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You Could Be Turning Into A Narcissist...And You Don't Even Know It
Love & Relationships

You Could Be Turning Into A Narcissist...And You Don't Even Know It

This is one of those things that I can go on 1000 percent assumption about and totally know that I’m right — “it” being that if you plan on hopping on any social media platform before today ends, you’re going to hear or see at least one person use the word “narcissist”…and it’s probably going to be in the context of them no longer seeing someone or being someone’s friend because that individual happens to be one.

*le sigh*


Now while, in certain instances, that very well could be true because the uptick of narcissists/narcissism has been steadily increasing over the past few years, I also get that a lot of folks are only saying that because they heard some other people do it…and it has caught on. Why do I feel that way? Because contrary to the popular belief of many (or the ridiculousness of pop psychology that many subscribe to, which we will touch on in a bit), not everyone on the planet is a narcissist. Not only that, but only a small amount have the disorder that’s associated with narcissism (reportedly, it’s up to five percent) — and no, narcissism and the disorder are not the same thing (SMDH).

So, in an effort to make sure that the term is being used properly and accurately, I thought that we should delve into it a bit. And, more importantly, because the traits of narcissism are ironically ones that social media seems to only encourage and celebrate these days, I also thought it would be a good idea to make sure that, before any of us are out here throwing “narcissist” or “narcissism” around like it’s confetti, we’re sure that while we’re pointing the finger, the remaining ones aren’t looking at us like we’re crazy…because we’re the ones who actually seem to be the blue ribbon winner in the narcissism department (whew, chile).

First Up: Having the Traits (or Even Being a Narcissist) IS NOT the Same As Having a Narcissism Disorder

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There are so many reasons why how the West (side of the world) does things, earns an almost daily side-eye from me. One of the many examples is how it moves the goalpost when it comes to various disorders. That’s another topic for another time, though. When it comes to narcissism, specifically, until something changes (and knowing this society and culture, it very well might), it’s important to keep in mind that 1) there is having certain narcissistic traits; 2) there is being an actual narcissist, and 3) there is being officially diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) — and no, they are not all one and the same.

Quite frankly, anyone who is even a little bit self-aware will admit that they have at least 1-2 narcissistic traits that show up from time to time. On the other hand, being a narcissist pretty much means that you are so self-centered that you basically think the entire world does (or should) revolve around you…and you think this way on a pretty consistent basis. Then there is narcissistic personality disorder which is a spectrum.

Basically, what sets someone with NPD apart from being a narcissist is the fact that a person with the disorder has most of the tendencies that are associated with narcissism (and there are many; we’ll touch on some in a sec) on a consistent basis; not only that but they manifest in the most extreme fashion and in almost every area of a person’s life. In other words, someone with NPD will not just be that way at work or online because the reality is that they don’t know how not to be extremely narcissistic. They also don’t usually recognize that it’s problematic, which is why a mental health professional should diagnose it. As far as NPD goes, someone who immediately comes to mind is former president Donald J. Trump (I’m not the only one who believes that either; go here and here).

It should also go on record that while experts are constantly trying to get to the root of what causes narcissism, there are many pretty solid theories that say “grandiose narcissism” is the result of being raised to think that you were better than everyone else as a child while “vulnerable narcissism” stems from growing up in an abusive environment (neglect qualifies) where you had to create your own cryptic ways to protect yourself that could’ve resulted in you growing up to be selfish and/or apathetic (for starters).

Another thing to keep in mind is if you do happen to be diagnosed with NPD, while psychotherapy (and sometimes medication if NPD is accompanied by other mental health issues) can certainly help, there isn’t exactly a “cure” for it. Because narcissists typically struggle, immensely so, with accountability, therapy can help them to keep their attitude and actions in check since narcissism is something that they will probably struggle with for the rest of their lives (so yes, this means that they will need to be in some form of ongoing therapy for the rest of their lives too).

As you can see, narcissism has layers to it. Now let’s get into some signs of narcissism that can boomerang on the people who overuse the word if they’re not careful.

Am I Becoming a Narcissist?

7 Underrated Signs of a Narcissistic Individual

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Okay, so now that we’ve explored three different forms of narcissism, let’s tackle some underrated signs that someone is indeed a narcissist person — because again, a lot of people who keep saying that their ex is a narcissist or someone who disagrees with them on a post is a narcissist? All they’re doing is proving that they are parroting what others say instead of actually understanding what they are talking about (kind of like how people also tend to misuse and overuse words like “toxic” and “bipolar” too…we’ll touch on that at another time, though).

Oh, and before we briefly touch on these seven narcissistic tendencies, it’s a good idea to continue to keep in mind that a full-on narcissist doesn’t usually only display 1-2 of these — more times than not, it’s most. Ready?

