How to spot a narcissist, and then what?

Would you know how to spot a narcissist?

How to spot a narcissist
Which one is the narcissist?

Nope! Me neither. And how do I know I don’t know how to spot a narcissist? Because I had three long-term relationships, and each of them ended due to my partners’ narcissistic behaviour. However, narcissism didn’t really have a name back in the day.

Psychology Today wrote “Narcissists have a prominent place in the popular imagination. The label “narcissist” is widely deployed to refer to people who appear too full of themselves.

There’s also a growing sense that narcissism is on the rise around the world, especially among young people.” It appears to be ‘all the rage’ these days. Nevertheless, most psychological research doesn’t support that notion, and I often wonder if people really know what it means.

So to those that don’t, let me tell you something; it’s not a word to bandy around, and it’s no fun being in a relationship with a narcissist. And, if you ever do spot one, stay the heck away from them. If you’re with one, pack your bags and go — ‘cos they ain’t about to change anytime soon.

What is a narcissist?

How to spot a narcissist
How to spot a narcissist — Image from

The dictionary says “a narcissist is someone who has too much admiration for himself or herself.

Kohut, 1971 offers the ‘deficit model’ of narcissism, which asserts that pathological narcissism originates in childhood as a result of the failure of parents to empathise with their child.

By contrast, Kernberg, 1984 emphasises aggression and conflict in the psychological development of narcissism. He focuses on the patient’s aggression towards and envy of others. In this ‘conflict model’, early childhood experiences of cold, indifferent or aggressive parental figures push the child to develop feelings of specialness as a retreat.

Cultural studies have suggested that the USA is seen as a more narcissistic society, where individualism, professional success, fame and material wealth are celebrated. By contrast, Eastern cultures in Asia and the Middle East, promote collectivism and more shared parenting practices. Self-reports of narcissistic traits have been shown to being lower than in Western countries such as the USA (Foster 2003).

The Mayo Clinic said, “A narcissist has an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for excessive attention and admiration.” All of which must be consistently evident at work and in relationships. They lack empathy for others and tend to have troubled relationships. However, behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

What is narcissistic trait?

What happens when a narcissist knows you know?
This is what happens when a narcissist knows you know

trait is an ingrained characteristic or habit that is difficult to learn or unlearn, like arrogance, shyness or confidence.

Narcissists tend to be covert in their behaviours, and many people have been tricked or abused by them. You may never know you’re with a narcissist — until the very end.

While we’re all naturally geared towards self-preservation, someone who thinks that they’re the center of the universe can be described as a narcissist.

Narcissistic traits explained

Narcissism has many traits and can be described by the following behavioral displays:

Narcissists are all me, me, and me — Photo by Anastasiya Gepp
  • Narcissists adore themselves, more than a normal person should; it’s all, “Me, me, and me.”
  • The narcissist behaves in an arrogant or haughty manner and loves being adored, being praised and looked up to.
  • Being criticised isn’t something they appreciate but they love it when people suck up to them.
  • Conversations must always be about them. Say you were talking about your new shoes, give it a minute — that will definitely be usurped by the narcissists new car.
  • You were discussing coffee but it will end up with the narcissist, who might look at the time and – oops, look at my Rolex watch, it was only £10,000!
  • Most think that they’re special and unique i.e. I had one partner say “There’s only one me, and you’ll never find anyone like me.” Hmmm, sounds good to me.
  • They use us and reap the benefits without showing any gratitude or giving credit i.e. claiming your work as their own.
  • Narcissists always put themselves first, even at everyone else’s expense.
  • They’re proud and tend to exaggerate their knowledge, skills and accomplishments. One ex was a ‘cabinet maker’, I’ll have you know, not a ‘chippy’ or a carpenter.
  • Psych Central say that while narcissists want to believe they’re superior and the best, they’re actually insecure. Hence, the need for constant appreciation, validation, and recognition. They seek this by bragging about themselves and their accomplishments. They may even lie or exaggerate. People who brag are trying to convince themselves and you of their greatness.
  • They have a sense of entitlement i.e. one guy I was with whinged whenever I bought myself something new (with my money), and asked if I’d got him anything.
  • Envious of others and if they achieve success in any area of life, they often believe others are jealous or envious of them.

Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive, so feel free to add any traits I’ve missed in the comments.

Some examples of narcissism

woman holding her head
Being exploited and dominated by a narcissist — Photo by David Garrison
  • You might have the narcissistic boss, who works you into the ground without giving you the respect, credit or salary you deserve.
  • I had some bosses from hell. One Modern Matron would sit at my desk in my office and invite me in with “come and take a seat,” as she pointed at my spare chair. I’m not precious about having my own office, etc, but she did it deliberately to flaunt her seniority over me.
  • It’s sometimes the same with friendships, too. I had a fairweather friend who never bought drinks for others ‘cos I’m saving for my upcoming, fantabulous wedding.” She’d always, always accept drinks from others tho’.
  • Another was always busy when I needed something; too tired or sick or looking after some fake grannie. That is, until I said I had spare front row Rod Stewart tickets at the O2. She was round in a flash.
  • One ex claimed I was jealous of an old hag he was talking to when we were on honeymoon. When that didn’t get a reaction, he claimed I was flirting with her ‘fugly‘ husband. And for that, he locked me in our apartment while he went back out drinking with the ‘lardy’ arses. Yes! On honeymoon.
  • Another asked about and listened attentively to all my insecurities, then loved to throw them back in my face when he was angry.
  • Even the boys’ dad was told by a new colleague that he admired his machiavellian (exploitative and maintained dominance over others) approach to leadership. I think he was taking the P, but Tony was actually very proud of this!

You’d have thought I’d have learned after the first and second one, eh? But I have now, and I’m going share a few red flags with you in my next post, which you might want to think about when you first meet someone. If these red flags resonate with you and mirror your partner’s behaviours, I hope you’ll have the courage to walk away.

Over to you

Any questions?
Any thoughts?

If I’ve missed anything out here, please feel free to tell me in the comment section. Have you had dealings with a narcissist, and if so, how did you cope with it? If you haven’t come across one, what do you think about the topic? As always, I’m looking forward to your comments and any questions.


Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.

22 thoughts on “How to spot a narcissist, and then what?”

  1. I’d like to think I’m good at spotting narcissism, but sometimes in relationships you can gloss over it a bit because, well, love does that. Out of curiosity, what did you used to say to that guy you were with who’d ask if you bought him something anything you bought yourself something new? That’s something I would find very awkward. I was actually just chatting with my mum yesterday about narcissists and my ex, who falls within this category. We broke up years and years ago but did keep in touch most weeks until more recently, and I think it’s sadly time to call it quits on the friendship because it’s one sided and exhausting. I wasn’t sure whether he’s got worse over time, or whether I’m just seeing more of the depths of the narcissism over the years where we’ve only chatted on the phone and haven’t been together. Anyway, that’s nothing really, at least I don’t have to deal with it anymore, though things still rile me up. I can’t leave things and forget, which I need to start doing I think. As for what happened on your honeymoon, my God, I’m so sorry. I suppose you could say ‘ah yes, but it was memorable!’ but nobody deserves to be treated like that and during such a special time.. I’m so sorry, Caz. Sending love xxxx

  2. I’ve not really read up on Narcissists before, I’ve seen the word thrown around on social media a lot, so was interested in reading your post.

    I have to say reading this I have come across a couple in work. But, never in a relationship or friendship.

    I love how you said to pack your bags if your with one. I’m sorry you had to experience that 3 times, no one should be treated like that.

