Narcissists often get flak for being incapable of change.
The reason is that most narcissists aren’t really aware of their narcissistic tendencies. These issues are often deep-seated, and self-preservation stops them from even recognizing their problems.
But chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re one of those who want to change.
Admitting you might have Narcissistic Personality Disorder is already a step forward.
Self-aware narcissists can change. Here’s your ultimate guide on how to stop being a narcissist.
What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
According to The Mayo Clinic:
“Narcissistic Personality Disorder—one of several types of personality disorders—is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.
“But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”
People who suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder experience negative impacts in areas like relationships and career. Because of their incessant need for validation and attention, their motives are often selfish and reckless. They also have a hard time finding fulfillment in things, which can cause them to be quite unhappy.
Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
You have Narcissistic Personality Disorder if you:
- think quite highly of yourself, like you’re the only important person in the world.
- are self-entitled and feel that you deserve nothing but the best.
- demand recognition even if you didn’t do anything to deserve it.
- exaggerate your skills and achievements and brag about them excessively.
- make everything about you.
- use and manipulate people to get what you want.
- unwilling to recognize and value the needs of others.
Why do people develop Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is usually acquired because of trauma or an unhealthy upbringing.
According to Elinor Greenberg, internationally renowned Gestalt therapy trainer and Narcissistic Personality Disorder expert:
“Narcissistic Personality Disorder can be looked at rather simply as an adaptation to a childhood home environment that left you with unstable self-esteem, low emotional empathy, and a particular set of coping skills that have now become automatic and habitual.”
Bad parenting, for one, seems to be a major contributor to developing narcissistic behavior. If parents are extremely authoritative to perfectionists, children will have inflated egos and a sense of superiority.
These behaviors and mentality are then carried on to adulthood, making them near impossible to change.
Because of this, narcissism becomes deeply ingrained in their psychological structure.
“As with any habit, your narcissistic responses are now encoded in your brain as a series of neuronal connections that fire together automatically in certain situations.”
However, that doesn’t mean change is impossible. Yes, it will take a lot of work, but you can overcome Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
According to Greenberg:
“You can choose to learn new coping skills that you like better. With continued practice, the new, non-narcissistic strategies will eventually replace the old narcissistic ones.”
9 steps to overcoming your narcissism
Overcoming narcissism is no simple process. Absolute change may be near impossible. However, you can make changes that will create a positive impact on your life. Here are 9 achievable steps to help you stop being a narcissist.
1. Know what your “triggers” are.
Narcissistic behavior often shows when a person suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder gets “triggered.”
According to Greenberg, “triggers” are:
“…situations, words, or behaviors that arouse strong negative feelings in you. People with narcissistic issues tend to overreact when they are “triggered” and do things that they later regret.”
As a first step, it’s important to know in which situations your narcissism comes out. Learning what they are can help you identify the reasons behind your narcissism, so you may be able to handle them accordingly.
2. Consciously give thought about others.
Thinking of others before themselves may be the most challenging thing for a narcissist.
It can be hard, but research shows that empathy can actually be taught to narcissists. You just need to make a habit out of it.
“Express genuine interest in and curiosity about people in your life. Listen at least as much as you talk.
“Be careful not to thoughtlessly intrude upon others’ personal space, use their personal property, or take up their personal time without permission.”
3. Be a better person.
It sounds simple, but to a narcissist, actively choosing to be a better person can go against every grain of their being.
But if you’re really serious about turning a new leaf, you have to do better.
Follow through. Make better decisions. Be more honest. Exercise consideration. Be a little more patient.
Focus on making choices that will bring a positive impact on your life, and you will see the amazing results.
4. Manage your impulses.
Narcissists love to react to everything. They are impulsive, making decisions that are not well thought out. They are careless of the consequences of their actions.
Think first, react later.
According to Greenberg:
“Practice inhibiting or delaying your normal response when triggered. Your “normal” response is the now unwanted one that you do automatically. It has become wired as a habit into the neurons of your brain.”
Before you do something, try to think of the consequences first. Realize what is right and what is wrong. And follow the right path.
5. Think about what you want to change.
Now that you’ve become more aware of your enablers, triggers, and impulses, you already know the bad parts of yourself.
Ask yourself, “What would I like to change about myself?”
What are the things that make you feel ashamed? Determine the qualities you think will make you a good person.
Only then will you allow your subconscious to truly change.
Awareness is the key. Remember that.
6. Try to relate to others.
You believe that you’re the only person going through the same thing. You believe no one understands you but yourself.
Your narcissism tells you that you’re the most special person in the world. But the truth is, there are people suffering just like you. There are people who are just as talented, or even more talented than you.
If you want to live a better and healthier life, you need to let go of this mentality.
Teach yourself how to relate to other people on a deeper and more intimate level. Not only will this make you feel less alone, but it will allow you to have more peace as well.
(We just released a new eBook: The Art of Resilience: A Practical Guide to Developing Mental Toughness. We highlight 20 of the most resilient people in the world and break down what traits they have in common. We then equip you with 10 resilience-building tools that you can start using today–in your personal life or professional career. Check it out here.)
