12 Traits of a Narcissist To Spot Immediately & Avoid Attachment
In the beginning, it’s a fairy tale. You even think it’s too good to be true. As a result, you’re already attached to a narcissist when something starts to feel off. And that equals a lot of pain. Therefore, I’ll show you how to make yourself a master at recognizing all the traits of a narcissist early on as well as dealing with a narcissist effectively so you can protect your mental health.
You can also find my therapy workbook at the end of this article which is a fast and effective way to let go of anything that no longer serves you.
Narcissism is not to be confused with egocentrism or self-absorption. We often think that people who care a lot about their image, constantly speak about themselves, and want to be the center of attention, are narcissists. This is not necessarily true.
If you look for a definition, those with narcissistic personality disorder pursue enjoyment merely from others’ continuous admiration.
Narcissists have an idealized self-image, and they can’t function healthily in a relationship (with themselves or others). They detest anything that breaks their pedestal, like criticism or expressed dislike by other people.
The term came from Greek mythology, and the story finds a man named Narcissus falling in love with his own image reflected in the water. Eventually, the young man drowned in his attempt to touch his idealized reflection.
Greek mythology can tell us a lot through the story. Narcissism is not just a casual drawback in someone’s personality. It is self-destructive, like any pathological disorder. In fact, narcissism is one of the three dark triadic personality disorders; the others are psychopathy and Machiavellism. (source:Wikipedia).
People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), like people with mental disorders, can be dangerous to themselves and your physical and emotional well-being. Narcissistic personality disorder refers to a pattern of egoistic thinking and behavior, inflated sense of self, a lack of empathy and consideration for others, and an exaggerated desire for admiration.
How can someone detect narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)?
Narcissists tend not to recognize any problem with their personality disorder, as they constantly use a defense mechanism to save their fragile false self-images from the world’s negative evaluation. They don’t have a realistic understanding of other people’s feelings and emotional states and are deeply hurt or angered by constructive feedback. A diagnosed narcissist is often a person where loss and depression have made him so desperate that he had to seek for help from a mental health professional.
An intelligent, motivated narcissist will keep up appearances at any cost as they need to save their self importance. Consequently, their arrogant and haughty behaviors are perceived as a strong personality. They seem charming, intelligent, and loving at first, as they understand and apply the rules of behavior without the empathy and the feelings that reinforce them at most of us.
This behavior and thinking eventually surface in all areas of the narcissist’s entire life. Whether it is work, friendship, and love life, a narcissistic person would exploit and manipulate others for his own needs. As a result, they tend to have superficial relationships and no long-term, deep and stable relationships, even with their family members.
As mentioned above, only a handful of people with narcissistic personality disorder will ever realize their condition and how harmful it is for themselves and their loved ones. If you’re wondering whether they perceive their inflated sense, most of the time, the answer is no.
Narcissists deeply hate when you point out anything wrong with their behavior as they would do anything to save their false self-image from the slightest criticism. Therefore, how can you spot at least nine traits of a narcissist in early situations?
Has a grandiose sense of self-importance.
A grandiose sense of self-importance is distinct from healthy levels of self-love or recognition. Narcissists have an unjustified and unrealistic sense of superiority, and their self-criticism is plausible and irrational.
Think of that co-worker trying to convince his manager about his superior skills to earn and promotion, while his inability to finish the project is someone else’s fault. (Overestimating his talents and self-importance while blaming external circumstances for failure.)
Or that friend of yours who always thought she deserves the best man in the world, but whenever you tried to go through the pattern of her unsuccessful relationships, she became defensive and angry. (Overly sensitive to constructive feedback or criticism while believing in an “ideal” of love.)
If your date has a long history of failed relationships and blames all of them for different reasons, beware. Narcissists cannot see even a tiny part of their fault in the story and believe they are too good for mistakes.
Is preoccupied with ideas of unlimited success, power, beauty, or ideal love.
Having ambitious goals while actively working every day to achieve them is healthy. It is necessary to keep ourselves motivated to accomplish and committed to personal growth.
But narcissists are overly obsessed with their appearance, job position, or partner, to a level where those topics are directly interfering with their perceived happiness and fulfillment. They become preoccupied with an unrealistic “perfection” in every aspect of their lives, and they usually do little to approach that “perfect” state.
I once had a friend who was overly concerned about her image. In fact, she was so concerned that if her mascara bottle were empty, she’d refuse to leave her house till she got a new one. She was always trying to find the perfect filter for her selfies and spent hours deciding which picture was closer to her beauty ideal (btw the pictures were identical.)
The same friend told me she would never chase the positions I go for at work- she deserved “more prestigious” jobs. (She hadn’t even completed her bachelor’s degree and never worked a day in her life.)
It took me a while to realize that my friend possessed almost all narcissistic traits. I didn’t know why I had the feeling that I wished to remove her from my life altogether.
Be careful if your date seems obsessed with unrealistic ideas of happiness, love, power, beauty, or success. Most of the time, you’ll realize that she doesn’t qualify for the perfections she demands from the universe. Also, she expects her demands on a silver plate -she’s perfect for anything less than that.
Believes that they are “special” and unique.
