It’s Narcissist Friday!
Ever send a mental note to yourself? Of course you have. We do it all the time. We comment on our intelligence, our weight, our organizational skills, our memory, on and on. Usually, we tell ourselves negative things. And then we agree with ourselves.
It’s a neat little package. Somehow I get a negative message about myself. Maybe it’s from a comparison I made. Maybe it’s something someone says to me. But I get that message and then repeat it to myself over and over. The more I repeat it to myself, the more I believe it. The more I believe it, the more I repeat it to myself. The cycle builds the strength of the assertion.
The narcissist does this also, except that he/she does not say negative things about self. Narcissists say positive things about themselves and negative things about others. The narcissist regularly affirms his/her value. “I am worth more than this. I should get more respect. I am the smartest person here. I deserve better.” The narcissist blames any negative on others. “She is stupid. He wants my job. They are incompetent. He is greedy. She lies.” You get the picture.
The point is that almost all of us grew up lying to ourselves. Both narcissists and non-narcissists. And we listened to ourselves. And we believed ourselves.
By the way, this is one reason I find it hard to trust any narcissism test. If a narcissist takes the test and sees anything negative, he/she will reject it. If a sensitive person takes the test, he/she will probably see negative words and associate them with the familiar negative self-talk. So the wrong people are being convinced that they are narcissistic. (Of course the narcissist might think the test is funny. That would take things in a different direction.)
Now listen to this: the narcissist can hear your self-talk. Okay, of course he/she can’t read your thoughts, but somehow they know. Somehow they know the negative things you say to yourself—and they say the same things to you. “You always do it wrong. You’ll never figure it out. You won’t amount to anything.” They know the words. They know how to create those same feelings in you. They know.
By the time the narcissist is an adult, this ability to hear the self-talk of others is almost instinctual. If they don’t sense it even before they meet you, they just need to ask a few questions to get the information. Then they say things that make you think they are different from others. They listen, they sympathize, they even challenge your self-talk. You begin to open your heart to what seems like kindness. The words of affirmation feel so good, and so different from your self-talk, that you would never expect abuse to come from that person. But it will come. The kind words were just more manipulation, and your self-talk opened the door.
Many people ask why they seem to be so vulnerable to narcissists and abuse. Sometimes it’s because your self-talk has prepared you by weakening your defenses and convincing you that you deserve abuse. Every time you tell yourself that you are stupid, you open yourself to someone who will convince you he/she is smart and can help you. Every time you tell yourself you are ugly, you open yourself to one who will convince you that you are attractive when you are with him/her. Every time you think of yourself as socially inept, you open yourself to someone who offers fun and acceptance.
Now, I know that sounds a little harsh. I also know that not everyone seduced by a narcissist has immersed themselves in negative self-talk. But this is the true story for so many.
Listen: the enemy is the negative self-talk. One of the most powerful and effective ways to health is to change what you say to yourself. And, when the old negative comes back, don’t agree. Tell yourself that you are not whatever the negative statement was. Go ahead and disagree with the whispering that comes in your own voice to discourage you. Eventually, you will begin to reject that way of thinking and you will find the door closing to those who want to use it against you.
For those of you who are Christians, I would recommend a series of posts I wrote a few years ago entitled, “Words of Grace.” These are affirmations of your identity in Christ. They begin with this post:
If you can’t seem to find the others, just type “I am” in the search box on any of my blog posts. Be sure to use the quotation marks.
Replace the lying negative talk with truth about yourself. Not only will it feel good, but it will make you stronger every day.