7. Start taking responsibility.
Narcissists are known to rarely take responsibility. They either manipulate the situation to play the victim or make someone else feel guilty for the crime they committed themselves.
What better way to change than to do the thing that is completely against your personality?
If you don’t know where to start, begin with reflecting on your own unhappiness and take responsibility for it.
As Dr. Alex Lickerman explains, taking responsibility simply means:
“…to take full responsibility for your happiness. It means recognizing that how things look at the outset doesn’t determine how things will end, and that although we can’t control everything (or perhaps anything) we want, we all have often enormous ability to influence how much happiness or suffering the events of our lives bring us.”
(If you’d like help in taking responsibility for your life, check out our eBook: Why Taking Responsibility is Key to Being the Best You)
Currently, there is no cure or for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Treatments often include different types of psychotherapy as well as medication.
According to Bridges To Recovery, treatments include:
“Working together, therapists and narcissistic patients will identify the attitudes and behaviors that create stress, conflict, and dissatisfaction in the patient’s life.
“As recovery progresses, therapists will encourage NPD sufferers to take constructive action to ameliorate the negative impact of their narcissistic symptoms, providing practical advice and instruction that can help them do so.”
9. Practice Gratitude
Gratitude requires a whole lot of humility—something narcissists have difficulty understanding.
But if there is one way to quench your inflated ego, practicing gratitude will certainly do the trick.
John Amadeo, award-winning author of Dancing with Fire: A Mindful Way to Loving Relationships, explains:
“Gratitude is a corrective to our sense of entitlement. One aspect of narcissism is the belief that we deserve to get without having to give.
“We feel that we’re entitled to fulfill our needs without being troubled by perceiving another’s world and responding to others’ needs. Our attention is fully absorbed within a limited and narrow sense of self.”
Find the aspects in your life that you think are good, and be grateful for them. Once you start cultivating gratitude in your life, you’ll find a straight path to healing.
Negative impacts of narcissism
Unfortunately, people suffering from narcissism can almost be entirely unaware of their negative behavior and the impact it brings to their lives.
According to Professor Preston Ni, life coach and author of How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People:
“Many narcissists are oblivious to their negative and often self-destructive behavioral patterns, which typically result in them experiencing life lessons the hard way.”
The negative impacts of narcissism in your life can include:
1. Loneliness and Isolation
Selfishness, lies, and apathy are not characteristics that attract long-lasting relationships.
Narcissists are often fueled to serve only themselves and are incapable of portraying empathy towards others. Because of this, they have trouble forming genuine and deep bonds with others.
According to psychiatrist Grant Hilary Brenner:
“The need to do this self-reflective high-wire act in order to maintain a bubble of self-esteem is draining on oneself and others, forever threatening to expose a raw nerve, and pushing many valuable relationships into destructive cycles of envy and competition, or neediness and abuse, in extreme but all too common situations.”
This means narcissists live lonely lives and can only maintain superficial relationships.
2. Problems in career or school
Naturally, a narcissists social ineptness inhibits them from succeeding in the career or educational ladder.
According to Ni, problems arise from:
“…rule breaking, gross irresponsibility, careless indulgence, or other indiscretions.”
In other words, narcissists lack the capacity to do well in the career ladder.
3. Unnecessary anger
Anger is something narcissistic people tend to foster.
According to Greenberg:
“They get extremely mad at things that seem quite minor to most people, like waiting an extra ten minutes for a table in a restaurant. Their degree of fury and hurt will seem very disproportionate to the actual situation.”
This necessary negative emotion brings down every aspect of a narcissist life, making it even harder for them to achieve contentment or happiness.
4. Depression and anxiety
Narcissists are not at all invincible to internal emotional conflicts. Quite the contrary, they are more sensitive to depression and anxiety.
Yale research specialist Seth Rosenthal explains:
“What people hypothesize is that narcissists are prone to higher highs and lower lows.
“They have this constant need to have their greatness verified by the world around them. When reality catches up with them, they may react by becoming depressed.”
The difference is, they use their struggles as fuel to abhorrent behavior, further alienating themselves to the world.
5. Deep-seated insecurity
People suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder may seem over-confident, but behind their shell is someone who is plagued by deep-seated insecurity.
According to Ni:
“Many narcissists are easily upset at any real or perceived slights or inattentiveness. They are constantly hounded by the insecurity that people may not see them as the privileged, powerful, popular, or “special” individuals they make themselves to be.
“Deep down, many narcissists feel like the “ugly duckling”, even if they painfully don’t want to admit it.”
Can a narcissist really change?
But there’s a big if.
According to certified coach and improvement thought leader Barrie Davenport:
“If a narcissist’s relational patterns can be changed in therapy, it can help decrease their inflexible narcissistic traits into a softer form of self-protection that eventually allows them to have healthy relationships.”
Change is possible with ongoing efforts. If you are open to making deep changes in your mentality and the way you live your life, you can overcome your narcissistic tendencies and have a better relationship with the world.
Denial is the number one pattern you need to break.
The only way to move forward is to accept that you have a problem, take responsibility for it, and be open to change.
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