Narcissism gets thrown around quite a bit on social media these days, and there’s certainly more awareness of it than there has been in the past. Even so, people often still underestimate the chaos and turmoil that come hand-in-hand when you’re tangled up with a narcissist.
Narcissism isn’t just garden-variety vanity. It’s one of the so-called “Dark Triad” traits—and it’s also more common than people think.
If you find yourself in such a situation, here are some ways to protect yourself:
Know the Signs
First and foremost, you should learn the signs. It can be difficult to know when you’re dealing with a narcissist. They can be quite charismatic, especially at first, and you might not realize you’re dealing with a mask that’s been put on for your benefit.
Some signs to look out for:
- Secretive Behaviors
- Inability to Accept Responsibility
- Excessive Boasting \ Sense of Importance
- Tendency to Push Others’ Boundaries
- Inconsistency in Stories and Behaviors
- Need for Attention
Narcissists care an awful lot about what other people think about them and shape their personalities accordingly. As a result, they often have to juggle distinct, contradictory stories. They may exhibit secretive behaviors, maintain hidden online accounts, resist questioning about their past, etc.
Narcissists have, at best, a loose relationship with the truth. They’re experts at manipulating the truth, coming up with revisionist histories, and chipping away at people’s confidence in their own perspective. When dealing with a narcissist, be very careful to make sure important decisions are recorded in writing:
- Take Detailed Notes
- Get Confirmations via Text or Email
- Keep a Journal of Conversations
Disengaging wherever possible is a good way to protect yourself. Sometimes known as the ‘gray rock’ method on social media, if you can make yourself boring or unavailable, the narcissist will very likely move on, seeking attention elsewhere.
Avoid Reactive Abuse
Narcissists love to paint themselves as both victim and hero. When dealing with a narcissist, they’re quite to flip the switch from aggressor to victim whenever it suits their needs. You may find yourself losing your cool in response to their nasty behaviors but be warned that by yelling at them or losing your temper, you’re fueling their fire. They’ll take that blow-up and use it to get attention from someone else, painting you as a villain in their story.
Trust Your Gut
Narcissists are often good at picking people who second-guess themselves. If you feel your gut telling you that something’s off, listen to it. Pay attention to all those red flags. Really listen to what they’re telling you.
Narcissists love to test boundaries over time. It’s extra important when dealing with narcissism to make sure you check in with yourself from time to time. How have your boundaries changed since you met this person? Do they respect them?
If not, it’s important to make sure you communicate the consequences of ignoring those boundaries clearly. When dealing with a narcissist, it’s important to stay cool, detached, and unemotional. For many narcissists, drama is fuel. Instead of feeding them, try to keep yourself above the fray.
At first, it can be intoxicating and fun, but over time, it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s not. You might not trust your own instincts or even your own memories. If you’re having trouble navigating a relationship with a narcissist, whether that’s a family member, coworker, or romantic partner, getting in touch with a qualified therapist can be a huge help.
Reach out to me if you are interested in an objective, 3rd party view of things through relationship counseling.