“Narcissists do not consider the pain they inflict on others; nor do they give any credence to others’ perceptions. They simply do not care about thoughts and feelings that conflict with their own.” ~Dr. Les Carter, Enough of You, Let’s Talk About Me
A client asked me a question the other day that really got me thinking – in part because it’s so common to hear victims of narcissism ask the same ones:
How did I get sucked in by a narcissist? Why do I keep falling for these manipulative, cold and otherwise unsavory characters? What is it about me that causes me to attract narcissists, or why am I attracted to narcissists?
Narcissists love people like you – some people call it “highly sensitive people” (HSP), but I call you an empath – a person who sort of “feels” the emotions of other people around them.
As an empath, you’re wired to react to intense emotion with immediate and swift “first aid” to soothe that emotion.
You almost literally “feel” the other person’s pain, and your nature causes you to want to help.
This causes the narcissist to almost instinctively take advantage of you, to drain your energy and to take your acts of kindness without giving anything in return. Remember that old saying about how when you give someone an inch, they’ll take a mile?
I’d bet that it was first applied to a narcissist, because this is their M.O.
A narcissist is a master manipulator who will use your sweet, kind nature and your big heart to get what he or she wants from you.
(Please note: From here on out in this post, I’ll refer to the narc as “he” because statistically, it’s slightly more prevalent in males, and because the largest percentage of my readership is female. But note: this can relate to either sex, and there is only a slightly higher prevalence of NPD among males versus females.)
And, as a sensitive, empathic person, you are naturally compassionate and openly loving. If you’re like me, you also have this belief that your love can heal broken people.
It means you’re a good person who cares about other people.
Hey, I get it – I instinctively want to help people to feel better. I’m by nature a “people fixer,” and in fact, I have worked miracles on myself.
But some people can’t be fixed, because you have to want to change in order to successfully do so.
It took me YEARS to get to the point that I could understand that you truly cannot help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.
The fact is that if any issue is to be resolved, if any problem is to be solved, the very first step is to ACKNOWLEDGE AND RECOGNIZE the issue.
The next step, of course, is to understand the issue – to know what it is that you’re dealing with, and then to discover and implement the solutions you need.
Here’s where this gets interesting.
When you do happen to run across someone you’re able to actually help, as an empath, this makes you feel good – and it also means that people are often enormously grateful (not to mention very generous with praise and admiration) for your help.
This is like a really good drug – it feels like a million bucks for a “HSP.”
This leads an empath to feeling really good about herself – and it makes her feel needed. And if you’re an empath you already know what I’m about to say next – when we feel needed, we want to give MORE.
But then, when we get involved with a toxic narcissist, we get ourselves involved with a scary cycle of energy that can drain us to an unhealthy point.
Being as sensitive as you are, the narcissist knows that he can take advantage – and he does, without concern for your well-being. You end up giving SO much that you’re left feeling empty – and the narcissist feels no obligation to offer any sort of reciprocation of emotional support.
So, you end up losing yourself. You almost forget who you are – you stop doing the things you love, you stop trying to make plans with your friends – you stop caring about much of anything – besides keeping the narcissist’s crazy moods in check. And you get very tired, very quickly.
Stop a moment. Read very carefully.
You’ll Never Fill the Giant Hole of a Soul That is a Narcissist.
And therein lies the rub. How can you handle this intense and overwhelming pit of need that is a narcissist without losing yourself in the process?
First, you’ve got to remember that no amount of loving, caring compassion will ever be enough. Because the narcissist’s giant hole of a soul is unfillable.
He doesn’t need your love (or anyone’s). He needs to learn to love HIMSELF – and to find and follow his own path to fulfillment.
He needs to learn how to stand up on his own two feet, to beome whole and healthy as a person – and he needs to make his mistakes and pick himself up.
In doing this, a “healthy” person (non-narcissist, in this case) will learn to love himself.
