do what you need to do to retain peace of mind. This might mean extra self care, meditation and focusing on the good people and things in your life that bring you pleasure.
Furthermore, you could also try the following approaches:
- Lower your expectations of the relationship: don’t chase the fantasy that they will change.
- Don’t try to heal or rescue them. Remember: in their eyes they are above you and therefore already perfect.
- Set boundaries and limitations: communicate your needs in a way that is clear and calm. Repeat as necessary until the message is understood. Remove yourself from the relationship if needed, or limit contact or availability.
- Do not try to compete for attention or admiration. They have a stronger drive, so you will only feel defeated.
- Focus on your own self esteem, worth and value. Be compassionate with yourself. Develop yourself and your life away from the influence of the narcissist.
- Be comforted that, whatever the outward display of superiority, success or popularity, this is not the reality of their character. Keep your own firm grip on the truth.
- Get support. It always helps to talk things through or even brainstorm specific strategies for dealing with narcissists.
In conclusion, by seeking information and gaining awareness about Narcissistic Traits + Relationships, you can reduce the harmful effect of such traits on your own life. For example, by learning to value yourself separately from accomplishment, you protect yourself from loneliness and self hatred.
Likewise, with awareness, you can better manage any relationships that you have to maintain with narcissists, without sacrificing your peace of mind.
Article copyright Amy Garner 2021. See my Copyright Notice and Disclaimer.
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