12 traits of a narcissist

Identifying and Coping with the 12 Traits of a Narcissist

Narcissism, a term often thrown around in casual conversations, actually holds profound implications for our interpersonal relationships. Recognizing the 12 traits of a narcissist is not just about labeling others; it’s about understanding the dynamics at play in our interactions and safeguarding our well-being. This article aims to dissect these traits, offering insights into how they manifest and affect both the narcissist and those around them.

Recognizing the 12 Traits of Narcissism

Narcissism is characterized by a complex array of behaviors and attitudes that can significantly impact interpersonal relationships. In this section, we explore the 13 defining traits of narcissism, providing insights into how these characteristics manifest in everyday interactions and affect both the narcissist and those around them.

1. Overinflated Sense of Self-Worth


At the core of narcissistic behavior lies grandiosity—a trait marked by an exaggerated sense of self-importance and superiority. Narcissists view themselves as superior to others, often without the achievements to justify such beliefs. This inflated self-image is not just a facade they present to the world; it deeply influences how they think, behave, and interact with others. The manifestations of grandiosity include:

  • Boasting and Exaggeration: Narcissists often boast about their accomplishments, real or imagined, seeking to impress others with their prowess.
  • Fantasies of Unlimited Success: They harbor fantasies of unparalleled success, power, or attractiveness, believing they are destined for greatness.
  • Sense of Uniqueness: The belief that they are special and can only be understood by other high-status people or institutions.

2. Need for Admiration

A constant need for admiration drives narcissists, compelling them to seek excessive attention and validation. This insatiable craving underpins many of their interactions, pushing them to position themselves at the center of attention. The incessant demand for admiration manifests in various ways, such as:

  • Fishing for Compliments: Regularly seeking compliments to affirm their sense of superiority.
  • Manipulating Social Situations: Engineering situations to highlight their presence or achievements, ensuring they remain the focal point of admiration.
  • Sensitivity to Criticism: Reacting negatively to criticism or perceived slights, as these threaten their need for admiration and validation.

3. Sense of Entitlement

Narcissists possess a pronounced sense of entitlement, believing they deserve special treatment and that their desires should be prioritized above others’. This expectation of preferential treatment is not limited to their immediate circle but extends to all areas of life, including work and social settings. Their sense of entitlement manifests in several key behaviors:

  • Unreasonable Expectations: Expecting others to comply with their demands without question or hesitation.
  • Exploitative Tendencies: Taking advantage of others to achieve their own ends, justified by their belief in their superior status.
  • Impatience with Others: Demonstrating impatience or anger when they feel their needs are not being met immediately or adequately.

4. Exploitative Behavior

Narcissists are known for their exploitative behavior, using others as mere tools to achieve their goals without regard for their feelings or welfare. This manipulative aspect is central to narcissistic relationships, where the narcissist often takes without giving back. Key indicators of this behavior include:

  • Using People: Viewing relationships as opportunities to advance their own interests, often at the other person’s expense.
  • Lack of Reciprocity: Showing little interest in the needs of others unless it serves their purposes.
  • Manipulation: Employing tactics like guilt, flattery, or intimidation to control or use others for their gain.

5. Lack of Empathy

A defining lack of empathy characterizes narcissists, impairing their ability to understand or care about the feelings and needs of others. This deficiency not only affects their close relationships but also limits their capacity for genuine connection. Manifestations of this trait include:

  • Indifference to Others’ Feelings: Showing little to no regard for the emotions, suffering, or needs of those around them.
  • Inability to Recognize Emotional Cues: Struggling to understand or respond appropriately to the emotional states of others.
  • Exploitative Interactions: Engaging in relationships that are superficial and primarily self-serving, due to their inability to empathize.

6. Envious of Others


Envy is a prevalent trait among narcissists, who often feel envious of others or believe that others are envious of them. This stems from their competitive nature and constant comparison with those they perceive as rivals or threats to their superiority. This envy manifests in several ways:

  • Resentment Toward Success of Others: Feeling threatened by the achievements or happiness of others, viewing it as a direct challenge to their self-esteem.
  • Belittling Achievements: Minimizing or devaluing others’ accomplishments to maintain a sense of superiority.
  • Projection of Envy: Accusing others of being envious, reflecting their own feelings onto those around them.

7. Arrogance and Haughty Behaviors

Narcissists often display arrogance and haughty behaviors, signaling their perceived superiority over others. This trait is not only about how they view themselves but also how they wish to be viewed by the world. Their arrogance is not just an attitude but a way of interacting with others, characterized by:

  • Dismissive Attitudes: Treating others with disdain or contempt, especially those they consider inferior.
  • Overbearing Presence: Dominating social and professional situations with an air of superiority.
  • Mocking or Derogatory Comments: Using sarcasm or mockery to belittle others and reinforce their own sense of superiority.

8. Belief of Being Unique or Special

Narcissists hold a deep-seated belief of being unique or special, convincing themselves that they are distinct from and superior to others. This belief underpins their expectations for treatment and understanding from those around them. It is evident in their interactions and self-perception, as shown by:

  • Seeking Special Treatment: Expecting that rules or social norms do not apply to them due to their perceived uniqueness.
  • Associating Only with Certain People: Preferring to associate with individuals or institutions they deem of similar status or uniqueness, often disregarding others.
  • Expressing Misunderstood Genius: Claiming that only select people are capable of understanding their depth or intellect, reinforcing their sense of being special.