Without learning these basic life lessons, the narcissist can’t ever have enough love within himself to truly love another person.
How a Narcissist Is Like a Fat Dog (Seriously!)
It’s kind of like carrying your dog on his daily walk and hoping he’ll take off those extra pounds he put on in the last few years. The act of being carried along the route does nothing to actually help improve the dog’s health (weight-wise, anyway). So, you’re helping the dog along the route, but you’re not helping the dog to reach his weight-loss goal. (Ha!)
It’s like if you help TOO MUCH, you’re actually hurting a person – so, just like the dog, the narcissist must learn on his own if he’s going to get the value of the lesson.
If the dog continues to get carried, he’ll become unable to walk on his own and he will not lose the weight he needs to drop – just like the narcissist, who can’t ever come to terms with what he lacks inside himself because he’s never forced to stand up and do what is necessary, even when it’s scary.
But when people don’t learn to love themselves, they not only miss out on the amazing TRUE versions of themselves, but they also never learn to fully accept and receive any love from outside of themselves.
This means that they spend their lives searching for fulfillment from OUTSIDE of themselves – they develop a voracious appetite for attention and a vampire-style thirst for power over and admiration from others.
So this is why you got sucked in by a narcissist.
Because, unfortunately, the narcissist looks for someone to love him. Not someone to LOVE. Just someone to love him – you feel me? And since us empaths are all about fixing broken people, this is where we’re sucked in.
This doesn’t make us stupid, and it doesn’t make us bad. It just makes us especially vulnerable to these slick, shiny and manipulative people.
It’s understandable why – but if we’re going to survive and thrive as individuals, we’ve got to remember the most important thing: we’re not responsible for someone else’s journey in life, for their choices, for their emotions or even their needs (outside of our children, obviously).
You have to get past the initial discomfort of the narcissist’s emotions in order to be able to create the personal and relationship changes that you want (and need, honestly, if you’re going to remain healthy).
But we ARE responsible for our Selves, and I capitalized that word intentionally, because we all need to stop and recognize the sacredness that we carry around in these bodies and honor our true Selves appropriately – to love ourselves as we are. It’s the only way we can ever become whole.
It’s our responsibility to take control of our lives and direct them in the way that we will be best served, and in ways we can best serve our true purpose in life. We must learn to validate our Selves, and not rely on others (especially our narcissists) for emotional support or commiseration.
You learn to depend on yourself, and you learn to “have your own back,” so to speak.
You have to know that you’re a good person, a kind person who is deserving of love – just because you’re who you are. Just because you exist in the world.
And, if the person you’re having a relationship with does not allow you to feel the kind of love you need and deserve, you’ve got to consider leaving, going no contact or, at the very least, limiting contact.
Bliss Mission: Daily Confidence and Gratitude Practice to Improve Literally Every Aspect of Your Life
Stop depending on others for personal validation, and start making an effort to find reasons to validate yourself.
Since a lot of people who have experienced narcissistic abuse will find this unnatural, I suggest that you start by writing a list of 10 things that you love about your Self each day, and then add 10 things you’re grateful for in your life.
It doesn’t have to be complete sentences, and it’s okay if you repeat things over the course of the time you try this practice. It’s okay if you start out with just one thing per day and work your way up.
It’s not a specific combination or number of items – it’s the simple practice of noticing things that are amazing about yourself (or, if you must, acceptable) and your life and finding more reasons to be grateful. That’s the only way you can ever create any real personal change in your life, for any reason – narcissist-related or not.
Psst…it’s all really about how you perceive yourself – and it’s about how you expect to be treated, and how much bullshit you’re willing to tolerate for “the right person.” You’ve got to love yourself and you’ve got to KNOW you’re worth it.
If you need a boost in your self-confidence after you’ve been struggling with a narcissist in any capacity, sign up for my free self-confidence course, right here.
Now I want to hear from you. Did you find yourself or someone you know in this article? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. Let’s discuss this.
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.