1. A NARCISSIST Has a Ton of Unrealistic Demands

Don’t even get me started on the fact that if narcissism only had one definition and this was it, easily 70 percent of the dating side of TikTok would earn the title. Lawd, I’ve almost gone numb from the nonstop influx of videos where people are going on and on about what they demand from someone in a dating dynamic that sounds like they’ve been watching throwback episodes ofDynasty (the real ones know) or something.

Narcissism is about having an inflated ego, and egomaniacs are all about expecting not only unrealistic things but things that they typically are not able to offer in return. The sad thing is they don’t care about reciprocity because they’re too arrogant to think that it’s warranted or necessary.

2. A NARCISSIST Needs Constant Admiration

NNot too long ago, I was talking to an elderly woman about selfies. What she said, I couldn’t debate: “I honestly don’t get how you don’t think that you’re arrogant if you’re constantly taking pictures of yourself. Do you think you look any different today from the picture you posted yesterday?” I’m going to get into some data about how social media is creating a ton of narcissists by the hour, yet for now, what I will say is it’s one thing to update people on your world; it’s another to post ten shots a day, highly filtered, only to feel like you’re gonna have a nervous breakdown if everyone doesn’t tell you how gorgeous you are.

Yeah, social media definitely makes people think that they should be constantly focused on and praised only — and that frame of mind ultimately benefits no one.

3. A NARCISSIST Is Highly Manipulative

Narcissistic people are self-centered to the utmost. This means that they will do whatever possible to get their way or to stay in control — even if that requires controlling other people. Some ways that manipulative people move is they lie, they deflect (bookmark that), love bomb, gaslight, they act passive-aggressively (check out “Gaslighting, Love Bombing & 5 Other Triggers To Call Out In Your Relationships”), they will be verbally abusive, will “punish” by withholding attention/affection, be hypercritical, have a selective memory, push triggers, constantly try to one-up you, guilt trip you and/or play the victim — and it will all be to get what they want, no matter how uncomfortable it may make you feel in the process.

4. A NARCISSIST Is Grossly Selfish

A wise person once said, “Selfish people don’t care about you, unless you are doing something for them.” There is a woman who I’ve known since college who fits this to a T. She is so self-consumed that it’s almost comical because she and I have been out of college for a few decades at this point, and I can’t think of one time that she’s offered to do something for me to this day — oh, but she’ll ask for stuff often which is why, at this point in my life, I am intentional about keeping my distance (and it has been like a breath of fresh air!). Someone who is one-sided (their side) is selfish. Someone who likes to dominate people and/or spaces is selfish. Someone who never really thinks about how to meet the needs of others is selfish. How many selfish people do you know?

5. A NARCISSIST Exploits/Takes Advantage of Other People

A few years ago, I devoted about 16 months to studying narcissistic abuse (the YouTube channel The Royal We is a really good starting point, by the way) — and boy was it hella enlightening. One thing that you can be sure of when it comes to this unique kind of relational torture is you will be drained dry. Again, because narcissists think that the only one who really and truly matters is them — you can never say enough, do enough, or be enough to make them happy.

Satisfaction is a word that is foreign to them because narcissists always think that they are worthy of more. So, if that means using you and even devastating you to accomplish that mission, so be it (again, think about how people talk when it comes to their dating requirements on social media…don’t a lot of them sound very narcissistic to you?).

6. A NARCISSIST Always Thinks Someone Is Jealous of Them

One of my favorite sayings is, “Trust me, no one is thinking about you half as much as you think that they are.” Narcissists will never agree with this because their ego is so self-inflated that they always think someone is talking about them, consumed by them, or secretly wishing that they could be them. As a direct result, it makes them paranoid when it comes to cultivating genuine relationships offline, and they are obsessed with believing that someone is always saying something slick about them online — how could someone not? That’s how important they are…to themselves, chile.

7. A NARCISSIST Is Apathetic As Hell (Especially If They Can’t Benefit from Something in Some Way)

Empathy, in large part, is the innate ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. You can either mirror what someone is feeling at any given time (affective empathy) or you can relate to what they are going through on a pretty profound level (cognitive empathy). A very basic definition of apathy is a lack of interest, feeling, or motivation. Apathetic people can put you in harm’s way because they don’t really care about you and your needs; at the very least, they are indifferent, and at the most, they can be ruthless. Heartless-acting people roll in one (or a hybrid) of these ways.

How Social Media Is Doing Its Part to Cultivate Narcissism

There is a London-based psychotherapist by the name of Seerut K. Chawla whose IG posts (IG name is seerutkchawla) that I happen to like a lot. One day, she posted something (above) that was so good that I emailed it to several people in my world; that’s just how on-point I found it to be.

