A narcissist is characterized by a pronounced narcissism and a strong desire to be admired by others. For this reason, a narcissist constantly stages his grandiosity and hides his weaknesses and shortcomings behind a flawless façade. For him, the only thing that matters is his own advantage and the cultivation of his personal image. In interpersonal relationships, this self-centeredness and the selfishness associated with it lead to numerous conflicts.
The narcissist is fixated on positive feedback from his environment, on the attention and praise of others, on compliments and appreciation from his fellow men – he is almost dependent on it. Without confirmation from his immediate environment, he cannot recognize his value as a person. Due to his extremely unstable self-esteem, he constantly needs the recognition of others in order to feel valuable, attractive and lovable.
Therefore, a narcissist does everything in every conceivable situation for one single motive: he wants to receive admiration – for himself, his achievements, and his unique talents. To achieve this, he inflates himself and makes himself bigger than he really is. He feigns unique talents and genius to his fellow men. He is deeply convinced of himself, feels superior to others in every respect, and never lets any doubt arise about his person. The resulting self-confidence can have an impressive effect on others.
Narcissism is more than just self-infatuation
But to the immeasurable selfishness are added further characteristics that are typical for a narcissist:
Egocentricity: The narcissist always wants to be the center of attention, everything must always revolve around his needs, ideas, and interests. The opinions, wishes, and worries of others have no meaning for him – unless he can be the center of attention and receive admiration through attention. The others are only there to admire him. He wants to be the yardstick by which everyone orients themselves and has the unlimited power to determine everything.
Sensitivity: A narcissist cannot bear criticism. While he must constantly correct, instruct, and evaluate others, he cannot bear even the most indirect allusions and the slightest doubts about his attitude or person. Every form of criticism is like a punch in the face for him and usually causes him to resist strongly. Anyone who dares to criticize the narcissist is considered an enemy from that moment on.
Lack of empathy: A narcissist does not have the ability to empathize with others – at best, he can pretend to do so outwardly and fool others into understanding and sympathy. In reality, however, he or she cannot get into another person’s skin. The suffering of others is not comprehensible to him, because he is unable to sympathize or suffer.
Degradation: A narcissist must humiliate others to feel even greater and more unique. On the one hand, by devaluation he can keep his fellow men at a distance so that they cannot look behind his façade, on the other hand, he can rise above their pain and perceive himself as superior.
Success orientation: The narcissist loves competition: he wants to stand out from other people and be considered special. In competition, he can prove how great he is and how superior he is to others. In order to hold his own in competition, he is willing to go to tremendous lengths and work continuously on his performance. He strives exclusively for top performance – second class or average results lead to disappointment and frustration.
Exclusivity: The narcissist always expects special treatment. Because he is convinced that he is a very special person with extraordinary abilities and talents, he always expects to receive exclusive treatment and to enjoy privileges over others. If he is not treated in accordance with his uniqueness or is just treated normally like everyone else, the narcissist will complain and feel misjudged in his grandiosity.
The narcissist wants to dominate in a relationship
The described characteristics of a narcissist considerably impair the establishment of a harmonious relationship. The narcissist wants to dominate in the relationship in order to feel secure and have his needs fully satisfied. His partner has only the function of admiring and supporting him, always giving him a priority and not expressing any criticism or doubts about his person. In a narcissistic relationship, therefore, real closeness, openness, and trust cannot develop because the narcissist is too busy maintaining and protecting his great facade.
Because of his exaggerated expectations and strong selfishness, a narcissist forces his partner to pay more attention to him than to himself. His needs and interests are always the center of attention, everything must always revolve around him, he must always be proved right and the partner must always show more consideration for the narcissist than vice versa. His permanent mood swings and his high sensitivity to any form of criticism and contradiction also make it almost impossible for the partner to express his own demands.
The partner must formulate his or her wishes very carefully and wait for an opportune moment in order to convey his or her concerns to the narcissist as gently as possible. Due to the fact that a narcissist has a high lack of empathy and therefore does not spare with harsh criticism and gross humiliation, the partner is forced to behave very quietly and peacefully in order not to attract attention and be hurt.
The narcissist commits emotional abuse
It is almost impossible for the partner to be the way he is. Instead, he feels permanently forced to be what the narcissist expects him to be. This leads to the partner feeling permanently nervous and tense next to the narcissist. The partner constantly has the feeling that he is somehow “not right”. In addition to the narcissist’s enormous presence, he becomes a little light and feels inferior and worthless. In order to be able to feel reasonably safe again, the partner then tries to subordinate and adapt to the narcissist – as best he can.
The narcissist does not care about the worries and well-being of his partner. Mutual esteem and mutual respect are not the narcissist’s primary concern, but rather the stabilization of his or her own self-esteem. For this reason, the partner is functionalized to enhance and support the narcissist’s self-image. He has only this one purpose for the narcissist. If he no longer fulfills this task or only inadequately, he is criticized and devalued or, in the worst case, abandoned.
