It seems like anyone is a narcissist these days.
Narcissism is a buzzword, narcissists have been branded as powerful people, and there are books and countless pieces of content focused on “how to deal with a narcissist.”
But branding narcissism and narcissists as “powerful” is only putting fuel on the narcissistic fire. It’s time we take back control of this narrative.
In this article you’ll learn what narcissism is, how we are getting it wrong, and a 2-step process of reclaiming your power a.k.a. “how to deal with a narcissist”.
What is a Narcissist?
We’re taught narcissists are people who have a superior sense of self, but narcissists are actually people who have a low sense of self-worth.
Narcissists desperately try to fill their lack of self-worth by controlling others, making others seem “less than”, and finding their value in external validation and admiration.
Some people have more narcissistic tendencies than others. Evidence is showing the number of people with slight narcissistic tendencies is rapidly rising (source), but narcissistic personality disorder is rare and affects less than 200,000 people per year (source)
Note: Narcissists are not likely to go to therapy, so many may go undiagnosed.
How We got Narcissism Wrong
If you meet someone who was desperate, fragile, vulnerable, had low self-esteem, and couldn’t handle even a minor criticism, would you think they were powerful? Would you click on an article and read, “How to Deal With Someone Who Is Fragile and Has Low Self-Esteem?”
No, you wouldn’t.
In fact, when I google “how to deal with someone with low self-esteem,” the search results include “how to help someone with low self-esteem.”
But when I google “how to deal with a narcissist,” the results include hundreds or articles with that title and articles like “How to Cope with a Narcissist,” and “How to Handle a Narcissist.”
To “help” someone suggests we are on the same level as them or possibly further along, and we want to give them a hand.
To “deal”, “cope” or “handle” suggests we need to take measures or attempt to address an arduous task. It puts the narcissist on a higher level and in a position of power. It encourages you to give your power away.
This only inflates the narcissist’s already artificially inflated ego. It’s contributing to the problem—no wonder narcissists are growing in numbers, they have a comfortable pot to grow in.
(Sidebar: I’m sorry you were so misguided. Part of this is forgiving ourselves for not knowing any better.)
How We Fix It
Accurately Define Narcissism
Narcissists are people who lack self-worth at a desperate level. So desperate they will try to manipulate others in an attempt to feel powerful—yeesh. They continually chase external validation because they do not have the courage or strength (or common sense) to work on themselves.
They are fragile and cannot handle even a slight criticism.
When we accurately define narcissism, we take power away from the narcissist and reserve it for ourselves and people who will add value to our lives.
Focus on Yourself—not the Narcissist
The best way to deal with a narcissist is to focus on yourself. Because when you build your confidence and your empowerment, you are less likely to be manipulated and put up with the BS of a narcissist.
Below is a list with links to podcast episodes and articles that will help you build your confidence and get empowered.
When you approach building your confidence, don’t give away your power and think you are doing it for the narcissist. Approach it with the mind frame that you are doing it for who is actually important—you!
Because building these skills will help you in every are of your life, not just when you’re dealing with desperate people who have low self-worth.
People with high EQ get paid more—cha ching.
- Remind yourself you can reject the thoughts of others
- Create and uphold boundaries
- Build Emotional Intelligence
- Have conversational goals
- Focus on self-compassion
- Build confidence
How I Used These Steps
I lived with an ex, that in retrospect, had narcissistic and manipulative tendencies. I did not define him as being powerful, and saw his tantrums and manipulation tactics at face value.
One day I approached him and brough up a situation where he did not respect my boundaries. I used calming words and baby talk because I was well aware of his fragile ego.
He then tried to avoid accountability and create confusion by turning the focus on me—a tactic used by narcissists because any conversation about their negative actions is perceived as a threat.
I brought up that I was upset because of X. He responded, “last week you did Y.”
Realizing he was trying to turn things around, and knowing I deserved to be respected and my boundaries were reasonable, I kept my focus on X.
Acknowledging his concern, I assured him we could focus on Y after we work through X. I also advised him not to wait a week before bringing something up and used my brining up X in a timely fashion as an example.
He continued to ignore me while I tried to talk about X. I interpreted that as him having severe communication and emotional issues.
He was a kind person with some great qualities, but his narcissistic tendencies were too much for me. We broke up shortly thereafter.
Related podcast episode: #1 Way to Deal With a Narcissist—73
Narcissists Ain’t Shit
The way narcissists are portrayed, they can seem scary and like it will be almost impossible to defeat them. But the object isn’t to defeat them, it is to establish your confidence and empowerment, your boundaries and your worth.
The skills you build will positively impact every area of your life. And you’ll focus your energy on finding people who add value to your life instead of trying to control it.
So focus on building your confidence and empowerment for you! When you do, the narcissist will notice they can no longer get away with their tactics.
And remember, when we accurately define narcissism and don’t give narcissists power, narcissists will no longer get the external validation they seek (i.e. we will no longer put up with their shit) and they will be forced to work on themselves.
The narcissistic “epidemic” ends when you are empowered.
Word to the Wise
Because narcissists are so desperate for control they spend a lot of time using and perfecting their manipulation tactics. They may put up a fight and any change you make to build your confidence and empowerment will probably be criticized or mocked.
This is because they feel threatened. When you build your self-esteem they will have to work harder to try and put you down. So welcome that criticism with open arms and continue to build your power and do what feels good for you.
Remind yourself that while the narcissist may put up a fight, like a child who wants a cookie throws a tantrum, you can and you will work through.
You are supported and there are kind people out there who want you to be empowered and confident. Kind people do find kind people.
The narcissist may try to spin it and make it seem like they are leaving because you are the one who is difficult. Let them leave. Bye Felicia.