12 tell-tale signs you’re a narcissist (and what to do about it)

Are you a narcissist? 

The following is a list of the tell-tale signs you’re a narcissist as well as what you can do to get out of the narcissistic trap and get your life back on track. 

Being a narcissist can destroy many relationships, including the relationship with yourself, but don’t lose hope, we’re going to tackle it together and look at solutions. 

First, the top signs you’re a narcissist… 

1) You have a limitless need for praise and validation

The roots of narcissism often go back to early childhood and feeling inadequate or neglected. 

One of the most important tell-tale signs you’re a narcissist is that you cannot stand to be ignored or not be getting the lion’s share of the attention.

Sure, you will tolerate it when necessary. 

But you have a gnawing anxiety and displeasure in you the more that you’re not being recognized or rewarded. 

You want to be noted for anything and everything you do, and even if it feels silly you can’t stop that temporary rush of well-being that happens when you get the praise and attention you covet. 

2) You consider yourself superior to most people around you

We each have various strengths and weaknesses. 

I may be a better runner than you and better at writing, but you may be a more beautiful singer and better at business. 

However, among the worst tell-tale signs you’re a narcissist is that you consider yourself unilaterally superior to almost everyone around you. 

Why, exactly? 

The reasons may vary. But if you have a feeling deep down inside that you’re simply much better than most other people in most ways, it can be a key sign you’re suffering from narcissistic tendencies

3) You actively try to downplay or steal the spotlight from others

Next up in the tell-tale signs you’re a narcissist is that you try to rob others of recognition. 

Your craving for attention and praise sometimes gets the better of you to the extent that you’ll actively undermine coworkers, friends and family from getting rewarded and recognized. 

This isn’t always in the form of some kind of direct sabotage, and may often be more subtle than that. 

For example, while a relative is praising somebody in your family at the dinner table, you may find yourself making a catty or sarcastic remark that basically undermines that supposedly commendable family member. 

That’s you trying to ruin their moment and sabotage their recognition. 

4) You’re a spiritual narcissist who considers yourself to have ‘higher vibrations’

The next of the tell-tale signs you’re a narcissist is often ignored and overlooked in many articles. 

The reason is simple:

This trait of being a spiritual narcissist can be very profitable. 

If I can convince you that I’m some kind of high vibrational guru and sell you an expensive course, I can tap into your belief that you’re special and on a superior cleansing journey of light to extract every cent from your wallet. 

The truth is that encouraging spiritual arrogance is a huge moneymaker and many people fall into the trap…

They start believing things like the Law of Attraction or that being “positive” and visualizing a great future means it will happen. By extension, those with terrible lives clearly somehow brought it upon themselves. 

Right…?

But wait a minute…

It’s really crucial to approach this with skepticism and look at spirituality in a different way. 

The most interesting perspective I’ve found comes from the Brazilian shaman Rudá Iandé.

In his free masterclass on freeing your mind, Rudá explains how he himself fell victim to the worst elements of the New Age movement and how he found his own way along an authentic spiritual path that actually made sense, instead of the toxic positivity he was being force-fed…

I highly recommend checking this out if you find yourself repulsed by spiritual narcissism or find yourself falling a little bit into its trap.

Toxic spirituality is something we all need to watch out for, and it’s always good to find out an effective alternative. 

Check out the video here

5) You ignore a partner’s feelings and perspective in a relationship

Next up in the disturbing tell-tale signs you’re a narcissist is an inability or unwillingness to see both sides in a relationship. 

You find yourself very closed off to your partner and resist trying to see their side or empathize with them. 

You maybe even want to care about what they think or feel, but just can’t seem to bring yourself to do so. 

Sure, they feel XYZ, but somewhere inside you it just seems crystal clear that their experiences and point of view has nowhere near the weight or validity of yours. 

This is a classic sign of narcissism

Of course we all see our own point of view first and tend to side with ourselves. But a refusal to even consider a partner’s outlook is definitely on the narcissistic side. 

As John Cunha explains, most narcissists are “severely limited or lacking the ability to care about the emotional needs or experiences of others, even loved ones.”

6) You never admit to your mistakes or shortcomings

We all make mistakes and fall short in many ways. 

Whether or not we admit that is another question. 

One of the troubling tell-tale signs you’re a narcissist is that you simply never take full responsibility for yourself. 

