“She just doesn’t get it! It’s amazing how such a smart and talented young woman can be so dense.”
Mike was grumbling about his daughter Crystal. She told me she was in “desperate need” of a state-of-the-art computer only 6 months after she “needed” a “loan” because the lease on her Lexus had expired. Crystal wasn’t even apologetic when she asked me to foot the bill. She just rattled off a bunch of reasons about why she couldn’t pay for them and why I should.”
Mike continued. “When Crystal was a teen, I used to think she’d outgrow this pattern. But she’s 27 years old now and I don’t see anything changing. She wants what she wants and doesn’t care how her wants affect me or her mother.”
When I suggested to Mike that his daughter might be a “narcissist,” he immediately defended her. “It’s not that she doesn’t care about us,” he retorted. “She’s often very loving. She’s just low on self-esteem and needs material things to make her feel good about herself.”
It’s often hard to accept that someone you care for has a narcissistic personality, especially when she’s talented, charming, smart and yes, even caring at times. Yet, if you’re bewildered by your loved one’s expectations and repeatedly feel taken advantage of, don’t let wishful thinking stand in the way of acknowledging what is.
Narcissism is on the rise today, reinforced by our culture that proclaims “you deserve the best” and “you’re worth it” without making any connection between being worth it and being able to afford it. If there’s a narcissist in your life, here are some facts you should know about this personality type.
- Narcissists are highly focused on their own needs, giving little attention to how their needs impact others.
- Narcissists feel empty on the inside; hence they have an insatiable need for praise from the outside.
- Narcissists display little empathy for others, shrugging off another’s perspective with a quick quip.
- Narcissists are overly concerned with external appearances and status symbols that bolster their ego.
- Narcissists are impulsive and impatient, unable to wait for what they want.
- Narcissists’ expectations may be viewed as grandiose by others but they feel naturally entitled to them.
- Narcissists seek out and maintain relationships that feed their ego. They can easily drop a long-term relationship if disappointed and just as easily pick it up again when it suits their needs.
- Narcissists can, at times, be generous with others but this generosity has to feed their ego and enlarge their sense of importance.
Narcissistic personalities run the gamut from mild to severe. No matter how mild the syndrome is, however, you still need to be on guard against being exploited. Here are some strategies that will help you through the difficult times:
Create concrete, specific boundaries to protect your time, money and belongings. The narcissist will invade these boundaries unless you clearly articulate what is okay with you and what is not okay.
Create consequences for disrespecting boundaries. If the narcissist tests your limits, be sure to enforce the consequences you have previously discussed. Don’t let yourself be talked into giving her one more chance.
Stay the course. Refuse to be blackmailed by threats, name calling, temper tantrums. Do not continue to rescue him from the consequences of his irresponsible behavior.
When she tells you “You’re the greatest,” take it with a grain of salt. Though today you may be the object of her affection, tomorrow you’ll be the cause of her woes.
If you believe he’s acting inappropriately or his expectations are out of line, say so. Clarify what you perceive to be inappropriate behavior.
Don’t let a monologue about the minutiae of the narcissist’s life go on forever. Segue into other topics or end the conversation. This also applies to phone, text and e-mail correspondence.
Don’t “loan” or give him money unless you’re truly okay with it. If you do decide to offer a loan, make sure you’re clear about when and how he will pay you back.
Know what you are okay with. Don’t be blackmailed into doing what you don’t want to do by her acting out behavior (i.e. tantrums, name calling, pouting).
Avoid getting sucked into a narcissist’s way of thinking, for once you’re sucked in, you’ll find yourself in a never ending struggle to just keep your head above water.
“Selfish persons are incapable of loving others
but they are not capable of loving themselves either.”
Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and success coach in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior.