How to Spot a Narcissist in Sheep's Clothing
Bullying and badgering are a couple of signs
In the broad spectrum of things, narcissism is a personality disorder. Breaking this illness down into something smaller and easier to understand isn’t always straightforward.
While narcissism is a diagnosable trait, narcissists can sometimes be good at wearing masks so that only the direct victims of their ego can see the true version of them—the person inside who lacks empathy for other humans and must always be the center of attention.
Spotting a narcissist, even if you are their victim, takes some skill. Victims may live under the thumb of a narcissist for years before they realize what they are dealing with.
Having spent my entire life dealing with narcissism, beginning with my mother, I’ve started to learn some of the tell-tale signs. I want to share my observations with you so that maybe you can save yourself the heartache and the backlash of dealing with and then cutting out a narcissist in your life.
They Never Take Their Own Advice
Narcissists seem to believe they know everything, and they aren’t afraid to say so. Even if you have a degree in a subject and they don’t, they’ll argue with you that they know more. They need to be right, and you need to be wrong.
I’ve noticed, with many narcissists, that if you say something to them that corrects them and they learn you were right, they’ll turn around and say the same thing you just told them as if it was their idea in the first place.
They love to give advice, even when you didn’t ask for it—but it’s usually advice they don’t even take themselves. And I’m not talking about writing an article like this one, giving advice to people who choose to read it—I am talking about giving you direct advice, right to your email, messenger, or even to your face. Maybe you posted about something going on in your life, just an observation or a story about something you just did—you don’t have to even be asking for responses or advice, and they’ll comment about how you should have done something different or they’ll comment with something strictly about themselves, totally ignoring that this is your post and supposed to be about you. If you comment back with anything that takes the attention from them or is against what they had to say (maybe correcting them that not all people are the same or changing the subject back to your life), they will feel attacked and retaliate with aggressive posts and anger.
They Won’t Admit to Being Wrong
Even when they make an obvious mistake, don’t ever expect the narcissist to admit they did wrong. When they do, it’s just another manipulating ploy, and usually includes a “but you did this too,” because they refuse to take the blame for their own mistakes.
Most often, it will be your fault that they did something wrong. You didn’t guess what they were feeling, so it’s your fault you said something that upset them, even if it wasn’t something upsetting. If they attack you because you stood up to them over something they did that overstepped your boundaries, it’s your fault for not “agreeing to disagree.”
Their Apologies are Never Sincere
If you do manage to get an apology out of a narcissist, it will come without sincerity. “I’m sorry that I yelled at you, but you did that thing that made me mad, so it’s your fault.” It’s not your fault. People can control their own feelings and don’t need to take anger out on others. When you do let that kind of action slip, someone with a sense of empathy will say they’re sorry, and they know they did this thing wrong. They won’t make it about you; they’ll admit it was all them. It was their misunderstanding, not “our” misunderstanding.
You’re Wrong, They’re Right, and There’s No Convincing Them Otherwise
My ex-husband, who was also a narcissist, once told me that the way to deal with a bully (he was talking about my mom) was to stand up to them. He claimed that if I only stood up to her, she would stop treating me the way she did. Of course, I feared her wrath, from childhood. So, I never took his advice, not until this year (and not with my mom, who has been gone from this life since 2014).
The thing is, while I don’t think all bullies are necessarily narcissists, if yours is, standing up to them could make things worse. Instead of backing down when you throw facts at them and let them know their projection and gaslighting crap is no longer working on you, they’ll often get even more vicious.
The best things to do are to let them have the last word (it’ll make them feel like they’ve won) and walk away (which makes you the winner because you’re erasing that toxicity from your life).
It’s Your Fault They Treat You the Way They Do
With narcissists, you’ll always be at fault for what they do to you. In some ways, that’s true—because you’re allowing them to stay in your life. However, the point they want to make is that you’re the bad guy. They will project their insecurities onto you.
When a narcissist feels insecure, they want to make you feel that way too. If you’re doing great in life, they will say everything they can to make you worry about things—from warning you about your significant other or friends’ plans against you (that aren’t true) to telling you that you’re no good at the things that you do (could be about your job, your hobbies, or anything else). My mom was famous for telling me I’d never amount to anything and that I was a quitter anytime I started something new. It was her attempt at keeping me down, keeping me from finding my path in life. She felt like a failure and felt as though she’d missed out on things because of me, so she wanted me to fail as well (punishment for her having a child, which I had no part in—I was just the result of her mistakes).
They Use Passive-Aggressive Statements
One more thing that narcissists do more often than everyone else is using passive-aggressive statements to blow you off. Things like “let’s agree to disagree” and “whatever floats your boat” are an attempt to give them the last word and keep you from standing up for your thoughts and beliefs.
When a narcissist throws one of these statements at you, just walk away. Let them have that last word and move on with your life. You’ll find more harmony when you banish the toxic people from your life.
If you’d like more information on letting go of the negative (whether it’s people or something else) from your life, please reach out. Visit me at my website to learn more about what I offer and my credentials as a Holistic Life Coach and Spiritual Counselor.