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That other epidemic

Lately our focus has been on protecting ourselves from the spread of COVID-19, but there’s another harmful epidemic lurking – narcissism.

In our selfie-obsessed culture, narcissism is running rampant, but what is it exactly? And more importantly, how can you protect yourself from the devastating effects of a narcissistic parent, spouse or boss?

It’s all about me

Narcissists are in love with an idealized image of themselves which is a way of avoiding deep feelings of insecurity. They are self-centered, arrogant, and they lack empathy and consideration for other people. They can be cocky, manipulative, patronizing and demanding. They are driven by an excessive need for admiration.

If this wasn’t bad enough, they are extremely sensitive and can react badly to even the slightest criticisms, disagreements or perceived insults, which they take as personal attacks. They are often unable or unwilling to change their behavior, even when it’s self-destructive.

Because narcissists are usually very charismatic and charming, it’s easy to get sucked into their webs. We’re initially attracted to their confidence and energy, but it won’t be long until they reveal their darker side.

Setting boundaries

Healthy relationships are based on mutual respect and caring, but narcissists aren’t capable of reciprocity in their relationships and will violate every boundary with a sense of entitlement. How can you protect yourself?

  • Be honest about your vulnerabilities - Narcissists will see your weaknesses from a mile away and will exploit them. Self-awareness and understanding your vulnerabilities will help you identify and avoid the narcissist’s manipulation. Therapy can be very helpful with this process.
     

  • Don’t take the bait – Narcissists love to draw you into their drama. It can be hard to turn the other cheek when you’re the target of their taunts or insults, but your reaction gives them control over you, which is precisely what they want. Instead, learn to distance yourself – mentally and/or physically – and don’t engage.
     

  • Learn to trust your gut – Narcissists use gaslighting, a form of manipulation that causes doubt and loss of self-worth. When someone gaslights you, they insist that you didn’t see what you saw, you didn’t hear what you heard, and what you’re feeling isn’t valid. Your intuition, or gut instinct, is a feeling of knowing that delivers critical information about situations and people. Learning to trust this intuition cultivates self-trust that protects your mental health.
     

  • Accept that it’s them, not you – Know that their behavior and decisions have everything to do with who they are; none of it is your fault. Do not accept any of the narcissist’s blame or efforts to make you feel guilty or ashamed.
     

  • Be your own advocate – Know your own mind and don’t tolerate any form of physical, verbal or emotional abuse. Communicate your limits to the narcissists in your life and be prepared to follow through when those limits have been crossed.
     

Narcissists want to bring you down to their level. They feel better about themselves if they can control you and make you feel bad. Learn to spot their red flags and distance yourself. Set boundaries and follow through. You have a right to protect yourself from this epidemic.

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