We have all known that person, the one who monopolizes the conversations or seems to always have a flattering story to tell – always about themselves. Maybe, we listen politely for a bit and make a break for it as soon as we possibly can. Perhaps, we suffer silently while inwardly rolling our eyes.
But what if that person is you? Would you even know it?
Identifying narcissism in others is one thing. There are some glaring signs that we can all agree upon. However, identifying it in yourself can be more difficult.
Most narcissists have no idea that they fall into this category. They often view themselves as unique, special, outgoing or justifiably confident. What they don’t realize is that those views taken to the extreme can cause many problems in their relationships, work or even their family.
Why Narcissism Is Dangerous
Although narcissism can be a dangerous trait, it exists in all of us to some degree. In its most mild and most common form, it can be looked at as a desire to feel special. We can all relate to that on some level. Wanting to feel like there is something that makes us unique, interesting or desirable is completely normal.
For some, however, this goes far beyond the general desire to stand out. For certain people, narcissism can become so extreme that they can no longer relate to anyone around them. They feel they are in a category of greatness no one can understand. They may also assume that they are so unique that rules don’t apply to them or that they are more interesting and have far more to offer than anyone else.
The narcissist may become so intent on proving their superiority that they lie, manipulate or hurt those around them. They do these things in order to maintain the feeling that they are better and more worthy of admiration than anyone else. While these behaviors are destructive in and of themselves, they also have an impact that goes far beyond the day-to-day.
Relationships for someone with extreme narcissistic behavior are often either short-lived or unhealthy. A healthy relationship balances the needs of both partners with each respecting and appreciating the other. When your focus is completely on yourself, this isn’t possible. People in relationships with narcissists will often be used as a prop for the narcissist’s ego. This should prompt a swift end to a relationship because it often results in emotional and mental abuse.
This isn’t really a fair question because almost everyone will answer no. None of us wants to feel like our behavior rises to that level. It is possible, however, that you are or someone you love is exhibiting narcissistic tendencies.
Consider the following questions when recognizing narcissism:
- Do you often feel like your decision-making skills are better than others?
- Do you override what others want because you are sure your desires/interests/plans are better?
- Are your achievements over-embellished?
- Do you often think, “they will thank me for this later” when you are doing things?
- Do you feel like you have an undiscovered talent and you are just biding your time until people see it?
- Are you a good listener or are you just waiting for someone to stop talking so that you can talk?
- Do you feel like you have a way to get around things you don’t like and that the rules don’t really apply to you?
- Do you expect to receive special treatment above others in the same situation?
- Are you looking forward to talking about your achievements?
- Do you always have an “I can do you one better” kind of story when others have talked about something?
- Do you reject criticism and feedback as being stupid or a product of other people’s jealousy of you?
If the answer to more than a couple of these questions is yes, you or the person you answered for could likely be classified as a narcissist.
Narcissism can be a disabling trait. It destroys friendships, romantic relationships, careers, and causes a great deal of personal pain and conflict. When a person finally comes to terms with the truth, it can be a difficult road to recovery.
If you recognize these behaviors in yourself or someone else, it is time to initiate change. For a narcissist, change is a big step in the right direction.
That change is possible but it won’t happen overnight. So, if you or someone you love is trying to make positive alterations, be patient. With time, effort, and a good support system it can be done.
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Author: Dr. Kurt Smith
Dr. Kurt Smith is the Clinical Director of Guy Stuff Counseling & Coaching, a Northern California counseling practice that specializes in helping men and the women who love them. His expertise is in understanding men, their partners, and the unique relationship challenges couples face today. Dr. Kurt is a lover of dogs, sarcasm, everything outdoors, and helping those seeking to make their relationships better.