If you’ve ever been in a toxic relationship with a narcissist, you might already know how adept they can be at making you feel completely worthless. If that rings true for you, you’re definitely not alone. In fact, one of the most underrated ways a narcissist can devastate you is by making you feel inferior, or like you’re just not good enough.
How does this kind of long-term narcissistic abuse affect you?
The impact of this kind of ongoing psychological abuse is so significant that most victims of long-term narcissistic abuse find themselves struggling with symptoms of C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder). We become so damaged that we end up becoming codependent. This ongoing invalidation of a person’s self leads to a lack of self-esteem and self worth, and it can lead us to becoming ideal prey for other narcissists.
Does psychological abuse at the hands of a narcissist change you permanently?
You lose yourself, in so many ways, when you become enmeshed with a narcissist in any kind of relationship, and the closer the relationship, the more damage it can cause for you, psychologically, emotionally, and physically. The good news is that it does not have to be that way, as victims of narcissistic abuse can recover through intentional healing and learning how to avoid getting entangled with other toxic people in future relationships. Making yourself aware of the red flags to look for in new potential relationships can help as well.
Why do narcissists make you feel like you’re not enough?
Narcissists Lack Self-Esteem, And It Makes Them Feel Better To Put You Down
It is a known fact that many narcissists, despite appearing to be the opposite, have a major lack of self-esteem. This leads them to bolster their fragile egos with a façade of false confidence, and at the same time, they do anything they can to make you feel terrible about yourself. Covert narcissists are less likely to pretend to be confident, so they’ll act more self-hating, but they will also do anything possible to make you feel inferior. So, when a covert a narcissist begins to show their true colors; you immediately think how out of character it is for them since they initially showed you a vulnerable side.
Worse, narcissists will put you down in unimaginable ways – they dig deep to hurt you. They put you down regarding your appearance, intelligence, habits, and anything else that comes to their minds.
Narcissists Use Gaslighting to Make You Doubt Yourself
Narcissists need to find ways to bolster their fragile egos, and if their abuse towards you is making you doubt yourself, they are getting exactly what they want. Gaslighting is the ideal manipulation tactic for this outcome, and narcissists use it to push you further into submission. They find your weak points and exploit them. For instance, they will make you believe that you are losing your memory by telling you things that you did that you never did or vise versa. When they see you doubt yourself further because of their manipulation and gaslighting tactics, they feel good about themselves.
Narcissists Get a Thrill From Invalidating You
Narcissists are known to invalidate your feelings by saying things such as “you’re way too sensitive” when you react to their abusive behaviors, for example. They invalidate your feelings to make you doubt yourself so they can get you in control. When you believe you’re worthless or not enough, the narcissist figures you’re not going to go find out you can do better than them. The way they see it, their feelings are very important – but their marked lack of emotional and compassionate empathy means they literally do not care how you feel at all. This is a dangerous combination for anyone involved with a malignant narcissist.
Narcissists Feel Entitled
Narcissists live in a constant fear of missing out (FOMO!). This is often developed early in childhood, at the same time as the development of their trademark entitlement complex. Their sense of entitlement also means they feel compelled to do anything they want, and they will do it at your expense without concern for the impact it has on you, your feelings, or your life. They lie and cheat on you, too, because they feel entitled to do so. They feel that they need to have access to other sources of narcissistic supply as “backup” because they cannot stand the idea of ending up alone.
Remember that healthy, secure people will never tear you down to hurt you on purpose. This is a toxic, malignant behavior and it’s one you don’t deserve. Need help recovering from narcissistic abuse?
When you’ve dealt with narcissistic abuse for a long time and you finally get out, you’ll spend a lot of time first grieving and then healing. The narcissistic abuse recovery process can be long and complicated but at some point, you’re going to want to start “being your old self again.” You know, the self you used to be – before you met the narcissist.
And listen – I absolutely get it. I felt that way too. Who doesn’t want to get their old self back after going through a whole self-altering toxic relationship? After all, you’ve been walking around feeling like a ghost or a shell of yourself. The narcissist caused you to put all of your own interests on the back burner, or maybe they shamed you out of actually even thinking about the things you once enjoyed. It makes total sense that you’d want to feel like yourself again.