Partners lose their self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-control in a relationship with a narcissist. Since the narcissist is constantly targeting their self-esteem with his or her utterances and actions, they feel increasingly insecure and lose more and more of their joy and strength in life. Since a narcissist has a charming side, which he shows especially at the beginning of the relationship in order to conquer his partner, those affected often do not recognize the emotional abuse, but are convinced that his lovable side will reappear if they just behave well and appropriately. A fallacy! A narcissist only uses his charm when he has an advantage. He does not one day permanently transform himself into the Prince Charming, whom those affected may have thought they saw at the beginning of the relationship.
Forms of Narcissism
Pathological narcissism is not easy to detect. The manifestations are so diverse and multifaceted that narcissistic behavior is not always clearly recognized or even misinterpreted. Sometimes narcissistic qualities appear very openly, sometimes they only show up as a momentary reaction. More often, however, negative behaviors are overlooked due to ignorance, which must be clearly attributed to pathological narcissism. Especially in relationships, those affected do not notice the pathological patterns of narcissism and must painfully realize that their patience and tolerance only brings out the negative characteristics of the narcissistic partner even more.
Different types of narcissists
There is a successful narcissist who wants to make it to something or has already made it through intensive career pursuit. Influence, fortune, and status symbols are of great importance to him. On the other hand, there is also the unsuccessful narcissist who only dreams of wealth and fame, but does not think about it or does not manage to realize his ideas.
The fantastic narcissist is interested only in their own advantage, uses for it the advantages or abilities of other humans ruthlessly, and brings itself and its interests unsparingly to the validity. Everything must revolve around him and his well-being. On the other hand, the altruistic narcissist, who at first appears modest, polite, and highly decent, and for whom social and noble intentions seem to be in the foreground. In reality, however, the exaggeratedly selfless behavior is only used to present himself as a role model and in this way to gain the admiration of others. The primary goal is self-exaltation and not the benefit for others.
The amorous narcissist stands out for his addiction to seduction and conquest of a sexual partner. As soon as an opportunity presents itself, he begins a romantic flirtation – for him, there is no other reason for contact. In addition, there is the socially adapted narcissist who can suppress his morbidity for a long time and seems pleasant, but immediately loses his sense of humor at the slightest criticism.
The male narcissist is more direct and aggressive in his behavior and more obviously flaunts his possessions and status, while the narcissist is more covert and elegant, but also more insidious. The increase in pathological narcissism is evident in the malignant narcissist, who is characterized by antisocial behavior with high potential for aggression and a tendency to paranoia. These characteristics can even increase to psychopathic manifestations.
How can a narcissist be recognized early?
In order to avoid getting involved in a long-term relationship with a narcissist in the first place, and consequently coming into contact with his negative sides and being abused by him, it is advantageous to recognize narcissistic qualities early on in order to be able to protect yourself. Although a narcissistic disorder cannot be exposed by a few characteristics and abnormalities, the following characteristics can be the first warning. In this case, it is advisable to keep your distance and be critical and to wait and see how things develop before making a commitment:
Reception: Particularly at the beginning of getting to know each other or a relationship, the narcissist blinds his counterpart with excessive attention: he constantly flatters the other and shows himself unusually affectionate. He constantly seeks contact with the other person and surprises them again and again with unexpected kindnesses. But this only serves to impress the other person and win him over as quickly as possible.
Aura: The narcissist has an impressive charisma: he radiates something that others feel attracted to. One can hardly escape his strong presence. One directs one’s gaze to him, orients oneself to him, and is somehow moved and fascinated by his words and his appearance. This imposing aura can rob another person of his own will, intimidate him, numb him or render him incapable of action.
Circle of friends and acquaintances: A narcissist likes to surround himself with other greats in order to emphasize his special status in relation to others, thus indicating that he is one of the privileged ones. These friends and acquaintances only serve to emphasize his own importance and greatness. Otherwise, the narcissist tends to prefer the presence of people who do not criticize him but admire him according to his status.
Exaggeration: The narcissist must always exaggerate: Everything he has, everything he does, and everything he thinks are unique and great. Everything he undertakes and has ever experienced is a unique event. Nobody is as good as he is and nobody can keep up with him.
Lack of empathy: The lack of authenticity of a narcissist’s personality can be recognized again and again by his words, his behavior, and his actions if you pay close attention to them. Overemphasis on certain traits and beliefs, as well as fake, artificial attention to others, can betray the true character.
Pay attention to these characteristics when you meet a person and intend to enter into some form of a long-term relationship with them – whether as a partner, co-worker, friend, boss, or neighbor. These characteristics can be the first warning, encourage you to be more cautious, and curb your enthusiasm. Narcissists are always concerned only with themselves and never with others. This selfish attitude will put a permanent stain on a relationship and makes it impossible to create a sense of unity, to develop common ground, and to stand up for each other.