The term narcissist has entered the common vernacular and is casually thrown around everywhere from casual conversations to TikTok videos. But most people aren’t getting it right. Most of the time what they’re describing isn’t a narcissist, it’s just a jerk.
A narcissist is a very specific breed that inflicts a specific type of damage. A jerk is just a jerk. He treats you badly, you feel upset that someone you cared about could do that to you, you feel even more upset with yourself for allowing it, but in time you realize you deserve better and move on.
A narcissist will twist his way into the depths of your soul. The damage he or she inflicts can last years and even a lifetime unless you deal with it and really challenge it.
But what is it like to be in a relationship with one of these sinister creatures? Be it romantic, familial, friendship, or business. And how is it they can inflict such immense damage on their victims?
This is what it typically looks like:
1. They are exclusively motivated by the need to fuel their own ego.
Here is something very important to realize: a narcissist is solely motivated to feed their own ego. That’s it. Every person they interact with is a means to that specific end. If someone can’t give them the narcissistic supply they need, they will either ruin their life or have nothing to do with that person.
A narcissist can never genuinely care about you on a human level. They just don’t have the capability. You are there to serve them. You are not a person, you are a pawn.
Now this can be confusing because a narcissist is good at acting like they care about you, but you’ll notice if you look a little more closely, the only times they seem to “care” is when it’s of some benefit to them. They don’t do anything with a self-serving agenda.
2. They will gaslight you to the moon.
The term “gaslighting” has only really gained traction in the last few years and is another term you hear everywhere but it actually originated in the 1930s British play-turned-film called “Gas Light.” In it, a man mentally and emotionally abuses and manipulates his wife into thinking she’s going insane, even convincing her that she’s imagining the gas light in the house dimming each night when he was really the culprit. He drives her to the point where she can’t trust her own emotions and can’t even trust the things she’s seeing, hearing, and experiencing.
The reason narcissists can be tricky to truly identify and excise from your life is that they can lead you to a point of not even knowing what’s real anymore. They get you so twisted that you can no longer trust yourself in any capacity.
I dated a classic narcissist and caught him talking to multiple other girls. You would think I would walk away… but he convinced me that he wasn’t trying to hook up with any of them, he was just keeping the door open to potentially hook up someday if he and I didn’t work out. Ohhhhh now I see!
And he was so convincing that somehow I believed it. And I ended up feeling sorry for him that he was so “worried” about our relationship ending and how devastating that would be to him he needed to line up a few backup plans!
This is what a narcissist will do. They will distort reality in any which way to fit how they want things to be.
3. They give empty compliments.
Here is a classic narcissist move: they will say things like “I really respect you and value you but…” and then will say something that shows complete disrespect and devaluation of you. And again, this totally messes with your head and you don’t know what’s true or real anymore.
Any compliments they give you are really to serve their own agenda. Maybe to butter you up so they can regain control, maybe they’re filling your ego tank so you’ll fill theirs (and we already discussed that this is what they live for!). No matter the case, they are once again only furthering their own agenda.
4, They are always right, you are always wrong.
A narcissist will spin up all kinds of word salad to prove why they’re right and you’re wrong. Forget about logic and reason and all your proof, they will never ever admit to being at fault. They will pick up on one piece of what you said that was totally irrelevant to the conversation at large and then fixate on that to prove a point when that wasn’t even the point, to begin with!
They can not and will not accept responsibility for anything and you will exhaust yourself by trying to get them to see things as they are.
5. They want your pity.
This one is an interesting fact about narcissists because we think of them as haughty and having delusions of grandeur. And this is true. But they will also lean hard on the victim card in order to get you to feel sorry for them. Why? So that they can control you, of course.
They may tell you how terrible their childhood was… about their mental health issues… about the heartbreak that wrecked them… and being a compassionate person, you will feel bad for them. You may start making excuses for them. They can’t help it. It’s not his fault. And then he has you right where he wants you. He prays on your empathy to stay in your life and to gain the upper hand.
6. Their apologies are self-serving.
This is another unexpected truth about narcissists. While they don’t ever accept fault or responsibility, a narcissist will apologize… if he has to.
Narcissists understand how relationships work. They know people have feelings and boundaries. The problem is they will never be able to truly empathize with someone else’s pain. If a narcissist apologizes, it’s not to ease your suffering, it’s because he wants relief from whatever the conflict is because it feels unpleasant to him. It’s not about accepting responsibility, it’s about getting things back on track.
A narcissist may also apologize in order to restore his power over you, if he fears abandonment, or if he was caught red handed and can’t word salad his way out of it.
He may say sorry, but don’t be fooled, he will never actually be sorry.