That’s the reason narcissists go full-on in relationships at first.
You might experience assertive, loving behavior from their side towards you, especially at the beginning. You might wonder whether it’s too early to be so demanding, whether their emotional reasoning is off, or how can they “love” you without actually knowing you.
Narcissists want you all for themselves because (finally) they found another “special” person who can relate.
Believe that can only be understood by other special or high-status people.
You might think you want to spend time with your friends, but if you share that wish with a narcissist, they will likely criticize or downgrade anyone who threatens their attention monopoly. Why would you want to spend time with people that are not special?
Instead of making a real effort to include themselves in your social cycle, a narcissist will try to break your ties with anyone who is not him. He believes that most people are inferior and often expresses (directly or indirectly) his arrogant behavior to co-workers, common friends, or even your family.
If you sometimes notice that your date behaves like a snob, attempt to indicate real-life examples in which she might have insulted someone. Try to discuss it casually, and if she turns it on you, like, “how can you not see how unspecial, common, boring they are” well. Hello there, defensiveness.
Requires excessive admiration.
We all want our partners to admire us. And we also want them to compliment us, from time to time, especially if our love language is words of affirmation.
But people with narcissistic behavior will depend solely on your compliments. They might seem extremely confident and independent of your judgment, but remember that they lack self-esteem deep inside. If you don’t give the desired admiration, they will try to fish for it, which means they will use indirect ways at every chance to hear from you how great they are.
If you don’t fall for that, they might express irritation, anger, and other relationship-destructive feelings in passive-aggressive ways. That’s emotionally exhausting for every partner, even the most empathetic one.
Self-confident people won’t depend on anyone to feel truly good about themselves. At the same time, the narcissist will indirectly punish everyone for his low self-esteem.
You might notice that your date tries to create circumstances where he can shine – usually, by putting other shiners down. You might realize that he indirectly tries to fish your comment on their amazingness. Either case is a red flag.
Has a sense of entitlement.
A sense of entitlement among the other narcissistic traits means that people only acknowledge their own needs in a situation. They expect everyone around them to contribute to their wellness by giving them extra recognition and special treatment.
An example is when someone believes he deserves more privileges than others without an actual reason to believe so. A narcissist often doesn’t have logical reasoning for why he should receive better treatment; his inflated image is enough to make him entitled to it.
However, he is bombing his excessive demands and automatically expects them to be met.
It’s normal to make compromises and take care of your partner in any way possible. But if your date expects you to always be at her disposal, blatantly ignoring your needs and wishes in a situation, reconsider.
Even if you’re a natural giver and you’re happy when your partner is happy, you should really consider if the other’s demands are going against your actual needs.
Takes advantage of others to achieve goals.
While I type this, one thing comes to my mind: An end justifies any means. However, is that end a good outcome for both parties?
Narcissists can always justify their actions. You might hear them say, “I lied because I was trying to protect both of us and our relationship.” Or that; “he is good with presentations, so I rendered him responsible for the presentation on Monday. He will be able to finish in one day. It will benefit his career upgrade”.
A narcissist blames others for his own benefit, will take advantage of any willingness or vulnerability of others to achieve their goals selfishly. They might seem kind and innocent initially, as whatever they are trying to accomplish satisfies both parties. But a narcissist won’t think about your part; it’s only his needs that matter.
In love relationships, that leads to a toxic loop and, in the extreme versions, codependence. Beware if your date behaves selflessly at first and then indirectly asks you to reciprocate. You might start feeling uncomfortable without exactly knowing why.
You might realize that he’s trying to manipulate you by invoking your vulnerabilities when you’re protesting or expressing your discomfort.
Another classic example is when he treats you like a fashion accessory, only for him to look -and feel- more successful.
Empathy means the person’s ability to recognize and understand how another person is feeling. It involves seeing through another person’s point of view and enables behaviors that come naturally rather than being forced. Developing empathy is crucial for establishing healthy relationships and dissolving conflicts.
Narcissists lack partially or entirely the skill of empathy. They are incapable of identifying or understanding the feelings and needs of others. They can’t make you feel seen, understood, or accepted, and don’t be surprised when you’ll feel alone in the relationship. No matter your attempts to explain and communicate your feelings, they won’t get it. Fighting with a narcissist often feels like fighting with a wall.
Their inability to empathize is often why most narcissists don’t have long-term, in-depth relationships, whether romantic or not. They can’t feel, estimate, or think about how their behavior affects others.
And even if you confront them, they will most likely face your confrontation with aggression and defensiveness. They only understand their own needs; they can’t grasp yours.
What happens when you generally talk about yourself? Does your date ask questions or show interest in learning and understanding more?
How does your date react when you’ve had a bad day at work or a fight with your best friend?
If your person seems off whenever you express anything that makes you sad or anything that makes you “you” in general, don’t get sucked in. No matter how interesting that person seems, if signs of care and empathy regarding how you feel and who you are are not there, you should be careful.
Why do they want you around if they don’t care to know more about your feelings, history, friends, or family?
Is often envious of others (or thinks others are envious of him).
