Have you ever considered the possibility of you being the actual narcissist in the relationship?
Perhaps the person you’re with was recently diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, or perhaps you came across this term by chance; but the things you learned about narcissism was making you believe you’re with a narcissist. And then you started your research… As you read and learn more about narcissism, you may find yourself asking this question: What if I’m the narcissist?
Why would you ask that? Why do people who had a narcissistic relationship or narcissistic parents start wondering whether they’re also narcissistic or not?
There are lots of reasons to these questions.
1.Thought and behavior networks taken over from the narcissist:
It is quite natural for you to end up embracing their thoughts and behaviors after spending enough time with an emotional manipulator. People we surround ourselves with play an important part in our lives just like the way the books we read, the movies we watch and the news we hear can shape who we are. Eventually, we start considering their weirdest quirks as ‘normal’ and in fact, find ourselves repeating their actions every once in a while. Jim Rohn has supported this notion by saying; “You’re the average of the five people spend the most time with.”
Especially if the narcissist we spent the most time with was a parent rather than a romantic partner or friend; it will be much easier to inherit their narcissistic thoughts and behaviors. Because family is where we acquire our first information from regarding life and we tend to consider the thoughts and behaviors of our parents -no matter how unhealthy they may be- “normal” and “right”, so this belief can cause us to act accordingly.
2. Common features with the narcissist:
Although people who have been with a narcissist for a long period of time can start thinking and acting just like a narcissist towards the end of their relationship; they can realize that they had done those things even before the relationship started. For instance, the chances of narcissists and codependents ending up together are quite high. If you’ve read my article titled “What is Codependency?”, or if you already had some information about codependency, you probably already know that codependents tend to be as controlling as a narcissist as well as desperate for attention and affirmation due to their low self-confidence. Or if we consider the relationship of a borderline and a narcissist, people with borderline personality disorder can be just as manipulative and end up harming those around them emotionally and psychologically. Or let’s say you’re not a codependent, a borderline or an empath. You don’t fit in the description of people believed to be drawn to narcissists and yet you still found yourself with a narcissist. While trying to understand the reason why you chose to be with them, you realized how impressed you were with your partner’s appearance, clothes and occupation when you first met them. In that case, you can start worrying about being a narcissist as well for valuing surface-level features rather than deeper things.
But do not forget that there’s a huge difference between being a narcissist and having some narcissistic tendencies. Just because some of your actions make you suspect it doesn’t mean you’re absolutely a narcissist.
3. Youth narcissism and past mistakes:
Perhaps you realized how hurtful and vain you’ve been in the past while thinking about your childhood or teenage years. Your past mistakes led you to believe that you’re a narcissist.
Unfortunately a lot people can be quite dramatic, reactive, manipulative and egoistic during childhood and puberty. They tend to blame others or the world and the system they’re a part of instead of owning up to their own mistakes. Eventually, majority of them start leaving old habits behind with the new experiences they gain and choose a new path for themselves.
Of course that does not absolve how we treated others poorly or how we believed ourselves to be above any rules in the past, but we can still try to become a better person by making amends with those we hurt and trying not to repeat the same mistakes in the future. What I’m trying to explain here is that one of the reasons why some people believe themselves to be narcissists is their childhood and youth narcissism.
4. The “I’m not a victim” denial:
In a lot of situations, the abused can feel like they are the only one to blame instead of blaming the actual abuser. Because even if the abuse is quite obvious, it’s not always easy to realize and acknowledge the fact you’ve been abused. This acknowledgement decreases us to a victim and a lot of people find it hard to call themselves one. Instead of becoming a victim, they tend to believe they are the actual abuser/narcissist or to share the guilt with the abuser. Otherwise they feel weak and as if their life is controlled by the abuser which is very hard to take.
Especially those with considerably successful socio-economic lives and good educations tend to do this when they realize that they’re in an abusive relationship. They start asking questions like “how could this happen to me?”
Just like the fact it is wrong to put the entire responsibility on the other party’s shoulders and pretend like they’re the only person who’s been hurt; it is also wrong to think that the abused is the one to blame in a relationship that’s abusive in any way. Therefore, no matter how difficult it is, if you ever realize and acknowledge that you’re in an abusive relationship instead of denying it, you’ll be making it much easier for yourself to get out of this situation. Being able to see things clearly is the first step to end a narcissistic relationship in order to heal yourself.
