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Narcissistic Personality: What Is It and How to Deal with a Narcissist?

Narcissistic Personality: What Is It and How to Deal with a Narcissist?

He asks you for your opinion, but only follows his own advice regardless of what you say.She loves to talk about herself, everything about her is just better than you.  When you try to share anything happy about yourself, she seriously doubts it.

If you know someone who acts like these examples, there’s a chance they might be a narcissist.

What is a narcissistic personality?

Narcissism is a spectrum personality disorder which most of us have.

In popular culture, narcissism is interpreted as a person who’s in love with themselves, more accurately, their idealized selves. Narcissists believe that they are too unique to be understood and that they are so good that they demand for admiration from others.

Psychologist Stephen Johnson writes that,[1]

the narcissist is someone who has buried his true self-expression in response to early injuries and replaced it with a highly developed, compensatory false self.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) describes narcissistic personality as a personality disorder. It is a spectrum disorder, which means it exists on a continuum ranging from some narcissistic traits to the full-blown personality disorder.[2]

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is not very common, but the truth is, we all have some of the narcissistic traits.

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Traits of a narcissist:

  • They have a deep need for admiration and validation. They think they’re special and too unique to be understood.
  • They feel they are superior to other. They achieve more and know a lot more than you.
  • They do not show their vulnerabilities. They fear what others think of them and they want to remain superior in all situations.
  • They are unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others. They want to be the centre of attention and believe that showing emotions is a sign of weakness.
  • They are skilled manipulators and are emotionally abusive. They know how to make use of their charm to take advantage of others to get what they want.

How are narcissists different from others?

Narcissism expert and the author of Narcissism in a Nutshell, Zari Ballard, tried to answer some common questions asked by non-narcissists about what a narcissist thinks and feels from a narcissist’s perspective.[3]

Do narcissists know they are narcissists and are they happy?

We could really care less about how others feel. We enjoy our so called cold existence. True narcissists don’t want to change. We feel in total control of our lives using this method.

Do narcissists know or understand right from wrong?

Narcissists know the difference between right and wrong because they understand cause and effect. There is no “guilty conscience” giving them a clue and they are displaying the symptom of being “indifferent to social norms” while most likely presenting as ‘cold-hearted.’

Narcissists have a very different thinking mechanism. They see things from a different perspective. Unlike non-narcissists and empaths, they don’t have much sympathy and are reluctant to show emotions to others.

Why do people become narcissists?

1. Narcissism is vulnerability taken to an extreme.

The root of a narcissistic personality is a strong resistance to feeling vulnerable with anyone.[4]

Narcissists refuse to put themselves in a position where they feel vulnerable. They fear that others will take advantage of their weaknesses, so they learn to camouflage their weaknesses by acting strong and powerful. The think showing emotions to others is a sign of weakness, so they learn to hide their emotions and act cold-hearted most of the times.

Narcissists live in a state of anxiety because they are highly aware of their emotions and how others think of them.

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Vulnerability aversion, is the root of a narcissistic personality.

2. A narcissistic personality could be a result of a wounded past.

Narcissists are desperate to seek validation constantly because they either didn’t feel worthwhile and valued in the past, or were being paid too much attention as the most precious and unique one in the world.

Faulty or inadequate parenting, for example a lack of limit setting, is believed to be a major cause, and both permissive and authoritarian styles of parenting have been found to promote narcissistic symptoms.[5]

Both parents who fail to see the worth in a child, and parents who spoil and give excessive praise to the child promote narcissism as the child grows. While the former ones make the child feel inferior of others and want to get more attention, the latter ones encourage an idealized-self in the child.

How to deal with a narcissist?

1. If someone close to you is a narcissist, embrace the differences.

There’re different personality types and not everyone will think and act the same as you do. Instead of trying to change others, learn to accept the differences and strike a balance when you really have to communicate with them.

2. Don’t try to change them, focus on your own needs.

Try to understand that narcissists are resistant to change, it’s more important for you to see who they really are, instead of who you want them to be. Focus on how you feel, and what you want yourself to be.

Embrace the fact that there’re different types of personality and the only thing you can control is your attitude and your own actions.

3. Recognize what they do only comes from their insecurity.

Narcissists are quite vulnerable deep inside, they question others because that’s how they can make themselves feel better.

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When you learn that what a narcissist does to you is nothing personal, but something that comes from their insecurity, you know that sometimes they just need a certain amount of reassurance.

This is especially important if the narcissist is someone you have to closely work with, or if they’re your family member. The right amount of reassurance can calm them down and get the tasks on hand completed.

4. Ask them what would others think instead of what’d others feel.[6]

Narcissists don’t feel guilty, but they care about how others think of them deep in their heart.

Clinical psychologist Al Bernstein explains:

There are just things, like other people’s feelings, that narcissists rarely consider. If you have their ear, don’t tell them how people might react; instead, ask probing questions. Narcissists are much more likely to act on ideas that they think they thought up themselves.

If you have to work with a narcissist closely, focus on the facts and ideas, not the emotions.

5. Let go of the need of getting a narcissist’s approval.

You’re not who a narcissist says you are. Don’t let their blame game undermine your self-esteem, and don’t argue with them just to defend what you believe is right.

There is no point arguing with a narcissist just to prove them wrong because they will not give in proving themselves right. It’s more likely that you’ll get more upset when they disagree with you in an unpleasant way.

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Know your own worth and detach from a narcissist’s opinion on you.

6. If a narcissist is hurting you, stay away from them.

Remember, a healthy relationship is two-sided. It’s about mutual respect and it’s based on give and take. But any kind of relationship with a narcissist is likely to be the contrary, it’s about making the narcissist happy and constantly supporting them. A relationship like this will only weigh you down and is unhealthy for your growth.

7. Set a boundary and always keep it.

If you’re setting a boundary, you have to be willing to keep it. When a narcissist sees that you’re trying to take back control of your life, they will try to test your limits, it’s just their instinct to do it.

Be prepared that your boundary will be challenged. Make your boundary clear, have all the actions needed to be taken in your mind.

For example, if you have decided to stop communicating with them, they will likely to show up in front of you just to talk to you. Be brave enough to keep your boundary, don’t back down and get close to them again; or else they will not take your boundary seriously any more.

8. Learn when to walk away.

When a narcissist starts to make you feel uncomfortable and doubt about yourself, it’s time to pick yourself up and give yourself enough respect to just walk away from them.

If you’re in love with a narcissist, you should seriously think about ending the relationship and move on for a better life. If the narcissist is your family member, you don’t have to be cruel to them, but it’s better to keep distance from them.

Reference

More by this author

Anna Chui

Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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