I seem to be a magnet for narcissists. At the same time, I’ve had plenty of people in my life call me one. Many of them were narcissists themselves. Others were simply being insulting. More often, that’s how I hear this word thrown around — as an insult. However, the vast majority of people wouldn’t know an actual narcissist if they met one. Everyone has a selfish side, and everyone has narcissistic qualities. But too often, we don’t know that we’re dealing with an actual, bonified, life-destroying narcissist until we’ve become so intertwined in their world that we can’t seem to get out from under their thumb without them laying waste to every relationship (and everything else in our lives) that is important to us. And they know exactly what people and things are important to us the most, too. They make it their business to know. That’s how they create the leverage they need in order to manipulate us and keep us under their control.
I write this story for Medium because I’ve studied narcissism extensively throughout my Ph.D. studies. I’ve invested a lot of time and research into emotional psychology and interpersonal dynamics over the course of a decade. And I always find myself going down rabbit hole after rabbit hole when it comes to the psychology of narcissism. Too many times, I’ve had narcissists attempt to lay waste to the relationships and things that matter to me the most. And I’ve struggled with some pretty destructive narcissistic impulses of my own, none of which were pleasant for me to face, overcome, or even talk about. I write this story because there are so many people that I interact with that don’t seem to know what a narcissist really is — they don’t know the red flags to look for in order to properly avoid one (hint: it’s not simply selfishness; we’re all guilty of that). And while we can’t always avoid narcissists that may be deeply entrenched within in our family, our careers, and our community, I write this story, primarily as a guide to help you mitigate the impact, should you encounter a narcissist that wants to use you, control you, and make you an unhealthy extension of themselves.
Above all, narcissists are expert exploiters and manipulators. They know how to get you to do what they want. They don’t care about you as a person, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process. They only care about your ability to help them achieve their goals and feed their ego. If you have a friend or loved one who is a narcissist, you may unknowingly become one of their minions. And often, you might feel like it was your choice and your idea to be a part of their destructive schemes all along.
There are certainly ways to protect yourself from being exploited and used by certain types of narcissists. The remainder of this story provides seven ways to guard yourself against being exploited by them, becoming a narcissistic supply to them, or becoming their flying monkey.
1. Refuse to be a social moron
When you have social intelligence, you can avoid being manipulated no matter what people say to you until you’ve confirmed that what they say is true from all sides. Narcissists will use you to hurt people who intimidate them. Don’t judge a person by what a narcissist says. Don’t take presented facts at face value. Be kind to people. Do your research, ask questions, and verify before you take a position. Judiciaries train in this way to make sure they don’t make biased decisions. Never judge a book by its cover, especially when the cover was designed by a narcissist.
2. Refuse to inherit a narcissist’s enemies
If you’ve ever inherited a friend or family member’s enemy, you know it’s not a fun experience. You’re constantly walking on eggshells, trying to avoid doing anything that might upset the narcissist. And if you do cross them, you know you’ll pay for it later.
It’s not surprising that narcissists often manipulate others into inheriting their enemies. By isolating their victims and preventing them from talking to those on their enemy list, narcissists can control them more effectively and preserve their inflated sense of self.
So if someone is pressuring you to not associate with people they don’t like, that’s a huge red flag. It’s best to steer clear of narcissists and their drama altogether. You’ll be much happier in the long run.
3. Refuse to join forces with others to hate on someone
Karma is a bitch. By hating someone, despising them, or accusing them wrongfully, you’re inviting the same into your life. Over time, you might realize the person being accused is undeserving of constant personal attacks. But once you’ve submitted to become an extension of a narcissist’s wrath, you will be subject to inheriting their karma. Participating in a narcissist’s character assassination campaign may hurt the narcissist’s target in the short term, but in the long term, the narcissist’s tactics and how they use you to hurt others will begin to reflect negatively on your own character. You will become known for how the narcissist uses you to mistreat other people. So before you join forces with a narcissist in their campaign to hate on someone, think about the kind of person you want to be known as. Chances are, you don’t want to be known as someone who spreads hate.
4. Refuse to be used as a weapon for other people’s battles
In any given situation, it’s important to remember that not every battle needs to be fought. It’s often best to just step back and observe before taking sides. This is especially true when you see a narcissist fighting dirty. They’re usually just looking for someone to use as a weapon in their own personal battles. So, the next time you’re tempted to get involved, ask yourself if it’s really worth it. It’s probably better to just walk away. Besides, as the saying goes, “life is too short to argue with idiots.” And we all know that narcissists are the biggest idiots of all. So, don’t waste your time and energy on them. Just walk away and live your best life.
5. Refuse to hate people just because they are different
Narcissists are experts at exploiting tribalism, and they often do so for personal gain. They prey on our tendency to see people outside our tribe as enemies, and they encourage us to view our friends in an overly positive light. As a result, we can end up underestimating the knowledge of others and missing out on opportunities to learn. Instead of succumbing to hate, we should refuse to allow narcissists to exploit our differences. We can start by recognizing that everyone has something to offer, regardless of their tribe or community. Only then can we begin to build a more inclusive world where hatred is no longer tolerated.
6. Refuse to judge people until you know more
Narcissists are always quick to judge other people, but you should never take their opinion at face value. Always be on the lookout for half-truths and ulterior motives. A narcissist’s judgments about other people’s choices and values are often based on their own insecurity and self-interest. If you’re not careful, you could end up being used as a tool in their campaign to make themselves feel more important. Remember, it’s always best to confirm the whole story before making any decisions.
7. Refuse to associate with negative people
Have you ever noticed how some people always seem to have something negative to say about everyone and everything? They’re the ones who are quick to criticize and slow to praise. They’re the ones who love to gossip and spread rumors. And they’re the ones who always seem to find the cloud in every silver lining. These people are what I like to call “Negative Nancys.” And while it’s easy to write them off as just being unhappy people, the truth is that there’s often more to it than that. You see, Negative Nancys are usually narcissists. And while they may not realize it, their negativity is often a way of masking their own insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. So next time you find yourself in the company of a Negative Nancy, refuse to engage in their negative talk. Instead, try to focus on the positive things in your life. You may be surprised at how much better you feel as a result.