10 things a narcissist will do when you finally start asserting yourself

Healthy self-esteem and narcissism couldn’t be more different.

The key distinction? Respect. Narcissists often disregard others’ feelings and boundaries, manipulating situations to suit their own needs.

When you begin to assert yourself, a narcissist’s true colors tend to show.

It’s like pulling back the curtain on a poorly orchestrated performance.

In response, they may resort to various tactics to regain control, and it’s crucial to spot these signs. That’s where I come in.

Next, I’ll share with you 10 telltale behaviors a narcissist may exhibit when you start standing your ground.

Let’s jump in. 

1) They will employ guilt trips

Narcissists have a knack for making you feel guilty for asserting your boundaries.

It’s their default strategy when they feel their control slipping away.

Imagine finally standing up to them, only to be met with comments like “After all I’ve done for you” or “You’re so selfish”. Sounds familiar, right?

This is a classic narcissistic tactic.

They aim to make you feel guilty and question your decision to assert yourself.

But remember, it’s not about you; it’s about their need for control.

When you start recognizing these guilt trips for what they are, it becomes easier to stand your ground.

2) They’ll use personal attacks

In my own experience with a narcissist, I noticed a pattern.

The moment I began to assert myself, the personal attacks started coming in.

“I can’t believe you’re being so ungrateful,” he’d say. Or, “You’re just being sensitive.”

These weren’t just random comments; they were targeted, designed to undermine my confidence and make me question my decision to stand up for myself.

One instance that stands out was when I finally put my foot down about constant late-night calls.

His response? “Oh, so now you’re too important to talk to me. I see how it is.”

It was hurtful at first, but then I realized: this was his way of regaining control.

The moment he felt threatened by my assertiveness, he resorted to personal attacks.

3) They may resort to gaslighting

Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic narcissists often use.

It’s a psychological ploy where they manipulate you into doubting your own memory, perception, or sanity.

This term stemmed from the 1944 film “Gaslight,” where a husband manipulates his wife into believing she’s losing her mind. Quite fitting, isn’t it?

In real-life scenarios, a narcissist might deny a conversation ever happened, or insist their hurtful words were just a joke.

“You’re overreacting,” or “You misunderstood me” are common phrases they might use.

They do this to make you question your reality, and in doing so, regain their lost control.

So when you start asserting yourself, stay vigilant for signs of gaslighting.

4) They’ll play the victim

Another trick narcissists pull when you start asserting yourself is playing the victim.

They twist the story to paint themselves as the ones being wronged, even when the facts say otherwise.

Here’s the typical scenario: you speak up for yourself, and instead of addressing the issue, they sidestep it by bringing up their own (usually unrelated) woes or complaints.

It’s a move to divert attention from your needs to theirs and guilt-trip you for setting boundaries. Don’t fall for it.

See it for what it is—a manipulation tactic, not a sincere cry for understanding.

5) They’ll give you the silent treatment

Narcissists are known to use the silent treatment as a form of punishment when you start asserting yourself.

It’s their way of saying, “If you’re not going to play by my rules, I won’t acknowledge your existence.”

It can be incredibly frustrating and emotionally draining.

You might find yourself anxiously waiting for them to break the silence or even blaming yourself for their behavior.

Hey, this is just another control tactic. It’s designed to make you feel powerless and desperate for their attention.

Don’t let the silence intimidate you; it’s a clear sign that your assertiveness is working.

6) They might resort to smear campaigns

When you begin to assert yourself, narcissists might start spreading false stories about you to others.

This is known as a smear campaign.

It can be one of the most painful experiences to endure – to see someone you once trusted tarnishing your reputation without a second thought.

Your character, your actions, even your sanity might be called into question.

Despite the hurt, keep in mind that this is not a reflection of who you are.

It’s a desperate measure by the narcissist to maintain their facade and control.

7) They might try to win you back

When I started asserting myself, I noticed a surprising shift in the narcissist’s behavior.

Suddenly, he was attentive, caring, and even apologetic.

It felt like the person I initially fell for had returned.

But in reality, it was just another manipulation tactic – commonly referred to as “love bombing.”

The sweet words, grand gestures, and promises of change were all designed to pull me back into his world.

It took a lot of strength to see through the act and stand my ground.

Get ready for this sudden shift.

It can be incredibly confusing and tempting to fall back into old patterns.

But don’t forget it’s just another way for them to regain control.

8) They might seem unaffected

Oddly enough, sometimes when you start asserting yourself, a narcissist might act as if nothing has changed.

They continue on, business as usual, seemingly unfazed by your newfound assertiveness.

This can be disconcerting.

You might find yourself wondering if your efforts are in vain, or if they even noticed the change in you.

But don’t be fooled.

This is a tactic designed to make you doubt your impact and question your actions.

It’s their way of subtly undermining your assertiveness.

9) They’ll escalate their behavior

Another common response from narcissists when you start asserting yourself is escalation.

They might become more demanding, more controlling, or more verbally abusive.

This heightened behavior is a desperate bid to regain their lost control.

It’s like the proverbial cornered animal lashing out because they feel threatened.

While this can be intimidating, it’s crucial not to back down.

This escalation is a clear sign that your assertiveness is disrupting their control.

Stay firm in your boundaries and remind yourself: their behavior is a reflection of them, not you.

10) They might discard you

Perhaps the most painful tactic a narcissist might employ when you assert yourself is discarding you.

They may cut ties, end the relationship, or even ghost you entirely.

It can feel like a harsh rejection.

But it’s important to remember that this is not about you or your worth.

It’s about the narcissist’s inability to accept a relationship where they don’t have control.

If this happens, it’s crucial to surround yourself with support and remember: you are strong, and you are worthy of respect and healthy relationships.

Self-respect is your weapon

When it comes to handling narcissists, self-respect is absolutely key.

This rings especially true in dealing with narcissists.

Their reaction when you start asserting yourself says more about their insecurities and desire for control than it does about your own value.

Keep in mind, asserting yourself isn’t just about facing off with a narcissist.

It’s about recognizing your own worth, establishing healthy boundaries, and nurturing self-respect.

As you navigate this journey, be gentle with yourself.

You’re not just contending with a narcissist; you’re also discovering how to prioritize your own needs and uphold your boundaries.

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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