The Dos and Don’ts of Narcissism: Do You Fit the Profile?

Portrait of Beautiful womanHave you ever been called a narcissist? Have you heard it said about someone else? The tone with which that term is flung can be heavy with disdain.

Public awareness of the word and its implication of self-absorption and ego-tripping is on the rise, making it a popular putdown for the overtly vain. It is understandable that anyone on the receiving end of such an accusation would react defensively—in the moment, at least.

But do you ever wonder, “Am I a narcissistic person?” What does that actually mean? What can I be doing to warrant that accusation?

Rest assured, if you are asking these questions, you most likely do NOT fit the profile of a person with narcissistic tendencies. A person with narcissism is seemingly incapable of being self-reflective and lacks the ability to take accountability.

Actually, it takes a LOT to be diagnosable as having narcissism. The top end of this spectrum issue includes masterful manipulation of others, a grandiose sense of self-importance yielding arrogant behavior and a sense of entitlement based on the belief that he or she is “special.” At its worst, it co-occurs with antisocial behavior and includes mental, emotional, and sometimes physical abuse of others or even criminal activity.

Everyone is capable of behaving in a self-centered manner from time to time; it is essential to our survival. But when some of these traits exist in mild form or if any one trait becomes a persistent pattern of behavior, it can still be off-putting. It may not be enough to be diagnosable, but the effect on others is certainly noticeable.

If you believe you fall on the spectrum, here are some suggestions for keeping your self-centered leanings in check:

Do:

  • Catch yourself having self-important thoughts that make you the center of the universe; believing that everything revolves around you and your needs.
  • See people for who they really are—not what you want them to be, what they can do for you, or how they can further your agenda.
  • Be attuned to what other people are contributing in conversations and stay with it; let it be about them while they are talking.
  • Recognize that we all have valid perspectives and though you may not agree, you are not necessarily better or correct.
  • Take responsibility for hurting others or for being wrong—it doesn’t make you a “bad” person to be imperfect.
  • Catch yourself hogging the conversation, and invite others to have a turn.
  • Pay attention to reciprocity in your relationships; make sure you offer help and favors as much as you accept them, and that you are listening as much as you are talking.

Don’t:

  • Think that your needs, wants, beliefs, and perspectives are more important than those of others.
  • Consistently turn conversations back to you or make comments about how the subject relates to you.
  • Befriend people for what they can do for you or for how they can add value to your life; other people do not exist to meet your needs.
  • Assume that your suffering is more painful than the suffering of others, or that your situation requires greater attention and urgency than that of others.
  • Devalue other people’s input, contributions, or worth because they don’t hold the same status as (or higher status than) you.
  • Dismiss other people’s points of view by refusing to acknowledge your own wrongdoings, or to apologize when it’s necessary to do so.
  • Misrepresent yourself by creating a false persona that is not congruent with who you really are.

Increasing awareness of your inner world and the effect your behavior has on others is an important means for achieving personal growth. Work on these things and the next time someone accuses you of narcissism, you may not even flinch, confident in the knowledge that you do not fit the profile.

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  • Tori

    Tori

    December 16th, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    Is there anyone who would actually admit to this? I mean, the last thing that I want is for someone to say that I put myself above all else. I suppose that one who is narcissistic would not think like that, but maybe because I do I understand that this is not me at all.

  • Tess

    Tess

    June 1st, 2017 at 9:08 PM

    You nailed it. My husband would often tell me his lineup with no remorse. He was ans would always be number 1, then his children, this his mother, then me, wife of 25 years. It blew mw away children were not #1, as they just always were for me.

  • braley

    braley

    December 16th, 2014 at 1:23 PM

    I look at all of the characteristics of a narcissist and I think that myself that I know an awful lot of these kind of people in my life. Is this something new or is it that my generation has just bred these very self involved individuals?

  • PETE

    PETE

    December 16th, 2014 at 8:52 PM

    I do exhibit these behaviors from time to time.But come on who does not!

    Each one of us looks after our own safety and our own concerns and is obviously more bothered about his own interests than those of others.

    This should not be a surprise and should in fact be a no-no message to those that drop the Narcissist word at the drop of a hat.

  • Nisha

    Nisha

    December 7th, 2015 at 3:32 AM

    Yeah, I definitely think there are distinctions to be made. if you have to ask is this person a narcissist? They probably are not. they probably just have some
    Traits. I once dated a full blown narcissist and here is how he would behave. it was blatant.
    1. he made me pay for therapy and then talked about himself in monologue form for an hour. The therapist didn’t even interrupt him!
    2. He met me for brunch with friends from out of town and spoke about himself for close to an hour without allowing anyone else to get a word in edge wise
    3. he took me out to events and then ditched me as soon as we arrived. I can count at least three parties we went to where he just left me sitting there and didn’t even bother to try to socialize with me.
    4. he would insult me and then laugh when I became upset.
    5. he would flirt shamelessly in front of me, on purpose, just to humiliate me… And then laugh about it later
    6. He had no real friends
    7. He was a victim of severe childhood abuse and had a very sick mother

    That’s a narcissist. It’s pretty easy to spot.

