Have you ever felt like someone in your life constantly makes everything about you? Do they lack empathy for your feelings and always need to be the center of attention? If so, you may be dealing with a narcissist. Narcissists can be cunning and manipulative, often disguising their self-centered tendencies behind a charming facade. But look a little closer, and you’ll start to notice the subtle clues.
Their excessive need for admiration. How they twist every conversation to be about them. The way your concerns and feelings always seem to take a backseat to their own. While narcissism exists on a spectrum, even minor tendencies can seriously disrupt your relationships and well-being. Here are 18 signs you may be dealing with a narcissist in your life.
1. They Make Conversations About Themselves
If conversations with someone always seem to circle back to them in some way, you may have a narcissist on your hands. They’ll turn discussions into opportunities to boast about themselves, share accomplishments, or bring up their achievements.
For example, if you tell a narcissist about your big promotion at work, they might say something like “Congratulations! I remember when I got promoted to management. It was so thrilling.” See how they made your success about them?
Narcissists also love compliments and praise. They constantly fish for admiration and approval. If you don’t shower them with enough compliments, they may become irritable or upset.
- They brag frequently about lavish vacations, expensive purchases, or other signs of status or success.
- They believe that they are special or unique and can only be understood by other special people.
-They become impatient or angry when others don’t give them the admiration they feel they deserve.
- They exaggerate their achievements and talents and expect constant praise and admiration.
In the end, conversations with narcissists leave you feeling drained, unheard, and like a supporting character in their life story. The spotlight is perpetually on them, and that’s just the way they like it.
2. They Always Need to be the Center of Attention
If someone constantly craves attention and praise, they may be a narcissist.
- They frequently steer conversations back to themselves. No matter the topic, they’ll find a way to make it about them.
- They expect constant compliments and admiration. If you don’t shower them with praise, they take it as a personal attack.
- They exaggerate their achievements and talents. They’re always the star of their stories, even if it means bending the truth.
- They feel entitled to special treatment. Rules apply to everyone else, not them. They expect you to accommodate their needs and desires.
- They lack empathy. They have a hard time understanding other people’s perspectives or emotions. Your feelings are insignificant to them.
- They get jealous when others get attention. They want the spotlight on them at all times and can’t stand it when it’s directed at someone else.
- They think they’re unique or special in some way. They believe they have rare talents, skills, or a destiny to fulfill.
If these signs sound familiar, you may be dealing with a narcissist. The best way to handle them? Don’t feed their ego – set clear boundaries and don’t let them take advantage of you. You deserve to be around people who treat you with compassion and respect.
3. They Constantly Fish for Compliments
Narcissists constantly seek validation and praise from those around them. They need constant admiration to feed their fragile ego and sense of self-worth.
You’ll notice the narcissist in your life frequently flatters you with compliments to get reciprocal praise in return. They may compliment your looks, skills, talents, and accomplishments excessively. These compliments often seem insincere and like the narcissist is just buttering you up to get a compliment back.
Don’t fall for this trap. While it’s polite to say “thank you” to compliments, don’t feel obligated to return the favor unless you genuinely mean it. The narcissist’s compliments are not meant to make you feel good about yourself but are rather a ploy to get you to compliment and praise them in return.
Narcissists also often drop subtle hints about their talents, skills, and accomplishments as a way to fish for compliments. For example, they may say something like, “I just wrote another great article this week. My writing has been really improving lately, don’t you think?” Or “I had three clients tell me today what an amazing job I did for them. I’m really at the top of my game.”
These kinds of humble brags are meant to prompt you to gush with praise and tell them how amazing, talented or skilled they are. Don’t take the bait. While you can acknowledge their comments with a simple response like “that’s good to hear,” avoid lavishing them with compliments they’re clearly fishing for. The narcissist’s sense of self depends on constant external praise, and the more you give in to their subtle demands for admiration, the more they will demand from you.
4. They React Poorly to Healthy Criticism
When dealing with a narcissist, be prepared for their overreaction to even constructive criticism.
Narcissists see themselves as perfect, so any critique, no matter how caring or thoughtful, is seen as a personal attack. They will lash out in anger or place the blame on you rather than reflect inward.
- Your caring observations about their behavior will be met with excuses, accusations, and hostility.
- They are unable to take responsibility for their actions and will turn the tables to make you the bad guy.
