Ever wondered if you might have a narcissist on your hands, or even be a narcissist yourself. After spending years observing the behavior of narcissists, here are 21 common habits of the narcissist, and one bonus.
Narcissists Only Care About Themselves
The primary trait of a narcissist is that they are in it only for their own personal gain. While they won’t necessary go out of their way to hurt others, if they end up damaging relationships, businesses, or friendships to get what they feel they deserve, then so be it.
In the end, a narcissist will create a fiction in their head to explain why they needed to act unethically. Why taking what they did by force was actually justified in that situation. But, to the grounded observer, you can only chalk their behavior up to self-interest over all.
Narcissists Expect Special Privileges
One of the driving forces in the mind of a narcissist, that underlies their motivations, is that they believe that they deserve more than everyone else.
They will feast, even if every else starves. They will drive an expensive car, even if the rest of their family has to take the bus. They will take credit for their teams success, even if they weren’t any part of it.
Narcissists Expect to be Recognized and Awarded
Related to special privileges, a narcissist really thinks that it is their just deserts to have amazing amount of praise heaped on them. This is regardless if they did anything special to earn it.
Part of the ego trip of the narcissist is that they cannot feel comfortable unless they have external validation of their intrinsic greatness. A day, week, or month without some adoration, one not afforded to others, is practically a slap in the face from the point of view of a narcissist.
And, in order to slake their thirst for praise, a narcissist is willing to do almost anything in their power to make themselves look good and worthy of adoration. Although, they are in no hurry to actually do anything to earn legitimate accolades.
Narcissists Cannot Accept Criticism
Because the narcissist believes, or wants to make believe, that they are prefect and infallible, they will never fully accept criticism of any kind. They have a number of methods to avoid this, including:
- Ignoring criticism as it comes
- Changing the subject
- Blaming others
- Emotional manipulation
- Telling lies to cover their mistake
Narcissists Avoid Embarrassment at All Costs
The most important goal for a narcissist is to avoid any hits to their ego. Contrary to the persona that they portray outwardly, the internal mind of the narcissist is constantly striving to fend off what they perceive to be loss of face.
All of their bravado and delusions of grandeur are primarily coping mechanisms to cover for the fact that their psychological mechanism for self-criticism has been worn down to the bare nerve, and they can’t stand even the slightest amount of self-doubt
While nothing they do will ever cure this condition, unless they have the strength to seek proper resources for recovery, they paper over there pain with a thick veneer of self-deception. If they can’t feel good about themselves, they end up addicting themselves to other people telling them that they are good, and fear above all things the opposite.
Narcissists Have No Qualms About Lying to Others
In the mind of the narcissist, their own delusions of grandeur make it right and ethical to lie, cheat, or steal in order to get what “they deserve”.
One of the key psychological traits of a narcissist is that often have little or no aversion to lying. The natural tendency toward telling the truth is gone, or fading.
Narcissists Are Boastful and Pretentious
As part of their mental power struggle with themselves, narcissists are not shy about expressing just how great they portray themselves to be. The fantasy that they have cooked up must always place them several steps up from everyone else around them.
While this can be quite off-putting to the casual observer, it also serves a second purpose to the narcissist, in that they are able polarize people to either love or hate them. Some people will naturally buy in to their story, and form the group of admirers that they leach off of.
The rest of the people will start to resent the narcissist, giving the narcissist a reason to consider them oppressors. If the narcissist can’t be loved and a hero, then they rather be an innocent victim. Everyone dislikes them because they are jealous, so their story goes.
Narcissists Are Envious of Others
While they are full of themselves, narcissists are constantly on the look out for other people who might outshine them.
To a narcissist, recognition for anyone else diminishes their own ability to feed off the praise of others. This makes them extremely sensitive and deeply envious of anyone around them they might consider competition. Anyone from coworkers to even their own children — in the case of narcissistic parents — might be the target of a narcissist’s envy, which inevitably means they will be the target of some psychological attack or disinformation campaign meant to put them back down in their place, as the narcissist sees it.
Narcissists Demand the Best of Everything
Narcissistic individuals are very sensitive to the sense of status that quality items can convey. This means they will get the best they can possibly can, ethically or otherwise, of many key status symbols —
- Musical Instruments
This behavior frequently leaves a narcissist in finical trouble, and their family even more so. In some cases, financial troubles can lead to addiction or criminal behavior in an effort to escape the stress they have caused themselves.
Narcissists Quickly Become Impatient or Angry
Because narcissists expect to be catered to, as the special star in their own imagined universe, they are very quick to anger when they aren’t getting their way.
Anything a simple as a long line at the post office, to not getting a promotion they feel they are in line for, can very quickly and decisively raise their ire.
Narcissists Are Deeply Concerned They Might Not Be Good Enough
On the deeper side of their psyche, narcissists are always deeply worried that they are not in fact good enough. This manifests in their behavior in a number of ways.
