They love you but they love themselves more. This does seem healthy. But when self-love and glorification go to a level where it gets suffocating, it can be a red flag. Their feed being filled with pictures of only themselves, the dating profile reading almost like an advertisement about their strengths. Their talks being about everything right from what they do to why they are successful to what they think of the rest of the world, narcissists can be quite self-absorbed. In an age where prioritising oneself is quite common, how do you know when you’re dealing with a narcissist, or more importantly when you are one yourself? We speak to Delcy Dedhiya, a psychologist who is well-versed with the nuances of why narcissists are the way they are.
Is a narcissist brain wired differently?
Delcy says that in spite of the behavioural traits exhibited by such kinds of people, it also points to a deeper physiological change in the grey matter of the brain. “The degree to which a person is capable of exhibiting empathy is tied to the volume of this. Some researchers suggest that narcissists have less grey matter in a part of the cerebral cortex called the left anterior insula which is involved with cognitive functioning and the regulation of emotion.” This part is associated with compassion and empathy and this is why narcissists are the way they really are.
It is one thing to identify narcissists on social media or in the workplace but a completely different thing to date one.
How do you know you are dating a narcissist?
It can often go unnoticed when the person you are in a relationship with is a narcissist. You go make excuses thinking maybe they are going through an episode of self-love, or maybe it is just today that they need it to be about them, and so on and so forth. Until you’re well into the relationship and the red flags are now more evident than ever before. Delcy says the key is to understand your role in a relationship with a narcissist. Once you do this, you can then start to challenge yourself to change your half of the dynamic. This will, in turn, challenge your partner to change their style of relating. “Start by recognising the fragility of your partner’s self-esteem and have compassion for the fact that his or her inflated sense of self, superiority and grandiosity is a cover-up for the flip side of self-hate and feelings of inadequacy.”
She also advises developing your own self-confidence and self-worth by learning to practice self-compassion. “Don’t be a victim. In all encounters, act equal, and treat your partner as an equal.”
The following tips are what might help:
- Educate yourself about the issue and have realistic expectations
- Create boundaries and be firm about them
- Stay calm and pick your battles wisely
- Seek counselling
- Create a support group
- Don’t confront them publicly and watch your wording when you do so
- Don’t expect them to see your point of view. Speak up for yourself
“Some people with a narcissistic personality can also be verbally or emotionally abusive. It is important that you identify those signs and know that it is time to move on for your own sanity. Some signs to look out for are name-calling, insulting publicly, yelling or threatening, constant accusations and jealousy.” — Delcy Dedhiya
Can narcissists change if not for professional therapy?
The first step in dealing with someone who has a narcissistic personality is simply accepting that this is who they are — there’s not much you can do to change that. Delcy points out that while narcissists may seem like they’re super self-confident, in reality such people actually lack self-esteem. “For a narcissist to maintain equations with people, they have to overcome their self-centred and negative traits and focus on being empathetic, respecting others, caring about others’ well-being. They also need to work towards building real self-esteem and practising focusing on things other than themselves.”
How to go about dealing with a narcissistic friend?
When there’s a narcissistic personality around you, this psychologist says, attention seems to gravitate their way - negative or positive attention. They work hard to keep themselves in the spotlight. “You might also find yourself buying into this tactic, pushing aside your own needs to keep them satisfied. Be cautious and don’t allow them to infiltrate your sense of self or define your world. Regularly remind yourself of your strengths, desires, and goals.”
Their little sense of personal space may mean that they cross boundaries and thus you need to be abundantly clear about what you will not tolerate. If you stand up to someone with a narcissistic personality, you can expect them to respond.
“They may also try to manipulate you into feeling guilty or believing that you’re the one being unreasonable and controlling. They might make a play for sympathy. But be prepared to stand your ground. If you take a step backward, they won’t take you seriously next time.” — Delcy Dedhiya
Don’t fall for the charming facade
Narcissistic personalities are pretty good at turning on the charm and you might find yourself drawn to their grand ideas and promises. This can also make them particularly popular in work settings. But, a person with a narcissistic personality disorder isn’t likely to admit a mistake or take responsibility for an error. “A narcissist may seek admiration, even if it hurts others. They may take credit for other people’s work, undermine co-workers, or change their behaviour to get approval from people in authority,” says Delcy.
“People with narcissistic personalities are good at making promises. Once they get what they want, the motivation is gone. One strategy to get your work done from a narcissistic person is to ask for what you want and stand your ground. Insist that you’ll only fulfil their requests after they’ve fulfilled yours.”
Are you dealing with a narcissist or identify with the traits above? It is best to reach out for professional help.