In my experience narcissists very frequently use judgment as a weapon. Knowing the difference between honest criticism and aggressive, but veiled, judgment from narcissist parents, family, romantic partners, and coworkers is essential to overcoming. Here is how you overcome judgmental narcissists.
The key to overcoming a judgmental narcissist keeping a proper frame. Both accepting and overtly rejecting their criticisms is likely to make you subject to additional abuse. Instead, you must learn to recognize their behavior as a symptom of mental disorder, and learn to disregard those words as meaningless.
Here are x common situations where a narcissist is likely to resort to judgment as a way to keep you down, and how to deal with it.
Narcissists Use Judgment to Keep You From Other People
Narcissists are always seeking ways of controlling the emotions of the people around them. This comes from a deep seated fear that the narcissist just isn’t good enough. Although, this not usually directly voiced or even understood by the narcissist.
Not sure if you have a narcissist on your hands? Run them through the checklist to find out:
In order to insulate themselves from loss, they will try to belittle you through subtle or concealed criticism. The ultimate goal of which is to make you so concerned about how bad you must be, that you are afraid of leaving your current relationship or situation.
Often, a narcissist in this situation will frame it like they are just looking out for you —
- “I just though you should know that …”
- Taking you in the other room to save your pride, in a blatantly obvious way
- “You are getting better at …”
There are two good ways to handle this type of judgment trap, depending on the situation.
The first method of overcoming judgment works all the time, and that is to take their judgment in the best possible light. Read their criticism as a compliment, to the point of being optimistic to a fault. This works best with veiled criticism. Accept the good of the statement, and completely ignore the bad.
The second method of overcoming judgment, is to be blatantly truthful about the fault brought up the narcissist. This can be very powerful if the narcissist is trying to belittle you in a group setting.
To accomplish this rebuttal, you must be absolutely factual about your self assessment. Own up to your real faults, if they actually exist. But, don’t accept even a grain of overstatement or hyperbole form your attacker.
This last method is probably the most powerful, being widely used by successful people and celebrities to avoid criticism while winning over friends and admirers. But, you must have a grounded ego, otherwise you risk doing more damage than good.
Narcissists Use Judgment to Force You To Love Them
While it may seem counter intuitive, it is quite common for a narcissist to employ direct criticism as a means of making you love time. This works by acclimating their victim to base their sense of self worth on the approval of the narcissist.
This is probably most common with narcissistic parents, especially mothers, and other narcissistic family members. Although, it can occur in romantic relationships where one of the partners is emotionally weakened, commonly through past abuse.
More info on dealing with narcissist parents and loved ones in my other articles:
- Help! My Mother is a Narcissist | Surviving a Narcissistic Caregiver
- Narcissism in Relationships | What it Means to Love a Narcissist
This form of judgmental attack often starts out with little things:
- “You didn’t do X as well as usual”
- “I thought you could do better…”
Over time, as the victim becomes acclimated to the insults, they will grow and grow.
- “Your brother/sister is the smart/funny/successful one”
- “Your lucky that I stick around at all, with you being so …”
Another key to this particular form of psychological conditioning is the occasional “over the top” compliment, especially in front of other people that you care about. Narcissist learn just how far they can push their victims with insults, before they have to lay on the complements to keep you from getting away.
The key to overcoming this form of harassment is to not react. Because the insults are progressive, catching them early is key. A narcissist will try a bunch of different angles, until they find all the right buttons to push. But giving them nothing back for their effort shuts down the whole process. This works most often in business or professional situations.
Unfortunately, many times victims of family members or romantic partners that are narcissists only realize the trap they are in once it has gone on too far. In those cases, some form of separation or boundaries will need to be put in place. I highly recommend victims of long term narcissist abuse seek out coaching or counseling from a knowledgeable third party.
Narcissists Use Judgment When They Feel Inferior
Very commonly, narcissists use casual or passive judgment to justify their own lack of accomplishment, or sense of inferiority. I have personally found this form of judgment to be the most infuriating of all.
- Narcissists will seek out opportunities to watch you work / practice, and seemingly insert off hand but cutting remarks about your performance.
- They will hold you to unrealistically high levels of accomplishment, like comparing child athletes to professional players.
- They will try to make you self conscious about starting new hobbies are gaining new skills
- They will continually bring up mistakes you’ve made, especially in response to a new accomplishment or level of skill
- They will be very vocal about how pointless or useless what you like to do is.
- They will highly over praise you in public in order to set an unrealistically high expectation for people you care about, and ultimately set you up for disappointment.
When you encounter this type of behavior, remember that it is a direct manifestation of the narcissists own lack of self-esteem. Misery love company — as they say — and the narcissist impulsively need to pull you down to the level they see themselves at.
The best way to overcome cutting judgment is to surround yourself with people that share the same interests and motivations that you do. If you are involved in a sport or hobby, find a group or club with people that are having fun leaning that skill set, and are supportive of newcomers. With massive reinforcement from others who are in the same mindset as you want to be, the quips of the narcissist will seem silly by comparison.
If you don’t have a hobby or sport that requires skill and time to learn, you need to find one right away. Pastimes like climbing, playing music, art, team sports, electronics, etc play an essential part in building and maintaining self esteem, as well as healthy relationships. Too often, passive time wasting like watching movies, eating, or drinking alcohol fills out all the non-work hours of people in the West, leaving no outlet for positive personal growth, and fostering the spread of abusive relationships.
Be aware that you will likely have to set certain boundaries with narcissist in your life when it comes to developing these hobbies. Such boundaries include:
- Time to work on your skills alone
- Freedom to build friendships outside the bounds of the relationship
- Resources to access training, equipment, and events
How to Fully Overcome Narcissistic Judgment
Living with a narcissist in your life is never easy.
They will constantly find new and innovative ways to bring you back in their world, where they can control and manipulate you to their heart’s content. The only true defense is to develop your independent self-esteem and find a sense of ego groundedness.
There are a wide variety of methods available to work on yourself in this way, including mindfulness meditation, journaling techniques, hypnosis / regression, NLP, pointed consciousness exercises, etc.
If you or someone you know may have a judgmental narcissist on their hands, proper coaching can be invaluable to help you manage the potential consequences of a narcissist that’s gone off the rails.
Check out our resources section for our current recommended set of tools, and for coaching opportunities: