What is Narcissism? (& 5 Tips to Deal with a Narcissist)

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Published Date|
February 24, 2024

What is Narcissism? (& 5 Tips to Deal with a Narcissist)

The term “narcissist” is thrown around a lot these days, from reality tv shows to bad relationships.

But what actually makes someone a narcissist, and how can you deal with them?

Here at KMA Therapy, we’re relationship experts. We know you have questions about the relationships in your life, and we’re here to answer them. For over 15 years, we’ve helped our clients learn the ins and outs of personal dynamics in order to get the fulfilling relationships they deserve.

After reading this article, you’ll know what narcissism is, the difference between narcissism and a big ego, and five ways to deal with a narcissist.

What is Narcissism?

Narcissism, or narcissistic personality disorder, is a mental health condition where people lack the ability to understand or care about other people’s feelings and emotions.

They have a high sense of their own self-worth and believe that they should receive special treatment and attention.

Symptoms of narcissism include:

  • Having envy of other people while believing everyone else envies them
  • Maintaining an obsession with being the best and having the best
  • Experiencing problems managing emotions and behaviour
  • Requiring constant praise and admiration
  • Expecting special favours from others
  • Feelings of sadness or depression
  • Struggling to adapt to change

Is it Narcissism or a Big Ego?

Although it can feel obvious when someone is self-centered and demanding, narcissistic personality disorder needs to be diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist.

People who are a bit overconfident or who put their own feelings ahead of everyone else’s can be difficult to deal with - but that doesn’t make them narcissists.

In fact, many people with narcissistic personality disorder have contingent self-esteem, meaning that their feelings of self-worth rely heavily on how they believe others perceive them.

narcissism or big ego

Despite how often we hear the term, narcissists are not that common - in the US and Canada, the rate of narcissism is only estimated to be between 1 and 5 percent of the population, with most narcissists being men or people assigned male at birth.

If you’re dealing with a coworker who can only seem to talk about themself or in a relationship with someone who refuses to consider your emotions, it doesn’t mean you’re dealing with a narcissist - but that also doesn’t mean their behaviour is acceptable.

Interacting with people who belittle your emotions and place unrealistic demands on you can be frustrating and damaging to your mental health - so it’s important to know how to deal with them.

If you feel like your safety is at risk or you need extra support, explore this list of resources for help.

5 Ways to Deal with a Narcissist

Whether you’re dealing with someone who truly has a narcissistic personality disorder or you’re trying to navigate conversations with someone with a big ego, these five tips can help.

1. Establish clear boundaries

Narcissists can often struggle to respect your boundaries and can often be very manipulative when getting you to do what they want. In order to prevent this, set clear boundaries and don’t compromise on them.

This might look like:

  • Telling them what you want and need
  • Saying “no” if they make unreasonable requests
  • Declining to engage with them if they’re being manipulative

2. Build up your own self-esteem

Narcissists can often undermine other people’s self-esteem in order to make themselves feel better, and this can take a toll on you over time.

It’s important to maintain your own sense of self-confidence and self-esteem outside of your relationship with this person.

To boost your self-esteem, try:

  • Reading and writing positive affirmations
  • Surrounding yourself with people who support you
  • Participating in activities that make you feel fulfilled

Recognizing your own self-worth can help you feel less vulnerable to the other person’s attempts to drag you down.

3. Connect with a support network

Surround yourself with a supportive network of family and friends who can remind you of your worth and be a source of social support.

You can also explore local support groups and workshops to meet others who have experienced similar things to you.

4. Practice self-regulation skills

When you’re dealing with a narcissist, it helps to remain calm, assertive, and confident.

Practising self-regulation skills can help you stay calm even in these stressful interactions.

Try self-regulation practices like:

  • Mindful breathing
  • Using positive self-talk
  • Getting enough high-quality sleep
  • Moving in a way that feels good to you

You can explore this list of self-regulation exercises for more ideas.

5. Get professional support if you need it

Dealing with people who tear you down can be draining, and over time, it can really take a toll on your sense of self-worth.

If you’re experiencing a lot of stress or anxiety from your interactions with other people, speaking to a therapist can be a great way to boost your sense of support and learn more ways to cope.

Next Steps for Supporting Yourself

After reading this article, you know what narcissism is, signs of narcissism, and five ways to deal with narcissistic people.

Here at KMA Therapy, our passionate team of relationship therapists is here to give you the support you deserve.

Learn more about our therapy services by exploring our Relationship Counselling page, or Register Online to connect with our team.

If you’d prefer to keep learning, explore these resources we’ve chosen for you:

Author |
Emily Weatherhead
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