So, I’ve got good news for you, and I’ve got bad news. First, the bad news: here’s the thing. You’re never going to be able to become your old self again.
But don’t stress too much because, with that being said, here’s the good news: you can most certainly become an even more amazing version of yourself. Even better? When you create your new self with intention, you can almost literally become exactly the person you want to become.
Desperately Seeking Self
There might be a part of you that feels angry and overwhelmed by the idea that you can’t get your old self back. So before I tell you why you can’t be exactly who you were before narcissistic abuse, I want to remind you of something really important here.
Most likely, you did not realize how profound the damage was until the relationship ended – because often, narcissists keep us in a sort of “spinning” state, where we are so busy trying to get through the days without upsetting or angering them that we don’t have time to slow down and recognize the extent of the effects of the trauma.
Why You Can’t Be Your Old Self Again After Narcissistic Abuse
Is it really true that your old self is gone after enduring narcissistic abuse? In so many ways, yes. But is there a way that you can go back to being the person you were before the abuse? Not exactly – but at the very least, you can heal and move forward and live a satisfying life.
Still, there are a couple of pretty simple reasons that you won’t be able to become exactly who you were before narcissistic abuse.
Time Changes Everything
First, let’s look at the practical side of things – there’s the fact that time has passed. Maybe you’ve had kids. You’ve had more experiences. And you’re older now. You might have been in this relationship for 20 years – or maybe your whole life, if the narcissist you’ve dealt with was a parent or family member. Even without the trauma, you’d be a different person today than you were when you began the relationship. Time changes everything, and you are no exception.
Trauma Changes YOU
And then, there’s the science of trauma. See, the ongoing trauma of narcissistic abuse changes you. It changes who you become. It changes what might have been a happy, confident, secure person into someone who doubts their worth and their value every day. It takes away your ability to have a healthy, full life and causes you to hyper-focus on it as you try in vain to resolve it, repeatedly, over and over again. All of this ongoing abuse and trauma leads to literal brain damage.
Here is just a quick overview of how that happens. There are three significant parts of the brain, including the amygdala, hippocampus, and cortex.
The amygdala is the area of the brain that is known as the ‘fear center’. Each time you become scared or anxious, that area is activated. It also keeps the memories of the abuse in it and each time anyone talks about it, that activates the amygdala. the abuse you had endured is what caused the fear center to keep activating. And the constant activation of the fear center will cause it to increase. This can lead to mood disorders and anxiety disorders.
Then there is the hippocampus which is the area of the brain that stores short-term memories (which it then converts into long-term memories). The hippocampus dictates how and when you can learn anything new. However, uncontrolled stress will shrink the hippocampus. So, as you might imagine, the constant stress you’re dealing with when you’re in a toxic relationship with a narcissist will it to shrink. This leads you to struggle more with learning new things in addition to being extra forgetful.
And finally, there is the cortex of the brain. This is the area of the brain that is located right behind the eyes. This is the area that is in charge of planning, making decisions, attention, and memory. The cortex also shrinks the same way the hippocampus does when you are under too much uncontrolled stress. This causes decision-making tp become a challenge. Your attention span gets shorter. You’re far more likely to deal with depression. You might be dealing with apathy, meaning you just don’t feel like you can do anything at all – that feeling of being just stuck. And you stop caring about yourself. You might even stop showering or brushing your teeth. Self-care becomes a thing of the past.
But the good news is that the brain can be retrained, and you don’t have to feel stuck in this trauma loop forever. And there are things you can do on your own at home to actually start to sort of “rewire your brain.” That is thanks to neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity offers hope for survivors of narcissistic abuse like nothing else. See, this is how our brain can “rewire itself” by forming new neural connections throughout life. This means that the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain can compensate for injury and disease and to adjust themselves in response to new situations or to changes in their environment. Even better, we can intentionally control this process if we choose to do so. I’ll link to a video with additional information about this in the description below.