- Don’t expect a sincere apology or changed behavior. They lack self-awareness and empathy.
Recognizing unhealthy reactions to feedback is one of the earliest warning signs you may be dealing with a narcissist. While it’s human nature to become defensive at times, narcissists take it to the extreme and are fundamentally incapable of accepting criticism in a balanced, mature way.
If you find yourself walking on eggshells and avoiding speaking your truth for fear of the backlash, that is a major red flag. A healthy, caring relationship is based on mutual trust, respect, communication and compromise. Don’t settle for less.
5. They Blame Others for Their Own Mistakes
Narcissists have trouble admitting fault or taking responsibility for their actions. They tend to blame external factors and other people for anything that goes wrong, rather than accept blame themselves.
If a work project fails or a relationship ends badly, it’s never their fault. There’s always an excuse — their coworkers didn’t pull their weight, their boss had unrealistic expectations, the other person was unreasonable. They constantly point fingers at other people and refuse to acknowledge their own role in the situation.
Deep down, narcissists have fragile self-esteem, so accepting blame or criticism feels threatening to them. It’s easier for them to deflect responsibility onto others than to admit they made a mistake or failed in some way. Of course, this refusal to take responsibility severely damages their relationships over time. The people around them get tired of always being the scapegoat for the narcissist’s bad behavior and poor decision making.
6. They Take Advantage of People’s Empathy
Narcissists are skilled at manipulating people’s empathy and kindness for their own gain. They know how to play the victim and tug at your heartstrings to get what they want. Here are a few signs a narcissist is taking advantage of your empathy:
They constantly talk about their problems but never listen to you. They expect you to comfort them endlessly but don’t offer you empathy or support in return.
They make you feel guilty for not dropping everything to help them. If you say no or set boundaries, they accuse you of being “selfish” or “uncaring”. In reality, they only care about their own needs.
They take but never give. They have no problem accepting favors, gifts, and help from you but never reciprocate or express gratitude. Your kindness is expected and taken for granted.
They blame others for their mistakes and failures but take credit for other people’s accomplishments. They see themselves as the perpetual victim who can do no wrong.
They demand constant praise and admiration. If you don’t applaud them for every little thing, they become angry or sullen. Their fragile egos must be stroked frequently through excessive compliments.
They lack empathy for others and only care about how situations affect them. They cannot put themselves in someone else’s shoes or show compassion for other people’s suffering or misfortune.
In the end, don’t feel bad for setting limits with a narcissist or distancing yourself from their manipulation and abuse. Your empathy is wasted on them, and the only person who can help a narcissist change is themselves, through intensive therapy and a willingness to self-reflect that they typically lack. You deserve relationships where your kindness is appreciated and reciprocated.
7. They Exaggerate Their Own Importance
A narcissist tends to overstate their accomplishments and talents. They constantly talk about how great they are and how much they’ve achieved. But their claims are usually exaggerated or altogether false.
Narcissists crave admiration and praise from those around them. So they construct a grandiose image of themselves to elicit the praise and admiration they desire. They may brag incessantly about their (imagined) achievements and talents. They act like they’re the most successful, smartest or most skilled person in any situation.
Conversations with narcissists often revolve around them. They frequently steer the discussion back to themselves and their favorite topic: me, myself and I. They expect others to be intensely interested in their exaggerated stories of success or accomplishments. And they get annoyed when others don’t share their inflated views of themselves.
In reality, narcissists feel inferior and insecure. Their boasting and self-absorption is a disguise to cover up their inner fragility. But beneath their egoistic exterior, they harbor a fragile self-esteem that requires constant validation and tribute from those around them. Their exaggerated claims of importance are just a vain attempt to convince themselves they really are as great as they proclaim to be.
8. They Feel Entitled to Special Treatment
Narcissists feel they deserve special treatment, privileges, and praise just for being themselves. They believe the rules don’t apply to them and that they should be able to skip steps that ordinary people follow or cut in line.
They demand preferential treatment
Narcissists expect you to cater to their needs and prioritize them ahead of others. They want the best seats at events, special offers, and discounts, and for you drop everything to assist them right away. Any perceived failure to treat them as superior or give them priority can trigger a narcissistic tantrum.
They have an exaggerated sense of entitlement
Narcissists believe that they inherently deserve more than others. They feel entitled to whatever they want – your time, admiration, money, or status symbols. They don’t think they should have to work as hard as everyone else to achieve the same rewards. This sense of entitlement is unrealistic and causes problems in their relationships and workplaces.
