You're So Vain: How To Spot An Actual Narcissist

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Marie Claire

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is so much more than being selfie-obsessed — though that is an indicator.

The word narcissism often gets thrown around to describe anyone who is vain and selfie-obsessed. But actual narcissists have a deep-rooted personality disorder and only make up 6.2 percent of the population.

Whether it's your egomaniac of a boss who exaggerates all of his accomplishments or your cheating significant other who gets validation from unaware women on Tinder, chances are you've encountered a narcissist before.

What are the main signs of narcissism? If you see any of these red flags, you're most likely dealing with a full-blown narcissist:

THEY MAKE GREAT FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Narcissists can come across as very charismatic and personable, but it is all a superficial front. They want to charm you and get what they want from you. Once they do and you're no longer of use to them, they will drop the act and start showing you their true colors.

THEY LIKE TO LEAD

But that doesn't make them good at it. Narcissists feel a deep desire to leave behind a legacy. They love to be in charge in work settings because it makes them feel important. They feel entitled to leadership roles and often start their own companies, but they usually make terrible managers. They micromanage, never accept responsibility for anything that goes wrong, and end up driving their employees and business partners away.

THEY TALK ABOUT THEMSELVES A LOT

It doesn't matter if you start a conversation about your pet rabbit needing to go to the vet — they will somehow manage to turn the conversation back to them and their needs. They love to brag, inflate their accomplishments to appear better than they actually are, and need to be admired above all else. The only times a narcissist will talk about other people are A. to name-drop the famous and important people they know or B. to complain about others and shift blame onto them to make themselves feel better.

THEY LIKE BEING THE CENTER OF ATTENTION

Narcissists tend to make vain career choices because they love the attention. They never shy away from the spotlight, often becoming actors, models, hosts, politicians, and CEOs. They tend to have a lot of Facebook friends and social media followers — both real and fake ones they buy — in order to have constant, albeit superficial, validation. They care more about appearing important than anything else, partly to convince themselves of their own importance.

THEY MISREPRESENT THEIR REAL LIVES

Narcissists are so concerned with having a great public image, but it usually doesn't reflect what their not-so-glamorous life is like behind closed doors. Glancing at their social media, you may think they drive a nice car, have expensive clothes, and live in a huge house. But when they aren't putting their best foot forward to the public, they're really driving around a clunker, wearing 10-year-old sweatpants, and living at their parents' house.

THEY LIE, STEAL, AND CHEAT

It's very common for narcissists to feel above the law and common social mores. They feel no shame in being immoral to get their way: mooching off of friends and family, twisting the truth to make business deals, returning items to stores after using them, or cheating on their significant other are all prime examples.

THEY USE PEOPLE FOR THEIR OWN GAIN

Narcissists are interpersonally exploitative. Their friendships, romantic relationships, and business partnerships serve one purpose and one purpose only: to fulfill the narcissist's needs. Whether these needs are financial, emotional, or sexual, the narcissist "collects" people in order to feel validated, praised, loved, and adored. They tend to be abandoned by one group of friends, acquaintances, and coworkers, forcing them to latch onto a new group of unsuspecting people in short periods of time. Narcissists are incapable of feeling legitimate empathy for other human beings, making it difficult for them to maintain healthy, long-term friendships and relationships.

THEY GASLIGHT OTHERS

Narcissists are incapable of accepting blame or responsibility for mistakes and wrongdoings. They always shift the blame on others, and often practice emotional gaslighting where they try to make the other person feel bad or guilty for something the narcissist actually did or said. They will turn things around on you and tell you that you misunderstood them, and blame you for not listening more carefully. This makes you doubt your conversations when you are arguing and makes you seem like the crazy one. This is a coping mechanism for them. If you start unmasking a narcissist and calling them out, they tend to lash out before giving insincere apologies. This cycle of anger and defensiveness followed by apology and love-bombing will continue because the narcissist never actually learns, often resembling a Jekyll-Hyde personality split.

THEY ARE OBLIVIOUS TO THEIR DESTRUCTIVE PERSONALITY

Narcissists are clueless to how unhealthy and disordered they actually are — all of the above traits actually prevent the narcissist from seeing themselves objectively. Their over-inflated egos and intolerance for criticism makes it extremely difficult for narcissists to ever admit they have a disorder, seek therapy, or ever change. Simply put, a narcissist is incapable of reflecting to themselves, "I know I’m important, my life is great, and my career is amazing, but why does everybody keep leaving me?"


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