How to Become the Best Possible Version of Yourself After Narcissistic Abuse
So, thanks to both time and the effects of the ongoing trauma you experienced in a toxic relationship with an abusive narcissist, you cannot technically be exactly the same person you were before enduring narcissistic abuse. I mean, if we’re being honest, any profound experience changes you. But again, you can heal and move forward. Let’s talk about how you can do that.
Feel Your Feelings
When you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you learn really quickly how to ignore your own emotions. You learn that your feelings don’t matter, at least not as much as the narcissist’s feelings. And so, when you get out of the relationship, you might keep going in that direction. For me personally, that was one of the worst things that I dealt with – forgetting how to feel my feelings. And honestly, I didn’t even WANT to feel them!
The truth is that one of the most significant mistakes I made in my own recovery was shoving my feelings down and trying to move on without feeling them. I really believed that this was the right thing to do at the time – I didn’t like how it felt to deal with those emotions and I didn’t fully know how to process them. It wasn’t until several years later – when I still hadn’t managed to heal – that I really got my head around this concept. That’s why, when I work with my narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and counseling clients, I make a point of teaching them how to feel their feelings and how to move forward from there. You can work on this at home by taking some time to sort of grieve the relationship. Cry, scream, throw things, break things – whatever you need to do to get through those emotions. It sucks, but you’ve got to do it if you want to take the next step toward healing.
Time Soothes Trauma
In addition to allowing your feelings to flow, you’ve got to give yourself the time you need to heal. Let’s face it – there’s a chance that you may not be 100 percent healed because triggers and reminders of the abuse will come up. Even if you get to the point of handling it well, you can still be affected one way or another. This is the time to get to know yourself again. Depending on your circumstances and the specifics of your situation, you might need to find a therapist, counselor, or coach who specializes in narcissistic abuse recovery to help you find yourself again. It also helps to find a narcissistic abuse recovery support group so you can find support from others who have been where you are. Most importantly, remember that is no standard time limit for healing – each of us is a little different and will have different needs. You need to do what feels right for you, and to take as much time as you need to heal.
Firm Up Your Boundaries
During the relationship with the narcissist, your boundaries were repeatedly crossed, and no matter how firmly you’d had them set before, you might have almost forgotten how to set and stand behind them. When you are healing from narcissistic abuse, you’ve got an opportunity to learn or relearn how to set firm boundaries and how to ensure that they stick. And honestly, setting boundaries is not only necessary for your healing and continued wellbeing, but it is literally one of the best forms of self-care around. Whether it happened before or during your relationship, you might have been a people-pleaser – and while you don’t have to be rude or disrespectful to someone to enforce your boundaries, it might feel a little unnatural to you at first.
Maya Angelou once said, “Forgive yourself for what you didn’t know before you learned it.” I love this quote because it so perfectly expresses one of the most important things about narcissistic abuse recovery. Most survivors are relatively intelligent people who can easily read most other people. That’s why we are so likely to blame ourselves and beat ourselves up for taking the abuse as long as we did. And listen – I totally get it.
It is easy to blame yourself for not realizing what was happening and for accepting the abuse, and if you’re anything like me, you might be beating yourself up about it. You wonder how you fell for it – why you allowed it to happen in the first place, or why you didn’t leave sooner.
Some small part of you might even secretly think you deserved it all along. But my friend – it is not your fault. You did not sign up for this relationship with the full knowledge of what would happen. You certainly didn’t know that you’d be forced to endure narcissistic abuse. And for the record, you definitely did not deserve it. No one deserves this.
So take the time to acknowledge that you have encountered a traumatic and devastating situation, and recognize that, regardless of how you feel today, at one time, your ability to accurately perceive the situation may have been sort of clouded by your feelings for the abuser. Once you’re out, your perception will start to get clearer – and while it might take a little time, you’ll get to the point where you can see the truth.
Rewrite Your Story
Years ago, I wrote a course called Rewrite Your Story for narcissistic abuse survivors. (And then there’s this book on the same topic!) That’s because, so often, we sort of “misidentify” ourselves or see ourselves in a skewed way, thanks to the lies and gaslighting thrust our way by the narcissistic abuser in our lives. Basically, the way the abuser saw you is how you see yourself, at least on some level.