They lack empathy for others
Narcissists can’t understand why others don’t share their sense of entitlement. They lack empathy for people who have to follow the standard rules or work their way up. They get impatient when others also demand special treatment or privileges. Their inability to see beyond themselves and lack of empathy for others’ needs and experiences contributes to their entitled mindset.
Recognizing signs of entitlement and a lack of empathy can help in identifying narcissistic behavior. Don’t feel obligated to cater to someone else’s unrealistic demands or praise them when undeserved. Set clear boundaries and don’t reward entitlement, or you’ll end up constantly having to appease them.
9. They Get Envious When Others Succeed
When dealing with a narcissist, their envy and jealousy can be subtle but ever-present. Everything seems to be a competition, and your successes are somehow threats to them.
The narcissists in your life may act happy for you in public, but in private, they show their true colors. Your accomplishments and achievements somehow always become about them. They change the subject to themselves or make backhanded compliments.
For example, if you get a promotion at work, they might say something like “Must be nice to have connections like that.” Or if you lose weight, they comment “You were fine before, but I guess some people really care about looks.” They frame your wins as undeserved or unimportant.
Narcissists see life as a zero-sum game—there are only so many slices of the pie. So when you get a bigger slice, they feel they have less. Your happiness and success stir up feelings of inadequacy in them.
The irony is that narcissists covet the admiration and status they see in others. Deep down, they feel insecure and unworthy. But instead of doing the hard work to improve themselves, they try to diminish those around them.
Your best strategy is not to share too many details of your life with the narcissist. Keep interactions superficial, and don’t expect genuine congratulations or support. Their envy is their problem, not yours, so maintain confidence in your own accomplishments.
10. They Namedrop and Show Off Wealth/Status
Another sign of narcissism is someone who frequently namesrops and shows off their perceived status or wealth. They may casually mention famous or influential people they know to impress you, even if the connection seems superficial or exaggerated.
- They conspicuously flash expensive items like designer clothes, luxury cars, or lavish homes. But behind the scenes, they may actually have significant debt from living beyond their means.
- They tend to choose friends, partners, and social circles based primarily on status and influence rather than genuine connection or shared interests. Their relationships seem transactional, based on what the other person can do for their image or career.
- In conversation, they repeatedly steer the focus back to themselves and their (often self-proclaimed) accomplishments and prestige. They don’t seem genuinely interested in learning about you or forming a two-way connection.
- They believe their elevated status makes them inherently superior to others. But underneath the bragging and bravado, narcissists often struggle with deep insecurity, inadequacy, and a fragile self-esteem.
The bottom line is that genuinely confident and successful people don’t need to constantly prove their worth to others. So if someone can’t stop namedropping and showing off, it may be a sign that their sense of importance is more about ego than substance. Tread carefully, as narcissists can be manipulative and lack empathy. The healthiest relationships are built on mutual understanding and respect, not status, wealth, or influence.
11. They React Strongly to Perceived Slights
Narcissists have an exaggerated sense of self-importance, so even small slights can set them off. If they feel disrespected or like they’re not getting the admiration they deserve, watch out. They may react with rage or passive-aggression.
- Their fragile ego causes them to lash out at any perceived criticism. If you dare to provide constructive feedback or point out a shortcoming, be prepared for hostility. They cannot handle anything they see as an attack.
- They interpret even small, innocent actions as deliberate slights. If you’re late to meet them or forget to respond to a text right away, they assume you’re intentionally ignoring them to upset them. Their reaction will be far out of proportion to the situation.
- They use emotional abuse and manipulation to put you in your place. After reacting angrily to a perceived slight, they will often follow up with personal attacks, blame, gaslighting and other toxic behavior to regain control and make you feel like the one at fault.
- The only way to avoid these nasty reactions is to constantly stroke their ego and avoid direct or blunt communication. But continually feeding their self-centeredness will only make the situation worse in the long run. The healthiest option is to establish clear boundaries and call out their manipulative behavior when it occurs.
12. They Refuse to Show Emotional Vulnerability
A narcissist has an excessive need for admiration, but little ability to show emotional vulnerability. They refuse to open up about their weaknesses, fears, and imperfections.
