Narcissism is one of the most misused words in our socially and digitally connected world.
Someone confident and even cocky could be wrongly labeled a narcissist, while a covert narcissist could unknowingly lurk inside you.
A person can have narcissistic qualities without actually meeting the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), one of the ten known personality disorders.
Overcoming narcissism or related traits isn’t easy, but you’re doing the right thing by researching it since it’s not something that goes away on its own.
How Do I Know If I’m a Narcissist?
You must be professionally diagnosed with NPD to be a full-blown narcissist. In fact, a narcissist likely isn’t worried about how to stop being narcissistic since they see themselves above any accountability.
The trademark of a narcissist is lacking empathy and believing they are better than everyone else and deserve special treatment in all circumstances.
They are above the law, and most people are below them (unless those people are serving the narcissist’s inflated ego).
There are levels of severity in narcissism, but here are a few parts to gauge:
- Are you constantly seeking attention and praise, whether justified or not?
- Are you hyper-critical of everyone you meet?
- Do you manipulate people to get your way without concern for their feelings?
- Are you wired to have the best of everything – cars, devices, clothing, and status symbols?
- When someone tells you that you hurt them, do you dismiss it easily and feel no remorse or guilt?
It’s just as important to note where the blurred line lies between being confident, displaying narcissistic tendencies, and suffering from NPD.
Narcissism is not:
- Buying yourself a nice car or new mobile device after working hard to earn it.
- Being confident in your career and setting goals for greatness.
- Having confidence in your physical appearance.
- Setting aside “me time” to take care of your mental health and feed your soul.
A person can be self-absorbed and insensitive without being a narcissist. Mental health experts say true narcissists make up 5% of the population.
That number could be higher because narcissists rarely seek treatment, unlike people with other personality disorders, like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Can You Stop Being a Narcissist?
Learning to be less narcissistic is tough since most traits have been ingrained in a person since childhood.
Perhaps your parents did not meet early needs, and you learned to cope in narcissistic ways, or you were overly admired, creating a false sense of self. It could also be genetic.
You can’t stop being a narcissist, as personality disorders have no cure. You can tackle narcissistic traits.
A formal NPD diagnosis requires therapy if there’s any hope of improvement.
Too often, signs of narcissism and other personality disorders or mental illnesses can be confused. What’s the difference?
PERSONALITY DISORDERS: Impact how people interact with the world around them, focusing more on thought, belief, and behavior. Medication doesn’t help, but therapy does.
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Histrionic Personality Disorder
MENTAL ILLNESS: This is an illness of the brain, whether a chemical imbalance or dysfunction of the brain cortexes. Medication and therapy can help. Examples include:
- Depression or Dysthymia
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Honestly, you’ve taken the most significant first step by acknowledging that something isn’t right.
This won’t be an easy road, and there’s no magic cure, but we can help you with baby steps to get you on the right track.
1. Stop to Think
Narcissism is rooted in self-preservation. Narcissists react quickly without processing the impact of their words or actions.
If you can control your reactions to criticism or differences of opinion, you can allow more time for logical and respectful processing of your emotions.
Do some breathing techniques to slow down your heart rate and adrenaline, as your body is literally going into fight or flight mode to preserve your self-perception.
2. Stop Ignoring Other People’s Feelings
A narcissist or someone with a lack of empathy can’t understand other people’s emotions. People are objects meant to serve the narcissist’s needs and nothing more.
We never feel bad for a tire when it blows out or when we toss an eggshell. That’s how narcissists view people.
While empathy is hard to teach someone, you can learn it by listening more than talking and understanding the meaning behind the emotion someone else is expressing.
3. Stop Manipulating People
This is a sibling to the “stop to think” point. Even though narcissists can’t always feel guilt, they are great at laying on guilt trips to get what they want. They might betray a confidence to get ahead.
Tackle this by writing down times people said they felt manipulated and examining what steps in that process were solely for your benefit and to the other person’s detriment.
4. Stop Discarding
“The discard” is one of three steps in a narcissistic cycle. Idealization and devaluation proceed discarding (aka rejection). If you find yourself in a rocky relationship with breakups and makeups happening every few weeks or months, you might cause the cycle.
The discard is fueled by the object (person) no longer being valuable or calling the narcissist out on their poor behavior.
Address this problem by sticking with the relationship or friendship through the tough times and focusing on how you can improve your behavior. Don’t just run from problems (that you created).
5. Stop Love Bombing
Also known as idealization, love bombing is a rush into a relationship and connection, complete with gifts, adoration, and intimate conversations. To the victim, it feels like “happily ever after” is on their doorstep. The narcissist manipulates that person, so they will put them on a pedestal.
Resist the urge to shower someone with presents or win them over quickly. Good relationships take time to build trust and connections.
All the flowers in the world won’t make someone fall more in love. It just blinds them with love before the brutal bombing that is sure to happen.
