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  • Writer's pictureAmy Smith

Everything you Need to Know About Narcissists

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

What is a Narcissist? A narcissist is someone who has an excessive sense of self-importance, a deep need for admiration and attention, and a lack of empathy for others. Narcissists often believe they are superior to others and may have a grandiose sense of self-importance, entitlement, and a strong desire for control and power. Narcissists may also exhibit behaviors such as manipulation, exploitation of others for their own gain, and a tendency to blame others for their problems. They may have fragile self-esteem that is easily threatened and react with anger or defensiveness when challenged or criticised.

Narcissism is a personality disorder that can have a significant impact on an individual's relationships, work, and overall well-being. Treatment for narcissism typically involves psychotherapy aimed at addressing underlying issues such as low self-esteem, and improving empathy and social skills.

What are the Causes of Narcissism?

The causes of narcissism are not entirely understood, but a combination of environmental, and social factors are thought to play a role. Here are a few possible causes:

1) Parenting: Parenting can play a significant role in the development of narcissistic traits in children. Children who are raised by parents who are overly critical or neglectful may develop a sense of low self-worth and a need to compensate for it through an excessive focus on themselves and their achievements. Here are some ways that parenting can lead to the development of narcissism:

a) Overpraising: Children who are excessively praised by their parents for their accomplishments may come to believe that they are superior to others and entitled to special treatment. b) Overindulgence: Parents who overindulge their children by giving them everything they want may create a sense of entitlement and a lack of empathy for others. c) Neglect: Children who are neglected or emotionally deprived by their parents may develop a sense of low self-worth and a need to compensate for it through an excessive focus on themselves and their achievements. d) Criticism: Parents who are overly critical of their children may create a sense of inadequacy and low self-esteem, which can lead to the development of narcissistic traits as a way to compensate.

2) Childhood trauma can be a contributing factor to the development of narcissism. Trauma can take many forms, such as physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, neglect, or witnessing violence. When children experience trauma, they may develop coping mechanisms that can lead to the development of narcissistic traits. Here are some ways that childhood trauma can lead to narcissism:

a) Disassociation: Children who experience trauma may learn to disassociate from their emotions and physical sensations as a way to cope with the overwhelming feelings of fear or pain. This disassociation can make it difficult for them to connect with others on an emotional level and may lead to a sense of detachment from others.

b) Hypervigilance: Children who have experienced trauma may develop a heightened sense of awareness and vigilance as a way to protect themselves from further harm. This can lead to a sense of superiority and an exaggerated belief in their own abilities to protect themselves. c) Sense of entitlement: Children who have experienced trauma may develop a sense of entitlement as a way to compensate for the loss of control and power they experienced during the traumatic event. They may come to believe that they deserve special treatment or that they are entitled to take what they want. d) Lack of empathy: Children who have experienced trauma may struggle to connect with others on an emotional level and may lack empathy for others' experiences. This can lead to a sense of superiority and a lack of concern for the feelings of others.

3) Cultural and social factors: Societal values that prioritise individualism, competition, and success may also contribute to the development of narcissistic traits.

It's important to note that not all people who have experienced these factors will develop narcissism, and that the development of the disorder is likely to be influenced by a combination of factors.

Narcissism: What Does it Protect Individuals From?

Narcissism can be seen as a defense mechanism that protects individuals from feelings of vulnerability and low self-esteem. People with narcissistic traits may use their exaggerated sense of self-importance and superiority to shield themselves from emotional pain and negative feedback. Here are some of the things that narcissism can protect individuals from:

1. Low self-esteem: Narcissism can provide a temporary boost to self-esteem by creating a sense of superiority and entitlement.

2. Emotional pain: By focusing on themselves and their achievements, people with narcissistic traits may avoid feeling vulnerable or emotionally hurt.

3. Failure: People with narcissistic traits may have a strong desire for success and control to avoid the shame and disappointment that can come with failure.

4. Criticism: Narcissistic individuals may use their sense of superiority to protect themselves from negative feedback or criticism.

However, it's important to note that the protection that narcissism provides is often temporary and can come at a cost to relationships and overall well-being. People with narcissistic traits may struggle with forming genuine connections with others and may experience difficulty with empathy and understanding others' perspectives. Narcissistic traits can also lead to interpersonal conflict and difficulty functioning in social and professional situations.

