How Do You Know They’re a Narcissist?

Elena Miro
5 min readNov 2, 2022

Typically, by the time the change in their attitude happens, you’re in deep. You’ve been thoroughly impressed by them, whether it’s a romantic or professional relationship. They start off great, but then they change. Suddenly, you realize all they really want to talk about is themselves, and no matter the conversation you’re having, they always steer it back to something having to do with their life.

You’ve just told them you have cancer, and they start talking about their new car. You’re breaking up with your spouse? They’ll be happy to tell you all about how they just met the man or woman of their dreams. And they will expect that you will be happy for them and admire their charm. If you don’t respond in the way they believe you should, you’ll soon find yourself on the business end of their narcissistic rage.

Their rage is sudden, harsh, and loud. They have no compunctions about dressing you down in public either, and they can go from someone who seemed to be so caring and kind to someone who is ice cold in an instant. It’s genuinely startling to witness the change that occurs. I ran into that with my ex-husband. He would be fine one minute, and then just start berating me the next. Though you might initially resist believing there is something really wrong, or that they have some kind of personality disorder, you’ll soon witness more symptoms that will convince you that they are a narcissist. Here are several things you’ll likely see in their behavior:

  • Name-dropping: They like to emphasize their importance, and to do that, they will drop the names of people who are famous or well-known in their field. They get a large boost of self-esteem from being associated with people they think are important, and they will let you know of the association so you can admire them accordingly. If you fail to do so, you will likely be ridiculed and devalued.
  • It’s all about image: Because the narcissist has no internal validation that can make their self-esteem unstable, they get their validation externally. That means they must appear to be great, intelligent, kind, loving, supportive, beautiful, and anything else they value. Their image is everything to them because it is from their image that they derive their sense of self. They will always take great care in ensuring they look clean and well-groomed. Physical attraction is a big part of their image. They will also do whatever they can to prove how intelligent they are, even if that means ridiculing other people. They will go out of their way to appear successful.
  • Don’t dare to criticize: Because it’s all about image, narcissists are very strongly averse to any kind of criticism, even with that which can be considered the most gentle of advice. They are hypersensitive to it, and being criticized will either cause them to defend themselves by devaluing and belittling the person who has criticized them, or they may spiral into a deep depression. Part of the problem is their need for external validation. They get their sense of self from sources outside of themselves, and to be criticized is basically to have their self destroyed.
  • Blaming and shaming: Because of their need for external validation and fear of criticism, they are always ready to blame and shame others for any problems they encounter or cause in their life. It’s never their fault, and there is never any need for them to improve. They can always point to someone else who caused their problem, and they will never admit even a role in making any mistakes. Instead, they are full of excuses and blame.
  • It’s personal: Everything to a narcissist is personal, and this is particularly true for covert narcissists who aren’t as outwardly obvious in their behavior. Remember, they lack object relations, and so, if you’re criticizing them, it’s personal. It’s about the very core of their being. They can’t see that there is good and bad in everyone, so if you’re saying they did something bad, you’re saying they ARE bad. And when they believe that’s the case, they are ready to react with a dose of narcissistic rage to put you in your place.
  • They leave a trail of wreckage in their wake: If the person you think might be a narcissist has a history of numerous bad relationships and/or work experiences, that’s a big red flag that they are a narcissist. Remember, it’s personal and they’re never to blame, so if they’re telling you all about their crazy ex-girlfriends – all 10 of them – or their seven crazy ex-boyfriends, that’s a big sign they’re a narcissist. Again, this is related to the lack of object relations. They can’t see that there is good and bad in an ex, and if they’re an ex, they likely criticized the narcissist, so that makes them to blame and bad. So, if you see that they only speak negatively of their ex-partners, consider that they might be a narcissist.
  • They cheat and lie regularly: Narcissists are known to lie as part of their manipulation tactics, but they are also more likely to cheat in a relationship. They don’t have the ability to put someone else’s feelings above their own, and they need to be externally validated. So, when someone shows a romantic interest in them, they will pursue them to get their self-esteem fix. They need that admiration and adoration, and there’s nothing quite like the beginning stages of a new relationship to make you feel adored.
  • They seem so confident: In fact, the narcissist is confident to the point of arrogance. Now, underneath is an unstable self-esteem, but the narcissist themselves doesn’t know that. They have become so adept at projecting an air of confidence that they have forgotten it’s a false facade. They believe their own projection, and they thoroughly allow themselves to get lost in the story they’ve created. They are arrogant, haughty, and dismissive of other people. They are certain that they are always right, and when they find out they’re wrong, they will blame someone else for giving them misinformation or misleading them. Although they seem confident, the truth is that their self-esteem is unstable, and anything that truly brings them down can result in a profound depression.

At first, it’s hard for you to think that the person next to you can be a narcissist. It happened to me too. I recommend you read my book „What Narcissists Don’t Want You To Know“, there is more about my experience and more about narcissism. Also if you need psychological help, I invite you to my consultation-acquaintance at the price of a cup of coffee.

Photocredit: freepik

Elena Miro

Certified Psychotherapist, Relationship coach and Author. Ukrainian