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I’m a Narcissist - now what?

Welcome to my series on exploring and understanding narcissism. I will be redefining what narcissism is and developing actions steps to resolving some of the simpler narcissistic reflexes we may have. I will also touch on how those around you can support this journey should you decide to share this openly at some point.

Well dress narcissistic man

Before we get into the nitty gritty details it behooves us to set the framework in which we will be operating here. According to Psychology Today, narcissistic traits occur on a spectrum, and it's healthy for people to have a small dose of narcissism—it provides confidence to forge relationships, explore life, and take risks. Narcissism only becomes a disorder when it impairs a person's daily life, through their relationships, sense of self, occupation, or legal standing.

Please seek help if you or someone you love believes narcissism impairs daily living. This is not something you can simple work hard and fix. On one end of the spectrum it is healthy and on the other end of the spectrum it is considered a disorder.

For those of us who are operating somewhere between healthy and perhaps getting in the way of flourishing, I would suggest starting here to normalize thinking and researching the traits or reflexes we operate with and to help gain a different perspective.

I Blame Christian Bale

We as a society are pretty good at labelling people and putting them into groups so we can either celebrate them or judge them. This is true of people we have labelled narcissists. We roll our eyes as we growl out the label and ultimately shame them for not seeing just how damaging this way of being in the world is. We even get that image in our head. It’s always a man and for many it’s Patrick Bateman from the cult classic movie American Psycho.

As a PSA, we are going to put an end to this comparison. Patrick Bateman was a serial killer first and does not in any way shape or form constitute a stereotypical person with narcissistic behaviours. He displayed very stereotypical traits of a serial killer. Our visual connection to narcissist behaviour and this character says so very much about Christian Bales’ astounding ability to fully embody the character and to cultivate a persona that we can all relate to in the real world.

So we are going to do our best to remove that image from our head and perhaps consider that narcissistic traits are displayed by both men and women. Yes, women too. In fact, according to studies approximately 6% of the population has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Research over the years has shown that it is also more prevalent in men than in women — 7.7% vs 4.8%.

There are different narcissistic traits between women and men and there are also different types of narcissism. You can consider it a spectrum with variants and not as simple as we may think. In my estimation the research on this is quite profound and rabbit hole inducing.

We will get into this in our next post. I first want to set the table of what we are seeing culturally so that you can cultivate curiosity around narcissism, instead of focusing on the end goal.

Considering that NPD is part of the DM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses), angrily calling someone a narcissist is actually quite damaging. It’s like shouting out “how can you be depressed look how great your life is!” to someone who displays depressive traits. Often those who are responding to a narcissistic behaviour see this as the only way to shake free from the consequences of NPD. The unfortunate part is that the defensiveness often feed the narcissism and validates it’s existence. More on that later.

So let’s find some ground before we get more caught up in that flywheel.

Narcissism does define who you are.

This is big and you will see why as we travel deeper inside this topic but at some point throughout your life, people liked being around you. You may have a family or close friends. You may have a job that you excel in and you have opinions that people often want to hear. Alternatively, you could be an underachiever who sets low expectations for themselves because you believe you are owed something or carry a sense of entitlement.

Either way, you are a whole person who has narcissistic traits. This is a much different place to start from that narcissism being everything that you are. It doesn’t have to be all encompassing and you are most certainly able to be multiple things all at the same time.

Narcissistic female

Now, before you go down the defensive path to cover your insecurities, shame inside these truths. Give yourself permission to understand that there are multiple ways that you show up in this world. Spend some time thinking about those ways and understanding more about the multiplicity of who you are.

Realizing that you may exhibit narcissistic traits can be a significant first step towards self-awareness and personal growth. It's important to remember that change is possible and that this is a practice. There is no check list that can suddenly resolve those specific traits you exhibit.

Where does Narcissism show up?

Often we have particular environments where are narcissistic traits show up for us or perhaps it is particular situations across all environments. Do you seek admiration? Are you competitive or are you a Martyr who needs to be at the forefront of a cause? Do you believe that you are simply superior to most people and lack empathy?

Should your narcissistic traits lead to aggression or paranoia - please seek help from a licensed therapist. This is considered the type of Narcissism that urgently requires help and support.

In fact, I highly recommend outside support from a therapist should Narcissism be invasive for you. This is not one of those things that can be solved alone. It requires someone who can hold onto who you are today and support the complex dive into understanding the root causes of your particular version of narcissistic manifestation.

Being Aware of your Boundaries

Creating boundaries has been a priority for many people as we begin to normalize our emotional wellness. However, being aware of how we cultivate boundaries is extremely important when we are exploring our narcissistic traits and tendencies. This is by far the best description of boundaries I have seen.

My recommendation is to explore this with intentionality and curiosity as a first step. Reflection before or after a particular tenuous interaction is helpful:

  • What type of Boundary did I just create?

  • How could I have made this boundary a healthy one?

  • Did the other party create a boundary that I had a bad reaction too?

  • Is there a way I can create a healthier way of interacting with this person?

Remember this is a practice that we could continue on for the remainder of days. Awareness and curiosity are key to cultivate the desire to change. It means being vulnerable too and perhaps that is often the hardest part of this whole experience. So try this as an internal practice first if being vulnerable with others is not your forte quite yet.

Practice Going Slow

In a world that goes at the speed of light and often feels like it can swallow you up, going slow is a radical act. It is probably one of the most important things that you can do for yourself and for those around you. It means not answering all the questions as quickly as you can. It means walking slower, eating slower. It means lingering after a meeting or meal, it means being ok with stopping at a yellow light. It means lying in bed for a check in moment before you start the day. It means keeping your phone for an additional year before getting new one, It means not posting your luxe life on twitter but sitting inside gratitude for beat or two more than usual.

This is proactively creating space for thinking, feeling, connecting, and supporting the way you want to be in the world rather than reacting to the world.

The desire to flourish is deeply required in order to take this journey. It often means, diving into your childhood wounds and examining their affects on your ability to maneuver through your emotional truths and the consequences of those truths. Go slow and be patient with yourself.


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