Now, you probably recognize that you’ve been gaslighted, and you realize that the abuser had every intention to ruin your self-esteem. You probably understand that this was all about control and keeping you “in your place” so that you could continue to provide narcissistic supply, while not realizing that you were really too good for the narcissist. The narcissist has known this all along, and that’s why they play these mind games – they don’t want you to recognize it and leave them.
Now, you struggle with low self-esteem because you see yourself through the narcissist’s eyes. When you begin to see your worth, you can really start to rewrite your story and realize that what the abuser said about you and you were a rubbish pile. If you’re struggling with this, you can work with a narcissistic abuse recovery coach, a therapist, or even do it on your own by taking my Rewrite Your Story course.
Remember That Knowledge Is Power
Before you got into an abusive relationship, you might not have known what kinds of warning signs or red flags you should watch for to keep yourself safe. Narcissistic abuse is so subtle and pervasive that you can literally be right in the middle of it and not see it. Or, maybe, like probably 90 percent of narcissistic abuse survivors, you were raised in an abusive family or had some other kind of trauma in childhood. This would lead you to have both a higher threshold for abuse as well as trouble setting boundaries. Your expectations for a relationship may have been lowered as well, and because toxic might have felt sort of “normal” for you, you might have tolerated or overlooked the early signs.
But now, you’ve recognized what you’ve had to deal with, and you may have even had a full-on epiphany that led you to this point. And, now that you know more about what a toxic relationship looks like and what kinds of behaviors are not acceptable to you, you are empowered to make better choices in the future. Knowledge really is power when it comes to healing from and growing forward after narcissistic abuse.
The bottom line is that while you may never be the person you were before the narcissistic abuse, you can absolutely heal and become the person you want and deserve to be afterward. You with me?
The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. Offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups– We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
(Prefer to listen or watch? See video on YouTube)
You know that old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” right? We all know that isn’t true – certain words really can hurt us. And we all know that narcissists have some pretty unrealistic standards, one of which basically asks us to actively censor ourselves when we speak to them so as to avoid triggering their fragile egos and sending them into a spiraling narcissistic whirl – basically a meltdown.
And if you know me, you know that this has often been a problem in my own life. See, I am one of those people who can’t shut up sometimes. It’s a real issue. For example, if I hear someone saying something that is just an outrageous lie, or misrepresentation of me in some way, I cannot not tell them. I have to say the truth. For years, it was almost like I couldn’t help it, and even if I tried to stay silent or to go along with the lie, the words would still almost involuntarily spill out of me.
Now that I’m an adult, and since I’ve done the work of healing from my toxic relationships, I’ve gotten better in one way: I don’t bother to argue with anyone who won’t hear me. I have learned it’s a waste of breath. I’ll tell someone the truth once, and if I can see that they’re intentionally not receiving the message, I’ll stop trying to make them understand.
But, as you might imagine, when I was a kid, I got in trouble a LOT for the words I used. Not because I cursed or said things that were extra mean, but because I couldn’t shut up and go along with the various lies that were thrown at me. For example, if I did a chore wrong, my parent might ask me to agree that I was lazy and worthless. And if I refused to agree, which I inevitably did for some ridiculous reason, this would lead to a really bad day. My little brother would pull me aside and ask what was wrong with me: why didn’t I just say whatever they wanted me to say so I would stay out of trouble? I wanted to, I really did, but something in me just wouldn’t stay silent. I’d go on to do the same thing during my marriage to a narcissist – that dang word vomit thing would get me in trouble every time.
It’s funny how much of an impact words can have on us, isn’t it? This is true for narcissists too, and there are certain words and phrases that you can say to a narcissist that will positively destroy them. And while it might be tempting to use this information to hurt the narcissist, that isn’t the reason I’m sharing it with you today. In fact, while we all know that the ideal answer to dealing with a narcissist is to go no contact, there are certain situations where we have to continue to deal with them – either we can’t leave right away or we’ve got kids with them, or some kind of business we need to accomplish with them. In any case, if you’re dealing with a narcissist, then you know you have to tread very carefully. This means to avoid using certain words around them. That is because if you use certain words, they will destroy the narcissist. And as tempting as it is to do that (because they had it coming), the consequences of facing the narcissistic rage is far from pretty.