What Things can be Particularly Triggering for Narcissists?

Narcissists can be triggered by a variety of things, as their sense of self is often fragile and dependent on external validation. Here are some things that can be particularly triggering for narcissists:

1. Criticism: Narcissists may become defensive or angry when criticised, as it can be seen as an attack on their sense of superiority and self-worth.

2. Rejection: Narcissists may struggle with rejection, as it can be seen as a blow to their ego and self-esteem.

3. Failure: Narcissists may have a strong desire for success and may become frustrated or angry when they fail to achieve their goals.

4. Inadequacy: Narcissists may feel threatened by situations or people that make them feel inadequate or inferior.

5. Competition: Narcissists may become overly competitive and aggressive when faced with competition or a challenge to their sense of superiority.

6. Lack of attention or recognition: Narcissists may feel anxious or frustrated when they are not the center of attention or when their achievements are not recognised.

It's important to note that not all narcissists will be triggered by the same things, and their reactions may vary depending on the individual and the situation. Additionally, not all individuals with narcissistic traits will react negatively to triggers, and some may be able to manage their reactions in a healthier way.

Tips for Dealing with Narcissists

Dealing with narcissists can be challenging, but here are ten tips that may help:

1. Set clear boundaries: Establish clear boundaries for what behaviors you will and will not tolerate. Narcissists may test boundaries, so it's important to be consistent in enforcing them.

2. Focus on facts, not emotions: When communicating with a narcissist, try to stick to the facts and avoid getting emotional or reactive.

3. Don't try to change them: Recognise that you cannot change a narcissist's behavior or beliefs. Instead, focus on managing your own reactions and responses.

4. Don't take their behavior personally: Remember that a narcissist's behavior is not about you. They are often driven by their own insecurities and need for validation.

5. Stay calm and composed: Narcissists may try to provoke a reaction from you. Stay calm and composed, and don't let them push your buttons.

6. Avoid feeding their ego: Narcissists thrive on attention and validation. Avoid giving them excessive compliments or attention, as it can reinforce their behavior.

7. Practice empathy: While it may be difficult, try to empathise with the narcissist and understand their perspective, even if you disagree with their behavior.

8. Seek support: Dealing with a narcissist can be draining and stressful. Seek support from friends, family, or a therapist to help manage your own emotions and reactions.

9. Don't engage in power struggles: Narcissists may try to engage you in power struggles or arguments. Avoid engaging in these types of interactions and instead focus on finding solutions and compromises.

10. Know when to walk away: If a relationship with a narcissist becomes toxic or abusive, it may be necessary to walk away for your own well-being. Remember that it's okay to prioritise your own needs and safety.

11. Recognise the signs: Learn to recognize the signs of narcissistic behavior and traits. This can help you to understand and anticipate their behavior and protect yourself accordingly.

12. Practice self-care: Take care of your own physical and emotional needs. This can include getting enough sleep, exercise, and eating well, as well as engaging in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.

13. Stay focused on your own goals: Don't let the narcissist's behavior distract you from your own goals and aspirations. Stay focused on what is important to you and work towards your own personal growth.

14. Keep a record of interactions: Keep a record of interactions with the narcissist, including any instances of abuse or manipulation. This can be helpful if you need to seek legal or professional help in the future.

15. Limit contact: If possible, limit contact with the narcissist. This can help to reduce their influence and protect your well-being.

16. Practice assertiveness: Be assertive in expressing your needs and feelings. This can help to establish boundaries and protect yourself from being manipulated or controlled by the narcissist.

17. Practice forgiveness: While it may be difficult, try to practice forgiveness towards the narcissist. Holding onto anger and resentment can be draining and can take a toll on your emotional well-being.

18. Remember that you deserve better: Finally, remember that you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. Don't let the narcissist's behavior make you doubt your worth or value as a person

If you feel you have narcissistic traits that you would like to address or you are a person who is struggling to deal with a narcissist and would like psychological support, feel free to reach out to me via email: or kindly complete the webform.

Narcissistic man admiring his reflection

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