How to stop being a narcissist: 8 key steps

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Do you feel like you have narcissistic tendencies and you just can’t change?

Perhaps you feel like no one gives you the recognition you deserve?

Perhaps you feel unhappy deep down and have a hard time feeling fulfilled?

Perhaps you love attention and feeling admired by others?

But you feel like you have troubled relationships and find it hard to relate and empathize?

Or do you ever feel conflicted because you will do anything to others to get what you want?

If you feel like this, and looking into it more, you’re already one step ahead. Most narcissists aren’t even aware of their narcissistic tendencies.

Self-preservation often stops them from changing.

But chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re one of those who do want to experience something better in life.

Self-aware narcissists can change.

In this article, I’ve collected the key steps on how to stop being a narcissist, according to some of the world’s top psychology experts, so that you can start to take the step out of these limiting behaviors.

Let’s jump right in.

8 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 8 achievable steps to help you stop being a narcissist, according to psychologists.

1) Know what your “triggers” are

Narcissistic behavior often emerges when a person gets “triggered.”

According to Elinor Greenberg, internationally renowned Gestalt therapy trainer and Narcissistic Personality Disorder expert:

“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.

For example, if you experience narcissistic tendencies and want to become aware of your triggers, you may notice that you often feel a surge of anger when someone you perceive being of a “lower status” challenges your authority in the workplace.

Or you may notice that you are often dismissive of other people when they suggest ideas.

Whatever your particular triggers are, start to take note of them. It may be useful to carry a notebook with you or jot them down in a note-taking app on your phone.

Over time, you’ll start to notice patterns on when you feel triggered by others and react with narcissistic tendencies.

2) Practice self-love

Narcissistic people tend to have serious self-esteem issues and don’t know how to love themselves.

Because of their fragile self-esteem, they need to project their superiority and put other people down.

What narcissistic people need to do above all else is to practice self-love.

But it’s not easy to practice self-love these days. The reason for this is simple:

Society conditions us to try and find ourselves in our relationships with others. We’re always searching for “romantic love”, “the one”, or an idealized notion of the “perfect relationship”.

When it comes to relationships, you might be surprised to hear that there’s one very important connection you’ve probably been overlooking:

The relationship you have with yourself. 

I learned about this important insight from the shaman Rudá Iandê.

His incredible, video on cultivating healthy relationships, Rudá gives you the tools to plant yourself at the center of your world.

And once you start doing that, there’s no telling how much happiness and fulfillment you can find within yourself and in your relationships. 

So what makes Rudá’s advice so life-changing? 

Well, uses techniques derived from the wisdom of shamanic teachings and puts his own modern-day twist on them. He may be a shaman, but he’s experienced the same problems in love as you and I have.

And using this combination, he’s easily identified the areas where most of us go wrong in our relationships. 

When you feel like your relationships never working out, or feel undervalued, unappreciated, or unloved, this free video will give you some practical and applicable techniques to change your love life around. 

3) Manage your impulses

Narcissist people are often impulsive and make decisions without thinking of the consequences.

If you display narcissist tendencies, it’s important to emphasize thinking first and reacting 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.”

The key step to changing your behaviors is to become aware of your impulses. This gives you the opportunity to create behavioral change in your life.

Taking note of your triggers as recommended in step one will teach you to create some space between the stimulus of the trigger and your response.

Pausing when triggered opens up the opportunity to create a new set of behaviors.

4) Consciously choose a new set of empathetic responses

It’s incredibly challenging for narcissists to think of others before thinking of themselves. Although difficult, it’s a crucial step to take.

Research shows that narcissists can learn to be empathetic. It comes down to making a habit out of empathetic behaviors.

Ni advises:

“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.”

You can start to train yourself to react differently to situations that trigger narcissistic tendencies now that you are becoming more aware of your impulses.

Think about the triggers you’ve been taking note of in step one, and take some time out to think about how you would like to react. What would your reaction be if you were consciously thinking of others and demonstrating empathy?

It’s important to take some time out and consciously decide on the behaviors you regularly undertake.

Now that you’re taking note of when you feel triggered and learning to create a space between the stimulus of the trigger and your response, you can start to consciously react with an empathetic behavior every time you feel the trigger of narcissism.

It will feel strange doing so initially. It will also be incredibly frustrating. But over time, your new reactions will become ingrained behavior patterns.

