“Oh they’re such a narcissist!” is a phrase you might have heard someone say about an ex.
But what actually is a narcissist and how can you get rid of narcissistic traits if you have them?
This article will dive into all you need to know.
What actually is narcissism?
In an article for UpJourney, Laurie Hollman, PhD, explains that narcissists have a grandiose sense of self-importance.
“Narcissism is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior) need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts.”
These include believing they are more special or unique than others; they have a sense of entitlement; they require admiration all the time.
As if that’s not enough, they also exaggerate their achievements. Everything is blown out of proportion…
For example, they would say they’ve won loads of awards when they might have won a single award once, or that their company is one of the most successful in the marketplace when it’s not even in the top 100.
Think: Donald Trump.
They also lack empathy, they are arrogant and likely to be jealous types.
Definitely Trump, right?
My mum’s second husband is a text-book ‘covert’ narcissist. Unfortunately, she didn’t realize this until she married him…
You see, there are two types of narcissists: covert and overt.
The main difference is that covert narcissists conceal their ways, while overt are very easy to identify.
That said, some people do pick up on their ‘off’ energy from the outset. The men in my family wanted nothing to do with my mum’s second husband when he came on the scene. They knew something was just… wrong.
So what are covert and overt narcissistic traits?
I’ll tell you a bit more about the tell-tale signs of cover and overt narcissism.
Covert narcissists are:
- Highly sensitive to criticism
- Passive aggressive
- They put themselves down
- Likely to withdraw
- Quick to hold grudges
Overt narcissist have a cross-over with traits, while in addition they have:
- Superficial charm
- Excessive self-importance
- Aggressive manipulation
- A tendency to one-upmanship
Over narcissists are typically extroverted, bold and attention seeking – and you can spot them a mile-off, while covert narcissists are a little harder to spot.
Both are controlling and manipulative people, who hurt others.
How to get rid of narcissistic traits
1) Assess where you are on the spectrum of narcissism
First things first, just because you might be sensitive to criticism or sometimes prone to putting yourself down, that doesn’t make you an outright, raging narcissist.
In an Insider article, Melody Wilding, a professor of human behavior, explains everyone has some level of narcissism and it’s not a bad thing.
“Narcissism is a personality trait that every person possesses to some degree. Like any characteristic, it exists on a spectrum. We all fall somewhere along the narcissism continuum. In fact, a certain amount of self-centeredness is healthy. Research shows that it contributes to confidence, resilience, and ambition.”
Essentially, she highlights that these traits can be harnessed for good.
Now, there’s something further she highlights: there’s a difference between being a narcissist and having a Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
“A person with narcissistic traits may be mildly self-centered at times, but Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), on the other hand, is a deeply ingrained, pervasive pattern. These people have an extremely fragile sense of self-esteem (masked by an inflated sense of superiority) to the point where it interferes with normal functioning across a wide range of settings beyond work. Studies show that this may be due in part to brain differences. People with NPD often have less brain matter in areas related to empathy.”
Simply put: it’s a mental illness… and it’s one that can be triggered by a range of events including childhood traumas.
So, just because you have a few narcissistic traits, don’t think you’re a full-blown narcissist who needs professional help.
You see, those with narcissism do not recognize they have it.
My mum’s second husband is a prime example. He actually even went to a psychologist to ‘prove’ he’s not narcissistic, rather than taking any responsibility for the pain he was inflicting.
If you’re reading this article, it’s likely you’re not like him… because you want to do something about the perceived negative traits you’re exhibiting.
2) Stop love bombing, disregarding and stonewalling
There is a classic pattern narcissists follow. If it resonates with you then stop, so you can get rid of narcissistic traits.
It goes like:
- Love bomb
What do I mean by this?
Love bombing means to give someone – like a romantic partner or colleague – an excessive amount of attention. It’s a case of literally bombing them with your affection so they feel pretty much dependent on you.
When a narcissist is love bombing, they’ll make someone feel like they’ve never felt before.
This could be achieved through excessive gifts like bouquets of flowers, saying they’re the best employee or partner they’ve had, and just generally telling them all the things they want to hear… but the thing is: it’s not genuine.
The experts at Mind Body Green explain that love bombing is a very common tactic that’s used by narcissists.
On the other hand… you might shower someone with compliments and it might be from a legitimate place. It’s not to say that anything nice you say or do is a toxic tactic, but narcissists approach situations like this. They very consciously overwhelm someone with ‘love’.
Next, narcissists withdraw their love and start to put someone down.
This could be subtle at the beginning, such as small digs and eye rolls, while it will only get worse over time.
