Have you ever noticed how, when you start to succeed at, feel happy about or get excited about…well, almost anything, the narcissist starts to hate you for it? And if other people notice your success and comment on it, the narcissist becomes enraged, offended – generally slighted. They minimize you, they tear you down – they focus on what you’re NOT doing in order to achieve that success.
So, you’ve got a big project going, or you’ve started a business. Or you are the PTA president, or your company just gave you a big promotion. You’re excited! You’re taking action, you’re making things happen. Maybe you’re getting a lot of positive attention for it, right?
But then, the narcissist notices that you’re not giving him or her the same amount of attention you used to. Or that YOU are getting way more attention than you used to from other people. People are taking notice of the big thing you’re doing, and they’re saying nice things to you, and about you.
The narcissist feels threatened by your success and by the fact that you’re getting attention, no matter how small.
Whether you’re making money or not, the narcissist finds ways to say that your little project is causing problems in your relationship. You didn’t cook dinner last week, or you did not do all the stuff he or she requires of you because you’re too focused on it.
The narcissist starts arguments and attacks you and you become paralyzed – failing to take action. If you aren’t making money, the narcissist talks about how stupid you are for letting yourself be taken advantage of. If you are, the narcissist says you only care about the money, or they minimize the amount of money you are making – teasing you and trying to mentally beat you down.
And too often, the game works. The narcissist verbally and psychologically abuses you back into submission, and you retreat into your head. You stop talking about your project or your job or your business or your PTA work – and if the narcissist has anything to say about it, you’ll eventually quit doing that thing you love and spend your life focusing on him or her instead.
Why do narcissists need you to fail? Why do they hate it so much when you succeed?
Reason #1: They are jealous of your success. It doesn’t matter if they are equally or more successful than you – they feel almost offended by the fact that whatever you’re doing is getting attention from other people. Naturally, people will be excited for you sometimes – and you’ll get hate from some people. That’s life.
But when your own spouse, parent, friend or coworker can’t be happy for you, it’s difficult to deal with, right?
The narcissist is resentful of your success because they think you don’t deserve it, or that they do deserve it and that it should be them. Or both. They feel more entitled to success than you, and they conveniently ignore the fact that you’ve worked your ass off to get there. All they know is that you got something they didn’t – and they certainly do not like it.
Reason #2: They feel threatened by your success – or they think you’re trying to make them look bad. Or that you’ve encroached on their ever so specific comfort zone. Narcissists only like change when it’s about them getting more attention and more of what they want. They don’t want you to break out of that little box they’ve created for you, and they’ve got no problem with trying to push you back into it. You might be making them feel uncomfortable with your success because they feel like you’re somehow doing it to spite them or to challenge them. They’re so focused on being the center of their universe, and if you have the nerve to have a life outside of them, they are insulted: you’re no longer making them #1 in YOUR life.
Reason #3: They see you as an extension of themselves; therefore, you don’t deserve the success you’ve achieved. After all, you have built your success on lies, according to the narcissist. All they know is that, in their eyes, you’re not even a real person, and that means that you must be pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes. You are faking it, they say, and pretty soon, people are going to find out. In their minds, there is a certain vision of success – and a certain type of person who deserves it. And despite your obvious achievements, the narcissist does not believe that you’re worthy. You don’t match their very narrow profile of what success is supposed to be – how dare you succeed at anything at all? If you ask me, this is all about projection. The narcissist projects his or her own insecurities on to you and is offended when you don’t manifest them.
Reason #4: They have an opinion of you and it doesn’t fit the image of the “you” that you have become due to your success. This makes them feel like you’ve wronged them somehow, like you’ve gone outside of the little box they built for you in their heads. They feel betrayed, like you’ve done this TO them. They have decided long ago that you are inferior to them. And any other idea is absolutely not acceptable.
Reason #5: They feel like you’re stealing the spotlight – and that’s where THEY are supposed to be. Since you are clearly inferior to the narcissist, according to him or her, you are wrong to attain the spotlight. The narcissist always needs to feel superior to you. He or she needs to control you – and you need to remain inside their little box for you. If you get compliments on your work, or your looks, or your kids, or your house – they’ll figure out a way to either take credit for those things, or they’ll straight up attack you. They may say that you’re dressing too slutty or being too flirty if someone compliments you on your looks – or they may rage against you for “trying to get attention” from “everyone.”
The narcissist will do anything possible to regain your attention, including STOPPING giving you theirs. They may also pull away emotionally or feel personally attacked if you have been successful. They will deny that they have a problem with you, and they will absolutely trivialize your efforts, your opinions – your thoughts and actions are considered “less than” or “fake,” somehow.
They will actively attempt to sabotage your success by putting you down, emotionally and psychologically abusing you and even directly attacking you so that you’re so focused on their drama that you almost feel like you cannot succeed.
You have to remember that the narcissist, no matter how secure he or she seems, is the most insecure person you probably know. It’s all a front – in reality, they are pathologically envious, rage-filled and emotionally abusive. They cannot stand to see you happy and successful, because any amount of success you achieve feels like a huge betrayal to them – and because they secretly wish it were them. But since they can’t see it or admit it to themselves, they simply focus on how they can take you down a notch or two.
So how do you deal? You do it anyway.
You consider the source – and you remember that when someone insults you, it’s really a reflection of them, not you. You remember that you are worthy of your success and you shut them down by not reacting to their bad behaviors. You succeed despite their attempts to make you fail and you keep going. You don’t give in and you don’t give up.
You become a force of nature, and you eventually learn to use their abusive tendencies to drive you to become even more successful – and you don’t allow them to hurt you. Each time they try to take you down a notch, you use the feelings that come with it to push you to the next level. You don’t keep playing the game – you get off the crazy-ass merry-go-round that is a toxic relationship, and you fly like you’ve never flown before.
You win, and you don’t look back.
And now it’s time for the question of the day: can you relate to having a narcissist stop you or try to stop you from success in some area? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below and let’s discuss it.
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.