5. The narcissist convincing you that you are the problem:
Narcissists are extremely bad at owning up to their mistakes. In their eyes, the fault is always someone else’s, never their own. If they ever make a mistake or do something bad, it’s because of the person in front of them. That person must have done something to deserve it. For example, if the narcissist cheats on you and you confront them about it; you may find yourself apologizing at the end of the conversation. A narcissist that uses the psychological manipulation tactic called projecting can blame you for their own mistakes and make you feel like you are the actual problem in the relationship.
(I will explain projecting in a more detailed way in my future articles.)
6. Reactiveness caused by the narcissist not respecting your boundaries
Narcissists and other manipulators don’t respect other people’s boundaries and keep violating them repeatedly and gradually. This violation, when spread over a long period of time, can be nearly impossible to detect. But at some point, all that violation of personal boundaries, continuous manipulations, injustice, abuse and neglect cause one to burst and overreact to a certain situation. In that case, the narcissist never focuses on what they might have done to cause such reaction, they only criticize the reaction itself. “What have they done to deserve such a harsh reaction? You’re always like this anyway. This reaction of yours is enough proof that they’re right.”
Therefore, they use projection to imply that you are the actual narcissist or the actual problem here even though it’s quite natural to react to unfairness. But whether your reaction is positive or negative; the result won’t change much if you’re dealing with a real narcissist. Both options serve them well.
7. Toxic shame and guilt:
If you’re someone who deep down suffers from toxic shame and guilt, someone who tends to blame themselves whenever things go downhill, someone who believes there’s something wrong with them; you’re very likely to feel like you were the actual narcissist in the relationship all along. The whole “it’s not them, it’s me, it’s always been me” mindset can prevent you from seeing the truth. This type of toxic shame and guilt is usually caused by an emotionally abusive family and upbringing.
8. Blaming the victim
Unfortunately, societies tend to blame the victim rather than the abuser. Some people imply that it’s all the victim’s fault by saying things like “why did they choose to be with someone like that in the first place?”, “why didn’t try to get away when they realized what kind of person they were with?”, “why weren’t they more careful?” upon witnessing an abusive relationship. Perhaps you internalized these questions because of the society you’re a part of and ended up believing yourself to be real narcissist or guilty party. However, the dynamics of the relationships which include any type of abuse are quite different than the dynamics of healthy relationships. It is hard for others to understand the situation you’re in unless they’ve experienced something similar, and it’s always easier to blame the victim rather than the abuser.
So, are you a narcissist?
If you genuinely ask this question to yourself, fear becoming a narcissist and feel upset because you hurt people in the past; you’re probably not a narcissist. Because empathy and conscience are things people with narcissistic personality disorder don’t really have.
Of course that doesn’t mean you have no narcissistic tendencies but you can always try to improve yourself and become a more empathetic and sensible person. Instead of getting angry at yourself for the narcissistic features you notice having, you can try to understand the reason why you developed them so that you can get rid of them. And the first step to that is to get away from the narcissists in our lives.
At the same time, narcissists are usually very against improving or changing themselves. They may not even realize the necessity of changing certain things about themselves unless they face ruin because of their narcissistic features. And even after ruin, most of the time their ‘changes’ are very surface-level. For example, even if a narcissist misses the opportunity of getting a much better job and acknowledges the fact it happened because of their pride; they’d start pretending to be a humble person instead of trying to change their behavior for real. So basically, they are not healed or changed in any way; they simply start acting, manipulating and hiding their true nature more successfully. However, a lot of people who have been with a narcissist tend to be sincere about change. No matter how drained, how angry, how upset and fragile narcissistic abuse makes you feel; know that your true self is still there.
Therefore, if you tend to feel like you’re a narcissist during or after a narcissistic relationships; the healthiest thing you can do is getting rid of the real narcissists in your life and then taking psychological help if you’re able to as well as educating yourself about narcissistic abuse and taking responsibility for your own sake.
You can also find the articles on https://medium.com/@narsistsiz:
Melanie Tonia Evans. “Am I The Narcissist?”. https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/codependency#:~:text=Codependency%20is%20usually%20rooted%20in,are%20not%20worth%20attending%20to.
Medium, Zita Fontaine. “What If I’m the Narcissist and Not the Victim?”. Access 12 October, 2020. https://blogs.psychcentral.com/imperfect/2017/12/the-link-between-childhood-emotional-neglect-and-codependency/.
My other articles on the subject: