With the spotlight on mental health becoming more prevalent during the pandemic, there's been a significant rise in the conversations around overall well-being online. Scroll through Instagram or even TikTok and you'll find therapists, counsellors and personal coaches sharing their advice on mental health issues many are facing during these challenging times. One buzzword that has been been floating around the internet recently is the term Narcissism , usually in the context of toxic relationships. When we think of a narcissistic person, we tend to think of individuals who are typically self absorbed and egotistic. According to licensed therapist Rebecca Weiler, LMHC, narcissism is selfishness at the (usually extreme) expense of others, plus the inability to consider others' feelings at all.
So how do we spot a narcissist? And most importantly, if you are in a toxic situation, how do you get yourself out of it? We spoke with family lawyer and divorce strategist Leanne Townsend who shared her insights on the topic.
What is the definition of a Narcissist?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a Narcissist as someone who has an exaggerated sense of self importance. There is really a spectrum for narcissism with the extreme level being something called Narcissistic Personality Disorder which is one of several types of personality disorders and 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.
What are some obvious tell-tale signs of a Narcissist?
Signs and symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder and the severity of symptoms vary. People with the disorder can:
- Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance
- Have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration
- Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
- Exaggerate achievements and talents
- Be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
- Believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people
- Monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior
- Expect special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations
- Take advantage of others to get what they want
- Have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
- Be envious of others and believe others envy them
- Behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious
- Insist on having the best of everything — for instance, the best car or office
What are some non-obvious signs of a Narcissist?
Narcissists have difficulty with attachment and most of their relationships are superficial. You won’t realize this until you get to know them better. They often feel empty inside and are very insecure. Their boastfulness hides their insecurity.
How can you tell if you're with a Narcissist?
Here are things to look for:
- The relationship is always about them;
- They want you to meet their needs but don’t care about meeting yours
- They gaslight you
- They always think they are right and never apologize
- They lack empathy
- They can be very charming
- They "love bomb" you at the beginning giving you lots of attention only to be cold later once they know they have you
- They have a sense of entitlement
- They don’t respect boundaries
As a Divorce Lawyer, I know you've had your share of dealing with clients who have unfortunately been in a situation where they were married to a Narcissist. What would you say is the best and smartest way to get yourself out of the situation?
Constantly remind yourself that you deserve better, strengthen you relationships with your friends, and build a support network with family and friends who can help remind you what is reality. If you have the capabilities to, seek out a therapist to help you through this.
Any last minute tips?
Try to remember that a Narcissist will not change no matter how much you want them too, and that none of this is your fault.
Leanne Townsend is a multifaceted entrepreneur and attorney experienced in the areas of family law and domestic violence. She provides a full range of family law legal services in addition to running workshops and other programs to support people as they go through divorce. She is also the host of the Divorcing Well Podcast and The Dish on Divorce.