How can you avoid letting a narcissist (or other toxic person) get close to you? What are some things you can watch for when you meet someone new? And what if you’re already dealing with someone who makes you wonder? You start by learning the red flags and watching for them.
First: Trust Your Gut
Before we get to the list of some of the red flags to look for, one thing to learn about yourself is how to trust your gut. Your gut, your instinct, intuition, ability to discern will often guide you away from toxic situations if you learn to listen to it, even when what you may want is presenting itself to you. For example, the charm of a narcissist, in the beginning, may show you all the things you feel you want like attention, focus, even what feels like connection but under it all you may have a sense something is really not right. You may feel anxiety or drained around this person. When you are not with the person you may feel uneasy about them or like their energy is “stuck” to you and it just feels wrong, depleting, or as some describe it “icky”. Learning to listen to your gut over being swept away by any person can help you not only to see the red flags but to listen to their warning and take action to stay away from the potentially toxic person.
50 Red Flags That Mean You’re Dealing with a Narcissist
There are many lists of red flags to watch out for. This list includes a few less talked about things that may be useful to help keep you from toxic relationships. Red flags are only a part of the picture and many of them can exist without a person being entirely toxic in a relationship. It is the combination of many red flags as well as your gut feeling that can help you determine if a relationship is healthy and right for your life. What can be learned from watching for red flags might be areas in your life to learn to have less tolerance for so that you are not engaging in relationships that do not create a happy, healthy life. After narcissistic abuse, learning to trust yourself and your own judgment of others is ultimately what keeps you safe, red flags are one piece of that awareness.
You just feel “off” or on edge around someone.
Seduction and charm. A narcissist will often have an allure that also feels empty and without true vulnerability on their part.
Idealization. The creation of a role you are to play being set up by the narcissist that idealizes you or themselves instead of seeing you as a whole and authentic person.
The feeling of this person is familiar as if you know how to “understand” it. If you are a survivor of narcissistic abuse and especially if you grew up with toxic parents there may be a familiarity you feel that gets you to overlook the uneasy feelings your gut may be trying to warn you of.
Self-centered talk. The narcissist may listen to you in order to gain information but the conversation feels like it revolves around them. They may even make it seem like they are relating to you so they can mirror and groom you.
You may feel anxious around them like you are seeking approval or walking on eggshells. Try setting a boundary not only to see how they respond, but to test how you feel as well.
Boundaries are pushed and disregarded.
You may feel manipulated
Love bombing and over the top attention is a big red flag.
What empathy you may see seems lacking or not genuine.
The situation seems too good to be true. You are unable to see the flaws in a person or they are only allowing you to see their “good” side.
They want to know everything about you.
They are not long out of a relationship and/or no time between relationships. Someone that moves on very fast, if they are even really single, generally is not a safe choice for a potential partner.
Makes friends easily but has no real long term friends. The friends they do have are activity-based only and their personality changes around each different group of friends
They show you off, you may feel like a trophy.
Job stability issues
Makes excuses, everyone else is to blame.
All of their exes are crazy.
They claim to be the ones who have to hold everything together.
Far fetched stories of glory.
You can’t imagine the “bad” side or their shortcomings.
May appear helpless or to need you.
Things feel out of balance such as you like them more than they do you.
Overtly meeting all of your vulnerability “needs” rapidly and early on in a relationship.
They do things to secure a position in your life. They may buy you things, fix things or otherwise set up a sort of dependency on them.
When the truth is revealed early on, the little warning words of truth are quickly glossed over or made to look like a joke.
You find yourself doing more for them than seems or feels right to you.
They make you feel uniquely special to the point of idealization.
They set up situations or use words which make you feel insecure.
Lies are explained away.
Pet names when you first meet them.
You overlook a lot because you see their “potential” and feel like you could help them meet that potential.
They want every second of your time.
They make you feel bad about being with others.
They take everything personally.
They are jealous of your kids or family.
They lack accountability.
They are judgemental and punitive.
They treat others like possessions
The relationship feels like a roller coaster.
They have sex addictions. Be cautious of fetishes and how they are with control.
They ruin special occasions.
You are kept in limbo over events, time and other things that require commitment.
You are isolated from friends and family.
They need extreme amounts of praise.
Your accomplishments and achievements are undermined.
Are you an empath? Top 10 signs you are an empath.
In this video, I’ll fill you in on the top 10 traits of an empath, including but not limited to why so many empaths end up with narcissists and other energy vampires.
What is an empath?