If you make a mistake or do something wrong, it’s somebody else’s fault…

If you have a weakness or deficiency in some area or situation, you hide it completely or blame it on the context, unfair rules, bad luck or really anything other than yourself. 

You rarely even admit to a factual error either, and will tend to just blatantly stick to something untrue than admit you were simply wrong. 

You: “The capital of Germany is Frankfurt.”

Other person: “No, it’s Berlin.”

You: “Wrong. Frankfurt.” 

They show you an official encyclopedic entry proving it’s Berlin. 

“Nah. Not technically true. Real experts know it’s Frankfurt. I’m tired of wasting time on this.”

And so on… 

7) You believe you are uniquely victimized and that the world misunderstands you

This brings us to the next point about the tell-tale signs you’re a narcissist:

The victim mentality. 

One of the worst markers of narcissism is playing the victim

This can become such a habit that it’s completely wrapped up with a narcissist’s core identity. 

If you believe that you are completely misunderstood and special, then you may be a narcissist. 

You consider yourself a victim who is therefore owed favors by life, God or the universe, and you carry this chip on your shoulder like a badge of honor. 

Well…

Some of us are indeed misunderstood. You may be special in many ways. But a focus on this can spiral into a very deep kind of self-enclosed narcissism that cuts you off from others and prevents potential connections. 

8) You feel that others primarily exist to satisfy, serve and please you

Next up in the tell-tale signs you’re a narcissist is that you feel like other people are mainly there to serve and look after you. 

This is the attitude of a young child, which is why narcissism can be so sad and hard to admit. 

None of us want to admit we’re trapped in a childhood psychological stage of demanding attention and feeling like people should look after our needs. 

But there’s really no shame in it, and you do have to admit you have a problem before you can tackle it. 

The truth is that narcissism is incredibly common in Western and modern societies and we are actually even encouraged to be narcissistic by many elements of our media and popular culture (not to mention social media!)

The point is: if you realize you’re a narcissist, don’t despair, there are things you can do to improve and get out of this trap, which I’ll get to a bit further down. 

9) You only do nice and generous things if you expect something back in return

Now we get to another of the disturbing and tell-tale signs you’re a narcissist: transactionalism. 

In other words, if you only do something to get something back in return, you are depicting a very classic narcissistic trait. 

Ironically, this often backfires in business and personal life, since being so self-interested tends to drive others away by annoying and boring them. 

It can also lead to losing out on many business opportunities, relationships and collaborations due to bailing out of something early on when there doesn’t seem to be enough of a reward. 

Imagine you become CEO of Tesla in five years. But first you have five years of research, low profits and money put into ventures that don’t seem to be leading anywhere. 

Being a narcissist isn’t only interpersonal, it’s also professional:

If you find yourself bailing on work and business if you don’t see fast enough results, this can be a very clear sign of narcissism. You have no patience because you believe life or the universe owes you immediate results. 

I’ve been there, but the truth hurts…

It doesn’t owe you anything, and we’re all playing by the same rules. 

how can you understand others better 12 tell-tale signs you're a narcissist (and what to do about it)

10) You have a deep fear of inadequacy that you try to always keep covered up

Next up in the tell-tale signs you’re a narcissist is that you’re really afraid of being inadequate and being found to not be good enough. 

When you stop and reflect, you may notice that a lot of what you do to get praise and rewards is more reactive than proactive. 

In other words, if you pay close attention, you may notice that you get a feeling of insecurity and anxiety first…

And then you pursue self-serving and recognition-seeking behaviors second…

This is actually typical for the narcissistic person, because the heart of a narcissist is wrapped around a deep fear of not being good enough or not being valued. 

As psychiatrist Riccardo Caniato writes:

“Most narcissists’ fears are deeply buried and repressed. 

“They’re constantly afraid of being ridiculed, rejected, or wrong – found out.

“They may have fears about their appearance, about losing their money, about being betrayed, about being seen as bad or inadequate, or about being abandoned.”

11) You find yourself consumed by jealousy and envy of others 

The thing about fearing you’re not good enough is that it goes hand-in-hand with jealousy. 

I myself have struggled a lot with jealousy and narcissistic tendencies in this regard. 

It’s when you look around at what others have, their relationships and their lives and you feel that you should have that. 

It’s when you see careers, people, lifestyles and places and feel like others don’t deserve them. 

It’s when you feel sure that other people having or experiencing something leaves less of it for you to experience. 

It’s fear. Plain and simple. 

