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When I was just getting started in my business, I decided I needed to do some local networking. I’d heard it would be good for the business, so I did some digging and started looking at small business groups on meetup.com.
I felt so lucky when I quickly found a local small business meetup that was happening just a short distance from my house.
At the first meeting, we were each invited to briefly introduce ourselves and explain our business. When it was my turn, one woman looked up sharply like she’d been stung by a bee as I started to talk about my business. She caught my eye and I smiled at her. At first, she just stared, but then I saw a small smile form on her face. I felt relieved and went on.
After the introductions, we had lunch. I went over to say hello to the woman, and she seemed really friendly. She was a gorgeous, charming and seemingly very successful woman. She seemed to be someone I could really learn a lot from. She said she’d been in business for years (though in hindsight, I realize that she didn’t really explain her business when given the chance and was pretty vague about it). Still, she seemed quite successful. She talked the big talk. And as far as I could tell, she was walking the big walk. She drove an expensive car, had an expensive bag, and had those expensive shoes with the red soles. You know the ones I mean. And her jewelry! I could tell it was all real – a stark contrast to my costume knockoffs.
Well, I was on the hunt for a mentor, and she seemed like a perfect fit! She was confident, attractive and seemed quite intelligent. She asked me a lot of questions about my business and offered little snippets of advice that seemed legit. At the end of the meeting, she invited me to meet her for lunch the following week.
The day we met for lunch, she asked for more details about my business, which I happily shared. Then, much to my delight, she was telling me all about her upcoming executive board meeting. She said they were considering investing in other local small businesses, and that if I played my cards right, they might invest in mine.
Of course, I was over the moon! I practically worshipped her – I wanted to BE her! And since the lady promised to bring me up at this upcoming meeting, I started to pull together all sorts of documentation and information about my business.
The next day, I emailed the information as she had asked, and I waited for her to get back to me after her meeting. But then she went silent. I was a little sad, but figured maybe my business just wasn’t up to snuff for this executive board.
I understood – after all, I had just started my business and wasn’t super successful yet. And there was a stark contrast between my business and hers – she, at that time, was clearly well beyond me, it seemed. I counted myself lucky for the time we had spent together and moved on. I mean, she had an EXECUTIVE BOARD. All I had at the time was me.
But a couple of months later, I noticed that she’d created a brand new Facebook page. She had just launched a new business it seemed – and when I started looking into it, it turned out that her business was eerily familiar. In fact, it was like she literally copied the business plan and structure that I had outlined for her months ago.
I was shocked and angry. I was confused. I reached out to her and asked what she was doing. She told me that I was mistaken, that it had been her idea the whole time. She said that the business plan I had submitted to her was a joke, and THAT was why she’d gone silent. She subtly tore me down, implying that I was stupid to think that someone like HER could possibly take an idea from someone as small-potatoes as ME.
Of course, when I pointed out that she had literally done everything I’d put in the business plan, she got offended and screamed at me, telling me she was tired of people always accusing her of stuff like this. She called me jealous and immediately blocked me. Then, from what I heard, she started talking to our few mutual connections about how I thought I owned my niche and how she practically invented me anyway. It went on from there.
What I missed was that her apparent confidence was more like grandiosity. I missed that she had used me to get an idea for a short-lived business. I missed that this was a pattern with her. I missed that she only liked me while I was actively worshipping her, and I didn’t expect her to attack me the way she did. I missed all the red flags.
Later, I would learn that I wasn’t the only person she had done this to – apparently, several people who had been part of the group at different times had experienced the same thing. I learned that her fancy bag, car and shoes were thanks to her wealthy husband. And that she was a bored stay-at-home wife (no kids) who had too much time on her hands. And as for her stealing all of my business? I admit I worried for a minute. After all, she had a lot more money than I did and as far as I could tell, would be far more successful than I could. But I didn’t have to worry for long because after failing to become immediately successful, she moved on to someone else’s idea. (Plus, if we’re being honest, she was trying to be someone she just wasn’t.)
Was she a narcissist? I don’t know. But she certainly behaved like one in certain ways. Let me explain what I mean.
