“That’s enough of me talking about myself; let’s hear you talk about me”
“It’s not easy being superior to everyone I know.”
Psychologist Stephen Johnson writes that the narcissist is someone who has “buried his true self-expression in response to early injuries and replaced it with a highly developed, compensatory false self.” This alternate persona to the real self often comes across as grandiose, “above others,” self-absorbed, and highly conceited. In our highly individualistic and externally driven society, mild to severe forms of narcissism are not only pervasive but often encouraged.
Narcissism is often interpreted in popular culture as a person who’s in love with him or herself. It is more accurate to characterize the pathological narcissist as someone who’s in love with an idealized self-image, which they project in order to avoid feeling (and being seen as) the real, disenfranchised, wounded self. Deep down, most pathological narcissists feel like the “ugly duckling,” even if they painfully don’t want to admit it.
How do you know when you’re dealing with a narcissist? The following are some telltale signs, excerpted from my book (click on title): “How to Successfully Handle Narcissists (link is external)”. While most of us are guilty of some of the following behaviors at one time or another, a pathological narcissist tends to dwell habitually in several of the following personas, while remaining largely unaware of (or unconcerned with) how his or her actions affect others.
1. Conversation Hoarder. The narcissist loves to talk about him or herself, and doesn’t give you a chance to take part in a two-way conversation. You struggle to have your views and feelings heard. When you do get a word in, if it’s not in agreement with the narcissist, your comments are likely to be corrected, dismissed, or ignored.
“My father’s favorite responses to my views were: ‘but…,’ ‘actually…,’ and ‘there’s more to it than this…’ He always has to feel like he knows better.”
2. Conversation Interrupter. While many people have the poor communication habit of interrupting others, the narcissist interrupts and quickly switches the focus back to herself. He shows little genuine interest in you.
3. Rule Breaker. The narcissist enjoys getting away with violating rules and social norms, such as cutting in line, chronic under-tipping, stealing office supplies, breaking multiple appointments, or disobeying traffic laws.
“I take pride in persuading people to give me exceptions to their rules”
4. Boundary Violator. Shows wanton disregard for other people’s thoughts, feelings, possessions, and physical space. Oversteps and uses others without consideration or sensitivity. Borrows items or money without returning. Breaks promises and obligations repeatedly. Shows little remorse and blames the victim for one’s own lack of respect.
“It’s your fault that I forgot because you didn’t remind me”
5. False Image Projection. Many narcissists like to do things to impress others by making themselves look good externally. This “trophy” complex can exhibit itself physically, romantically, sexually, socially, religiously, financially, materially, professionally, academically, or culturally. In these situations, the narcissist uses people, objects, status, and/or accomplishments to represent the self, substituting for the perceived, inadequate “real” self. These grandstanding “merit badges” are often exaggerated. The underlying message of this type of display is: “I’m better than you!” or “Look at how special I am—I’m worthy of everyone’s love, admiration, and acceptance!”