The primary way is that they have no real goals or sense of accomplishment to their actions. They are not looking to develop skills are abilities because:
- They are worried they will fail, proving they are worthless
- They crave entity external validation
A narcissist would never work later or harder than have to, unless they suspect other people would notice them doing it. Narcissist tend not to have hobbies unless they seem some social benefit in doing so. For example, they won’t golf because they like it, they would golf because of the company they can keep or the sense of status they feel an expensive hobby would afford them.
Narcissists Monopolize Conversations
In the mind of a narcissist, they have the right to change or dominate a conversation as they see fit.
This goes hand in hand with the narcissist’s lack of boundaries. At some level psychologically, they have hard time differentiating between their wants and emotions, and other people’s wants and emotions. This puts, in some sense, at about the emotional development of a 2-year old, in a literal sense.
Narcissists Often Fantasize About Power and Success
Nothing gets a narcissist going on all cylinders like thoughts about physical manifestations of their power and glory. While we all have fantasies at times, narcissist, I have found, will take this to an absurd level.
They will claim to be reaching for levels of success that are completely unrealistic for someone in their ability or life situation. They will constantly bring up how they will be making so much money in the future. How lucky you are to have a friend like them before they are famous. How they are going to change the world of science, all without any knowledge or ability in that field.
Narcissists Are Not Happy Unless They Are Admired
No amount of success, real or imagined, is good enough unless they have onlookers. In modern times, this predisposition can manifest itself as a social media addiction. The narcissist can’t do anything great in their life unless their 100,000 followers has several pictures, a post, and a short video to know just how great it was and how great the narcissist is.
Narcissists Exaggerate Their Achievements and Talents
One easy way to check for a narcissist is match their real accomplishments with their actual accomplishments and abilities.
For instance, a narcissist might say they are an accomplished guitar player, playing for millions live, yet not be able to strum a chord. They will say they were the highest performing sales person at their last company, yet if you looked at the actual sales data, they could be dead last.
No lie is too big for a narcissist, so long as they think they can get away from it.
Narcissists Demand Perfection
While narcissist constantly fear they aren’t good enough, they pair this tendency with an elevated sense of perfection.
They hold themselves to an extremely high standard, and they hold everyone else to that standard as well.
This leads them to undervalue the accomplishments of others. They are quick to criticize and put down their coworkers and family members.
Conversely, while they internally feel the sting when they don’t meet their own high standards, the inevitably find some means to shirk responsibility and blame someone else for what they perceive to be their failing.
Narcissists Are Unwilling to Give Up Control
In order to feel comfortable, the narcissist will attempt to cultivate a sense of control over the people in their lives. They have many means to accomplish this including —
- Finding dirt on someone / black mail
- Starting gossip and character assassination
- Praise used as a weapon, to cultivate dependence
- Emotional manipulation
- Giving people the cold shoulder
- Sudden, unpredictable mood swings to make people “walk on eggshells” around them
Narcissists Refuse to Take Responsibility
At the core of a narcissist’s modus operandi is deflecting any potential for blame from themselves to others. Any form of criticism, and especially open criticism from others, is absolutely devastating to their sense of self-worth.
This leads the narcissist to use any method they can think of to avoid taking responsibility. Among the most common ones are — ignoring criticism outright, deflecting blame to someone else, accusing people of lying due to jealousy, crafting an alternate story of events where they are the victim or at least have no reason to be at fault.
Narcissists Lack Empathy
The psychological condition of narcissist leaves them wholly or partially unable to register the feelings of others. They have a hard time differentiating between their needs and desires, and the needs and desires of others. This is that 2 year old level of development all over again.
Their lack of empathy manifests itself in two ways —
- They tend to be oblivious, or at least not really care, when they cause emotional harm
- They cannot differentiate their own emotions, and link their self-esteem to external stimulus Thus,s they are both highly dependent on other people for validation, yet generally don’t care about damage they do to other people.
Narcissists Cross Other People’s Boundaries
To a narcissist, any personal or emotional boundary is irrelevant. This come from both their lack of emotional development, and the fact that they think petty things like personal boundaries shouldn’t apply to them.
This means a narcissist is completely comfortable invading your space, taking things that don’t belong to them, listening in on phone calls, reading your messages, and spreading private information about you.
Narcissists Perceive Everything As A Threat
Narcissists are quick to take even minor, inconsequential slights — even ones not intended that way — as a personal attack.
Consequently, you may suddenly receive the brunt of a narcissist’s aggressive and domineering behavior, without realizing that you did anything to set them off. Usually, even if they told you what set them off, you wouldn’t see any rhyme or reason to it.
Bonus — Narcissists Belittle Other People to Make Themselves Superior
It is not enough for a narcissist to gain the upper hand. Their deeply rooted sense of shame leads them to need to actively belittle others to make themselves feel safe and secure.
Every time that someone who they feel that they covertly compete with is lowered down a rung, they consider themselves that little bit more free from fear of ridicule.
Dealing with a Narcissist?
Having a narcissist in your life can be a trying experience. Check out our resources page for links to books, courses, and private coaching to help you get through your situation.