9. Fear of Abandonment

Narcissists often harbor a deep-seated fear of abandonment, which paradoxically coexists with their self-centered behaviors. Despite their outward appearance of confidence and self-assurance, this fear drives much of their need for constant attention and admiration. It manifests in several specific behaviors:

  • Clinginess in Relationships: Exhibiting possessive or needy behavior towards partners or close associates to ensure their loyalty and attention.
  • Overreaction to Perceived Rejection: Responding with extreme distress, anger, or vindictiveness to real or imagined signs of rejection or abandonment.
  • Manipulative Tactics to Retain Connections: Employing emotional manipulation to keep people close and mitigate fears of being left alone.

10. Preoccupation with Fantasies of Success, Power, or Beauty


The minds of narcissists are often filled with fantasies of success, power, or beauty, which serve as a critical component of their self-esteem. These fantasies are not mere daydreams but are integral to their identity and how they navigate their lives. This preoccupation manifests in various behaviors:

  • Idealized Life Plans: Harboring unrealistic expectations for their future success, fame, or aesthetic appeal.
  • Constantly Sharing Their Grand Plans: Frequently discussing their ambitions or dreams as if they were already achievements, seeking admiration.
  • Disregard for the Feasibility: Ignoring the practicality or steps required to achieve these grandiose plans, focusing instead on the fantasy.

11. Interpersonally Distant or Unavailable

Despite their need for admiration, narcissists often appear interpersonally distant or unavailable. Their relationships are marked by a lack of genuine connection and emotional availability, stemming from their primary focus on self-interest. This trait manifests in various ways, including:

  • Superficial Relationships: Engaging in relationships that serve their ego or needs without forming deeper emotional bonds.
  • Lack of Emotional Support: Failing to provide emotional support or understanding, often ignoring the needs of others.
  • Emotional Withdrawal: Withdrawing emotionally when they feel their needs are not being met or to exert control over others.

12. Difficulty with Criticism

Narcissists have a pronounced difficulty with criticism, reacting negatively to any feedback that isn’t overwhelmingly positive. Their fragile self-esteem is easily threatened by perceived attacks or judgments, leading to defensive or aggressive responses. This difficulty is observed through:

  • Defensiveness: Reacting defensively to constructive criticism, often viewing it as a personal attack.
  • Retaliation: Responding with anger or hostility to criticism, sometimes seeking to undermine or discredit the source.
  • Denial: Refusing to accept responsibility or acknowledge faults, often deflecting blame onto others.

Coping with Narcissists


Dealing with narcissists, whether in personal relationships or professional environments, can be challenging and emotionally draining. Understanding how to cope effectively is crucial for maintaining your well-being and setting healthy boundaries. Here are strategies and insights into managing interactions with narcissistic individuals:

1. Setting Clear Boundaries

Establishing and maintaining clear boundaries is essential when interacting with a narcissist. Boundaries help protect your sense of self and prevent exploitation.

  • Be Assertive: Clearly communicate your needs and limits. Be direct and assertive without being aggressive.
  • Stick to Your Boundaries: Narcissists may test or ignore boundaries. Consistently enforce them, and do not waiver.
  • Decide on Consequences: Know what actions you will take if your boundaries are violated, and follow through if necessary.

2. Avoiding Power Struggles

Engaging in power struggles with a narcissist can be exhausting and unproductive. It’s important to choose your battles wisely.

  • Pick Your Battles: Not every disagreement needs to be addressed. Focus on issues that directly affect your well-being.
  • Disengage: If a conversation turns into a power struggle, disengage politely but firmly. Avoid giving them the reaction they seek.
  • Stay Calm: Keep your emotions in check. Narcissists feed off emotional responses. Staying calm reduces their power over you.

3. Focusing on Your Own Needs and Well-being

When dealing with narcissists, it’s vital to prioritize your own needs and emotional health.

  • Self-Care: Engage in activities that promote your well-being and reduce stress. Exercise, meditation, and hobbies can be beneficial.
  • Seek Support: Talk to friends, family, or a therapist about your experiences. Support networks are crucial for emotional resilience.
  • Educate Yourself: Understanding narcissism can help you manage your expectations and interactions more effectively.

4. Seeking Professional Support

Sometimes, professional intervention is necessary, especially if the relationship significantly impacts your mental health.

  • Therapy: A therapist can provide strategies for dealing with a narcissist and help you strengthen your emotional boundaries.
  • Couples or Family Counseling: If the narcissist is a partner or family member, counseling may help address the dynamics, though success varies.
  • Legal Advice: In cases of divorce, custody, or workplace issues involving a narcissist, consulting with a legal professional can provide clarity and protection.


Coping with narcissists requires a balanced approach that prioritizes your well-being while effectively managing interactions. By setting clear boundaries, avoiding power struggles, focusing on your own needs, and seeking professional support when necessary, you can navigate these challenging relationships more successfully. Remember, it’s important to protect your mental and emotional health first and foremost.

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