5) Celebrate the decision you’ve made to be a better person

It sounds simple, but if you have identified yourself as having narcissistic tendencies, have started to take note of your impulses and reactions, and have begun to replace your narcissistic reactions with empathic ones, then you should be very satisfied with yourself.

You have made the decision to become a better version of yourself, and you’re following through with this decision.

It’s very important that this decision is yours and you’re doing it because you truly want to change. If this is the case, you should take a pause to truly celebrate that you’ve come to this decision. It’s not an easy thing to do.

During the process of creating a new set of behavioral responses to your narcissistic tendencies, I recommend setting aside a set time each day for yourself to celebrate the decisions you’ve made.

Think of the moments during the day when you noticed your triggers and substituted your usual response with an alternative empathetic behavior. Notice the times you weren’t able to substitute your response and understand that it takes time to create a new set of habits.

By taking time out for yourself each day to celebrate yourself, you’ll remind yourself about why you’re doing what you do. This will give you inner motivation to continue your quest to stop being a narcissist.

6) Take responsibility for everything that happens in your life

Narcissists have a reputation for rarely taking responsibility for what happens in their life.

They either manipulate the situation to play the victim or make someone else feel guilty for the crime they committed themselves.

But not you. The fact that you’ve arrived at this point in the article shows that you are motivated to start taking responsibility for your narcissistic tendencies.

This journey of taking responsibility is far bigger than simply changing a set of narcissistic behavioral tendencies. It will have a far broader impact on your life.

As Dr. Alex Lickerman explains, taking responsibility simply means:

“…to take full responsibility for your happiness … 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)

7) Consider taking psychotherapy

Now that you’re taking responsibility for your narcissism, it’s worth considering complementing your approach to changing your behaviors with psychotherapy.

Taking on practices that can help you to understand why you inherently do what you do will help you to understand your underlying nature in more depth.

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.”

8) Practice gratitude

Narcissists often have difficulty understanding gratitude, because it requires a whole lot of humility. But this is like a muscle that you can flex and develop.

If there is one way to quench an inflated ego, practicing gratitude will certainly do the trick.

This is because gratitude shifts you from thinking about yourself to feeling grateful for other people and things in your life.

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.”

Negative impacts of narcissism

Unfortunately, people suffering from narcissism can almost be entirely unaware of their negative behavior and the impact it brings on 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

Narcissistic behavioral tendencies such as 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 narcissist’s 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 on 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’s 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, that they use their struggles as fuel for abhorrent behavior, further alienating themselves from the world.

5) Deep-seated insecurity

People suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder may seem over-confident, but behind their shells 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?

Yes.

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.

How this one revelation changed my narcissistic life

I used to believe I needed to be successful before I deserved to find someone who could love me.

I used to believe there was a “perfect person” out there and I just had to find them.

I used to believe I would finally be happy once I found “the one”.

What I now know is that these limiting beliefs were stopping me from building deep and intimate relationships with the people I was meeting. I was chasing an illusion that was leading me to loneliness.

If you want to change anything in your life, one of the most effective ways is to change your beliefs.

Unfortunately, it’s not an easy thing to do.

I’m lucky to have worked directly with the shaman Rudá Iandê in changing my beliefs about love. Doing so has fundamentally changed my life forever.

One of the most powerful videos we have is on his insights into love and intimacy. Rudá Iandê breaks down his key lessons on cultivating healthy and nurturing relationships in your life.

Love is something we have to work on within ourselves, not something that we expect or take from someone else.

Here’s a link to the video again.

The more we can start to look into and love the parts of ourselves that we want to run from and change, the more we can fully and radically accept who we truly are as humans.

Now that you are more able to see if you have narcissistic qualities, you have the choice to go in, do the work, and start to make a lasting change for yourself.

It’s not always easy to change. But it’s a journey that you don’t have to do alone. As you come across more resources and ideas for this transformation, just make sure that it is something that comes from deep within and something that points you back into yourself.

Simply taking the advice of others will fall short on your ears.

Getting into your heart and deep essence, it’s a path that only you can explore. Remember that the tools and resources that help you to do this will be the most fruitful on your journey.

I wish you the courage and strength along the way.

Genefe Navilon

Genefe Navilon is a writer, poet, and blogger. She graduated with a degree in Mass Communications at the University of San Jose Recoletos. Her poetry blog, Letters To The Sea, currently has 18,000 followers. Her work has been published in different websites and poetry book anthologies. She divides her time between traveling, writing, and working on her debut poetry book.

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