It’s Narcissist Friday!
Are they all perverts? Good grief! With all the accusations flying around these days, between Hollywood and Congress, we have to wonder if anyone is who they say they are.
I remember an old story where the preacher got in front of the congregation and held up his large hardback Bible. He said, “There is a man in this congregation who is cheating on his wife, and I am going to throw my Bible at him.” When the preacher wound up to throw, every man in the church ducked. Men who have done the things we are hearing are worried about the day when the truth will come out. Men who have not done these things worry about the day they are falsely accused. There is an increasing paranoia, and we are wondering who we can trust.
People who have lived in narcissistic relationships understand something about paranoia. It is easy to see narcissists everywhere. Anyone who is mean or bossy or inconsiderate might be a narcissist. Anyone in authority or in the limelight might be a narcissist. And anyone who is interested in a personal relationship might be a narcissist. Who do you trust?
It seems obvious and reasonable that you should be more careful, doesn’t it? After all, you didn’t see it the first time (and maybe not the second or third). Only now do you have the information that explains what happened. You sure don’t want to make a mistake like that again.
So what do you do? You can’t dig a hole to live in for the rest of your life. No, really, you can’t do that. I know you want to. I know you have tried. But eventually you need others. In fact, there’s a part of you that wants to like others. You long for a friend you can trust, a co-worker you don’t have to worry about, a fellow church member you can enjoy. You even long for an intimate special relationship again. So, no, you can’t hide.
What you can do is return to life with your eyes open. You can admit the truth. There are people out there who use others. That’s a fact. It might be that you will be tricked by one of them again. They are very skilled at their deception. Being tricked, even tricked again, doesn’t mean you are stupid or weak. It may just mean you are a desirable person.
Use what you have learned. Relationships that move too fast, co-workers who talk disparagingly about others, church members who are holier than the rest—these are red flags. Someone who pumps you for information, secrets, or who tries to get you “on their side.” Bosses and companies that promise too much. Boasters, liars, manipulators. Even when they are nice to you at first, you know enough to be suspicious. People who use others will probably use you.
But not everyone is a narcissist.
If you listen to the news these days you probably think every man in leadership anywhere is a pervert. All the actors, all the bosses, all the politicians, all the teachers, all the preachers, all the dads—but that isn’t true. There are all kinds of reasons we are hearing these things right now, not the least of which is that this kind of news sells pages and air time. Some of the accusations come out of political agendas. Some come because silence is no longer enforced. Some come because victims feel safer as part of a group. But there are not more abusers than there were a short time ago. We are just hearing about them today.
You have learned about narcissism. It’s on your radar. You see it in places and people you didn’t think to look at before. That’s okay. But don’t be discouraged and don’t be afraid. Not everyone will use you. Some will love you.
When you meet someone, watch for red flags. That’s just good sense. But don’t push people away in your fear. Instead, keep the boundaries you have built around yourself. Value yourself. If someone asks more than you want to give, say no and don’t do it. Trust your new instincts, and meet people with confidence. Build your relationships on your terms. Anyone who doesn’t like that doesn’t need to be with you. Even if you find it hard to trust, be kind and pleasant.
I think you will find that there are others out there just as afraid as you, who need a good friend as much as you do. You have to be careful, but you don’t have to be alone.