It’s Narcissist Friday!
Let’s face it: sometimes the narcissist wins.
I know—some of you are thinking, “Sometimes?”
Sometimes the narcissist wins because she is so absolutely committed to winning. She must have the last word, the last jab. And she is ruthless. No qualms about saying just the thing that will hurt deep enough to shut you up. Winning is more important than almost anything.
Sometimes the narcissist wins because he is a bully. He pushes people around and most people simply give up. Then he gets his way. Then he boasts about winning and feels good about himself.
And sometimes the narcissist wins because he has carefully built a system that supports him. That system might not seem like much, but it works for him.
I recently had the opportunity to observe a narcissist leader in the midst of his system. As I visited with people who had known him a long time, I learned that no one trusted him or even liked him. But he had accumulated power over the years and everyone knew that he was very willing to use that power. A veiled threat was enough to keep one person in line. An appeal to loyalty to the system and its authorities was enough for another. A costless good deed was enough for still another. Little manipulations to establish both dominance and security. And, all around, broken people who had been abused by the narcissist but could do nothing about it.
Sometimes the narcissist wins.
So what do you do when the narcissist wins? Here are some thoughts:
- Most important—don’t look at yourself as a loser! Just because someone else wins in a competition (whether you knew it was a competition or not) doesn’t make you a loser. For the narcissist, every relationship presents a competition; and he must win. He invests more, spends more, and cares more about winning than you do. You may be shocked at the intensity with which he pursues his goal. None of that makes you a loser.
- Realize that this is a broken world in which evil wins more often than we would like. There may be an ultimate reckoning where those who willingly hurt others get theirs, but that will probably not be today.
- If the narcissist is a co-worker or a boss or someone whose decisions affect your job, be prepared to move on. When the boss promotes the narcissist instead of you, remember that the narcissist’s super-power is to manipulate what others think of them. The boss has fallen victim and will pay a price. But the boss has been manipulated because of little openings he gave to the narcissist. He fell for the good looks, the boastful words, or the insincere praise. Perhaps this boss just isn’t a good leader. After all, he didn’t seem to notice the real work of the narcissist. It may be time to look for a new job, or simply to do your best in the position you have. And, listen, the narcissist probably won’t be in that new position for long. He’s looking at the boss’s job!
- It’s a little different if your narcissist is in a very close relationship with you. In that case, I can only say that letting the narcissist win is not the same as losing. Choose the battles carefully. I know that the narcissist sees each conflict as new and a hundred wins in a row wouldn’t soften a loss, so you will have to fight every one, but some are easier to let go than others. Watch and learn how the battles go and maybe you will see ways to win the ones you really want to win. (Don’t let on that those are more important to you, of course.)
- And, ultimately, remember that the one who wins the battle is not necessarily the one who is good or healthy. You are the healthy one, compared to the narcissist. No matter how down you feel, you are not what she is.
I will add one more thought for those who are able to receive it. I have found through my years that many of the things I thought were losses turned out to be the openings for great blessing and success. Instead of looking at the defeat and pain after a battle with the narcissist, look for the blessing. Almost always, it is there. A better job opens up; a new relationship heals; true friendships are revealed. Time helps, but it isn’t just time; it’s being willing to move on, to wipe your feet of the battle and discover what is next.
There may be nothing you can do about the narcissist winning, but you can do something about how it affects you. Don’t let him win in your heart.