Because the root of narcissism is not love. It’s fear

12) Your morals are flexible as long as you obtain praise and prestige

Lastly in the disturbing and tell-tale signs you’re a narcissist is that you’re morally flexible in obtaining the praise you seek. 

If you can get power and recognition, you’re not too worried about betraying a friend, a lover or a colleague.

Your sense of victimization burns inside you and the truth is that you don’t only feel the universe or God owes you:

You feel other people do, too. 

Which other people?

Anyone, really. 

And that’s the big problem is that the narcissistic cycle can be so all-consuming that it ends up burning those closest to us with its vicious insecurity and self-obsession. 

Understanding the five main types of narcissism

As I noted earlier, narcissism is incredibly common in modern, individualist society. 

Full-on, pathological Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is rarer, but also presents in some cases where narcissistic behaviors have become psychologically embedded and harmful to oneself or others. 

As Courtney Telloian explains

“Narcissistic personality disorder is a formal mental health diagnosis, and there’s only one type. 

This condition is usually diagnosed when narcissism extends beyond a personality trait and persistently affects many areas of your life.”

However, in terms of non-pathological narcissistic behaviors, there are five main types:

  • Overt narcissism is where somebody is full of themselves, and constantly seeks out praise. 

They act arrogant, demand all the attention and believe they are better than they actually are in almost every way. 

They are deeply jealous of others and don’t want them getting attention. 

  • Covert narcissism is more restrained and often overlaps or occurs together with overt narcissism. This is where the egotism is more subtle and the covert narcissist is not as obvious with their need for attention and praise. 

The covert narcissist is also jealous but tends to hide it more effectively. 

  • Antagonistic narcissism is all about competition and proving superiority over others.

A bigger house, faster car, more attractive spouse, higher IQ…

You name it: the antagonistic narcissist is trying to prove themselves more important and better than others in every way possible. 

They also tend to distrust the motives of others and can exhibit paranoid behavior. 

  • Communal narcissism manifests as demanding justice and fairness and pretending to act in the interest of the group. 

It is basically a narcissist’s way of hijacking the power for themselves by claiming to be speaking on behalf of others. 

However in the process of this advocacy they feel powerful and more important than others, including the marginalized or mistreated folks they claim to be speaking out for…

  • Malignant narcissism is a more extreme form where the individual may take actual pleasure in mistreating and using others. 

The malignant narcissist has truly gotten high on their own supply and believes they are uniquely entitled to absolutely anything or anyone they want. 

They must be better than everyone and receive constant attention and praise, and they will go to quite extreme lengths to ensure that. 

Uprooting narcissism at the source

If you’re finding that you display many of the narcissistic characteristics, don’t give up hope. 

I suggest the following three-pronged approach to beginning to say goodbye to narcissism:

1) Don’t be too harsh on yourself

First and foremost, don’t be too hard on yourself. 

Recognizing that you have narcissistic tendencies and getting this far is a great credit to you as an individual and somebody who wants to improve. 

It’s important to understand that your narcissism exists for a reason, and it’s not because you’re “bad” or a sh*tty person. 

Traumas, neglect and behavioral patterns can often lead us down roads we don’t want to go down. 

So take it easy on yourself and start by giving yourself credit for recognizing you do have a challenge with some narcissistic behaviors

2) Break out of the binary

Many times, narcissism gets worse the more than we buy into a black or white framework. 

I’m either right or wrong. This is either true or untrue. 

Well, maybe. 

But leaving a bit more space and room for critical thinking can do wonders for lifting the tone deaf behaviors that narcissists sometimes engage in. 

As Dr. Nahid Dave explains, sometimes it helps to break the idea of a binary and accustom ourselves to being open to multiple “right” answers… 

“Introducing yourself to the possibility of there being two or more right answers.

Most of the time they think if I am sure I am right the other person has to be wrong but it is possible to have two or more right answers depending on perspective.”

3) Take an honest look at the consequences

Another great help for remedying narcissistic behavior is to take a look at the consequences. 

Take an honest look back at friendships, relationships, jobs and life situations where your behavior has been detrimental to the outcome. 

It doesn’t have to be all your “fault,” but just be observant in your recollections and think about how you could have behaved differently. 

Last, but not least…

At the end of the day, don’t forget that it’s healthy and natural to have a balanced amount of self-interest and sometimes put yourself first. 

It’s only a problem when you find that your focus on yourself is blinding you to the feelings and needs of others. 

And don’t forget the power of freeing your mind.

Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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