The first time I heard the word narcissist I was learning Greek mythology as a child. In the story, the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope was named Narcissus and was known for his good looks. A sage told his mother that he would live a long life if he never recognized himself. However, young Narcissus drew the wrath of the gods for rejecting the attention of a suitor. (Depending on the story the affection was from either the nymph, Echo or the young man, Ameinias.) The gods punished him by allowing him to fall in love with his own reflection in the waters of the spring. He pined away and died. Some accounts say he killed himself. The flower that bears his name sprang up from where he died.
What a story! I used to really love Greek mythology as a child. As an adult, I came to understand the word “narcissist” to describe people who were insufferably self-absorbed. It’s only in the past year, that I’ve grown to understand Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) as an actual condition. While it’s not considered a clinical mental illness and cannot be cured with medication, it is a deficiency in personal development and character. Personal development is so important to me I’ve built a business around it. From where I sit, when you stop growing you die. Life is about evolution. So, what stumps the narcissists? I checked in with my favorite narcissist-sleuth, Dr. Ramani. Because the word “narcissist” is a bit of a hot-button term and often misunderstood, I’m sharing her tips to identify the traits of these very troubling people in our lives. Let’s all learn to navigate these difficult personalities with a bit more understanding.
Dr. Ramani coined the acronym C.R.A.V.E.D. To learn directly from Dr. Ramani, you can access her video on her YouTube channel. Here’s the breakdown:
- Conflict-Driven – Narcissistic personalities enjoy fighting even for small issues or lost causes. Whether the server forgot the ketchup, the weather is bad or they’re stuck in traffic, all conflict is worthy of focus, much like a sport.
- Rigid – While healthy personalities develop resilience and flexibility, narcissistic personality styles have difficulty with change and adaptation and admission of wrong-doing. These are often the people who find it impossible to apologize.
- Antagonistic – Narcissists employ lies, deceit, manipulation, exploitation, arrogance and gaslighting as par for the course. While they are generally toxic and hostile, they may also be charismatic on the surface and begin new relationships with “love bombing” or repeated praise and grand gestures of affection.
- Vulnerable, Vindictive and Victimized – Under it all, narcissists are deeply insecure and have low self-esteem. They often feel they are being treated unfairly and see themselves as victims. In response, they want to harm those they believe have mistreated them.
- Entitled – Despite or perhaps because of underlying insecurities, narcissists adopt an attitude of special privilege and believe rules don’t apply to them. When they don’t receive VIP treatment they may lash out in anger or employ manipulative and deceitful tactics to get what they want.
- Dysregulated – This is a new entry into my vocabulary. Dysregulation refers to an inability to keep emotional responses within a normal range of reactions. Sadness, anger, irritability, and frustration may come with explosive fits and uncontrollable tears.
Any of these traits may show up in a variety of different personality types. However, if many of these ring true for you, you may be dealing with someone with narcissistic traits and perhaps even NPD.
I visited a therapist when I was in my late twenties who told me, “You’re swimming with sharks and you don’t even know it.” She was right. I’m an optimistic, glass-half-full girl. I love people and I easily see the best in them. Over the years as I’ve continued to grow and learn, I’ve realized that while some people move through life with a mindset of kindness and evolution, some get stuck in fear, trauma and insecurities. That stuckness can lead to personality disorders. In Buddhism, we call this a deluded mind. When delusions are allowed to grow unchecked, not only is it unhealthy for you, but it is also unhealthy for everyone around you. There are many types of delusions. Anger, jealousy, hatred, ignorance and attachment are some of the most common. They are all based on a misperception that is then projected as if it were true. Narcissism gives plenty of examples to choose from.
I encourage you to notice unhealthy personalities in your orbit so that you can understand with a heart of compassion while also protecting yourself from unnecessary harm. By building this heightened awareness, you will have additional motivation to work through your own fears and insecurities so that you can continue to grow into the beautiful flower you are so carefully designed to be. In this world, nothing stays still. You are either growing or you are dying. Self-awareness requires some work, but it is worth every moment spent. It is through this that you will find the profound gifts of authenticity and self-love.
I wish you passion, purpose and the realization of your fullest potential!
P.S. The photo is of a narcissus. If you recognize the plant, it’s because it goes by many names including daffodil and jonquil. If you’d like to watch Dr. Ramani’s video on this topic, you can find it HERE. If you want to grow in your journey and improve your relationships, click the button and let’s chat!