Initially, you might wonder what your person lacks that makes him envious of others. You can’t spot his jealously at first, as a narcissist looks super self-confident to those who don’t know him well enough. As I mentioned above, the only crucial ingredient a narcissist lacks is self-esteem. Therefore, signs of inexplicable jealousy belong to the nine narcissistic traits.
Observe, and you might notice a judgemental tone from their side, unexplained criticism, or panic and discomfort towards other’s people happiness. They never admire or acknowledge anyone else’s success. They always have the cons to point out and something terrible to mention, constantly grasping the chances to put others down.
You might also notice they don’t have any (or many) close and long-term friends. Sure, they have buddies to gossip with, but none of those people are close or stable in the narcissists’ lives.
The reason is obvious; most of us wouldn’t want to have a close friend who can’t relate to our deepest thoughts, wishes, or happy moments.
The ex-friend I mentioned above always introduced me to casual, superfluous “besties” who somehow all of them ended up envying her or lashing out. She had one single long-term friend (her ex-boyfriend’s sister) who was empathetic, happy, and adorable, always willing to listen and help.
Once in a while, I was in situations where my friend was super manipulative to her. One evening we were on vacation all together; I caught the girl crying and asked my friend to check on her as she looked upset. Then my friend, apathetic, replied, “Well, good to know she’s crying. Next time she wants to dump me to spend time with a boy, she should ask me first.”
When you start dating someone you might suspect as a narcissist, dig deeper into his connections, and you’ll notice their lack of deep friendships.
Shows arrogant, gaslighting behaviors or attitudes
The most detrimental one of all narcissistic traits. A narcissist will pick up on you constantly, expressing his arrogance and superiority at any chance. It might start as teasing or trying to “improve and help you,” but the “jokes” will be mean and harsh, and the narcissist’s attempt to “improve you” will feel like a competition between their strengths and your weaknesses.
Takes no responsibility – and instead blames the other party.
A genuine person knows they have a role in whatever happens in the relationship and is willing to take responsibility if needed. Most of us can see where we’re wrong and apologize accordingly.
Instead, a narcissist will try to assign the blame elsewhere – usually by discrediting the other party or playing the victim. Out of nowhere, you find yourself apologizing to them.
A narcissist needs to be ‘right’ at all costs – even at the expense of your sanity, well-being, and, eventually, your relationship.
You’ll also notice they might exaggerate their achievements and skills, but if you try to point them out, they will lash out at you.
Has zero boundaries.
Most people understand their own and other people’s boundaries. We know when we‘re pushing someone too far. We respect our partners when they point out something they cannot take.
A narcissist doesn’t have these boundaries – and invades other people’s physical and emotional spheres. They have no limits in how they take over your space, and you‘re constantly feeling overwhelmed without being able to exactly understand why.
They take every breath of you they can – and when you try to confront them, they ask questions, and you‘re the one giving answers.
What does gaslighting mean?
Gaslighting is when someone is psychologically manipulating you and eventually making you question your own reality. They disturb your perceptions by spreading lies, creating doubt, and invalidating or disapproving of your feelings. The most dangerous thing about gaslighting is that it often goes unnoticed by the victim.
A narcissist will emotionally abuse you by distorting the truth, invalidating your feelings, and even lying. It is devastating for your emotional well-being, and you should spot the signs early to avoid additional damage.
So your partner possesses some (or even all) of the narcissistic traits above. You realize that you’re probably attached to a narcissist. Don’t panic. There is a lot of emotional turmoil you can still avoid and take care of yourself.
Please remember: I can’t diagnose your partner just by mentioning these narcissistic treats. This post aims to point out unacceptable behaviors and help you spot the red flags before you get involved with someone. Whether your partner suffers from NPD or not, none of those mentioned above traits indicate a healthy relationship.
However, if your partner has one or six of the above narcissistic traits doesn’t necessarily mean he is a narcissist. Even if you can relate to everything you’ve just read, consider whether your partner values your happiness and helps you thrive. Remember, you’re not responsible for fixing anyone, but you are responsible for your emotional well-being.
If you wish to stay in a relationship with that person, below are some tips on how to deal with a narcissist.
Have a support group of friends and family
Engage in activities with them
Turn to your most empathetic close people.
Look for a purpose outside of the relationship, and try to be grateful everyday
Turn to online communities for emotional abuse.
Get a therapist. If you’re on the road, you can get an online therapist with a 20% discount from my linkhere.
Journaling about your experiences and feelings, knowing your purpose and your wishes, and writing about the things you ‘re grateful everyday- are all important steps on how to deal with a narcissist. You can find more about my therapy workbook here.
When is it time to walk away?
Knowing when it’s time to exit the relationship is one of the most beneficial things for your soul. Remember that you cannot change anyone if he doesn’t want to change, no matter your wish to improve things. If your partner possesses those narcissistic traits or if he suffers from NPD, chances are he will never be in tune with you.
You cannot make him happy by loving him more or changing yourself to meet his standards. You cannot cover his steps on that incredible journey of emotional wellness you chose to embark on. The more you engage in attempts to explain, change, or protest, the emptier you will feel after every interaction.
You can’t be enough for anyone who isn’t enough for himself.