Narcissists can be beguiling and charismatic. In fact, one study showed that their likable veneer was only penetrable after seven meetings. But you don’t want to fall in love with one. Over time you can end up feeling ignored, uncared about, and unimportant.
Typically, a narcissist’s criticism, demands, and emotional unavailability increase, while your confidence and self-esteem decrease. You’ll try harder, but despite pleas and efforts, the narcissist appears to lack consideration for your feelings and needs.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) occurs more in men than women. As described in “Do You Love a Narcissist?” someone with NPD is grandiose (sometimes only in fantasy), lacks empathy, and seeks admiration from others, as indicated by five of these summarized characteristics:
1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance and exaggerates achievements and talents
2. Dreams of unlimited power, success, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
3. Requires excessive admiration
4. Believes he or she is special and unique, and can only be understood by, or should associate with other special or of high-status people (or institutions)
5. Lacks empathy for the feelings and needs of others
6. Unreasonably expects special, favorable treatment or compliance from others
7. Exploits and takes advantage of others to achieve personal ends
8. Envies others or believes they’re envious of him or her
9. Has “an attitude” of arrogance or acts that way
How a Narcissist Behaves
Basically, what this looks and feels like is someone who puts him or herself above all others. However, you might not notice it at first.
1) Seeking Admiration
Narcissists often like to talk about themselves and your job is to be a good audience. They may never ask about you, and if you offer something about yourself, the conversation quickly returns to them. You might start to feel invisible, bored, annoyed, or drained. On the other hand, many narcissists are charming, beautiful, talented, or successful. So, you may be entranced by their good looks, seduction, or fabulous stories. Beware that some narcissists who excel at seduction may act very interested in you, but that wanes over time. Flattery is also a means to allure you.
2) Feeling Grandiose and Special
Not only do they want to be the center of attention, they brag about their accomplishments, trying to impress you. When you first meet, you may not know the extent of their exaggeration, but it’s likely the case. If they haven’t yet achieved their goals, they may brag about how the will, or how they should have more recognition or success than they do. They do this because they need constant validation, appreciation, and recognition.
Because they like to associate with high status, they may name-drop celebrities or public figures then know. Similarly, they may drive an expensive car and wear designer clothes, brag about their school, and want to go to the best restaurants. This may dazzle you, just like their charm, but it’s really a symptom of their need for an attractive facade to hide the emptiness underneath. A simple, intimate restaurant you prefer won’t meet their standards or provide them the public visibility they seek.
3) Lacking Empathy
Although some people who aren’t narcissists lack empathy, this trait is a crucial and determining symptom when combined with a sense of entitlement and exploitation. Notice their expression when describing sad stories or reaction to yours. Do they lack empathy for the hardships of others and in particular your own needs? I once told a narcissist I wouldn’t be able to travel to meet him due to a back injury. I was shocked by his insensitive reply: “You wouldn’t let a little back pain keep you.”
Simple examples are rudeness, not listening, walking ahead of you, ordering what you should eat, ignoring your boundaries, taking calls when you’re talking to them. Admittedly, these are minor things any one of them alone may not be significant, but they add up to paint a picture of someone who doesn’t care about you, and will behave that way on bigger issues. They’re not comfortable with vulnerability – theirs or others, and are emotionally unavailable. In time, you’ll notice they keep you at a distance because they’re afraid if you get too close, you won’t like what you see.