If you can relate, stick with me because that’s exactly what we’re talking about today – words that destroy a narcissist, what you can say or do instead of using them, and if you watch till the end, I’ll fill you in on the number one word you can never say to a narcissist without completely destroying them.
1. ‘I know the truth about you’ or ‘I see right through you’
Narcissists cannot stand to have their masks unceremoniously removed and their true selves called out. So, if the narcissist claims to be something that you know for sure they are not, it would really hurt them to hear you say you see through them. For example, if the narcissist is always talking about how they’re a genius, you might point out that you saw a copy of their IQ test and the score was average, at best. Or if they claim to have won some big beauty pageant 20 years ago, but you know they were really the third runner-up, pointing this out will only upset them. If you want to avoid drama, you’ll have to keep pretending that you believe they are the false self they pretend to be.
2. ‘I don’t remember that’
Narcissists have this way of expecting their sources of narcissistic supply to go along with their lies, no matter what. So, if you’re with a group of friends and they tell a completely made-up story, you better go along with it, or you’ll hurt their feelings, eliciting narcissistic injury at the very least (and probably risk dealing with their rage later). For example, one client told me a story about how her narcissistic father would always tell made-up (or at least, heavily altered) stories that featured him as the hero. She instinctively knew to go along with them, “or else.” But one day, she’d finally had enough. So when he told yet another tall tale at a family gathering, he turned to her and said, “Remember that?” She said, “No, actually, I don’t remember it that way at all.” She said he gave her the “you’re dead to me” look in the moment, and when they got home, she got in big trouble. To avoid the drama here, you’d have to pretend that you do remember whatever story they’re telling – even when it makes you look bad. Not worth it, in my opinion.
3. ‘I’m busy and don’t have time for you right now’
Narcissists, especially those of the more overt nature, will need every moment of your time, or at the very least, they will expect you to drop whatever you’re doing when they want or need your attention. Their inflated sense of entitlement and lack of an actual self makes it impossible for them to spend any time alone. They can’t stand the idea of having to fend for themselves and might have to face themselves if you leave them alone for too long. So no matter if you’re at work, or taking care of your kid or doing anything else at all, if they want your attention and you don’t dole it out as requested, they’ll crumble into a big old pile of narcissistic injury. As always, when that doesn’t work, the rage will soon follow. Why? Because they feel like you don’t feel like they’re important if you don’t drop everything when they need you. To avoid drama here, you can try saying, “I’ll be right there,” or “We can talk at this time,” but even that won’t be good enough for most of them. Many narcissists will even go so far as to sabotage your job and push away all of your friends in order to monopolize your time.
4. ‘You are a failure’ or ‘I am so disappointed in you’
Telling a narcissist they’re a failure or that you’re disappointed in them in any way sort of tugs at that false self – the mask they hide behind for most people. And even if they already know that you know who they are, acknowledging that they’re anything less than perfect will only enrage and offend them. Side note: even if someone else shares this kind of sentiment with them, they’re likely to take out their negative feelings on you – a sort of emotional garbage dump. For example, if their boss at work gives them a bad review or points out a mistake, they may come home and ruin your night as a result of it. To avoid drama in this case, you’d need to take their side in every situation and agree that it isn’t their fault somehow – which brings me to number five.
5. ‘It’s your fault’
You probably already know that narcissists refuse to take responsibility for their behavior, at least when it comes to anything they feel makes them look bad. They will blame everyone but themselves for their failures and screw-ups. On top of that, they’ll expect you to go along with their delusion. So, using the example from number four, if you don’t agree that the boss is at fault for the bad review or mistake they pointed out, the narcissist will have another reason to go after you. Oh, and this will even be the case if YOU are the person being blamed – if you don’t agree that it’s your fault, they will make you pay. To avoid the drama, or at least minimize it, you’d need to agree that someone else is responsible – even if that means you have to admit to something you didn’t do.
