There’s an unwritten rule that we have to love our family unconditionally, so admitting that your sister is a narcissist can make you feel guilty or ashamed. But dealing with a narcissistic sister can be exhausting and wear down your self-esteem.
Is your childhood filled with memories of having to hide your achievements in fear of your sister punishing you for them? Did she blame you for her bad behavior then sit back happily while you got punished? Did you find yourself going along with her lies because it was easier to keep the peace than have to deal with her bullying?
If you’ve experienced any of this kind of behavior from your sister, it is possible you’ve been dealing with a narcissist.
This post outlines the signs and symptoms of a narcissistic sister and some tips for how to deal with one.
Whether you have a severely narcissistic sister or a milder one, this post will provide you with support and guidance. You are not alone!
8 Typical Signs and Behavior of a Narcissistic Sister
If you have a difficult relationship with your sister but you’re not quite sure whether you’re dealing with a narcissist, first ask yourself if you actually enjoy spending time with her. Do you find it exhaustive instead?
If you find yourself feeling anxiety and dread before seeing her, this is the first sign that something is wrong. If you find it difficult to talk to her and never quite know which side of her you’re going to see, this is a sign she could be a narcissist. Here are some other tell-tale signs to look out for:
1. She believes she is more important than you
If she thinks she deserves more recognition from the rest of the family compared to you, this could be a clear sign she is narcissistic.
Behavior that reflects this could include constantly making ‘jokes’ about being more intelligent than you or being better at sport (and everything) than you.
2. She has to be the Center of Attention
No matter what the occasion is, she just has to be the center of attention at all times. Even if it’s your birthday or your graduation ceremony, she’ll find a way to make it about her. This shows in dominant behaviors that result in a shift of attention from you to her.
Narcissists have a strong need for validation, appreciation, and affirmation (2). She is always looking for these to fulfill her narcissistic supply and will do anything to get them.
3. She feels entitled to everything
She thinks she is the superior sibling and is therefore entitled to all of your parent’s attention, a better job, a better partner, a better family…a better everything. She may even feel entitled to more inheritance than you, it’s not a nice thought but you might want to make sure you get your fair share when/if the time comes.
This could have started with small things when you were kids. For example, she decides she wants the chocolate flavored cupcake even though you already picked it out earlier, and kicks up a fuss until she gets what she wants.
Behaviors in adulthood may include monopolizing conversations to show everyone how important she is (3). She will listen to others only for the chance to pull the conversation back to her and boast about how incredible she is.
You might feel like you owe her something, when really you don’t owe her anything at all. Years of her acting entitled have trained you to think this is true. If you have felt an inequality between you and your sister from a young age, and it doesn’t seem to be changing in adulthood, this is a huge sign you have a narcissistic sister.
4. She doesn’t recognise your feelings
Narcissists suffer from a complete lack of empathy and are often only aware of their own feelings (4). Your narcissistic sister will be unable to put herself in your shoes and will be unaware of any harm she has caused you.
You may notice she has no interest in hearing about your stories and struggles, but loves telling you all about her own and will take great offense if you don’t listen.
5. She is a pathological liar
If you notice she often exaggerates things – particularly her own achievements – this can be a sure sign you are dealing with a narcissistic sister. She may even lie about small everyday things, just for the fun of it!
These lies may snowball into over the top stories that get harder and harder to believe. If you say you don’t remember it like that or press her for more details, she’ll get angry at you for questioning her and turn the blame on you in an effort to make the rest of the family feel sorry for her.
She may even purposely make up lies about you to hurt your reputation and your place in the family.
6. She is extremely jealous of you
Despite the way she acts as if she is better than you in every way, a narcissistic sister will actually be extremely envious of you and will consider you her rival (5). She will hate it when you get any kind of praise and will always try to win your parents attention.
Gaslighting is a behavior that is strongly associated with this. She feels the sibling rivalry so much that she will create stories about you to make you look crazy or weak.
This may involve actively smearing your name in front of family and friends or more subtle techniques like planting small suggestions that you are unstable.
—-> Read our article “Why do Narcissists get jealous?” to read more about this topic
7. She changes how she behaves around different people
For example, she acts sweet and innocent around your parents to get their attention and admiration, and then completely changes when you are alone together.
She may even present different personalities to you alone, sometimes acting the devoted sister and others a complete bully. Narcissists are experts at playing different roles and wearing different masks to get what they want, so watch out for this (6).
8. She uses triangulation to alienate you
Triangulation is a tactic narcissists are known to use often and it involves purposely pitting people against each other using lies and manipulation (7).
If you notice your sister is often telling you what other family members have said about you behind your back, this is a sure sign she is using triangulation to ensure you don’t unite with other family members against her.
Her aim is to keep a safe distance between you and your other family members so you won’t form bonds without including her. This way she can manipulate you all and none of you will be able to connect the dots.
