Have you ever been up past midnight, wondering why it’s so hard to cut off a certain person from your life?
If you have, then chances are that you’re dealing with a narcissist. We present to you the I never go wrong series, where we talk about narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) in great detail. In this article, which is part I of the series, we cover the following:
1) Official Definition of NPD
2) Essence of Narcissism
3) Some Common Manifestations of Narcissism
OFFICIAL DEFINITION OF NPD
Narcissistic personality disorder is officially defined as a psychological condition where a person thinks too highly of themselves. But there are more details which we’ll see as we go through this write-up.
ESSENCE OF NARCISSISM
You’ll see loud and clear that the motivations of a narcissist are mainly two-fold: 1) Self image boosting (often by coming out stronger/better in a comparison) and 2) Self image guarding (often by denying/misrepresenting facts that weaken it). Thus, these two broad motivations form the core essence of all narcissistic behaviors.
SOME COMMON MANIFESTATIONS OF NARCISSISM
Narcissistic behavior manifests in many ways, while stemming from the two broad motivations of its core essence. Let’s look at some common manifestations.
Setting you up so that they won’t easily get caught
Let’s understand with an example:
Wesley and Elias had gone out to dinner last night. About halfway through, Wesley took out his wallet to pay for an item that he wanted, and then Elias said, “I don’t think you have enough in your wallet.”
Shrugging this off at first, Wesley proceeded to look, and to his surprise, there wasn’t even half the amount that he had put in that same morning. Immediately, Wesley’s instincts told him that Elias had stolen from him. But, in that moment, he didn’t have the words to coherently address the issue. Elias, however, proceeded to tell Wesley how impulsive and forgetful Wesley could be.
Elias’exact words were: “You must have spent it on something, because you’re impulsive, Wesley, and now you don’t remember, because you’re also forgetful. That’s okay. You live and you learn. Don’t freak out. I don’t want you to stress yourself out. It’s okay. It happens.”
You see what happened here? Elias, being a narcissist, what he did in a way that it won’t be easy for anyone to point the finger at him. But that’s not what makes him a narcissist. What makes him a narcissist is the extent to which he is willing to go to protect his image. Elias used a two-fold approach: 1) By creating a setup that drew attention to Wesley’s “flaws” (the supposed absent mindedness and forgetfulness), Elias looked like the less flawed person. 2) By providing reassurance to Wesley after noticing the tension, Elias looked like a good person in general.
This is how narcissists weaken their target while also making sure that the target won’t blame them.
Keeping you in situations where you’re stressed out and not thinking straight
Once again, let’s consider an example:
Sarah had a history of social anxiety. So she asked her friend Rony to help her out. Their first outing went well. Sarah even thanked Rony for introducing her to “fun outings.” In the days that followed, Rony took Sarah out almost every day of the week. By the end of the week, Sarah was utterly frazzled. Not only was she frazzled, but she couldn’t help but feel like she was being too nice to Rony. Somehow, there was also this guilt about saying no to Rony because Rony had “helped” with the social anxiety.
Rony, here, is a narcissist. She deliberately kept Sarah in situations where Sarah cannot think straight. The deal was sealed once she got Sarah’s thank you. This showed her that Sarah suspected nothing about her narcissism, and was therefore exactly the kind of person that she could use to boost her self-image. Knowing that Sarah didn’t think clearly during long and frequent outings due to social anxiety, Rony took Sarah out almost everyday for as much as 7 hours at a time. On occasions when Sarah objected, Rony would say that it’s all meant to help given some time.
Sarah probably looked something like this the whole time:
Putting words in your mouth
“I am always so calm, aren’t I?”
“I am too sweet with you, don’t you think?”
“You know me. You’ve seen how I become when I get aggressive about what I want. But I decided to let it go that once.”
“You’re really enjoying this time, am I right?”
“I can come back strong when I want to. You’ve noticed, right? But I don’t for your sake.”
The above quotes are examples of having words put in your mouth. Narcissists do this A LOT. It’s not hard to see how these words that they curate and put in others’ mouths are intended to boost or guard their image.
Denying wrongdoing despite clear evidence
Let’s go back to Wesley and Elias’ example.
During dinner, upon seeing that the money is gone, Wesley tells Elias, “I remember giving you my wallet to pay your cabbie, because you didn’t have change.”
Elias realizes that this is evidence of him stealing. But he tells Wesley, “Oh right. I remember too. You had dropped your wallet on the ground, you absent minded fool! The cabbie pointed it out and then I picked it up and handed it to you. I’m sure you remember. What on Earth would you do without me?”
This, right here, is an example of a narcissist denying wrongdoing despite evidence by using justifications that play to the target’s weaknesses. Why do they try so hard to deny wrongdoings? Because it threatens their image.
While on the subject of a narcissist’s attitude towards wrongdoing, it’s also important to know that when narcissists do admit to wrongdoing, they make sure that their image is out of the danger zone. Let’s do another example highlighting this case:
“I missed Manny’s wedding,” said Sally to her friend Mark.
“Did you make sure to call Manny and let him know that you weren’t coming?” Mark responded.
“Well, I was feeling really depressed and I didn’t want to talk to anyone.”
“Sally, come on! Everything is not about you! Think of how Manny must have felt about you not coming without any explanation! Everything is not about you!”
“I didn’t say everything was about me, Mark! I don’t appreciate you making baseless accusations about me without getting the full story!”
“Alright. I’m sorry for snapping at you. I was just thinking of Manny.”
“Okay. Well, I’m sorry too. I maybe should have offered Manny more of an explanation, but I did text him that I wasn’t feeling well. Next time, I’ll call. But he knows about my depression. I think he’d have understood.”
Who is the narcissist in this conversation? Well, it’s Mark. Ironic isn’t it? Given that he was accusing Sally of making everything about her. Look through the lines of that conversation. It was Mark who first started showing himself to be the better person by highlighting the indecency of Sally not informing Manny about not going to Manny’s wedding.
Then, just as soon as Sally began to explain, Mark made a snap judgment: “Everything is not about you!” Mark moved quickly and aggressively to tear down Sally’s image to make himself look better by comparison.
The most important thing to notice here comes next. Mark admitted to his snap judgment and even apologized. But then, how is he still a narcissist? Well, he is still a narcissist because he understood Sally well enough to know that as soon as he lowered his firearm, she would too. So he made sure that his own image was in the clear when he said sorry. For added measure, he threw in this line: “I was just thinking of Manny.” You know, just in case the conversation marked one of those rare occasions when Sally didn’t responsively lower her firearm and say sorry back.
The point, at the end of the day, is that narcissists never admit to wrongdoing unless they are sure that their image is in the clear. In other words, they never mean their apologies. Their apologies are only about saving themselves from disgrace.
Suddenly becoming heartless
This is, perhaps, the biggest giveaway that a person is a narcissist. You see when someone genuinely cares for you, they cannot be unresponsive to your pain, no matter how mad they may be at you. After a fight, when you try to make up, they will get disturbed by your pain, even if they don’t immediately agree to make up. But if they look completely unmoved by your pain, then they are not just mad. They are narcissists who never give genuine love to anybody, but only give love if they can use that love to advance or secure their own image, even if that means tearing down the other’s image.
Being easily offended, but disguising it as being nice enough to “let go.”
Narcissists are snowflakes. They are so conscious about their image that even the mildest and most humorously intended joke can end up threatening their image. But they don’t allow others to easily see that they are fussy because seeming fussy in itself is a dampener on their image. To address this, they make it look like they are “nice enough to handle offenses gracefully even though people are always trying to offend them.” Let’s see an example of this:
“That woman has no idea how the real world works. She was asking me if I’m going to introduce her to my girlfriend. I obviously lost my shit, but I kept my calm.”
Notice above that there is nothing wrong with what the woman did. As a friend, she wanted to meet the girlfriend. That is all. It is the narcissist who was easily offended. Why? Because the girlfriend might say or do something that compromises their image. But they don’t want to seem like a drama queen because that, in itself, weakens their image.
So they say things like “I obviously lost my shit, but kept my calm” to make it look like they were right to be offended, but, being the nice person that they are, they chose to stay calm.
Other manifestations of narcissism include:
- Frequently seeking praise
- Claiming to know powerful people
- Claiming to have been everywhere
- Frequently pointing out flaws “for your own good”
LET’S CONCLUDE FOR NOW
In this article, we presented part I of the I never go wrong series, which featured an in-depth introduction into narcissistic personality disorder. The topics that we covered are:
1) Official definition of NPD
2) Essence of narcissism
3) Common manifestations of narcissism
In the next part of the series, we cover the full psychology behind narcissism. It will address questions like: Is narcissism intentional? Was any of it real? Don’t we all worry about self image? It will also explain why narcissists end up being the way they are. We hope this article was a clear enough introduction to Narcissistic Personality Disorder. As always, we would love to know your thoughts in the comments.
References and suggested readings
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM – V)
- Oxford handbook on psychiatry, 6th Edition (2013)
- Protecting yourself while divorcing someone with borderline or narcissistic personality disorder, Kregger and Eddy (2012)
- Narcissistic and personality disorders, Debbie Walker (2019)
- Will I ever be good enough? Karyl Mcbride (2009)
- Narcissistic personality disorder, Clayton Geoffreys (2015)