After spending time learning about narcissism and identifying narcissistic traits in people (especially in your ex or current partner) you might all of a sudden stop and go …
Wait a minute, am I the narcissist?!
This can be a shocking and horrifying, especially if you start to believe what your mind is telling you, listening to the stories of when you have lacked integrity, been controlling, or even been manipulative.
I can’t tell you how many times people have asked this question. Is it me? Am I the one who is really the narcissist?
I want to state that your ability to self-assess yourself and ask yourself honestly “Am I a narcissist?” means that you are almost certainly not.
A narcissist must convince themselves and others that they are omnipotent, not characterised by the same flaws that “normal” human beings seem to be burdened with. To a narcissist it is everyone else’s fault and it certainly could not be him or her who has a problem.
But there are two key ingredients that a person with narcissistic personality disorder cannot have. And when you recognise that you have these ingredients, you will know 100% that you are not a narcissist.
What Constitutes Being a Narcissist?
It’s important to realize that no matter how confused and anguished you are presently feeling, and no matter how much the narcissist has made out that you are the one with all the problems, the following two questions will allow you to realise if you have narcissism:
The first question is – Do you have a conscience?
What this question means is, are you capable of purposefully lying, deceiving and doing things that you know are malicious, lack integrity and harm other people? Do you have the ability to secure your own agenda regardless of the methods you use to accomplish this and how they might negatively affect others? Are you capable of telling people whatever you think they want to hear, just so you can get what you want out of them?
Please know that whilst suffering the enormous amounts of abuse that is regularly experienced in a relationship with a narcissist, it is common to lose your integrity. In this state you go into “survival mode” and you are willing to do almost anything to get through the day without suffering more abuse.
If this happened to you, try and remember the times when you lost your hold on your integrity. Were you disgusted with yourself? Did you feel ashamed?
This will help you identify if you have a conscience.
What is actually more likely is that you have been, or are still, battling the narcissist constantly with declarations of your integrity, and being incensed and devastated when the narcissist has tried to line up examples of “how bad your integrity is” when trying to offset his or her own conscienceless behaviour.
The second question is – Do you have empathy? This means real and genuine empathy, not simply feigning concern and attention towards others in order to win “supply,” such as approval, acclaim, recognition or favors – which of course is the narcissist’s domain.
Do you truly feel other’s pain? Do you seek to help others not from a position of wanting to feed your ego, but because you truly would love to make a difference? This could include a wide range of activities like charity, volunteering or simply helping friends or people in the community in need, or sitting with your child and truly emphatically listening with your focus being on your son or daughter without making it about yourself. Do you go to people’s aid or feel their pain without thinking “What payoff or recognition can I get from this?”
Genuine empathy is having concern for others without having an agenda for yourself.
If either of these two human qualities are missing – having a conscience and being able to be genuinely empathetic – then the individual is likely to have significant narcissistic tendencies. If both of these resources are null and void, then an individual is likely to be severely narcissistic.
It truly is very important once realizing you are not a narcissist to understand how you lost faith and belief in “who you are,” and how the narcissist projected the blame of “being a bad person” onto you.
Even Though You Have Lost Yourself, You Can Remember Who You Are
Yes, you may be tormented now, but remember your essential nature. You will know at a deep inner level if you possess a conscience, and are genuinely empathetic. It can be really hard to “be” these qualities now, when you feel so poisoned with anger, injustice, and feelings of betrayal and pain.
Everyone, without exception, has the potential to act narcissistically. There are healthy and unhealthy levels of narcissism.
Unhealthy narcissism seeks to grab hold of approval, validation, love and self-worth that are lacking internally.
If you know about co-dependency you will know that this is exactly what co-dependents do as well.
Abused co-dependents and narcissists can look identical on the surface. The narcissist is always “empty” and tormented on the inside, so he or she cannot hold up the veneer for long. The cracks appear and the narcissistic behaviour breaks loose.
The co-dependent struggles with a sense of self, but does have the resources to provide themselves with self-love, approval and validation within themselves. This is what a narcissist can never have!
Co-dependents in everyday life do not act in the malicious ways that a narcissist does. However, when a co-dependent is severely affected (often by narcissistic abuse), the fearful and “empty” wounds are ripped open, and he or she will become manic, panicked and try to control his or her environment in order to get some relief from the pain that is ripping him or her apart. The co-dependent in this state can appear disjointed, angry, irrational, unreasonable and incredibly controlling.
When the co-dependent has reached this level of self-disintegration (disconnection from self), it is very easy for the narcissist to scapegoat him or her.
