Tolerating the Narcissistic Personality
Knowing the traits of the narcissistic personality and how narcissists view themselves is useful, but so is knowing what will happen to you if you continue to associate with them. I say this while being well aware that in many cases, children, the elderly, or the infirm may not have a choice. In those cases, it is up to all of us as friends, relatives, teachers, coaches, associates and co-workers to assist as best we can.
Also, there are those who, for reasons of finances, circumstances, or because they are in a complicated relationship or marriage, will choose to stick it out. To them I say beware: you will be victimized and you will pay a price, be it physically, psychologically, or even financially. I say that from experience and from talking to many victims whose stories still burden my heart.
If you do choose to live with or work with a narcissistic personality, be prepared to accept the following:
1. Accept that you are not equals because narcissists feel that they have no equals.
2. Those feelings of insecurity, dismay, disbelief, or incongruity that you are experiencing are real and will continue.
3. Because narcissists overvalue themselves, you will be devalued in time and at all the times after that. You will, in essence, become the narcissist’s chew-toy. Gird yourself to be repeatedly degraded.
4. You will be talked to and treated in ways you never imagined, and you will be expected to tolerate it.
5. The narcissist’s needs, wants, and desires come first above all others—no matter how inconvenient to you.
6. Be prepared on a moment’s notice for them to turn on you with reptilian indifference at a moment’s notice, as if any positive interactions in the past did not matter. You will question your own sanity as they turn on you, but that is your reality when involved with a narcissist.
7. When narcissists are nice, they can be very nice; but if you still feel insecure, that is because it is a performance, not a true sentiment. Niceness is a tool for social survival—a means to get what they want, like needing a hammer to hang a picture.
8. You will lap up the narcissist’s niceness, poodle-like, because it doesn’t come often, but niceness for the narcissist is perfunctory; merely utilitarian.
9. Be prepared for when the narcissist lashes out not with anger, but with rage. It is frightening! You will feel attacked and your sense of dignity will be violated.
10. Morality, ethics, and kindness are mere words—narcissists master these for their practicality, not for their propriety.
11. Narcissists lie without concern for the truth because lies are useful for controlling and manipulating others. When you catch them in a lie, they will say that it is you who is lyingor wrong, or that you misunderstood. Prepare to be attacked and to receive counter-allegations.
12. If it seems that they can only talk about themselves, even at the oddest of times, it is not your imagination. Narcissists can only talk about what they value most: themselves. That is their vacuous nature.
13. Narcissists will associate with individuals you would not trust to park your car because they attract those who see narcissism as something to value: e.g., the power-hungry, the unscrupulous, profiteers, opportunists, and social predators.
14. Never expect the narcissist to admit to a mistake or to apologize. Never! Blame is always outward toward you or others, never inward. Narcissists have no concept of self-awareness or introspection. But they are quick to see faults in others.
15. They expect you to forgive and forget and above all never to challenge them or make them look bad in public. You must remember that they always want to be perfect in public. Don’t embarrass them or contradict them publicly, or you will pay the price.
16. Get used to losing sleep, feeling anxious, restless, less in control, becoming increasingly worried, perhaps even developing psychosomatic ailments. That is what happens when you live with or associate with a narcissist. Those insecurities are your subconscious talking to you, telling you to escape.
17. Lacking both interest and true empathy in and for you, narcissists absolve themselves of that pesky social burden to care, leaving you deprived, empty, frustrated, or in pain.
18. They will be unwilling to acknowledge even the smallest thing that matters to you. In doing so, they devalue you, leaving you feeling unfulfilled and empty.
19. You will learn to deal with their indifference in one of two ways: you will work harder to get their attention—with little reward to you because it won’t matter to the narcissist—or you will become resigned and empty psychologically because narcissists drain you, one indignity at a time.
20. You will be expected to be their cheerleader at all times, even when it is you who needs encouragement the most.
This is the sad, unvarnished truth about how narcissists see themselves, how they will behave, and how they will make you feel. I wish it were a better picture, but talk to the survivors of these personalities and they will tell you: it is that bad, it is that toxic. Why? Because, as Stuart C. Yudofsky explained in his book Fatal Flaws: Navigating Destructive Relationships With People With Disorders of Personality and Character, the truly narcissistic personality is “severely flawed of character.”
For those who ask, “What can I do?” Conventional wisdom advises seeing a trained professional for guidance. That is wise but not always available. In my experience, there is only one solution that works. Distance yourself from these individuals as soon as you recognize them for what they are and as soon as it is practical. Get as far as you can from them and as your wounds heal, you will see your life change for the better and your dignity restored. As painful as distancing yourself may be, it is often the only way to make the hurting stop and to restore your own physical and mental well-being.