Narcissism is a bigger problem than we realize. As a result, it’s important to understand how to protect yourself from individuals who are incapable of being reciprocal and understanding of your feelings and needs. A few things you can do to protect yourself include but are certainly not limited to:
- Having appropriate Boundaries: Narcissists hate boundaries because the “the world revolves around” them and everyone should listen to them. Boundaries make the narcissist understand that there are other people in the world who have feelings, expectations, goals, and dreams as well. Boundaries remind the narcissist that you are not blinded by their so-called “charm” and that you strive to respect yourself. When you feel manipulated, used, mistreated, or exploited, stop participating in the problem. Back away and figure out how to put boundaries up. Think of boundaries as your personal “stop sign.”
- Being realistic. Not fantasizing or romanticizing: Some narcissists are so charming that they can have you angry with the one moment and completely mesmerized the next. Their charm, intelligence, attractiveness, people skills, “intuition,” and social mannerisms can all be appealing and distracting. But keep in mind that these very traits you admire will most likely become the same traits that will hurt you. An important thing to remember about a narcissistic individual is that they lack insight into their behaviors and how they affect others. They operate in a world of “me only.” Someone who lacks insight can also be someone who lacks empathy. They are incapable of putting themselves in your shoes and imagining how their behavior is affecting you. In cases such as these, protect thyself.
- Expecting the worst: It’s unrealistic to go into a relationship with a self-centered person believing that your needs will be met because they will not. You are only setting yourself up for disappointment or heartache. It’s not uncommon or “abnormal” for you to desire the love, care, and attention of someone you thought you could love. But once you understand just how little you mean to the narcissistic person, you will be able to make healthy decisions for yourself a little better. Sometimes the decision you have to make includes separation.
- Moving away: Don’t feel guilty for having to move away or put space between you and the narcissistic individual. Also be mindful not to get sucked into the idea that “I am not being compassionate or caring” if you have to protect yourself. Narcissistic individuals can be very detrimental to your life and emotional well-being. Protect yourself. Protecting yourself involves recognizing when it is time to move on or move away so that you can reassess the situation and figure out if the relationship is working or worth keeping. Be mindful of the fact that a narcissistic individual is likely to attempt to charm you or guilt-trip you if you try to move away. Know why you need to separate and stand your ground. Remember that a narcissistic person is often pursuing certain things for their own gain.
- Understanding their emotional void(s): Although you would be putting yourself on the line if you were to feel sorry for the narcissist and fall back into a pattern of being taken advantage of, it’s important to have some understanding of why the person is the way he/she is. Educating yourself to the person’s personality traits can help you better “navigate” this person in your life. For example, if you understand that a narcissistic person has a combination of environment and genes at play, you may be better able to control your emotional reactions to the person. Once you recognize that the person is often highly incapable of seeing their own flaws, you won’t become so angry with the fact that the narcissistic person cannot understand you. Another example may be learning about the narcissist’s emotional needs in order to protect yourself from being exploited. If you recognize that the narcissist is insecure and needs to feel approved of, you will be less likely to lash out if this person boasts or strokes his or her own ego.
- Catering to them: As angering as this suggestion may be, it can be helpful (especially if the relationship is unavoidable) to find ways to make the narcissist feel approved of by you. If you can get the person to trust you and respect you as a person, you may be more likely to get “closer” to the narcissistic person. Although narcissists are emotionally void and selfish, they crave approval and attention. If you approve of them in some ways and respect certain things about them, let them know and find ways to build your “relationship” based on their strengths.
It can be difficult to understand and even spot the narcissistic personality. But with knowledge and opened eyes, you will be able to spot some of the behaviors that often characterize an emotionally void and self-centered person. Education truly is power. Once you understand why narcissists become narcissists, you will be better able to determine how you want to respond and protect yourself. I encourage you to try the above 5 tips in your own life.
For more information on this topic, check out this interesting article written by Psychiatrist and author Judith Orloff: How to deal with narcissism.
As always, I wish you well
Caprino, K. (2015). How extreme narcissism wrecks havoc on your life and what to do about it. Forbes. Retrieved online from http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2015/07/06/how-extreme-narcissism-wreaks-havoc-on-your-life-and-what-to-do-about-it/.
Psychologytoday. (2011). Do narcissists know they are narcissists? Beautiful Minds. Retrieved online from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beautiful-minds/201103/do-narcissists-know-they-are-narcissists.
Psychologytoday.(2011) How to spot a narcissist. Retrieved online from https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201106/how-spot-narcissist.