How To Tell If Someone You Know Is A Narcissist

I know a woman who constantly needs to tell everyone how great she is. Everything she does is fabulous, wonderful, brilliant and popular beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. Her plans are always grand. Her posturing is insufferable. She also puts others down to make herself look good. She thinks she’s doing it subtly, but she couldn’t be more obvious. When she talks to me, I feel like I’m back at Francis Lewis High School, listening to a “popular” girl regale her hangers on about her dates.

I’m all for competition and I love winning. But I’m not the smartest, prettiest, nicest person in the room all the time and I’ve learned to watch out for those who announce they are. It often belies their insecurity, I’ve learned, or their narcissism. Really smart, pretty, nice people don’t need to broadcast their intelligence, looks and generosity. Their acts and their demeanor should speak louder than their words.

Sure, it’s nice to have a child who does great things, but why isn’t it enough to enjoy his or her success without shouting it from the rooftops (or the manicure chair?).

I put mothers who relentlessly brag about their children in the same bucket. Somehow, they feel that their offspring’s accomplishments demonstrate their matchless parenting skills. In fact, one often has little, if not nothing, to do with the other. Sure, it’s nice to have a child who does great things, but why isn’t it enough to enjoy his or her success without shouting it from the rooftops (or the manicure chair?).

Sharing nice things that happen to us and to those we love is delightful, but beware when sharing turns into soliloquy about son Jack’s Harvard acceptance or daughter Jill’s impending marriage to a doctor.

I decided to Google “are narcissists really insecure?” to see if anyone backs up my theory, and came upon an article by Dr. Craig Malkin, a clinical psychologist and author, who wrote that obvious narcissistic traits—besides pretentious plans and posturing—include “the apparent absence of even a shred of empathy and the rage at being called out on the slightest of imperfections or normal human missteps.” Yep, when my narcissistic acquaintance talked about her sister-in-law dying of cancer, it was with the same affect of someone talking about a change in the weather.

Dr. Malkin also says narcissists “say and do things, subtle or obvious, that make you feel less smart, less accomplished, less competent. It’s as if they’re saying, ‘I don’t want to feel this insecure and small; here, you take the feelings.’ The narcissist loves to knock out your lights to seem brighter by comparison.”

Do you suppose that narcissists know they’re narcissists? Of course they do, I say. Some studies suggest that narcissists care more about being perceived as superior on traits such as industriousness, assertiveness and dominance, compared to traits such as honesty and agreeableness.

Narcissists don’t seem to care whether they’re thought of as good people. Being admired is more important than being liked. What’s ironic is that they usually can’t get enough admiration. They’re constantly looking for more, which further fuels their narcissistic tendencies.

  • okydoky

    You forgot one thing, these people can be extremely charming and can reel you in with their charisma, you can’t always spot their narcissism right away. They can fool you for
    Some time, until you finally realize, you are only as good as the last favor you do for them. You can be very hurt, believing they were your friend, until you find out they were
    Just using you.
    I think they can be like a wolf in lambs clothing. I’m quite sure I knew one, thank God
    That person is out of my life.☺️

    • Sandra

      You got the “charming” at first right! I got sucked into a marriage to a guy with this personality disorder. He nearly took me down in terms of self-esteem. It was only when he started picking at my kids about not being perfect and saying his OWN daughter was fat (when she wasn’t) that I realized it was time to give him the boot. I was devastated at first, but then after doing some research on this disorder, I stopped blaming myself and was able to get “me” back. If someone seems to act to good to be true…they probably are. Look out because a narcissist will leave you with some battle-scars…

  • Ma O

    Until recently I shared a small office with someone sharing the characteristics and behaviours that you describe. An office move has changed my working life considerably and some colleagues have commented on a positive change in my demeanour.

    It is reassuring that others notice these behaviours.

  • GeriFOF

    Hi Lorraine,

    I don’t know why your comment passed me by a year ago. I am sorry, I hope your series worked out. I could have sent you many women. 🙁

    Best, Geri Brin

  • Geri, I totally agree with you on your thoughts on narcissists – I find myself, like you avoiding people like this if I can help it. I actually feel sorry for them since they cannot actually be all that happy.

    But I have another thing I would like to ask you. I am going to run a series on my own blog The Renaissance Way about people who have answered the call of their heart and soul and done something of significance that had the effect of re-inventing their lives after age fifty. I prefer it not be a writer as I already know quite a few writers. Please see my blog post at http://therenaissanceway.blogspot.com/2013/12/seeking-people-to-feature-on-my-blog.html For more information on this. I will feature the person on my blog and also list their website, product, service or cause as well. I will also mention your blog if you send me someone. Thanks and keep up the great blog – I like it and have signed up to get it. Lorraine

  • Kate Line Snider

    Good post. I just avoid these people, and don’t usually know them for very long.

    Geri, you’re just not “liberated”! Do you know that your hypothetical example of bragging mentions a SON accepted at Harvard and a DAUGHTER engaged to a doctor?? A daughter could as easily be accepted at Harvard! (Marrying a doctor ( in either case)- this is a success?? ) Shame on you! 🙂

    Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Hi Kate,

      You are right. Shame on me!

      Fondly,
      Geri

  • Laura Lewis

    Hmmm. Interesting. Because I have recently broken ties with a woman I’ve known for 15 years, because of her narcissism. I just couldn’t take it anymore. She has a perfect son who does perfect things. Her medical ailments are far more serious than any one else’s. Her Christmas decorations are more beautiful than anyone’s. She is not really interested in any thing anyone else does or has to say.
    The rift came when I stopped sitting at her table in a civic club to which we both belong (in order to mingle with other members) so that means I’m no longer in her fan club, so I am the enemy. She no longer acknowledges my existance-after 15 years of “friendship”. She is a perfect narcissist. Thank you for this post.