When you share something personal about yourself, do they reciprocate and reveal their own struggles or insecurities? If not, this could indicate narcissism. Narcissists believe showing any emotional vulnerability will make them appear weak or imperfect. They maintain a façade of superiority to protect their fragile self-esteem.
Rather than connecting with you over shared life experiences, a narcissist will change the subject to keep the focus on themselves. They are unable to be genuinely interested in you or empathize with your feelings. Your attempts to bond over difficulties will be met with indifference or contempt.
Narcissists lack the ability for emotional intimacy. They can’t handle deep discussions about personal topics like fears, regrets, traumatic events, or relationship issues. These kinds of vulnerable interactions threaten their sense of perfection and control.
While it’s normal to avoid certain emotional topics with casual friends or new acquaintances, a complete inability to show emotional vulnerability, especially with close ones, signals a problem. Healthy relationships require reciprocity, empathy and a willingness to emotionally support each other during times of struggle. If someone consistently refuses to meet you there, you may be dealing with a narcissist.
13. They Avoid Taking Responsibility
Narcissists have a hard time accepting blame or responsibility for their actions. They tend to blame others instead of owning up to their mistakes or flaws. If you call them out on something they did wrong, they’ll make excuses or point fingers at someone else.
- They never think they’re at fault. There’s always an explanation or justification for their behavior. They didn’t do anything wrong in their minds.
- They blame external factors. It’s someone else’s fault or the situation was out of their control. They blame their mood, stress level, job, family, etc. Anything but themselves.
- They play the victim. Rather than accepting responsibility, they portray themselves as the victim to gain sympathy and avoid consequences. They use emotional manipulation to make you feel sorry for them.
- They don’t apologize sincerely. If they do say “sorry”, it’s usually to placate you, not because they genuinely feel apologetic. Their “apologies” will be hollow and insincere.
- They don’t change their behavior. Because they don’t accept responsibility, narcissists see no reason to modify their actions or do things differently next time. They just keep repeating the same patterns.
The inability to accept responsibility and make a sincere apology is a glaring sign you’re dealing with someone who has unhealthy self-centered tendencies. Don’t expect them to change – you need to be the one to establish proper boundaries to protect yourself.
14. They Use Shaming and Guilt Trips to Control
Narcissists are masters of manipulation and control. One of their favorite tactics is shaming or guilt-tripping you. They may say things like:
- “You’re so selfish. Do you even think of anyone but yourself?”
- “After all I’ve done for you, this is how you repay me?”
- “I guess I’m just not important to you. I’ll just stay out of your way from now on.”
The goal here is to make you feel bad so you’ll do what they want. They prey on your sense of empathy and obligation to twist situations to their advantage. Don’t fall for these manipulative ploys. Recognize them for what they are – a way to bend you to their will and feed their ego.
You don’t owe anyone an explanation for living your own life or setting healthy boundaries. Don’t let narcissists make you feel guilty for their problems or shortcomings. Stand up for yourself while also being compassionate in your response. You might say something like:
“I’m sorry you feel that way. Let’s have a constructive conversation about this.”
“Your guilt trips won’t work on me. I care about you, but I also need to care for myself.”
The more you become aware of their manipulative tactics, the less power they’ll have over you. Stay confident in yourself instead of letting narcissists undermine your self-worth with their shaming and guilt trips.
15. They Play the Victim in Conflicts
When dealing with a narcissist in conflict, watch out for their tendency to play the victim.
They will manipulate the situation to make you seem like the perpetrator and them the innocent victim. Some signs of this behavior:
- They blame you for their hurtful actions and words. It’s always your fault, never theirs.
- They claim you provoked or upset them, so they’re not responsible for their reaction.
- They accuse you of doing things you never did to make themselves look like the victim.
- They share personal stories of hardship or betrayal to gain sympathy and distract from the real issue.
- They use emotional blackmail like threatening to end the relationship or spread lies about you if you don’t take the blame.
Don’t fall for their manipulation and guilt trips. Calmly stand up for yourself while also expressing empathy for their perceived hurts. Compromise and taking shared responsibility are not options for narcissists, so you may need to disengage until they are open to constructive communication. You deserve to be in healthy relationships where you’re treated as an equal.
16. They Isolate You From Friends and Family
One of the subtlest signs of a narcissist is how they isolate you from the other meaningful relationships in your life. At first, it may seem like they just want to spend lots of quality time together as your connection grows deeper. But over time, you may notice them actively discouraging you from seeing close friends and family.