When you think of a narcissist, you don’t think of someone who is insecure. In fact, they often seem to be exactly the opposite of insecure. After all, narcissists are known for being vain and self-centered. They often demand your attention. They want to be admired and they feel the need to monitor the amount of respect you give them. They exaggerate their achievements and they seem like they only care about themselves. And we all know they manipulate people to get what they want.
And, as I’m sure you are well-aware, narcissists are boastful and they exaggerate their self-importance. They also don’t acknowledge that anyone else has needs and wants, and feelings, thanks to their extreme lack of empathy. They seem to literally believe they are the center of the universe. Sound familiar?
And the other thing that narcissists refuse to do is to be reflective and dig within to become self-reflective. In fact, they are threatened by that idea and will avoid it at all costs. God forbid they should catch a glimpse of their true selves! It would destroy them.
Are narcissists insecure?
So you may be asking yourself whether narcissists are insecure. The short answer to that is, yes, they are very insecure – even though it often seems otherwise. (To be fair, covert narcissists often seem a little – or a lot – insecure. But most narcissists seem to carry around some level of insecurity with them.) Let’s break it down further as to how they are insecure.
The Narcissist’s Need To Boast Is What Makes Them Insecure
Someone who is secure will not have a need to brag about their accomplishments. Those who are sure of themselves are modest and really don’t like to show off. However, as you see the narcissist must make it known that they have the best car on the block, or the biggest house on the block, or the fanciest clothing and so on. While it might seem that it’s all about showing off, the sad truth is that they do this in order to validate their struggling self-worth.
Narcissists Put Others Down Intentionally
Anyone who is secure will always treat others with respect, and if they don’t like someone, they will just not associate with them in any way at all – or keep it at a polite minimum at the very least. However, as you know the narcissist is known to brag and boast in addition to putting you down. They want to make you feel inferior and that they are “better” than you. They need to make you feel inferior because it helps them to feel better about themselves. This is another indication of insecurity – after all, people with a relatively healthy self-image don’t need to stand on the pain of others in order to feel good about who they are.
Narcissists Don’t Care About The Wants And Needs Of Others
Narcissists don’t care if you are missing out on something or not getting what you need. This is due to their extreme lack of empathy. However, they care VERY MUCH about their own wants and needs. In fact, they seem to ONLY care about themselves getting what they need. If you think about it, you can probably think of a time where an adult behaved like a child when they didn’t get what they wanted – maybe more often than not, if you were dealing with a narcissist. This also shows some deep insecurity within them because they fear they will miss out on what they want and need. And this is why they do not hesitate at making sure they don’t miss out at the expense of others.
Their Need To Control Others Is A Sign Of Insecurity
It is a known fact that narcissists are controlling and that is why they utilize manipulation tactics such as gaslighting and other forms of abuse. Anyone who is secure within themselves will never resort to manipulation with the exception in rare cases where they feel they had been wronged and need to be compensated for understandable reasons. Psychologists tell us that they feel the need to control people around them as well as their environments because they often feel like they have no control over other parts of their lives. They become master manipulators as a result, and that all stems from insecurity.
Narcissists Cannot Handle Criticism
No one loves to be criticized. However, if the criticism is constructive, then you accept it gracefully even if you don’t put what is suggested to use. However, narcissists fly off the handle when they are criticized and this is due to the fact that their fragile self-esteem is threatened when that happens. That’s because narcissists tend to be triggered anytime they feel their vulnerabilities have been exposed. They will react in an angry fashion, often clapping back to the person giving them criticism with a passive-aggressive response, or even by mocking them. This humiliates the one giving the criticism and they feel rejected. The narcissist does this to take the heat off themselves and to attempt to “level the playing field,” as in, protect their fragile ego by putting the focus back on the person who dares to criticize them.
Bottom line? High self-esteem and narcissism are not the same thing. True confidence in oneself is not narcissistic. The biggest difference is that when you have actual self-esteem, you are more likely to focus on things like healthy relationships and being happy, while narcissists fail to do this because they genuinely do not care how others feel. Rather, they want to know what people can do for them. Plus, they’re always trying to validate their self-worth – and when you have actual self-esteem, you don’t need to do that all the time.
Are you dealing with a toxic narcissist?
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Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.