We often hear the term “narcissist,” but in reality, what does that mean? Does it merely describe someone who likes to be the center of attention, or likes the way he or she looks? Or is there more to it?
The psychiatric literature defines narcissists as possessing specific traits, such as having a sense of entitlement or requiring excessive admiration. But what are narcissistic individuals really like on a day-to-day basis?
Anyone who has lived with or worked for a narcissist will tell you: Narcissists view themselves entirely differently — i.e., preferentially — compared to others, making those around them less valued. And there’s the rub: Everything must be about the narcissist. We don’t mind that a 2-year-old needs constant attention. That’s appropriate for the developmental stage of a 2-year-old. But we do mind when a 40-year–old needs that level of appreciation — and when achieving it comes at our expense.
Narcissists victimize those around them just by just being who they are, and they won’t change. That statement may seem extreme until you listen to the stories of those who have been victimized by a narcissist. Then you realize just how toxic relationships with these individuals can be.
Work for a narcissistic boss, and he or she can make you physically or psychologically ill. Live with one, and it could be worse. In researching my book, Dangerous Personalities, I talked to scores of individuals who have been victimized by the narcissistic personality. Listening to story after story of stolen childhoods, destructive marriages, and burdensome relationships, I heard the same refrain: Narcissists see themselves as being so special that no one else matters. No one. Over time, the behavior resulting from their defining pathological traits will cast a wide debris field of suffering.
I have learned from the victim’s lessons that no medical book can teach, and they are lessons for all of us.
How Narcissists See Themselves
1. I love myself, and I know you do, too. In fact, everyone does. I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t.
2. I have no need to apologize. You, however, must understand, accept, and tolerate me no matter what I do or say.
3. I have few equals in this world, and so far, I have yet to meet one. I am the best _______ (manager, businessman, lover, student, etc.).
4. Most people don’t measure up. Without me to lead, others would flounder.
5. I appreciate that there are rules and obligations, but those apply mostly to you because I don’t have the time or the inclination to abide by them. Besides, rules are for the average person, and I am far above average.
6. I hope you appreciate all that I am and everything that I have achieved for you — because I am wonderful and faultless.
7. I do wish we could be equals, but we are not and never will be. I will remind you with an unapologetic frequency that I am the smartest person in the room and how well I did in school, in business, as a Parent, etc. — and you must be grateful.
8. I may seem arrogant and haughty, and that’s OK with me; I just don’t want to be seen as being like you.
9. I expect you to be loyal to me at all times, no matter what I do. However, don’t expect me to be loyal to you in any way.
10. I will criticize you and expect you to accept it, but if you criticize me, especially in public, I will come at you with rage. One more thing: I will never forget or forgive, and I will pay you back one way or another — I am a “wound collector.”
11. I expect you to be interested in what I have achieved and what I have to say. I, on the other hand, am not at all interested in you or what you have achieved, so don’t expect much curiosity or interest from me about your life. I just don’t care.
12. I am not manipulative; I just like to have things done my way, no matter how much it inconveniences others, or how it makes them feel. I don’t care how others feel — feelings are for the weak.
13. I expect gratitude at all times, for even the smallest things I do. As for you, I expect you to do as I ask.