You see those first two points? Talk about something that needs to be printed on T-shirts and coffee mugs and distributed around the world ASAP! Indeed, not everyone you dislike, not every relationship that didn’t go your way, not every person who has standards/interests/attractions that you don’t agree with (even if that standard/interest/attraction isn’t you) is a narcissist — and not everything that is uncomfortable for you is a traumatic experience. Folks who are out here using words with significant definitions, like buzzwords, are adding to the problem, not helping it.

And what problem is that? The growing amount of narcissists that are being created, via social media, on a seemingly daily basis. Aside from the two types (grandiose and vulnerable) of narcissists that we already touched on, two others include communal narcissists (ones who like to brag about what they do for others; even the Bible says not to do that — Matthew 6:1-4) and malignant narcissists (a lot of criminals are those).

And here’s what’s wild about all of them: one study revealed that a whopping 30 percent of people between the ages of 16-29 consider themselves to be a narcissist. Where are they all coming from? Early this year, Harvard Business Review published a piece entitled, “Are You a Digital Narcissist?”. One of the things that it said is this:

“One of the key facets of narcissism is grandiose exhibitionism, which is characterized by self-absorption and self-promotional impulses. Both things are well-suited to our increasingly digital world. More than anyone else, narcissistic individuals feel the need to be the center of attention, even if that means engaging in inappropriate, awkward, or eccentric interpersonal behaviors. In other words, the more narcissistic you are, the more likely you are to engage in exhibitionist behaviors online, which in turn will only feed into your narcissism.”

In other words, if you can’t command attention anywhere else (good or bad), social media will scratch that itch for you. And since there are almost five billion people with social media accounts, well, I’m sure you can connect the dots on how constantly talking about oneself all day has the potential to encourage narcissism well over any form of humility (which is why taking social media breaks on occasion is always a wise move).

Oftentimes, People Who Call Others “Narcissists” Are Simply…Deflecting

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Remember how, when we went over some of the “unsung” traits of a narcissist when we got to the topic of a manipulator, deflecting came up? Deflecting is all about doing whatever you can to get the focus off of you. Oftentimes a deflector is also a projector. What I mean by that is they become basically paranoid that everyone around them is doing the very thing that they are (a lot of cheaters move this way). Keeping all of this in mind, now that so much about narcissism has been unpacked, can you see how it’s possible that a lot of people who incessantly use the word are quite possibly one themselves?

How can you know what a deflector looks and lives like?

  • They don’t take accountability for their actions
  • They like to shift blame
  • They constantly change the subject whenever they are called out
  • They act like their poor choices are fine by basing them on their circumstances
  • They will verbally attack you whenever they’re told something that they don’t want to hear
  • THEY SUCK AT APOLOGIZING

And y’all, that’s just for starters (SMDH). Still, I thought it was important to bring this point up because it’s kind of wild that when I watch a lot of these “he was a narcissist” videos, that answer is often in response to someone being asked what happened in the relationship---and I don’t know about y’all but that sure does look a lot like some Olympic-level deflecting to me. Was he a narcissist, or are you deflecting from some other issues? Hmm…

Folks better be careful because, as we’ve already addressed, a narcissist is a master deflector, and there is plenty of that happening out in cyberspace.

How to Avoid Becoming a Narcissist

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This was a lot of intel — I already know. Yet I really do think that this topic needed to be tackled so that narcissism can be approached more carefully than it tends to be. And now that you know what narcissism actually is, if there were a couple of toes that got stepped on as you were taking all of this in, you might be wondering what you can do to make sure that you don’t become a narcissist yourself (or that you stop acting like one).

Let’s end this with a few bulletpoint tips:

  • Hold yourself accountable
  • Allow others to hold you accountable too
  • Learn how to take criticism
  • Stop being hyper-defensive (because, yes, it is a choice)
  • Care about other people’s feelings
  • Identify your triggers and discipline yourself to not always react to them
  • Do things for other people
  • Remember that beauty isn’t just external
  • Listen (other people have things to say besides you)
  • Think before acting
  • BE TEACHABLE
  • APOLOGIZE
  • Go on social media fasts
  • Remind yourself daily that it will never only be about you
  • Seek therapy, if needed

I once read a quote that sums all of this up perfectly, in my opinion:

“A narcissist’s life is really quite simple: every conversation, every situation, every interaction, every moment has an overarching theme: let’s make this be about me.”

As you move, both on and offline, please keep this in mind…if you truly want to avoid…being — the actual definition of — a narcissist.

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Featured image by Westend61/Getty Images

 

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