There was probably a time when you believed that the narcissist in your life actually respected you, right? I mean, why else would they have treated you so well? During the love-bombing (idealization) phase, the narcissist is head-over-heels, without a doubt absolutely infatuated with you! So, of course, they’re on their best behavior. They treat you like you’re really important and special – even put you on a pedestal. You don’t treat someone this way unless you respect them. Right?
But then, the devalue phase hit for the first time. And it all fell down around you. You were left spinning, wondering what the heck just happened. If you’re anything like me, you needed to figure it out. That probably led you to research the situation, which led you here, eventually.
Recognizing the Narcissist’s Cycle of Abuse
If that sounds familiar, then I would guess that, since then, you’ve learned the unfortunate truth about this toxic person in the most difficult way possible. If that’s the case, then the following should resonate with you, at least on some level.
As it turns out, the narcissist does not respect you, and that incredible connection you felt at the beginning of the relationship wasn’t genuine at all. In fact, the narcissist was love bombing you, and this was part of a definable, repeatable pattern of narcissists in toxic relationships.
In other words, if the narcissist was not a family member, when you met them, they were in acquisition mode and you were the target. Once they were sure they had you in their clutches, they started treating you…well, a little different. And if the narcissist was a part of your family, they’d be running a similar cycle with you for your whole life.
But in either case, there was a time when you found yourself in the devalue phase, and this is where you first started to realize what was going on. You immediately became aware of the fact that the narcissist didn’t respect you even a little bit. In fact, with every word that came out of their mouth and with every passing moment, they became increasingly abusive, dragging your self-worth into the dirt, making you feel like you didn’t matter at all.
As devastating as this realization was, part of you felt some relief when you realized it wasn’t you – that you weren’t, in fact, the problem in the relationship, as you’d been led to believe.
As your relationship progressed, you may have even forgotten what it felt like to be respected at all. Speaking of respect, does the narcissist really respect anyone at all? Like, ever? Well, yes, and no. It’s complicated. See, we know that your average narcissist seems to think that they are the only ones in the world who are important and everyone else is beneath them. In other words, they feel special and entitled to special privileges and gifts that not everyone gets.
I have literally heard more than one narcissist say they believe that on some level, the world revolves around them. And since that is the case, how can the narcissist ever respect you? Let’s talk about it.
Can you make a narcissist respect you?
First, we should agree on what we mean by ‘respect,’ exactly.
Respect can be defined as someone feeling positively toward you as a person. It might also mean being considered important by someone else, and it means that the person respecting you clearly sees and admires your good qualities. It means that they hold you in high regard and are obviously aware of your individual value as a person and a unique, separate entity from themselves (as opposed to an extension of self). It means they treat you in a way that makes you feel good, or at least comfortable.
Is it possible for a narcissist to respect anyone, based on that definition of respect? Maybe. But they generally don’t. Instead, they’ll see you as an object or an extension of themselves. Or, if you’re an authority figure, they’ll be kinder to you and may even appear to respect you, but secretly, they’ll be calculating how they can benefit from knowing you – or worse, depending on the relationship you have, how quickly they can take your place. The truth is that your average narcissist really respects no one at all, with the exception of MAYBE themselves – but even then, their understanding of the concept of respect is skewed and twisted, thanks to their incredibly low EQ.
Some people will advise you that learning to respect yourself is the key to making a narcissist respect you. And listen – I want that to be true, too. But it just isn’t – at least not when you’re talking about functional respect. What I mean is that when you combine the narcissist’s lack of compassion and emotional empathy with their inability to see you as a whole person, you get someone who doesn’t care how you feel and who thinks you don’t matter. Those ingredients do not add up to respect in any form.
What if you leave the narcissist? Won’t they respect you then?
A lot of people think and will advise that leaving the narcissist will make them respect you. While it might be true on some level and in some cases, it won’t cause them to change and become better people. Sadly, leaving a narcissist will only make them angry, sad, desperate, and/or apathetic, depending on whether they have secured alternate narcissistic supply beforehand. In any case, though, they will still not respect you. They will instead start a smear campaign by first lying about you and often projecting their own sins onto you during their ongoing sob story which helps them to secure more narcissistic supply (because people feel sorry for them, as you might have early in your own relationship, and are compelled to support them).
How to Get the Respect You Deserve
You might not like what I’m about to say, but if you know me, then you know I tell it like it is. Here’s the deal. No one is going to respect you if you don’t respect yourself. Okay, maybe some people will. I will. Still, there’s something about a person who lacks self-respect that sometimes causes even the least toxic people to take advantage of them. And there’s just no reason to vibrate this way. When you learn to respect yourself, you teach others how to treat you almost without even trying, because your standards go up and you naturally enforce your personal boundaries.
But am I saying that the narcissist will be among those who respect you when you learn to respect yourself, after all? No, not exactly. Let’s talk about it,
See, while learning to love and respect yourself will help you to stop accepting the abuse the narcissist dishes out so often, it will certainly not cause them to respect you – at least not in any functional way. BUT…all is not lost!