  3. I definitely think there’s an aspect of hurtfulness to narcissists. I have no issue with someone beng sort of confident or… you know… pleased with themselves. But the narcissistic person will take it to the level of such hurtfulness where it’s like they become manipulative and cruel and underhanded and cutting. My mother’s a total narcissist, and I’ve removed her from my life since my birthday (May 10). We were celebrating, and she was filming my brother’s new house, and I started doing some funky dance moves, and she just pretended I wasn’t there. It’s her manipulative way of being dismissive of me. Another way she’ll do that is, I’ll say, “I have some major good news to tell you!” And she’ll say, “Great! What?” And I’ll say, “I just found out that I won a writing contest,” and she’ll say to my dad, “Oh, Phil, before I forget, did you contact my estate attorney for me?” And I’ll just be completely shut down. Rinse and repeat. All the time. And that’s just one example of her bad traits. Another thing she’ll do is find the worst about something. Me: “Mom, guess what? I won $500 on a lottery ticket!” Her: “Oh no! Are you addicted to gambling? Your life is ruined!” Or, me: “Mom, guess what? I won the writing contest!” Her: “It probably wasn’t a very hard contest to win. Did you even get a prize? I wouldn’t be proud of it necessarily.” God, I hate my mother. Sigh.

    1. I have a whole family of narcissists. They just get satisfied by invalidating me and putting me off. It’s this kind of feeds their ego. I try to stay away from them as much as possible. It gets really toxic when you see this sadist behavior from people you have grown up with.

      1. God bless that you have other people! So do I, and I’ve also shut my mom out. (Oh, wait, I already said that in my original comment.) I’m so glad that you and I both have supportive, loving people around!! 🙂

  4. Very comprehensive, Caz. These people are so destructive. The Harvard Business Review published a ground breaking article on narcissists as leaders, nearly 20 years ago. So, I did a quick search, and well, what do you know, here it is:

    Once upon a time (yes, it almost seemed like a bad fairy tale), I worked for what I call an imperial narcissist. This person had absolute power and authority. Once they show their true colours and vomit on you from on high, it’s an experience you will never forget, if you survive it. The final showdown with this person saw me move on and change career. The positive: when I ran into another one a few years later in the top role (lucky me), I knew exactly how to deal with it. Also, a key thing I promised myself is that if I ever reached such lofty heights, I would not do what these people do re leaving bodies and buckets of blood everywhere. I think I have managed to keep that side of the bargain with myself 😊

  5. I see so much about narcissists these days. I would feel uncomfortable calling someone a narcissist. However I think I have an ex who has many of the traits. I tend to use a much more colourful term for him!

    I wonder how a narcissist would feel being professionally diagnosed. Would they just feel angry at the criticism? Proud of a label setting them apart as special? Would they feel fear and shame? I know I would be crushed to be told I was narcissistic.

    After my ex I learned some of the signs and promised myself I would never be involved with another person like that again. It takes so much time to recover from the impact a person like this has on another.

  6. I suppose it’s that need to preserve their sense of “being special” that makes it almost impossible for a narcissist to change. To change, they would have to admit there is a problem with their behavior or worldview, and that would be a threat to their carefully constructed ego!

    1. Oh definitely! And unfortunately, as they never accept they might be in the wrong, never learn or change, they continue their vile quest for ‘being very special’ 🙁

  7. Really great post! I have met a few narcissists in my life so far and I have realised that the best way to deal with them is to cut them out of your life and not fall for it when they say they have changed.

    1. Yes, I agree. But it’s really ‘funny’ how each of my exes continued to hound me for months asking to get back together? They never want to let go…… and they know that we’re probably the best thing that ever happened to them 😉

  8. Interesting read and I agree that there is a sense of strong insecurity and really loneliness within narcissists. I think it also depends on the extent of the behavior, as I feel some can change given help and improved circumstances.

    1. Thank you for your comments Victoria. I tried so hard to be ‘with them’, on their side when their own family, siblings or friends despaired, always thinking I could ‘fix’ them somehow.

      Sadly, for me, it never worked 🙁

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