Empaths are people who naturally feel the emotions of other people and act in accordance with that feeling. Considered to be the more sensitive, compassionate, and caring partner in relationships, empaths are often targets for narcissists and should take steps to protect themselves and their health.
How do you know if you’re an empath?
Empaths are extremely rare, making up less than one percent of the population. So, how do you know if you are an empath or not? The best way is to test how you feel when in the presence of other people, emotionally and physically even. If you feel drained in certain situations where there are many people in your vicinity, experiencing lots of physical symptoms when stressed out or when in stressful situations, then you are most likely an empath.
What are the top empath traits?
Here are 10 traits of an empath. Do you recognize any of these in yourself? (Watch the video for expansion on each point!)
1. Empaths are highly sensitive.
2. Empaths absorb the emotions of the people around them.
3. Empaths can seem introverted at times.
4. Empaths seem to “know” things.
5. Empaths need time to be alone each day.
6. Empaths don’t always want to be joined at the hip in a relationship.
7. Energy vampires LOVE empaths.
8. Nature can make an empath feel better.
9. Empaths are sometimes seen as oversensitive to noise, smells, or too much talking.
10. Empaths sometimes give too much and end up depleting themselves.
Maybe engaging with someone who has a cluster b personality disorder has left you with a bit of PTSD or CPTSD, even? Today, I’m going to let you in on the psychology of a narcissist a little bit and explain how sometimes, the things that narcissists won’t do are the same reasons they can’t ever seem to have healthy relationships.
“I was slowly losing hold of my original and better self, and becoming slowly incorporated with my second and worse.” ~Jekyll, highlighting his lack of control over Hyde
Why Do Narcissistic Abuse Survivors Miss Their Abusers?
“Why do I still feel like I love him?” “She is so awful; what makes me think she’s ever gonna change?” “He abuses me constantly, but I still feel like I want to be with him.”
So often, I hear my narcissistic abuse recovery coaching clients lament the loss of their narcissists – not the toxic person they currently know, but the person they thought they’d known – or the person they believed they were involved with. There are a couple of reasons for this – trauma bonding and the narcissist’s false self. Let me explain.
What is trauma bonding?
Trauma bonding is a common condition among narcissistic abuse survivors and their abusers. Thanks to an ongoing cycle of intermittent reinforcement, many survivors of toxic relationships go through this, much like kidnapping victims and hostages do. Trauma bonding is often a bigger issue for people who also grew up in toxic and abusive homes, partially just because it feels like “normal” to them.
The narcissist’s false self is the “personality” the narcissist shows “outsiders” and probably showed you when you first met. A lot of people in narcissistic abuse recovery prefer the term “narcissistic mask” because when it slips, you see the narcissist’s true self, which inevitably traumatizes you. This is a defense mechanism used by narcissists to cope with hurtful feelings from childhood trauma. These feelings include shame, abandonment, neglect, abuse, and indifference from primary caregivers.
Narcissists learn how to defend themselves against these painful memories and feelings by developing this so-called False Self which is used in public or in front of new people. This False Self is developed at an early age when the narcissist has not yet learned how to avoid these painful feelings through the mature defenses of adaptive behaviors.
In layman’s terms, that means that they create a false self that appears to, but does NOT, embody the following.
How does the narcissist’s false self play a role in your trauma bonding?
Why is there so much confusion in toxic relationships? Essentially, because the narcissist hides behind a sort of “armor” that is his or her “false self,” he or she fools you from very early on. Just think about it. While your first impression of the narcissist may have been a very good one; that’s because he or she showed you only the best parts of themselves when you met – they constructed a series of qualities and traits that they present to the outside world.
Love Bombing Serves Up a Strong Cocktail
During the love-bombing or idealization phase of a toxic relationship, the narcissist puts you high upon a pedestal and can see nothing wrong with you.
This validates you in a way that you may never have really experienced before. If you’re like most survivors of narcissistic abuse, you rarely if ever get validation from anyone – and you probably grew up either abused or neglected by your primary caregivers, or some combination of both. You may not even realize how badly you craved this kind of experience.
Enmeshment and Addiction Create Strong, Toxic Bonds
And here’s how you find yourself enmeshed with the narcissist: validation on this level is literally as addictive as a drug for someone who’s never had it before. That rush of dopamine you’re guaranteed with someone who seems to worship you can be instantly addictive for anyone who has never really felt loved or seen.
At the same time, the narcissist may actually believe they’re in love with you. The truth is, they have the emotional capacity of a toddler. They have strong, intense feelings for you (just like they did for everyone who came before you). They swear you’re the one (just like everyone else before you was told). They are CERTAIN it’s going to be different with you. At least until they recognize that you’re a flawed human, like everyone else. That’s when the real trouble starts. Do you see where this is going?
