I have many clients and friends who seem to attract narcissists like magnets. Here’s what you need to know. Excessive givers, codependents, people pleasers, and other overly nice people attract excessive takers, otherwise known as narcissists. Narcissists love people who put others first.
You may not even be aware that you’re surrounded by narcissists. You may think you’re swimming in a pond surrounded by lovely goldfish, but when you take off your clouded swim goggles, you realize they’re piranha. They slowly eat the meat off your bones. But they pretend they care about you. Telltale signs of a narcissist:
- They’re manipulative while acting like they’re a nice guy (or gal).
- Every story (yours and theirs) is diverted to be about them or someone they know.
- They play the martyr, a lot.
- They talk about how hard things are for them.
- They take all the credit and none of the blame.
- They seek admiration.
- Their mood fluctuates according to their self-esteem level.
- They lack empathy and can’t put themselves in anyone else’s shoes. If they give, it’s to get something out of it for themselves.
- You walk on eggshells so they don’t get “upset”.
- They deflect negative attention away from themselves and project what they are doing on others. Whatever bad thing they say you’re doing, they’re really doing.
- They need a lot of reassurance though they outwardly appear to be very self-assured.
- If they think you’ve criticized them, they lash out at you.
Narcissism is a spectrum. A little narcissism is helpful (adaptive). You should focus on yourself and your needs. A lot of narcissism is maladaptive. Narcissists are not capable of having healthy, lasting relationships with an absence of manipulation and control. They frequently have trouble keeping one job for long periods of time.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, DSM, which is the tool used by professionals to diagnose mental health disorders, lists the specific criteria used to identify someone, at the extreme end of the spectrum, with narcissistic personality disorder. However, if you are a giver and natural caretaker, think about whether there are people in your life that have the characteristics listed above.
What can you do to protect yourself from abusive behavior by narcissists?
- Limit your exposure to them. Spend as little time with them as possible. They don’t change their behavior because they can’t see that there is anything wrong with them- it’s part of the disorder.
- Don’t let them be in positions of power over you. Don’t owe/lend them money, let them be your boss, give them control in relationships. They abuse power and will do whatever they need to maintain their power and acquire more.
- Set boundaries. If you’re an excessive giver (and you may not realize you are), understand that there is no limit to what they will take and then convince you it’s fair. You’ve been friends for a long time, the narcissist helped you out when you needed it, etc. If they do something for you, it’s to get leverage or something else in return for themselves. They do not make good friends, parents, partners or spouses. It’s ok to say no to helping them and doesn’t make you a bad person or a narcissist.
- Remember who you’re dealing with and the traits they have which I’ve listed above. As I said, they don’t change so it’s up to you to take care of yourself.
Don’t swim with piranhas. You will eventually get bit.