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The Narcissist Checklist: Is Someone in Your Life Playing You?

Have you ever had the impression that you should be wary of people all the time? Maybe you feel invisible and unheard when a friend just talks about themselves and their achievements. On the other hand, it may be a partner who consistently downplays your feelings, making you feel like you're to blame for everything. These may indicate that you are with a narcissist.

What is a narcissist?

Exaggerated self-importance, a strong desire for approval, and a lack of empathy for other people are characteristics of narcissism. It's critical to differentiate this from a healthy sense of self. In addition to feeling good about themselves, a person with healthy self-esteem also values other people. On the other hand, narcissists have a brittle sense of self and need outside affirmation all the time.

In severe situations, narcissism can lead to the development of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), a mental illness characterized by an extensive pattern of these characteristics. Nonetheless, a lot of people display narcissistic traits without fulfilling all the requirements for NPD.

Why is this important?

People who live in close proximity to narcissists can suffer greatly. Their lack of empathy, manipulation skills, and need for control can undermine one's own self-worth, cause emotional upheaval, and make it nearly impossible to have meaningful relationships.

The Narcissist Checklist

After defining the characteristics of narcissism, let's take a closer look at them using a checklist to see if you can spot them in someone you know. Recall that not all individuals displaying a handful of these traits are inherently narcissistic. On the other hand, it could be a reason for alarm if you notice a pattern of multiple behaviors that are consistent.

1. Grandiose Sense of Self-Importance

Exaggerates achievements and talents: Narcissists frequently exaggerate how great their achievements are. They may embellish tales of prior triumphs, exalt themselves for their knowledge or abilities, and persistently pursue praise for even the smallest of accomplishments.

They believe in superiority: They think of themselves as superior to others and have an exaggerated sense of self-importance. This can show up as a need to always be the center of attention, a condescending attitude, or a propensity to disregard other people's viewpoints.

Expects constant admiration: Praise and approval are what narcissists want. They could be conceited about receiving praise, envious of others' successes, and unresponsive to criticism.

Here's an example: Consider a coworker who regularly boasts about their previous advancements, minimizes the contributions of others in meetings, and becomes quite upset when they don't get an award they feel they are entitled to.

2. Entitlement

Unreasonable expectations of special treatment: Narcissists possess an exaggerated sense of entitlement, believing they should receive preferential treatment over others. They could get bitter if their expectations aren't met, and they may assume that others will take care of their wants and bend the rules for them.

Feels entitled to privileges: No matter what they have done or how qualified they are, they frequently think they deserve the finest of everything. Expecting others to shoulder the cost, requesting upgrades or special treatment when they perceive mistreatment, and becoming quite upset when they don't get their way are some manifestations of this.

Resenting others' success: It's difficult for narcissists to rejoice in other people's accomplishments. To preserve their own sense of superiority, they could minimize other people's achievements, make crude remarks, or even attempt to destroy their success.

Here's an example: A friend who regularly complains about having to perform their part of duties, expects costly birthday gifts while offering you meager tokens, and throws shade anytime you receive a promotion or achieve a goal.

3. Need for Admiration

Craves constant praise and validation: As was already established, narcissists need continual affirmation from others to maintain their brittle sense of self. They could softly boast or make hints about their achievements in an attempt to get praise.

Feels threatened by other people's achievements: A narcissist may perceive praise or appreciation as a personal attack. To reclaim the spotlight, they could minimize the other person's accomplishments, attempt to refocus attention on themselves, or even use deceptive methods.

Dismissive of compliments: Although they are insatiably egotistical, narcissists can also be startlingly insensitive to sincere praise. This may be a ruse to get more praise and assurance, or it may be a means of preserving an air of mystery or supremacy.

Here's an example: Think of a spouse who regularly posts sexually suggestive stuff on social media yet becomes upset when you draw attention to their good looks. If you congratulate them on their food or appearance, they can play it down and say they deserve even more.

4. Lack of empathy

A narcissist's extreme lack of empathy is possibly their most harmful quality. They struggle to relate to or comprehend others' needs and feelings. This can show up in a number of ways:

Difficulty understanding emotions: Emotions are seen as flaws by narcissists, who also find it difficult to empathize with others. They could downplay your emotions, brush off your worries as inconsequential, or even make fun of you for expressing them.

Minimizes or dismisses others' problems: When you are going through a difficult period, a narcissist may minimize your difficulties or even reframe the topic to reflect on themselves. They could make you feel alone and unheard by giving you meaningless platitudes in place of sincere support.

Self-absorbed conversations: The interests and self-centeredness of a narcissist are frequently discussed. They may struggle to take turns listening, dominate the conversation with anecdotes about themselves, and show little to no interest in your life or experiences.

Emotional manipulation: Manipulation is an art form for narcissists. To manipulate your feelings and achieve their goals, they may employ gaslighting, silent treatments, or guilt trips. It can be extremely taxing and detrimental to your self-esteem to constantly manipulate your emotions.

Here's an example: A family member who consistently makes light of your anxieties, dismisses your career goals as unimportant compared to theirs, and dominates family gatherings with stories about their achievements leaves little space for others to share.

5. Dark Behaviors

Although the main impact of a narcissist often lies in their darker acts, the features examined thus far paint a concerning picture. We'll now look at a few of their more cunning and destructive strategies:

Exploitation: Narcissists see other people as resources or instruments to further their own agendas. They could take advantage of your generosity, charity, or skills for their own gain. This can take many different forms, ranging from expecting you to continuously run errands or finish jobs for them without paying them back to borrowing money and never paying you back. Because they lack empathy, they are able to rationalize these acts without feeling regret or sorrow.

