You’ve kissed so many frogs…and they were, well, just frogs. But finally you have kissed the right one- he is a real prince! He is too-good-to-be-true. You can’t believe your good fortune. Your best friend warned you not to trust him, said he was a “narcissist”…but what does she know? She doesn’t understand how perfect everything is between the two of you.
It’s easy to fall in love with narcissists. Their charm, good looks, talent, success, and magnetism cast a spell along with dazzling conversation and flattery. They are entertaining and exciting. People gravitate toward them and are invigorated by their energy. You’re proud to bask in their glow. These are people who need to be the center of attention, and they make sure they always are.
When we are in the presence of a charming individual, we feel different about ourselves. We feel lighter, brighter and freer. The narcissistic charmer draws us into his world and we are happy to go. Narcissists ooze charm that attracts and draws people to him like magnets; that is his forte. They are masters of eye contact, the ability to hold someone with their gaze, especially if there is something that they want from that person. Human charm is an invaluable ability. We don’t have to be a narcissist to have charm and use it well. There are well-adjusted extroverts that exude natural charm. Charm in itself is a powerful gift that makes life more vivid and exciting. However, charm in the hands of a narcissist becomes a powerful weapon for controlling others. For many who are involved with narcissists, no matter how many years have passed or how much abuse they have suffered, the narcissist has only to activate his mesmerizing charm to win over spouses, partners and other victims yet one more time.
Narcissists will be thrilled (although not surprised) to hear that as a group they are rated as more attractive and likable than others at first appearance. A study out of Washington University found that narcissists have a distinct physical signature. They’re considered more stylishly dressed, cheerful, and physically appealing at first sight than are those who score lower in narcissism. In that study, the narcissistic women were immaculately groomed and the men were more chiseled than their peers. Several studies have corroborated a link between narcissism and physical attractiveness. Furthermore, narcissists’ strategies for standing out are well-documented,
The narcissistic blend of flash and callousness, light and dark—coupled with a relentless focus on short-term objectives—ensures no shortage of sexual and romantic partners at the outset, many of whom will leave the relationship hurt and baffled. First impressions quickly go sour. Another study found that people who date narcissists are highly satisfied for about four months, at which point they report a rapid decline in relations. Ironically, the four-month mark is when people start to reach peak satisfaction when dating non-narcissists. Yet the initial excitement and charm offered by the narcissist is hard to resist. “When I eat chocolate cake, 20 minutes later I’m under my desk wanting to die,” jokes the author of the study. “When I eat broccoli, in 20 minutes I feel good. But given the choice I always eat the cake.”
The narcissist is confident that people find him irresistible. His unfailing charm is part of his self ascribed power. The “somatic narcissist” flaunts his or her sex appeal, virility or femininity, sexual prowess, physique, training, or athletic achievements. The “cerebral narcissist” seeks to enchant his audience with his intellectual prowess. Many narcissists brag about their wealth, health, possessions, collections, spouses, children, personal history, family tree – in short: anything that garners them attention and portrays them as alluring.
Both types of narcissists firmly believe that they are unique, thus, entitled to special treatment by others. They deploy their “charm offensives” to manipulate their nearest and dearest (or even complete strangers) to use them as instruments of gratification. Exerting personal magnetism and charisma become ways of asserting control and do away with other people’s personal boundaries.
In the beginning, you are absolutely delighted to be in the narcissist’s world. Within four months, give or take a few months, you will be tense and drained from unpredictable tantrums, attacks, and indignation at imaginary slights. You will begin to doubt yourself, worry what he or she will think, and become as preoccupied with the narcissist as he or she is with him or herself. Once they have you hooked, you have to contend with the narcissist’s demands, criticisms and self-centeredness. Everything revolves around them. You’re expected to meet their needs whenever they deem necessary, and are unceremoniously dismissed if you do not.
A narcissist finds it hard to share and even harder to share the limelight, always wanting to be the focus of attention. He or she will invent stories to get what they want, pretend they are more important than they are, and blame others for their own wrong doings. Narcissism flourishes in those who are charming and attractive because those individuals can get away with this behavior more easily. Narcissists will get angry or sulk if they are seen to be wrong or have made a mistake; like a child they might throw tantrums or rages and make up stories instead of admitting their mistakes.
Flashy clothing and super high confidence are cues that you might be dealing with a narcissist. Here are a few additional cues, some contradictory, in keeping with the narcissist’s paradoxical nature:
- Bragging about one’s perfect family (no one’s family is perfect).
- Hyper-generosity in public to demonstrate that one has power or the means.
- Hypersensitive and insecure. This includes imagining criticism where it doesn’t exist and getting depressed by perceived criticism. Narcissists are self-centered and overly defensive.
- Prone to a vast array of negative emotions including depression, anxiety, self-consciousness, and shame owing to not being given their “due.” Such feelings can be an indication of egocentricity and self-absorption.
- Consistently puts down other people, especially perceived inferiors and strangers. Loves to talk about himself or herself and mentions others primarily to name-drop.
Narcissists are also always looking for attention. They are flirts and have constant crushes and real or fantasy affairs. They easily get addicted to pornography and have online affairs with numerous people that they can manipulate and lie to.
Perhaps the greatest paradox of all is that narcissism doesn’t necessarily have to be absolutely ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Narcissism can be adaptive or maladaptive, appealing or appalling, depending on how charm and cunning are utilized. Anyone can mix and match narcissistic traits —including confidence, self-sufficiency, and assertiveness —with positive traits such as cooperation and empathy, to be effective in any situation.