  • Hilary S

    Hilary S

    December 16th, 2014 at 11:39 PM

    Thanks for the comments. I can’t say whether narcissistic tendencies or people with the actual diagnosis are on the rise, sometimes it really does feel like it to me as well. And yes, as mentioned, we all have a bit of healthy narcissism – we need to be in order to survive.

    This article is meant to challenge those of us with enough self-awareness, to notice when we are leaning that way to understand how the behavior affects others- and the negative impact on our own self-regard. Making subtle shifts in thinking and behavior is more likely with a list of Dos and Donts, because we are able to self-identify and make the corrections.

    We can’t control what others say about us- but words don’t sting as much when they fail to ring true.

  • Colten

    Colten

    December 17th, 2014 at 3:53 AM

    Pete I agree with you to some extent, but if you look at it from the angle that these people who will do anything for themselves to get ahead with no care about what anyone else needs or wants, then that is when there is a real problem with them. If you choose to have people like this in your life, then that’s fine and dandy until they use you as a stepping stone and then you can easily see where the hurt comes in and why this is actually a bad thing.

  • zoe

    zoe

    December 17th, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    I am so thankful that the people that I have in my life who love me and care about display absolutely none of these characteristics! If I am working on myself and need to find ways to make myself healthy and happy then you don’t need to have to worry all of the time about someone who intentionally or not is going to be weighing you down. A very timely piece indeed around the holiday season too because in my experience people like this get even worse this time of year! I think that it is all about the attention and wanting everything to center around and focus directly on them.

  • Amanda

    Amanda

    December 17th, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    As someone who is recovering from an abusive marriage with a narcissist, I know firsthand that while many of us do have the ability to be self centered at times as well “using” other people to get ahead, narcissism, narcissistic behavior and narcissistics are dangerous, toxic people. I recognize those are very strong words and could be interpreted as judgmental as well as stigmatizing for someone with this diagnosis. However, I also know that an individual with narcissism would never believe those words were described them.

    This blog post and several others on GoodTherapy do a great job giving insight into some of behaviors to look for in ourselves and others in terms of narcissism.

    To anyone else that may have a narcissist in their life whether by choice or not, know that it’s possible to maintain your personhood as well as your sanity when dealing with a narcissist. But not without help.

  • Betsy

    Betsy

    December 19th, 2014 at 1:54 PM

    Amanda,
    I wanted to tell you that I really appreciated your comment on this article. I’m currently in a relationship with someone who I believed to be a narcissist, and unfortunately, who can be abusive. In your comment, you mentioned that it was possible to keep your sanity while dealing with this type of situation but not without help. Can you please give me some more details on this? Any insight that you can give me would be appreciated.
    Thank you, in advance….
    Betsy

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    December 19th, 2014 at 2:10 PM

    Thank you for your comment, Betsy. We wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you here. We have more information about domestic violence at https://www.goodtherapy.org/therapy-for-domestic-violence.html and additional information about what to do in a crisis at https://www.goodtherapy.org/in-crisis.html

    Warm regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • Jennifer

    Jennifer

    December 26th, 2014 at 6:44 PM

    Betsy. I was married to a narcissist for 16 years. The level of selfishness and insecurity I dealt with daily led to a very unhappy co-existence. We separated 4 times with the first time and the last time involving the threat of use of a shotgun (on himself or me) Needless to say, the safety of me and my two children took priority over giving into his emotional manipulation any longer.
    During the marriage, there was always verbal and emotional abuse. Only once was there physical abuse and that’s because I stood up for myself against his bullying.
    He made me feel as if I was crazy, he isolated me from family, and fed my alcoholism and marijuana use because he knew I would stay reliant upon him. I did go crazy…i had to be crazy to stay with him as long as I did.
    Now that we are divorced and have to co-parent, he still tries to manipulate me. He doesn’t have any self-awareness of his narcissistic behavior. There is no accountability either.
    I am just glad I survived him.

