Last Updated on March 8, 2022 by Alexander Burgemeester
It’s often said that narcissism is an incurable disorder. Many people suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia seek treatment for their mental disorders, but rarely do you hear a narcissist say “I don’t want to be a narcissist anymore”.
Those who have it don’t want help and are quite defensive when diagnosed with it.
When someone with narcissistic traits actually goes to therapy, they use it to gain more supply by trying to outsmart the therapist and prove their superiority.
Not every narcissist is incurable, though. Some genuinely want help, and when they’ve been given a safe space to be vulnerable, they will admit that they’re ashamed of how they act and feel guilty that they’ve hurt others.
Narcissistic behaviors are almost always a disguise for fragile self-esteem.
If a narcissist can improve their confidence and devise strategies for coping with negative feelings that don’t involve devaluing others, treatment can be successful.
Change is possible for motivated individuals if they’re willing to listen to the professionals and learn how to recover from being a narcissist.
Are You a Narcissist (8 Signs Checklist)
Before embarking on the road to recovery, you need to establish whether you’re a true narcissist.
We all have narcissistic tendencies sometimes – it’s a sign of high self-esteem and confidence.
It’s only when those tendencies become excessive and negatively affect those close to us that they’re considered narcissistic personality disorder.
Below is a list of traits and behaviors that are common to narcissists.
As you read them, know that nearly all of them apply to everyone occasionally, so only make note of it if the item strongly applies to you most of the time.
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#1 You Think You Only Deserve the Best
Standing up for yourself and speaking out when you’re not getting what you deserve are admirable traits, but only when you’ve been legitimately slighted.
Narcissists tend to believe they’re entitled to the best in life: the quickest promotions, the most attractive partners, and a group of admiring friends.
If you’re always disappointed with your lot in life, you might have some narcissistic tendencies.
#2 The Rules Don’t Apply to You
Narcissists aren’t necessarily ignorant of the rules and norms of society, they just don’t think they should have to follow them.
You think you deserve better and that people need to give to you or at least get out of your way.
If you don’t feel the need to do unto others as they do unto you, it’s a classic sign of narcissistic personality disorder.
#3 You Get Angry Easily
Being quick to anger is a symptom of several mental disorders, so it’s important to focus on the specific situations that cause you to fly into a rage.
Narcissists are incredibly sensitive to criticism and anything that injures their self-esteem. If you find your blood boiling when someone disagrees or corrects you, then you might be a narcissist.
#4 You’re Not Very Empathetic
Do you find it difficult to understand how another person feels without thinking about yourself?
Can you think about the emotions this person is experiencing without considering what kind of emotions you’d experience under the same circumstances?
Narcissists have trouble understanding that other people have unique emotions that could be dissimilar to their own.
#5 You Have an Overwhelming Need for Control
Do you get nervous whenever you’re not in control of a situation? D you worry that things could go wrong and you might look stupid or at fault for any problems that arise?
Narcissists are perfectionists and anything that tarnishes that reputation must be avoided or blame has to be shifted to someone else.
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#6 You Frequently Feel Jealous
A little envy is normal, but when jealousy becomes all-consuming to the point that you can’t stand to be around someone who has something better than you, that’s narcissistic personality disorder.
Jealousy is often paired with distrust, making you feel like everyone is out to take things that should rightfully be yours (which circles back to the sense of entitlement).
#7 You’re Always Exaggerating
There’s a fine line between self-promotion and bragging, and it’s not always as easy one to walk.
Narcissists, particularly those of the grandiose type, take self-promotion into the territory of exaggeration and lying to gain the admiration of others.
Covert narcissists are more likely to exaggerate illnesses and personal conflicts to gain sympathy. In either case, the goal of these exaggerations is to get everyone’s attention.
#8 You’re Certain That You’re Special
Loving parents frequently tell their children that they’re special, and many kids spend their entire childhood feeling this way.
As we become adults, though, most of us realize that we’re not all that special in the grand scheme of things. We should be treated just like everyone else.
You might have some fairly strong narcissistic tendencies if you’re still struggling with that concept.
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Is It Possible to Stop Being a Narcissist?
Very few people overcome their narcissistic traits, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Most don’t overcome their narcissism because they simply don’t want to.
Unlike many other mental disorders, narcissism isn’t an impediment to a successful life, at least when it comes to your career. In fact, narcissistic behavior is frequently rewarded.
Forming lasting relationships can be very difficult for a narcissist though, and making them work requires that they cease their self-destructive behavioral patterns.
Many narcissists aren’t motivated to do this because lasting relationships aren’t satisfying to them. Genuine respect and admiration from a single person aren’t enough for them; they need new sources of supply to feel whole.
That doesn’t mean they can’t change if they can’t change though. The causes of narcissism personality disorder range from genetic tendencies to childhood trauma and it would be unfair to generalize the motivations of all narcissists.
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Those that truly desire a change can work on their negative behaviors, and unlike some other mental illnesses, it doesn’t require medications.
