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How to Spot a Narcissist Instantly & Save Yourself a World of Pain

Learning how to spot a narcissist will help you get out of the way of emotional danger. While true narcissists are rare, the real ones need to be avoided. 

how to spot a narcissist

Would you know how to spot a narcissist? It’s not as though they walk around with a flashing red light on their heads, so how can you be sure that you’ve met one or not?

The troublesome thing is that the truth won’t become clear until a short while after they’ve become a permanent fixture in your life.

Narcissists are often on their best behavior when they first meet you, but then slowly show their true colors over time. The issue is that by that time, you’ve fallen for their charm and you’re in love with an illusion.

So, while learning how to spot a narcissist isn’t easy, you can be on the lookout for signs to help you steer clear of someone who is going to give you a world of emotional pain.

[Read: What causes narcissism? The facts and theories to read a narcissist]

What is a narcissist exactly?

The world seems to be full of narcissists. That in itself is surprising. True narcissism, i.e. someone who has been diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), is actually very rare.

Instead, we have a whole host of people walking around with narcissistic traits, some severe, and causing a world of pain to those who attempt to love them and support them. Of course, they’re also causing themselves a world of pain. They can’t see it, because they’re never wrong in their own eyes. [Read: How to set boundaries with a narcissist and weaken their hold over you]

The sad thing is that a narcissist will never be truly happy or have a normal, loving relationship. It is impossible because they do not love and trust their partner in a regular way. Instead, they use a whole host of manipulation tactics and misery to control their lover.

Boastful, arrogant, manipulative, deceitful, and nothing short of cruel at times, narcissists are not people you want to spend time with, let alone fall in love with.

Of course, you might wonder why anyone would fall in love with a person like this. Good question, but it’s really not that simple. The charm and illusion a narcissist uses at the start basically mean that you fall in love with a version of them that isn’t real.

Then, when they start to show their true colors, you’re left pining for the version you fell in love with. They show up occasionally, but only to stop you from moving on. [Read: Loving a narcissist – How to tell if you’ve fallen for a narcissist]

How to spot a narcissist in a few not-so-easy steps

Let’s check out a few of the most common narcissistic traits, helping you know how to spot a narcissistic. If you do spot one, run a mile if needed.

Some of these traits are subtle, others are very obvious. Either way, keep a close eye on these and take action if you see them displayed regularly.

1. They’re never wrong

If you’re around someone who is incapable of ever admitting they may be at fault or wrong about something, this is a classic narcissist warning light.

Narcissists believe they are never at fault, they’re always right. Basically, everyone else is wrong. [Read: 23 secret signs of narcissism people overlook until it’s too late]

2. They make you question yourself constantly

There is a commonly used technique called ‘gaslighting’, which narcissists use on a regular basis. In the worst cases, it makes you question your own sanity. You second guess yourself and wonder whether it’s you that’s thinking something bad, or it’s them actually making you think it. In the end, you’ll be so confused that you’ll believe you’re going insane.

This is no exaggeration. If you notice this happening and you know you’re not wrong, but they’re trying to force you to think you are, it’s time to get away. [Read: Been gaslighted? The signs a narcissist is playing mind games with you]

3. They control you much of the time

If you spend less and less time with friends and family, and it’s usually down to your partner or the potential narcissist in your life, then they’re subtly controlling you.

Second-guessing what to wear when you’re normally very confident in your fashion identity? That is another sign of subtle narcissistic control. They are control freaks, and that is one of the biggest signs on how to spot a narcissist. [Read: 23 subtle signs of a controlling boyfriend most girls don’t notice]

4. They’re surprisingly needy

Narcissists are actually insecure at their core, but their bravado and fake confidence cover it up.

If you find the potential narcissist in your life surprisingly needy, but they cover it with gaslighting or control methods, wake up and realize what is happening. This neediness is driving their manipulation, and it’s not your cross to bear. [Read: Do narcissists know they are narcissists or do they just lie to themselves?]

5. Their opinions are always more valid than yours

A little like our first sign, the opinions of a narcissist are basically “fact,” and any opinion you offer up will be met with derision. This is because they truly believe that your opinion is wrong, and they believe that deep in their very soul.

A narcissist isn’t knocking your opinion to one side out of spite, they’re doing it because they actually believe they’re right and you’re wrong!

6. They often put you down, to raise themselves up

Remember, narcissists are lacking in self-confidence. So, to make themselves feel better, they often put down the people around them. This can be very difficult if you’re in a romantic relationship with a narcissist.

In this case, you will go into the relationship feeling wonderful and sexy, excelling in your job, and enjoying your hobbies and friends. Soon you find yourself in a place where everything you do is laughed at or belittled, and you start to believe it yourself.