—-> Want to know more about Triangulation? Read my article: What is Narcissist Triangulation 6 Ways to stop the Triangulation
How to deal with a narcissistic sister?
There is no ‘one size fits all’ way to deal with a narcissistic sister, as each individual will be different, with different levels of toxicity. But these are some general dos and don’ts that may help you to deal with your own narcissistic sister.
Don’t call her a narcissist
In general, narcissists struggle to reflect on their own behaviour so calling her out will have no effect, as she won’t be able to see that she actually has a problem.
Instead, she will probably insist you’re the one with the problem and will do everything she can to prove it. So, calling her a narcissist could actually make your relationship worse.
Don’t argue with her
For the same reason, arguing won’t help. She will not gain any insights from your feedback, or even listen to it at all, so don’t waste your breath. Resist the urge to defend yourself when she insists you’re the problem, as getting a reaction out of you will be exactly what she wants.
Don’t try to outsmart her or play her at her own game, as this will only drain your energy and make her more intent on winning. Trying not to emotionally engage is a much better option, as you won’t be adding any fuel to the fire.
Focus on your choices
Remember that just because she’s your sister, doesn’t mean you have to spend time with her. You can choose to avoid her, limit your time together or have someone else with you when you see her, so you are not alone together. You can choose to set clear boundaries when it comes to interacting with her.
Set clear boundaries
While you can’t control your sister’s narcissistic behaviour, you can control your own. Instead of trying to change her, look at how you can change your own habits to support yourself.
Look at the ways you tolerate her narcissistic behaviour and how this might actually be supporting it. A narcissistic child will often take over the family dynamic, demanding the most attention (8). You may have gotten used to dealing with this, but you can withdraw your participation at any time.
Start shutting her down if she speaks to you disrespectfully or tries to insult you, rather than just letting it slip. Remember, it’s never too late to set clear boundaries and it’s actually better to do it sooner rather than later!
Communicate your boundaries clearly, so there can be no confusion and observe whether this method helps or if she becomes more toxic and needy when you try to walk away. She will choose to either respect your boundaries or violate them, so this method can be very telling.
Gain knowledge about narcissism
The more knowledge you have about NPD, the better you’ll be able to deal with it. Accept the fact that you have a narcissistic sister and you have to deal with it if you want to continue having her in your life.
Become aware of what is unhealthy about your relationship and let go of certain expectations you may have. Remember, it’s not your fault and there are ways you can cope. Clarity about the situation will help you to decide the best way to move forward.
Dealing with a narcissistic sister can wear down your self-esteem so it’s important to seek support for yourself. This can be from friends and other family members who understand, or professionals such as counselors and lawyers if need be.
Seeking support will give you some perspective and help you to see that you have nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about. Talking about how your narcissistic sister has affected your life will give you strength and help you to seek out the best course of action when it comes to dealing with her.
However, you end up handling the situation, know that you are not alone and there is plenty of help out there.
Go no contact
If you feel like you’ve tried everything to cope with your narcissistic sister but she isn’t going down without a fight and is still insisting on making your life hell, going no contact could be your only option. Yes, she’s your family but if she is causing you harm, you have every right to cut ties.
Just because someone is your blood, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have them in your life.
It may not be easy at first, but remember your health and happiness is more important than anything else. Try the ‘Grey Rock’ method which involves refraining from reacting to any way a narcissist tries to contact you.
If you stop representing a source of narcissistic supply to them, eventually they will leave you alone and you will be free to heal. Of course, this isn’t the only way of dealing with a narcissistic sister and should be a last resort, but may be necessary in extremely abusive situations.
Low Contact or No Contact with Your Narcissistic Sister?
Should you go No contact with your Narcsissitic Sister or is it better to maintain low contact? The boring answer for this is “It depends”. If for some reason it is impossible to break all contact, you should consider using the tips I mentioned above.
However, if there is nothing more you can gain from the relationship with your sister you should consider going No contact. Maintaining contact can cause stress, fights, and more unpleasant situations you did not sign up for.
Try to find support with another family member or if that is not available, a life coach or psychologist. They will listen to you and give you advice on what you can do. In the end, only you can decide what it is you want to do.
Healing from a narcissistic sister
As narcissists often fail to see their own disruptive behavior, they are very unlikely to change their ways (9). It is possible, through therapy and counseling for narcissists to get more in touch with their empathy, which can allow them to have more healthy relationships. But this requires them to realize they have a problem and understand their own narcissistic tendencies.
Most often, accepting that your narcissistic sister will not change and taking your healing into your own hands is the best route to take.
Through setting boundaries and putting yourself first, it is possible to keep your sister in your life and deal with her narcissistic ways.
However, there are varying levels of severity and toxicity so it is up to you to choose if it is worth having her in your life or if you need to heal alone.
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