A self-aware narcissist can change their thoughts and behaviors with the help of therapy along with caring friends and family members.
Narcissism isn’t a disorder to be cured though. The underlying causes need to be addressed, including repairing the narcissist’s fragile self-esteem.
Without supply, narcissists have little to no self-worth. Treating narcissistic personality disorder requires the narcissist to establish an internal locus of control with positive self-talk and reframing of situations to give themself more agency.
How to Stop Being a Narcissist?
Narcissistic personality disorder is complicated and everyone has different triggers that set off their maladaptive behaviors.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to seek professional help for narcissism; a therapist can identify its root cause and create a tailor-made plan for eliminating narcissistic behaviors in the future.
However, there are a few things you can work on by yourself that will limit narcissism’s impact. It is possible to change, but treatment is usually a lifelong journey.
#1 Create a List of Triggers
Narcissistic behaviors patterns are almost always the result of a damaged self-esteem.
If a narcissist has access to an unlimited supply, they rarely lash out. Make a list of things that make you angry. Think about things like being criticized.
Do you personally attack the source of that criticism? Try to understand what in that criticism is so triggering for you.
Is there a painful moment in your past, and do those negative feelings resurface whenever someone makes a less than stellar assessment of you and your actions?
#2 Identify Situations That Might Be Triggering
You can’t eliminate all triggering situations, but you can certainly reduce them.
For example, if you’re someone that can’t handle criticism, a job in entertainment or politics probably isn’t for you. If you’re self-conscious about your career choices, attending a high school reunion may be a triggering situation.
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#3 Think About The Behaviors You’d Like to Change
When someone criticizes you or inadvertently upstages you, how do you react? Do you devalue them and lash out?
Think about how those reactions have negatively impacted your life. Would you like to change your behavior in the future?
#4 Consider How You Could React Differently
Counting to ten might sound trite, but putting some space between the trigger and your reaction can make a world of difference.
By doing so, you’re shutting down the reflexive behavior patterns and substituting them with reasoned responses that are less likely to hurt around you.
#5 Make It a Habit
It’s best to avoid triggering situations that make you feel powerless, but at some point, you need to face the situations that caused your negative behaviors.
You need a chance to practice distancing yourself from those old behavior patterns and testing out your newfound coping mechanisms.
Start small and in scenarios where you feel you have some control.
Can You Stop Yourself from Becoming a Narcissist?
The seeds of narcissism are planted early when children develop their sense of self and learn how to interact with the world.
Narcissism isn’t a disease like a cold or flu that you can prevent yourself from catching, it’s a complex mental disorder that arises from a malformed sense of self.
A budding narcissist can’t do very much to prevent their self-destructive behaviors, parents can though.
However, if you’re raising a child and worried that you’re nurturing a narcissist, there are a few steps you can take.
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Make Them Feel Loved
It’s a cliche, but people that are cruel to others are usually the same ones who didn’t get enough love as a child.
This is especially true for narcissists who often didn’t receive enough attention while growing up.
Children should know that the bond with their parents or caregiver is unconditional and that they don’t need to earn love.
Children need to be taught that the best things in life are earned, rather than given to you from an early age.
That’s not to say you should keep your child in a constant state of deprivation; children need to be reared in an environment that makes them feel safe, secure and loved.
However, special rewards should be commensurate with the child’s efforts.
Testing boundaries is crucial for a child’s development, but those boundaries need to be set for the child to test them.
Unfortunately, narcissists are frequently the product of disinterested parents who couldn’t bother to lay down any rules or enforce them.
As a result, most children grow out of the boundary testing stage, but narcissists flout rules and norms as adults because they’ve learned from childhood that there are rarely consequences for it.
Develop Empathy Through Stories
Reading fiction and telling stories is one of the easiest ways to help kids develop empathy.
Stories only make sense if you can understand the motives and emotions of the characters. Reading books with diverse characters can help kids develop empathy that will serve as a bulwark against narcissism later in life.
Encourage Prosocial Behaviors
Teaching kids to be kind and help others is one of the most important life lessons a parent can teach.
Encourage your kid to feel good about themselves whenever they do good for others.
This will build up their self-esteem and jumpstart their journey towards a life of altruistic acts.
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Recognizing the Narcissist Inside You and How to Stop It
The simple act of questioning whether you might be a narcissist is the most important step you can take to eliminate your narcissistic tendencies.
If you can admit that you’re harming others with your behavior, especially if you can admit it to a professional, you’re already halfway there.
The next steps like pausing before reacting and building empathy take time and considerable effort, but if you’re self-aware enough to start this journey, you’re probably ready to do the work.
Even if you don’t recognize yourself as a narcissist yet, perhaps you notice certain behaviors that push people away.
Maybe you believe that’s not your problem, but wouldn’t you prefer to have longer, more stable relationships? Seeking out new sources of supply every few months is exhausting.
Think about how fulfilling your life could be if you weren’t constantly seeking everyone’s approval and praise.
You might find that you could be much happier by eliminating those narcissistic behavior patterns.
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