You might notice comments like, “But we both know you’re terrible at your job. Thankfully, I’m doing well in mine.” Cruel? Yes. Narcissistic? Totally. [Read: Why do narcissists do the selfish, hurtful things they do?]

7. They don’t seem to have a very positive dating history

If you enquire a little about their past dating history, you’re probably told that every ex was a terrible person, they did bad things to them, they cheated, lied, or lacked excitement. The truth is that these exes left because they came to understand and learn how to spot a narcissist.

A narcissist is incapable of love in the regular way. This means that unfortunately everyone they form a connection with leaves in the end, out of self-preservation. Anyone who does stay is likely to suffer emotionally. [Read: A relationship with a narcissist and what it means to love one]

8. They have very few friends

Just like the ex dating history, a narcissist is likely to have very few friends, if any. The friends they do have learn to understand their nature and limit their exposure, but most people leave.

A narcissist isn’t only unable to love in the regular way, but they’re unable to form emotional connections of any sort too. This means that friends feel belittled, unsupported, and unimportant, and spend less and less time around the person in question.

9. They must have the best of everything

If you notice they must always have the best shoes, the most up-to-date cell phone, the most revolutionary laptop, it’s likely because of narcissism. A narcissist won’t make do with what they can afford and be happy about it.

They must have the best of everything to be better than everyone else. Again, this is down to their lack of self-confidence. [Read: 18 emotions you shouldn’t feel in a healthy relationship]

10. They do not like you having your own life

A narcissist is highly unlikely to be okay with you going off and enjoying time with friends, family, and colleagues. Instead, they will want to be ingrained in every single aspect of your life. It can lead to a feeling of suffocation. When you start to question it, the gaslighting will make an appearance.

This is down to them feeling insecure and worrying that you will leave them if you have the freedom to go off and meet other people. They worry that you will find someone who treats you differently.

As a result, they manipulate to keep you in your place, controlling your life as a result. [Read: What is vulnerable narcissism and what makes this one so dangerous?]

11. You’re never sure which version of them is going to show up

One minute they’re loving *albeit fake*, and the next they’re telling you that you’re bad at your job and nobody loves you. You’re never really sure which version of them is going to show up from day to day. As a result, you’re confused and walking on eggshells all the time. 

It’s not a happy environment to be in and you’ll soon start to feel under pressure to be happy and pleasing to them all the time. The problem? Nothing you do will ever be enough for them. 

12. They react very badly to anything they deem to be criticism

One way on how to spot a narcissist is to see how they react to comments that could be taken as criticism in some ways. They’re likely to react very badly indeed. They’ll either fly into a rage or start with the cold shoulder, passive-aggressive treatment.

Basically, a narcissist sees everything as a slight on them and they want nothing but praise all the time. If someone dares say one thing which could be taken as critical, they react extremely negatively. [Read: Narcissistic rage – How to handle the angry backlash of a narcissist]

13. People warn you about them

It’s very likely that people have warned you that this person is no good. They might tell you things about them or simply say that they get a bad vibe from them. Whether you believe them or not depends upon how far down the gaslighting route you are.

If the narcissist has gaslit you heavily, you’re probably so far into their grasp that you’ll believe them over anyone else.

But, knowing how to spot a narcissist comes down to being able to open your eyes and see things for what they are. If people are telling you things like this – believe them.

14. You simply don’t feel truly loved

If it’s a romantic relationship, you probably won’t feel truly loved all the time. Sometimes you might feel special, because that’s when the narcissist is pulling out the charm offensive.

But, most of the time you just feel like a burden, as though you’re failing at everything, and that at the end of it all, they don’t love you how you want them to. That’s because they can’t. They don’t have the capacity or the required empathy to love someone. [Read: What does true love feel like? 22 signs of love to know if yours is real]

Now you’ve learned how to spot a narcissist, what are you going to do?

This may be advice you don’t want to hear. But, if you want to know the truth, here it is.

If you spot a narcissist, then you have to get away from them. You might love them, but you love a fake version of someone who isn’t real. You deserve to be loved for who you are and to find someone who is genuinely with you for the right reasons.

Leaving a narcissist isn’t easy.

They’ll throw the charm offensive back your way and probably try their very best to stop you from leaving.

But, you have to be strong. Cut all contact, rely heavily upon those around you for support, and keep telling yourself that you deserve so much better than this. Because, at the end of the day, you do!

[Read: How to leave a narcissist and free yourself from their web of control]

These are some of the most common signs to look for when understanding how to spot a narcissist. Regardless of the signs, if you’re unhappy and question your sanity in any way, it’s time to open your eyes and break away from the situation. 

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Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
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