6. ‘I Don’t Believe You’
You know that narcissists are pathological liars and of course you have learned to take anything they say with a grain of salt, right? And with good reason. But if you tell them that you don’t believe them, watch out. They can’t stand it. If you want to avoid drama, don’t bother pointing out their lies. Not only will they never admit the truth, but you can use this to your advantage if necessary. For example, let’s say you find out they’re cheating and you confront them. They’ll deny it, even if you have actual proof and are showing it to them. As infuriating as this will be, pretend to believe them. Yeah, that’s right. Go ahead and let them lie – they will assume you believe them. And since they also have a tendency to underestimate you, they’ll get sloppy when they think they’ve got you snowed. This will allow you to do what you need to do to deal with the cheating (which, for the record, I hope means you’ll be getting your ducks in a row to leave them) without having to deal with their drama.
This is the ultimate way to destroy a narcissist. See, narcissists need narcissistic supply to function – like a vampire needs blood and darkness. If you’re one of their sources of narcissistic supply, they can’t stand the idea of not having you around to dump all that emotional garbage on, not to mention to give them the attention, praise and admiration they demand. If you say goodbye and leave, and then you go no contact and stick with it, they will, at least temporarily, be destroyed. Of course, they’ll also use this narcissistic injury as a way to gain attention from other people and often to find a new source of supply, playing the poor me game and engaging in various smear campaigns about you with anyone who will listen. But if you hold out, and you use the gray rock method – as in, you don’t react emotionally – or you just remain fully no contact and don’t react at all – they’ll eventually move on and stop torturing you. As difficult as this can feel, it is ultimately the best outcome of a relationship with a toxic narcissist.
Bottom line: remember that in the end, while you can certainly temporarily destroy a narcissist using words such as the ones I’ve shared here, the very best revenge you could get on any narcissist would be to simply live your life well without them. To find true happiness and peace in your life, despite the fact that they exist. Not only would learning you’re happy without them and living like they don’t exist destroy a narcissist, but it would make them feel like you’ve won the relationship. Not that you need such a trophy – but you do deserve to be happy and to not live in fear of triggering the next episode of narcissistic rage and narcissistic injury. No one should have to live like this. Walking on eggshells is both difficult and painful and it can change you in some pretty profound ways. If you’d like to learn more about how narcissistic abuse changes you, check out this video.
Is a narcissist the same thing as a sociopath? A lot of people mistakenly think so, which is understandable considering that they share many of the same characteristics and that they’re both on the cluster B spectrum. (See video here)
What qualities do narcissists and sociopaths share?
Both narcissists and sociopaths can be very charming and charismatic. Each is known for being self-serving and manipulative, and they each tend to have no empathy. Both have personality disorders and value themselves above all others. Both are known to harm others and to negatively affect their own lives with their behaviors. Neither can step outside of their own heads enough to recognize or concern themselves with the needs of others, but each is fully focused on their own needs. It is also true that all sociopaths are narcissists. But not all narcissists are sociopaths.
How are narcissists and sociopaths different?
In most cases, sociopaths, who might be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, are a lot more dangerous than those who are purely narcissistic. That is unless you’re talking about a malignant narcissist, who might present very much like a sociopath, but their motivations are different.
Let’s talk about five ways this manifests differently between the two personality disorders.
1. A Narcissist is Motivated by Ego and a Sociopath is Motivated by Self-Interest
The narcissist’s destructive and manipulative behaviors are all about feeling important and superior and being the center of attention, and this is driven by their overinflated ego that needs constant stroking – aka, narcissistic supply. But a sociopath’s self-interest doesn’t require stroking in the same way – so the sociopath will be whomever they need to be in order to get their needs met.
So, what’s the difference?
Since sociopaths really don’t need to have their ego stroked, they can be more sneaky and strategic with their manipulation. They don’t need you to be impressed with them and will only seek out your approval if you have something they want. They have no actual personality.
A narcissist, on the other hand, needs your approval and your attention. And since they are ego-driven, they will be less calculated in their reactions and behavior. So the narcissist is more likely to demonstrate narcissistic rage and to react emotionally than a sociopath.
2. A Narcissist Wants to Be Adored and a Sociopath Could Care Less.
Narcissists need to be adored. They are very concerned with their own image and how other people perceive them. They are known to want power, success, and plenty of admiration and adoration from the people around them and while they’re often willing to work hard to get it, they’ll also exploit and torture people along the way without a second thought. Their motivation and focus are all about themselves and their own agenda (getting the praise and attention they need). Again, they’re driven by their ego, so that makes sense.
But a sociopath doesn’t care what anyone thinks of them, which makes them more dangerous. They will spend months or years planning and scheming against you if it serves them to do so. They are much more calculating and far less emotional overall.
3. A Narcissist Talks About Themselves And A Sociopath Talks About You
As you know, narcissists only want to talk about themselves and their interests. At least after the initial love-bombing or idealization phase of the relationship, where they’ll ask you all about yourself in order to store up ammunition to use against you later. But as the relationship goes on, they make it painfully clear that they have no interest in what you care about and will always turn the topic back to themselves. In fact, many survivors of relationships with narcissists literally almost forget how to talk about themselves because they grow so accustomed to being shut down this way.
But sociopaths are very interested in knowing about your interests and everything else about you. They will ask you about what you like and what strikes your fancy. They often masquerade as empaths – as in, they appear to really care about you. They know exactly what to say and how to hold themselves so it’s almost impossible to tell that they don’t genuinely care about you. But remember that they have no empathy. They have their own reasons for caring. If they want something from you later on, they will use anything to do with your interests as a manipulation tactic to get what they want. Sociopaths are often so smooth that you miss the fact that they’re manipulating you – at least at first.
For example, a sociopath asks you what your favorite band happens to be. If you say Fleetwood Mac, they will surprise you with a Fleetwood Mac CD. It is not from the goodness of their heart. They want something from you and are using this as a jumping-off point to get it from you.
4. Neither Care About The Rules, But For Different Reasons
You already know that a narcissist is not concerned about the rules due to the fact they are so self-absorbed that they are not even aware of the rules. Or, in many cases, they literally feel that they’re above the rules or deserve special exceptions to every rule.
But a sociopath does not care about the rules for the sake of manipulating situations for their purpose. If they can get away with breaking the rules (or even the laws), they’ll do so without remorse if it serves them.
5. Narcissists Are Mean But Sociopaths Have Plans To Take You Down
This is where you see how dangerous a sociopath is as opposed to a narcissist who is mostly dangerous for your mental health. Narcissists are bullies and braggarts. They can also mess with your head, especially if they see you as a threat to their ego or fear abandonment. And, of course, that’s when they’ll throw your most painful experiences and insecurities back in your face in order to hurt you if and when they feel the need to drag you down.
So, for example, if you tell a narcissist that you are insecure about your weight, they might later try to make you feel bad about yourself by suddenly beginning to point out people who are thinner than you and telling you how attractive those people are. And then, once you’re good and insecure, you might tell them it bothers you that they’re doing this. Instantly, the narcissist will freak out and attack you, swearing that you’re excessively jealous and controlling. They’ll say something like, “What, do you want me to close my eyes and not look at people? There are other people in the world. I’m not blind!”
In this case, the narcissist is out to take your self-esteem down a couple of notches so that you’ll feel like you can’t do any better than them. The idea is that you’re more likely to stick around and be their source of narcissistic supply if you don’t feel good enough about yourself.
So once again, the narcissist is driven by ego and the need for ongoing, reliable narcissistic supply.
Sociopaths, on the other hand, will do what they can to take you down (or out completely) if they see you are trying to get in the way of what they want, even if that means you just won’t give them your time and attention. And, regardless of who you are and what your relationship happens to be, you aren’t exempt from a sociopath’s manipulation and abuse.
In fact, even if you aren’t purposely causing them trouble, but they perceive you as a threat to them or their end goals in any way, they will strategically destroy you in any way they can, and without remorse. Sociopaths want to win and will do it at the expense of anyone.