In arguments, they’ll then make themselves out to be the victim – painting their partner as the villain and making them feel worse about themselves. It’s all part of their plan to devalue you and keep you under their thumb.
Remember what I said earlier: it’s about control.
Finally, narcissists will disregard and ignore.
A classic tactic is stonewalling, so completely refusing to talk and shutting down.
This means the other person is left in the dark, wondering what is going on and what they’ve done wrong.
I actually had this situation play out in a professional context.
My then-manager was excessively nice to me, in an attempt to win my respect and get me to perform well. But she was hot and cold: one day she would shower me with compliments and say I was the best on her team, while the next she would be short and rude to me – treating me like an idiot for asking certain questions. She once even called me ‘entitled’ for going ahead with something without running it past her.
The way she treated me felt unprofessional and unhinged, and I didn’t know what I was getting.
I often felt confused because she was so nice to me – telling me she confided in me and sharing her personal life with me – only to actually call me names the next. She would then not respond to my requests and emails for hours when I needed her input, and I was left feeling anxious.
It was her way of trying to control me.
You see, now I understand narcissism, I can see what was happening. But when you’re dealing with a narcissist, it’s an emotionally confusing place to be!
3) Get a handle on your triggers
So, you think you can exhibit narcissistic traits – like being passive aggressive and holding a grudge?
If you want to change these traits, you can get a handle on them by identifying your triggers.
First ask yourself: what makes you passive aggressive? Make a list of the different situations that can cause this.
It could be:
- Feeling like someone is attacking you
- A build up of frustration
Maybe it’s your partner, your colleagues or your friends that cause this response.
Being passive aggressive is never a good idea, as it’s concealing what’s actually going on beneath the surface. Instead, the best thing you can do is to talk about what’s coming up for you in a calm manner.
Now, what makes you hold a grudge?
Make another list.
If you’re prone to holding a grudge – usually manifesting as stonewalling – remember this again is avoiding getting to the root of the problem. And it’s the way a narcissist would handle things, so stop doing it if you want to get rid of these traits.
When it comes to feeling like you’re triggered, why not try a simple breathwork exercise to help you pause, reflect and decide how to respond?
When I felt the most lost in life, I was introduced to an unusual free breathwork video created by the shaman, Rudá Iandê, which focuses on dissolving stress and boosting inner peace.
My relationship was failing, I felt tense all the time. My self-esteem and confidence hit rock bottom. I’m sure you can relate – heartbreak does little to nourish the heart and soul.
I had nothing to lose, so I tried this free breathwork video, and the results were incredible.
But before we go any further, why am I telling you about this?
I’m a big believer in sharing – I want others to feel as empowered as I do. And, if it worked for me, it could help you too.
Rudá hasn’t just created a bog-standard breathing exercise – he’s cleverly combined his many years of breathwork practice and shamanism to create this incredible flow – and it’s free to take part in.
If you feel a disconnect with yourself due to a lack of control over your triggered, I’d recommend checking out Rudá’s free breathwork video.
4) Imagine how you would like to respond
Now, in place of responding to triggers like you used to, decide how you would like to be.
- How could I be in place of being passive aggressive or sulking?
- How would I like to be?
When faced with a trigger, think about how you would like to handle the situation.
Do you have an idea?
As if that’s not enough… thinking about it is one thing, but really visualizing the situation in your mind’s-eye is important if you are to bring it into existence.
Here, you’ll be using the Law of Attraction to create your reality.
In a recent Hack Spirit article, Jude Paler explains:
“Think about what you’re visualizing in detail. If you’re trying to imagine a crystal clear future, think of every color, shape, size, and dimension as accurately as possible. The more details you can include, the better!”
Find a quiet space to think, take some deep breaths and imagine the scene in detail:
- Where are you when you’re responding in this calm manner?
- How does the other person respond to you?
- What is your thought process like?
- How do you control yourself from going back to old behaviors?
If you can get clear on all of these aspects, you’re onto a winner!
And not only will visualizing help you in controlling your triggers so you don’t exhibit narcissistic traits, but you’ll be able to use it in all areas of your life to design the life you want.
It’s a powerful tool.
There’s one more thing… be sure to put emotion behind the situation, as this supercharges visualizations.
How would you feel responding to situations in this way?
Maybe you would feel:
Let these emotions flood your body when you visualize this scene playing out, as it will bring it to life.
Finally, if you believe that it’s possible to change your behaviors, you’ll be able to!
Don’t keep yourself stuck because you don’t believe in your ability. You have the power to change the course of events in your life, if you take control and learn the tools.