  • Jennifer

    Jennifer

    June 24th, 2015 at 10:52 PM

    From one Jennifer to another…I too was married to one for almost 30 years. I cheated first, wrong wrong wrong but never hearing anything nice should have been my clue. I look elsewhere to feel validated.
    I killed myself to please him, hell will freeze over first. Everything you have experienced is what they do, the demeaning language and conflicting behavior is enough to drive you to the crazy you’re being called.
    Now who do you turn to, since you have been isolated from friends and family, no one could possibly be good enough for his precious time.
    Until, the perfect one comes along, more pictures have been taken since our divorce (10 months) than in 30 years of marriage, 2 kids, etc…
    He proved to he the terrible person he says I am.
    ozzing with how everyone is so crazy about him. I left but as I did I left the garbage on the curb
    Take care of yourself otherwise the kid’s will end up with him.
    All the best.

  • Marlo

    Marlo

    December 18th, 2014 at 3:55 AM

    People will say this to me all of the time but I swear to you that I just don’t see it.

  • Mike

    Mike

    December 19th, 2014 at 1:43 PM

    It’s very hard for me to picture the world of a narcissist because I tend to behave in an opposite way– I have low self esteem a lot of the time, I listen a lot to other people and hardly ever get a chance to make a comment about myself, etc. And I tend to believe that if I behaved in any other way I would be rejected and have no chance to receive love.

    But I do want to make clear I realize on some level that I don’t have to make this my world. I can be more assertive in a good way, I can have higher self-esteem, etc. I know this and I’m working on it.

  • Cynthia

    Cynthia

    December 19th, 2014 at 2:53 PM

    Marlo, I am curious, what do they say to you all the time? Missed your meaning on that.

  • Cynthia

    Cynthia

    December 19th, 2014 at 3:04 PM

    Mike, I think you and I are alike in that the behavior we notice in ourselves around narcissism is what we developed growing up around and “loving” people who are highly narcissistic. We never developed a full sense of our own selves. The narcisistic person just would not allow us to exist. They always insisted on outshining us. They refused to validate us as having any value apart from their needs.

  • Marlo

    Marlo

    December 21st, 2014 at 1:54 PM

    that I am too shallow and narcissistic

  • Damon

    Damon

    December 22nd, 2014 at 4:08 AM

    There has to be that fine line between being all about yourself but also looking out for one’s own interests. How do you then determine is this a time when I need to be a little selfish and look out for me… how do I know that this is not being narcissistic? I mean, you can’t give up caring about yourself just for the sake of being labeled something like this.

  • RB

    RB

    December 22nd, 2014 at 7:30 AM

    The list of Do and Don’t actions is helpful.

    However, there is a potential for self-sabotage, I think, if these are followed without recognizing that “the other” can have ill intent (or unknowing deleterious affect)upon one.

    What has helped me is to recognize that I assign trustworthiness. In the past, I automatically assigned it to all. After being manipulated for most of my adult like by SOME folks, I have come to the understanding that I am responsible for the trust that I bestow on the other. This simple act of mindfulness has been a source of simple modest confidence in my Self.

  • Ann

    Ann

    February 5th, 2015 at 9:48 AM

    Yes, I was with a narcissist for 14 years due to my insecurity about myself. He thought of himself as the best at everything and used everyone he knew to get something out of them for himself. He was a carpenter and he would keep all of his friends only as long as they had jobs to keep him employed and only if they paid him well. He saw his work as the “best.” He thought he deserved everything great and he loved to boast on himself. I wish I would have been in a better place in my head to leave him the week that I met him. His logic was very misinformed.

  • LizB

    LizB

    November 20th, 2016 at 10:11 AM

    Ann, your ex sounds very much like mine. He was a boaster, he thought he was/had the best at everything and if anyone said otherwise he would ignore their comments or he wouldn’t believe them – he knew best! He bullied his clients into staying with him. He knew he had conviction, even if what he said was a load of rubbish people believed him. If someone asked him for a favour his first thought would be, “what’s in it for me” and he would make sure he came out of the ‘deal’ the better off party. He never gave something for nothing.
    I have misgivings about staying in the relationship for far too long, I already had two children and went on to have a third with him. I tried to leave a few times but always went back, I was so hooked up in co-dependency.
    I’ve been free of him for almost 9 years now. I thank God he was too ‘spontaneous’ (his go to excuse for being in control about when we went anywhere) to make plans to see our child much after the first couple of years post break up. He hasn’t had any influence on our son but I do see his ways in him which is a little worrying.
    It took a long time for his insidious ways to filter out of me and I still don’t think I’m fully free of them. I’ve had relationships since and the most significant/longest one was another with narc tendencies. At least I recognised it and got out sooner this time, still not soon enough but before any more damage was done.

  • Lori

    Lori

    February 6th, 2015 at 6:43 AM

    This sounds like every teen ager we have raised! The difference must be that some never grow out of this stage!

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