6. Stop Blaming
Show me someone who never makes mistakes or holds blame, and I’ll show you a narcissist.
Those with this personality trait already think they are perfect, so they are incapable of accepting blame –at least in an honest, non-manipulative way.
Narcissists are also experts at blame-shifting, suggesting their “bad” behavior is caused by the person pointing the finger. They are quick to turn the tables and say, “You made me do it.”
Even if you can’t understand why a person is upset, you can at least own that your actions upset someone. Nip this in the bud by never starting a sentence with “If” or “But.”
7. Stop Mirroring
Those with narcissistic tendencies have a real issue with intimacy. They can fake intimacy by mirroring the other person.
If you hear “I’ve never felt so connected to someone before” quite often, you’re likely mirroring their behavior. If you know you’re doing it, you’re likely a narcissist.
Stop this power play in its tracks. You don’t have to like all the same things as the other person, and building a foundation on different ideas and beliefs can help make a stronger platform for years to come.
8. Stop Making It “All About You”
This point is for anyone who might be self-absorbed or vain – not just narcissists.
However, if every decision you make as a spouse, in a workgroup, or at a family gathering is focused solely on your benefit, you might be a narcissist.
Focus on celebrating other people’s victories or milestones, even if you had nothing to do with it. Attend birthday parties and promotion happy hours to see that the world doesn’t stop revolving just because it’s not about you.
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9. Stop Weaponizing
All that mirroring and love bombing was nothing more than a guise to gather information comparable to an FBI file on a potential victim.
A narcissist will use any information against the victim to restore the power position. Some examples of this include:
- “All these art drawings won’t pay the bills. At least I got a Master’s Degree instead of some art certificate.”
- “Drinking all that wine will lead you to rehab, just like your brother.”
- “We aren’t having children until you become a better housekeeper.”
Never use information someone entrusted you with as a weapon. If you feel tempted, take a step back and ask for some time to think before you continue the conversation.
10. Stop Ghosting and Silent Treatment
Hell hath no fury like a narcissist scorned, and they will make sure their partner pays for any perceived slights (usually in direct reaction to selfish or manipulative behavior).
Even after the “best date ever,” a narcissist can disappear for days or weeks. This makes the other person more desperate to find out what happened.
Eventually, the attacker either calls the person “crazy” for being so “obsessed with them” or returns with the victim pushed into submission and fearful of repeating what triggered the silent treatment.
Eliminate this passive-aggressive habit by not using silent treatment as a weapon. Just ask for time apart to clear your head.
11. Stop Relying on Praise
The limit of praise does not exist for someone suffering from narcissistic tendencies. They crave it – justified or not – and will do whatever it takes to get it. The technical term is “narcissistic supply.”
If the adoration from one person or group stops, they’ll seek out others to praise them (using the same love bombing and idealization as mentioned before).
It includes cheating on a partner, taking credit for someone else’s idea, or discarding people who stopped offering a constant supply (even if they still adore you).
If you only feel whole when you’re the “Bosses Pet” or “The Best Husband Ever,” you should learn about self-awareness and acceptance.
12. Stop Fantasizing
It’s normal to want your own home, a management position, or a happy marriage. You can still have dreams and goals without holding everyone else to your highest expectation. Perfect doesn’t exist in anyone’s life.
If you expect other people to do what you want, when you want, and how you want, you’re just setting everyone up for failure. You start looking to other people to find the things you lack in yourself. Aim for a happy life, not a perfect life.
At least five types of narcissism exist under the umbrella of NPD. You can be a covert narcissist even if you don’t want to be the center of attention. You may be a communal narcissist if you fake sympathy to get close to people.
To address symptoms of narcissistic traits, you should know the five types of narcissism to see which one you might identify with before you, once again, shove off the blame.
14. Stop Gaslighting
This is an easy one. Remove the phrases, “You’re crazy!”, “That Never Happened!” and “You’re Overreacting” from your vocabulary. Gaslighting is a form of abuse used intentionally or as a learned habit.
When you gaslight someone, you dismiss their concerns on a grand scale and then add a one-two punch of insults.
Adapt by letting people approach you with their concerns with an open mind and a shut mouth. The main reason arguments get heated is that the narcissist fuels the rage with gaslighting or outright lies.
15. Stop Saying You Don’t Need Help
A narcissist can read all these valid points and promise change, but it’s usually just another lie.
Proper talk therapy for narcissism or related traits requires many steps, starting with accepting treatment, identifying triggers, replacing irrational thoughts with realistic ones, and then practicing the newly learned behaviors.
Accountability with ongoing therapy helps keep narcissistic tendencies at bay.
NPD is one of the hardest disorders to treat due to the unsympathetic and superior mindset of the clients.
They also lie as easily as most people blink, so getting an honest therapy session is also challenging.
Acknowledging a few of these points above can help you be a better and happier person. Be consistent with your goals and take each step with grace and humility.