“Narcissist” – We have all thrown around this word when describing a self-absorbed person – especially when it comes to various personal relationships including co-workers, friendships, romances, and family. But how do we really know that someone truly is a narcissist, with a narcissistic personality disorder?

Not every self-centred, rude person in life is a true narcissist. “A narcissist, by definition, is someone with a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration and lack of empathy, whose symptoms begin in early adulthood” according to Cory Newman, PhD, a professor of psychology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania who has written on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

We have put together 10 Signs that you are Dealing with a True Narcissist:


1. They have an exaggerated sense of self-importance.

“People with NPD want to be recognized as being superior without the necessary achievements that go along with that,” says Newman. In their mind there is a definite hierarchy, with them on top, which is the only place that they feel safe. Narcissists have to be the best, the most right, and the most competent, do everything their way, own everything, and control everyone. Often if they aren’t achieving success, they will always blame other people or society, but never themselves. When it comes to a situation where they are wrong, they feel entitled to receive soothing concern and even the right to hurt you to “make things even.”

2. They have an exaggerated need for validation and attention.

Narcissists thrive on attention and validation, and it only counts if it comes from others. However, it never lasts. The more you provide words of support and care for them, no matter how much you tell them you love, admire or approve of them, it will never be enough because deep down they do not believe that anyone can feel this way about them. Despite being self-absorbed and believing they are superior to others, they are actually extremely scared of not measuring up. Regardless, you will need to keep showering them with attention even if they don’t believe it.

“It’s like narcissists love you as long as you’re idolizing them,” says Newman. “They seem lovely and wonderful and shower you with attention until you assert yourself. Then you might see a mean streak you didn’t see before. And it’s scary.”

3. They believe they are special or unique. (Or rather, superior to others and entitled.)

“A big sense of entitlement,” says Newman. “Narcissists often don’t believe the rules apply to them. They’re also the type of people who will make you bend over backwards to accommodate them and then act totally unappreciative.” If they feel they have been done wrong, they will lash out horribly even if the situation is unreasonable. It will never occur to them to consider the other persons situation, side, or feelings – They won’t apologise for their own hurtful behavior – because, in their heads, it’s only about them.

4. They believe other people are envious of them.

Narcissists constantly compare themselves to others, especially people who they perceive to be successful which triggers feelings of envy. If they achieve success in their lives, they will believe that everyone is jealous of them. They will also convince themselves that others live to be like them and will believe that others are copying them in various aspects of their lives.

5. They take advantage of others.

With their sense of entitlement and lack of empathy, they are more than happy to use people when suits them. They are always there to enjoy the benefits of your work, friendship or romance. But when you don’t give them what they want or they are bored, they will jump onto the next best thing until you are useful to them again.

6. They blame and deflect, never taking responsibility for their own actions or situations.

When things don’t go as planned, or if something makes a narcissist unhappy, they will always blame someone else rather than take responsibility for their situation, actions or feelings. It will always be someone else’s fault that they feel how they are feeling or that x happened, whatever that might be. Most often, the narcissist blames people who are emotionally close, attached, loyal, and loving in their life as you are least likely to leave or reject them. They count on the fact that you care, so they can treat you however they like. They also know that you will make things up with them even if they haven’t apologised.

7. Lack of emotional reasoning.

Have you tried to be reasonable with a narcissist, explained your feelings or actions logically to them, in hope that they will understand? These explanations will, unfortunately, have no effect on the narcissist or the behaviour they are exhibiting. This is because they are only able to have awareness of their own thoughts and feelings. Anything else doesn’t matter to them, they will not consider your side because to them, your side, unfortunately, has no value to them.

8. Lack of guilt.

Narcissists don’t feel much guilt because they think they are always right, and they don’t believe their behavior really affects anyone else.

9. Grudge holders.

They care deeply about maintaining their idealized image of themselves and have trouble tolerating any sort of disapproval or insult. No matter how small a criticism, “it feels like a huge assault, a personal attack,” and one they’re unlikely to forget. “If they feel slighted, or abandoned, they don’t get over it,” adds McBride. Rather than deal with their hurt feelings, they get angry and seek revenge, in one form or another.

10. Fear.

The narcissist’s entire life is motivated and energized by fear. Most narcissists’ fears are deeply buried and repressed. They’re constantly afraid of being ridiculed, rejected, or wronged. While they pull off a façade of confidence, they are deeply insecure people. A narcissist ultimately needs psychological help to assist them in gaining true confidence and self-love.

While a narcissist’s behavior can be hurtful, rude and unacceptable, you should try never to take it personally as it comes from a place of deep fear and shame of themselves. Be careful in these relationships as the relationship can become emotionally draining and destructive on your part – if they are unwilling to get help, you are safer letting the relationship go or avoiding being close enough with that person that you are hurt by their behavior.

Are you looking for a family lawyer in Durban? Durban Law Offices have a team of exclusively Family Law attorneys available to assist you. The firm’s attorneys and support team are Passionate about protecting children’s and family member’s rights. Please contact us on 031 836 0307 or email us at karen@durbanlawoffices.co.za should you need any advice or assistance.