You miss it at first because the narcisisst only shows this “false self” side of themselves. It is in fact the false self with whom you become obsessed – with whom you fall in love.
Roller Coaster of Toxic Love
So, when the narcissistic abuse cycle shifts to the next phase, you feel lost. And because it’s the false self and the idealization phase pedastal you expect to return, you’ll spend months, years or decades waiting for them, searching for them. You’ll try to change yourself to get them to come back to you. You’ll do anything – and those little glimpses of the idealization phase are dripped your way at an agonizing pace – just enough to keep you hopeful. Meanwhile, thanks to the highs and lows involved in a toxic relationship, you find yourself on a broken, scary rollercoaster that feels like it’ll never stop. It makes you sick, but you’re scared to get off the ride.
There’s the Hook
THAT is what keeps you hooked – the memory of this behavior combined with the ongoing, ever turning cycle of intermittent reinforcement (during which you get little moments or “tastes” of the person you initially fell for or believed they were, alternated with periods of devaluing and discarding in an unpredictably toxic cycle).
This intermittently reinforced cycle of the highest highs and lowest lows keeps your brain confused and your body constantly on alert with chemicals and neurotransmitters all twisted up – and this becomes literally addictive, which is essentially the definition of trauma bonding.
All of that – and the ensuing confusion that comes from gaslighting and constant emotional battering – leads you to a serious kind of mental torture that causes you to literally be at odds with yourself – we call that cognitive dissonance. You’re trying to reconcile the illusion you were initially presented with the person you have now got to deal with. Your head spins, and you start to lose interest in things – and people – that you once enjoyed and even loved.
Losing Your Identity
In a lot of cases, in order to cope with this mess, you start trying to improve your SELF – to change yourself into something better. Something you hope will be good enough for the narcissist – who actually wants something that doesn’t really exist in a single human. But if you’re like a lot of other narcissistic abuse survivors, you’ll blame yourself. And being the people-pleaser that so many of us are, you’ll end up trying to hate yourself into that impossibly unreal idea of perfection. You’ll lose your identity.
You Become an Extension of the Narcissist
Now, codependency destroys your independence. The narcissist takes full control of you – and some part of you almost prefers it this way. And so you bend over backward to please them and to get them to send a tiny bit of validation your way. And somehow, no matter how much you put up with or how sure you are that you’ve done everything you could to get that love-bomber back, they only show up on rare occasions. But they always leave again, and they only stay long enough to keep you on the hook.
The Narcissist Redefines You
The narcissist convinces you that you are the problem. They unceremoniously and repeatedly remind you that you aren’t good enough, pretty enough, rich enough – whatever it is they’re looking for – and instead of telling them who you really are like you once would have – you keep trying. But no one around you can figure out why don’t you stand up for yourself.
They wonder how the narcissist is maintaining such control over the intelligent, capable person you once were.
In addition to that mutual addiction (trauma bonding) factor, there’s a part of you that is trying to overcome the cognitive dissonance here – your subconscious mind is trying to reconcile and uphold that initial impression you had of the narcissist – the image of their false self that is challenged during the inevitable devaluation phase.
The True Face of the Narcissist is Revealed
By the time you get to the discard phase (also inevitable with a narcissistic person – the cycle, like the beat, goes on), you’ll be treated to only occasional glimpses of the truly ugly face of the narcissist – the one that spews out the cruel and painful poison that causes you to lose all faith in yourself faster than you can say boo.
And, like it or not, you can’t see to unsee the coldness, the callous indifference that leads to what feels like absolute torture to you.
While your first reaction is that everyone has a bad moment and this can’t be who they really are, the truth is that this moment is probably the closest you’ll come to actually seeing the narcissist’s REAL self.
This is about the time you finally see that the amazingly charming or engaging or otherwise awesome person you got involved in the first place is gone – and suddenly you’re aware of the venemous contempt they’ve developed for you.
Waking Up from the Lie
Before you know it, you realize your whole relationship has been a fabrication, a manipulated version of reality that never existed. You realize that they never loved you, not the way you thought they did. And your heart breaks a little more, if that’s possible.
But, before you completely shut down and give up, remember this: none of this is your fault. In reality, narcissists are not capable of feeling genuine love or compassionate empathy for anyone else – they just use people to meet their own selfish needs. Once they exhaust one source of narcissistic supply, it’s on to the next.