Why am I so terrified I am the narcissist?

If you’re asking yourself whether you’re a narcissist, I have news for you: you’re probably not. In many cases, narcissists will deflect blame onto their victims.

Deep down, you know that you’re not in the wrong, but the narcissist will do everything they can to convince you that you’re the problem.

After a while, despite the abuse you’ve endured, you’ll worry that you’re actually the narcissist. If you’re experiencing this feeling, you probably want answers.

The good news is, you’re not alone, and I have answers below. 

Unpacking the fear

It’s not unusual for a narcissist to accuse their victims of being narcissistic. So, if you’re terrified you’re the narcissist, it’s probably because the true narcissist has made such an accusation toward you. 

There are several reasons this happens, and I’ll explain them further below. 

Projection

Narcissists are known for having fragile self-esteem. That’s why they go to such great lengths to appear superior to the people around them. 

Narcissists struggle to take accountability for their negative traits due to their fragile egos. To protect themselves, they use various defensive strategies.

One such strategy is projection. This involves attributing their undesirable qualities to others. If they feel criticized, they might accuse you of being the narcissist!

Over time, with repeated projection, you may come to believe you’re actually the narcissist. 

Blame-shifting

Narcissists can’t rely just on one defense mechanism, so they use multiple tactics. Blame-shifting is another common strategy they use to avoid accountability.

If you point out their wrongdoings, they may shift the blame by calling you a narcissist. For example, if you say they’ve offended you, they might respond with, “You’re so self-centered, thinking everyone cares about your feelings! You’re such a narcissist!”

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This tactic deflects blame from them to you, leaving you confused and shocked by the accusation and forgetting what you were initially upset about. Now, you’re worried you’re actually the narcissistic one in the relationship. 

Gaslighting

Narcissists also use gaslighting, trying to make you doubt your sanity or perception of reality. This can leave you worried that you’re the narcissist because your perception of reality has been so distorted. 

When you try to hold them accountable, they might accuse you of being a narcissist, causing you to question your own reality and worry that you might be the problem in the relationship.

This accusation leaves you confused and doubting yourself. You might start questioning if you’re really a narcissist. This makes it easier for the true narcissist to control you, because you’re so unsure of yourself. 

Invalidation

Narcissists lack empathy, so they don’t really care about your feelings. Accusing you of narcissism can be a way to invalidate your concerns.

Their goal is to make you believe you’re overly selfish or exaggerating. If they succeed, you’ll feel bad about yourself and stop expressing your feelings.

Repeated invalidation makes you give up on voicing your complaints, leaving the narcissist free to do as they please without facing your objections. Meanwhile, you’re caught up in your fear that you’re a narcissist. 

Manipulation

Narcissists might call you a narcissist to manipulate you. They can’t let you feel too empowered, as it diminishes their control.

Accusing you of narcissism can make you feel guilty and undermine your self-esteem. Over time, you might start believing you’re the real narcissist and go out of your way to prove you’re not, showering the narcissist with kindness and generosity.

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This manipulation leaves the narcissist in control, as they learn that simple accusations can alter your behavior. So, if you are terrified you’re the narcissist, it’s probably because the real narcissist has manipulated you.

Reduced self-esteem

Finally, narcissists are skilled at reducing the self-esteem of their victims. Their constant criticism and put downs make them feel superior, while you feel weak and unsure of yourself.

With your self-esteem at an all-time low, you can begin to feel like you’re a bad person, unworthy of love. This can lead you to wonder if you’re the narcissist.

Also, if your self-esteem isn’t in a good place, you might believe whatever accusation the narcissist throws your way. This can include the accusation that you’re actually a narcissist. 

Am I a narcissist?

If you’re terrified that you’re a narcissist, it’s probably because a narcissist accused you of being one. At this point, it’s only natural to wonder if they’re right. 

To determine if you are a narcissist, engage in self-reflection. Do you feel you deserve special treatment or are more important than others? Do you believe you should be permitted to do whatever it takes to get your way?

If you answered “no,” you’re likely not the narcissist. Being willing to self-reflect in the first place is also a sign you aren’t narcissistic, as most narcissists can’t truly examine their flaws.

Other factors to consider 

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve already passed the first test. Since you’re willing to continue with self-reflection, chances are you’re not a narcissist. However, some additional validation might be conforming. 

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If you want to rule out the possibility that you’re a narcissist, consider how your other relationships have gone. Have previous partners had the same issues with you? Have you been called a narcissist in past relationships?

If not, the current accusation is likely unfounded. It’s more likely that your accuser is the narcissist, especially if they exhibit traits like arrogance, needing constant praise, and exploiting others.

Finally, assess your empathy. Do you feel genuine remorse when you hurt someone? Do you empathize with loved ones when they’re upset?

If you answered “yes,” you’re probably not the narcissist. Narcissists lack empathy and cannot identify with the emotional experiences of others. 

Narcissists can’t admit their faults but are quick to criticize others. If your partner shows narcissistic traits, their accusations are likely a manipulation tactic, especially if you passed the tests above.

The take-home message 

The bottom line is that if you’re terrified you’re a narcissist, you’re probably not. A true narcissist wouldn’t worry about displaying the negative traits that come with narcissism. 

What is likely happening is that a true narcissist has accused you of being a narcissist. They do this to control you and avoid accountability. 

Calling you a narcissist isn’t a statement of fact; it’s simply a way for them to achieve their personal goals. Hopefully, this truth alleviates your fears. 

You get to choose whether you let the narcissist’s accusations terrorize you and control your life. Trust your gut, and know that you’re not a narcissist.

Reach out to trusted friends and family for support, or seek the advice of a mental health professional if you can’t shake your fears. 

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