The good news is that if you do manage to develop your self-image to the point that you are okay with – and maybe even love – who you are, you’ll show them that you will no longer tolerate their BS. Then, be sure to take good care of yourself, inside and out. And as you beam with genuine confidence and you move away from your codependency with the narcissist, something crazy might happen. You might find a way to leave.
And then, my friend, you might find a way to create a life that you love, for real.
Just…stop for a second, and breathe. Imagine with me for a moment that you no longer have to put up with the drama and misery that goes along with the narcissist and that you’ve created the life you really want. What does it look like? Who is involved? Where do you live? What do you do? How does your ideal life look? Take a few minutes and journal on it!
The narcissist helped to create your codependency.
Your codependency was at least in part sort of co-created by the narcissist in your life. They taught you to be afraid of them, their moods, and their general presence. They taught you that you didn’t matter without them and that if you didn’t go along with what they wanted, that you were bad and/or invisible. In either case, you’d be punished in various ways and this along with all of the emotional and psychological abuse you deal with throughout your relationship with the narcissist will become the basis for your damage – your trauma. It will become the reason you’ll recognize you might be dealing with C-PTSD symptoms and the reason you literally doubt yourself, your reality, and your ability to function like a normal human in the world.
You have to remember something. Narcissists prey on you by leaning into the trauma they’ve created in you. They’ve caused you to lose your self-confidence, thanks to years of ongoing abuse, and this has caused you to give in to their manipulative ways. They prey on you because they think they can, and because, until now, you may have tolerated it. But, guess what? You don’t have to take it anymore. You deserve to be happy, to feel peaceful, and to feel SAFE in your home. The narcissist takes all of that away from you – and my friend, you deserve better.
How to Deal with the Lack of Respect
If you have struggled with narcissistic abuse, you will want to focus on what you can do to first heal, and then you’ll want to work on becoming the person you truly want to be. This will help you along the path of learning to first accept and then to love and respect yourself. It might feel like letting yourself feel empowered in the narcissist’s presence more difficult at least at first – and that is usually true. So, if you need to, practice with people who you trust and even strangers out in the world.
And remember: Going no contact is a form of self-care. If you were the sort of person who really wanted revenge on the narcissist, remember that the narcissist needs narcissistic supply like a vampire needs blood – and going no contact will remove you (and therefore their source of narcissistic supply, or at least one of them).
So, while the narcissist isn’t capable of functional respect (as in the kind of respect that causes them to treat you compassionately, civilly, and as an equal), leaving them in the dust while you go and have an intentionally created life that you actually love? Well, that’ll make them realize that not only did they lose the best thing that ever happened to them, but also that they’ve underestimated you and maybe even that you’re too good for them. But either way, you’ll be the one winning the relationship, much to their chagrin.
You Have to Respect Yourself First
This part is really important. When we are enmeshed in relationships with toxic people, we often put our own self-respect on the back burner – and that’s IF we’ve ever had any to begin with. See, when we are raised by toxic people or when we experience significant trauma in childhood, we learn that our own self-respect is a problem for other people. We learn that in order to get love and validation, we need to become what others want us to be. And when we can’t become something we’re not, we lose respect for ourselves – but even if we CAN become what others want us to be, we end up putting our own desires, strengths, passions, and talents aside in order to keep those people happy. This leads to a feeling of something being “just not right,” or we feel like something is “missing” from our lives. Even if we’re self-aware enough to know exactly what is missing, we don’t see a way to actually make it happen without upsetting someone – so we just…don’t.
All of that rolled up in a big ugly ball leads us to not respect ourselves. And when we don’t respect ourselves, we are inadvertently accepting unacceptable treatment from people who do not even deserve our time. So when we start respecting ourselves, we STOP accepting that behavior.
How do you learn to respect yourself?
It all starts with learning to first accept yourself, completely, without condition, as you are in any given moment. This is a tough one for someone who has been abused by a narcissist because it feels almost unnatural to say to yourself: “I am okay with myself right now, in this moment, flaws and all.”
But push past that and give it a shot. Make sure you listen carefully to that little “inner voice” that is always taking in your head – your inner dialogue. And correct it when it is wrong. Correct it when it sounds less like you and more like the toxic people in your life. Journal often, and honestly. Speak about yourself kindly or at least without negativity – to yourself and to others.
Don’t assume that someone else’s opinion of yourself is the truth. If you’re worried about what someone else says, look closely and be honest with yourself – is there something you want to change? If not, be okay with who you are and accept that no one is perfect. It is normal and human to have flaws.
Don’t do things to gain the approval of anyone else unless it benefits you to do so. For example, you wouldn’t want to go against your morals and ethics to make a narcissist happy, but let’s say you were given the opportunity to audition for a part in a movie, and that was something you wanted to do. In that case, you might make an effort to gain the approval of the casting director, and that is okay. See the difference?
Ultimately, self-respect begins with how you treat yourself and how you expect others to treat you. When you treat yourself lie you matter, others will begin to do the same. And those who won’t? They’ll see themselves out of your life post-haste. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing!
Question of the Day: Have you ever been able to make a narcissist actually respect you? Have you tried? Share your thoughts, share your experiences, share your ideas in the comments section below this video, and let’s talk about it!
Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor 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 personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, 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.
She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.