Interpersonal Problems: Narcissists find it difficult to maintain positive relationships. Their incessant demand for praise, sense of entitlement, and lack of empathy create a toxic dynamic. They may find it difficult to keep friendships going, experience a string of unsuccessful romantic relationships, and leave a wake of hurt and disappointment.

Anger and Rage: Narcissists exhibit extreme sensitivity to criticism or any perceived challenge to their inflated sense of self. Any argument, no matter how small, real or imagined, could cause them to react violently, angrily, or hostilely. This can be an effective control tactic, making people around them reluctant to speak up or make their opinions known.

Deception and Lying: Narcissists have little trouble manipulating the facts or flat-out lying in order to further their own agendas. They may fabricate long tales in an attempt to appease others, control circumstances, or escape accountability for their deeds. This kind of gaslighting can be especially harmful since it makes you doubt your own sense of truth and perspective.

Here's an example: A partner who constantly flatters you in the beginning (love bombing) but later uses those compliments against you, claiming you've changed or become demanding. They might fabricate stories about exes to make you jealous or lie about finances to avoid accountability. Their web of lies can be incredibly confusing and emotionally draining.

Are you dealing with a narcissist?

Now that we've explored the hallmarks of narcissistic behavior, it's time to take a step back and reflect. Here are some key takeaways from the checklist:

  • Grandiose Sense of Self-Importance: Do they constantly brag and expect admiration?

  • Entitlement: Do they believe they deserve special treatment and get angry when their needs aren't met?

  • Need for Admiration: Do they crave constant praise and feel threatened by other people's success?

  • Lack of Empathy: Do they struggle to understand your feelings and prioritize their own needs?

  • Darker Behaviors: Do they manipulate you, have explosive anger, or resort to lying and deception?

If you find yourself answering "yes" to several of these questions, there's a strong possibility you're dealing with a narcissist. However, it's important to remember that this checklist is a starting point, not a definitive diagnosis.

Consider other red flags that might be present:

  • Charm Offensive: Narcissists can be incredibly charming and charismatic at first, but this façade often fades over time.

  • Blame shifting: They are masters at deflecting blame and making others responsible for their problems.

  • Jealousy and competitiveness: They might constantly compare themselves to others and feel threatened by anyone they perceive as a rival.

If these additional signs resonate with your experience, it's crucial to prioritize your own well-being.

Coping with a Narcissist

Living with or being close to a narcissist can be incredibly challenging. Here are some steps you can take to protect your well-being:

  • Focus on Self-Care: Give attention to things that feed your body, mind, and soul. This might include exercise, spending time with supportive loved ones, or pursuing hobbies you enjoy. Building a strong support system is crucial, as narcissists can isolate you from your healthy connections.

  • Set Boundaries and Limits: Narcissists frequently test and push your boundaries. Learn to say no, establish clear boundaries around your time and energy, and stick to them. This might involve limiting contact, refusing to engage in manipulative conversations, or walking away from explosive situations.

  • Seek Professional Help: A therapist can provide invaluable guidance on navigating a relationship with a narcissist. They can help you develop coping mechanisms, strengthen your self-esteem, and establish healthy boundaries. Don't hesitate to seek professional support; it's an investment in your own mental and emotional well-being.

Remember, you are not alone. Many people struggle with narcissistic relationships, and there is help available.


Recognizing narcissism empowers you. It protects you from their manipulation and serves as a guide for prioritizing your own well-being. This knowledge preserves your mental health and enables you to set healthy boundaries. You can then make informed decisions about relationships, such as limiting contact or perhaps leaving completely.

Remember, you are not broken. Their actions reflect their concerns, not yours. You deserve healthy relationships that are based on mutual respect and sensitivity. Healing takes time, so focus on self-care and seek help if necessary. Don't be afraid to leave situations that are negatively impacting your mental health.

We hope that this information will help you navigate problematic relationships with greater knowledge and self-compassion. Share this post to help others, and leave a comment (without revealing personal information) to continue the conversation.

If you feel you are dealing with a narcissist in your life, a therapist might be a great help. They can help you navigate the issue, create coping strategies, and set healthy boundaries. Don't hesitate to seek professional help; it's an investment in your own mental and emotional well-being.

For more insights on handling encounters with a narcissistic ex, check out our blog on "The Do’s And Don’ts Of Encountering Your Narcissistic Ex."

FAQs about Narcissist

1. What's the difference between narcissism and healthy self-esteem?
Healthy self-esteem involves feeling good about yourself while acknowledging the worth of others. Narcissists, however, have a fragile sense of self that requires constant validation. They may be arrogant, lack empathy, and struggle to celebrate others' success.
2. Is everyone who exhibits some narcissistic traits a narcissist?
Most people display occasional narcissistic behavior. However, a true narcissist will exhibit a consistent pattern of these traits, causing significant distress in their relationships and overall well-being.
3. Can narcissists change?
Change is possible, but it requires significant effort and professional help. Narcissists often lack self-awareness and resist admitting their problems. Therapy can be a starting point for them to develop empathy and build healthier relationships.
4. How can I protect myself from a narcissist's manipulation?
Setting boundaries, limiting contact if needed, and prioritizing self-care are crucial. Don't engage in emotional arguments with a narcissist. Focus on building a strong support system with healthy connections.
5. What resources are available to help me deal with a narcissist?
Therapists can provide valuable guidance and support. Consider support groups for people who have been in relationships with narcissists. There are also online resources and hotlines offering information and assistance.