When you are suffering from no sense of self, and poor boundary function, it is very easy to fall for and stay attached to people who are highly abusive. These people affect your mind, your emotions, bring out your greatest fears and can cause you to almost lose who you are.
When you are in narcissistic relationships, it is an understatement to say that you are incredibly traumatized and confused.
This does not, however, mean that you are narcissistic.
No matter how crazy you may feel right now, no matter how toxic, angry, deranged and distraught you are, keep coming back to the questions regarding having a conscience and being able to be genuinely empathetic, because within those questions lies the answer.
The Narcissist’s Projections
It is vital to understand the following: The narcissist does not love and accept him or herself.
Any healthy human being on the way to establishing a healthy sense of self does the work to fully unconditionally love and accept themselves completely. This means the “good” and the “bad” about oneself. This means the recognition that you’re human, you have only ever been doing the best you could with the inner resources you had, and the level of emotional intelligence you possessed at the time.
Fully unconditionally loving and accepting self means being able to take full responsibility without defections and excuses to recognise, embrace and forgive the painful parts of ourself in order to heal them and transform them.
The narcissist has completely rejected self-love and self-acceptance, and certainly does not apply them.
He or she has numerous disowned painful parts that the narcissist wishes to avoid at any cost. This is why he or she has created a false self, the grandiose version of “self” that is not real and is positioned to defend mercilessly the painful inner parts that the narcissist has no intention of looking at, embracing or transforming.
This is why the narcissist has severe issues with being accountable, admitting he or she has behaved poorly, being genuinely remorseful or taking responsibility for unacceptable and pathological behavior.
This is why the narcissist projects onto you that you are the bad person, you are the cause of the problems, and makes you out to be the scapegoat.
This is why the narcissist will, if you bring the term “narcissist” to his or her attention, declare that you are the one with narcissism.
The narcissist’s deep wounded inner parts have been rejected by him or her and are unattended to. They have not been healed. They are unnatural, they are not “love;” they are “fear” and “pain” and they are not aligned with “true self”. These unhealed parts are intensely painful, and they erupt for the narcissist constantly.
The narcissist has two options to stop this intense emotional agony. He or she seeks a “feed” of narcissistic supply from outside him or herself to try to prop up his or her false self again – to try to override the internal agony – or he or she will have to line up someone else to dump the emotional torment on to.
If you are being narcissistically abused, you will receive the pain of both of these forms of abuse. The betrayal of the conscienceless behaviour the narcissist does outside of the relationship in order to receive his or her ego feed, and the blame shifting and condemnation of the narcissist’s disowned parts onto you.
Traditionally, whenever I have written articles about “what” the narcissist does, or how he or she thinks and behaves, this creates posts from my audience going into detail about what their narcissist did and what they endured as a result of this behavior.
I want to discourage this – adamantly. We all know what narcissists do, and I promise you from this side of the fence the stories are almost always virtually identical. Narcissists do the same stuff, in the same ways, because they are empty selves who have numerous disowned parts that they refuse to take responsibility for, which can only manifest as behaving in conscienceless ways.
All narcissists are the model of “I have been hurt, it’s now all about number one, and I’ll pit myself against the world in order to get my needs met.” Everyone else comes off second best.
So please, I don’t want to hear your stories about how bad narcissists are. The reason is because it does not serve you. None of us have gotten well or healed our own unhealed parts by staying focused on what the narcissist did.
The reason I wrote this article is to help break you out of the illusion that you are the narcissist. Because eliminating this illusion can lead you forward to your own self healing.
Your healing now is about taking responsibility, and fully claiming and embracing that it was your own unhealed parts that led you into a relationship with a narcissist.
You are not a narcissist, because you do possess a conscience and empathy; however, you do need to realize that it was your disowned parts, the parts that you didn’t like about yourself, your own lack of self-love and self-acceptance, that caused you to lack boundary function and look to the outside for love, validation and self-worth, rather than providing yourself with these commodities from within.
This is what co-dependency is all about – seeking to get from the outside what we are failing to grant ourselves. This is what painful relationships are all about – they show us the unhealed parts of ourselves that we have not as yet taken full responsibility for. They show us that we have not as yet learnt or applied ourselves to totally unconditionally loving and accepting our own wounds in order to transform them.
I would love it if you stated your claim that you are not the narcissist in the comments below, and use this knowledge to start putting your attention on the task at hand which is embracing yourself unconditionally (good and bad parts), taking full responsibility for yourself, and transforming your unhealed parts that led to painful experiences.
Remember you, unlike the narcissist, have the power within to fully come home to you. You can do it!