They may make excuses for why you can’t get together with others by planning extravagant dates or trips that conflict with your existing plans. Or they may outright criticize and belittle the people you care about in an attempt to drive a wedge between you.
Some key warnings to watch out for:
- They demand a disproportionate amount of your time and attention. Spending time with others cuts into their supply of admiration and affection for you.
- They find subtle ways to disparage your close ones and point out their perceived flaws or shortcomings. This is a tactic to make you doubt your other relationships.
- They make you feel guilty for wanting to see friends and family. They claim that you must not care about the relationship if you want to spend time with others.
- They isolate you by controlling how much you communicate with your circle. They may monitor who you’re texting or calling and for how long.
- They make empty promises to socialize with your people but then always cancel at the last minute with an excuse. Their intention is to avoid meaningful connections that could threaten their control over you.
The bottom line is that a healthy relationship enhances your life and connections with others, it doesn’t restrict them. Pay close attention if someone is systematically cutting you off from the meaningful people in your life – it’s a major red flag. Stand up for yourself and don’t let anyone isolate you from living fully.
17. They Monopolize Your Time and Energy
Narcissists demand constant attention and admiration. They expect you to be at their beck and call, and may get angry or sulk if you’re not. Your time and energy seem to revolve around them.
- They frequently call, text or drop by unannounced and expect you to drop everything for them. If you don’t, they accuse you of not caring enough about them.
- Conversations always center around them. They rarely ask you anything about yourself or your life. If you do talk about yourself, they quickly steer the conversation back to themselves.
- They demand excessive compliments and praise. But no matter how much you give them, it’s never enough. They constantly fish for more ego-stroking.
- Their needs and desires take priority over your own. Your hobbies, interests and responsibilities are secondary to theirs. They expect you to cater to them above all else.
- They become angry or sulky if you spend time with other friends or family. They want to monopolize your time and attention, and become jealous of anyone else in your life.
Dealing with a narcissist is emotionally and physically draining. Don’t feel bad about setting clear boundaries to protect your own mental health and well-being. You deserve to have mutually caring relationships where you feel heard, respected, and supported.
18. They cycle Between Idealization and Devaluation
The narcissist in your life may idealize you at first, putting you on a pedestal and showering you with affection and praise. But once they have you hooked into the relationship, they start subtly devaluing you.
- One moment, you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to them. The next, you’re a disappointment or annoyance.
- They blow hot and cold, being overly critical of you one day and overly praising the next.
- You never know where you stand with them or how they really feel about you.
- Their opinions and statements about you change frequently, leaving you confused and anxious.
This unhealthy cycle of idealization and devaluation is emotionally damaging and erodes your self-esteem over time. You find yourself constantly seeking their approval and validation, but it remains elusive.
Don’t let their unstable behavior make you question your own self-worth. Recognize the subtle signs of narcissistic abuse and understand that the problem lies with them, not you. You deserve to be in healthy relationships where you’re appreciated and respected.
The narcissist’s idealization-devaluation cycle serves to keep you insecure in the relationship and longing for the good times to return. But the truth is, the good times never last for long. The only way to break free from this cycle is to remove yourself from their influence.
What Are Some Less Obvious Signs of Narcissism?
What are some surprising signs of narcissism you should be aware of? It’s not just about excessive self-centeredness or attention-seeking behavior. Less obvious indicators include a constant need for validation, covert manipulation tactics, a lack of empathy towards others, and a tendency to exploit relationships for personal gain. Pay attention to these subtle signs to identify narcissistic traits in individuals around you.
So there you have it, 18 signs that you may be dealing with a narcissist. The reality is, that narcissists can be incredibly charming and manipulative, so even if you spot some of these signs, it may take time to fully realize the depth of their selfishness and lack of empathy. Don’t blame yourself – narcissists are masters of manipulation and their behavior is not your fault.
The important thing is that now you know what to look for. Trust your instincts, set firm boundaries, and don’t let anyone make you feel less than amazing. You deserve to surround yourself with people who love and respect you for who you are.
If you think you’re dealing with a narcissist, don’t be afraid to establish distance to protect your own mental health and happiness. You’ve got this! Stay strong and remember that you are worthy of real, genuine relationships where you feel heard, supported, and cared for.