Most narcissists may not be aware of their narcissistic tendencies.
However, recognizing that you might have narcissistic traits is already a step forward, and being open to changes is a very positive thing.
Here are some helpful ways in which you can transform yourself for the better, according to experts:
Narcissism is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior) need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
- He believes that he or she is ‘special’ and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
- Requires excessive admiration.
- Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her
- Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e. takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends).
- Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
- Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
- Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
If the person has 5 or more characteristics, extensive psychotherapy is warranted
If only a few features exist, they can also be addressed in psychotherapy. The traits usually persist for many years and are not generally recognized by the person on his or her own.
Even when another person who cares about the narcissist points out some of these qualities, they are denied or viewed as this is the way all people are. Thus to change these qualities or actually stop them is a very difficult task.
Here are some suggestions if the person is not in treatment:
- Point out that the person’s view of his achievements is inaccurate and what needs to be done to reach their goals.
For example, if you are an employer of a narcissist explain specific tasks that need to be done and how to do so as outlined with careful follow-up.
- Explain that mere association with high-status people doesn’t make you immediately of their status or give you their level of prestige. Hard work and perseverance are required.
- When the person gets depressed, you might suggest that he or she is feeling slighted and even enraged because they did not receive the admiration they continually seek.
- A lack of empathy is hard to fathom by someone without it but an effort can be made to point out that people have feelings that may be different from one’s own. Therefore, it is wise to ask others about their feelings, opinions. and points of view to begin to understand that people are different from oneself and need regard and respect.
- Teaching the narcissist to carefully listen to others without interruption and then paraphrase what has been said is a difficult but good start.
- Envy is a very sensitive subject. Empathizing with the narcissist’s feelings of envy, shame, failure or sense of inadequacy can gently be done to assuage these deep feelings.
- Arrogance is very hard to stop because the person actually usually feels inferior and inadequate and their haughty attitude is a defense. Empathizing with these feelings may help the person loosen their guard if they don’t feel criticized but cared for.
Related: How to Talk to a Narcissist
In general, it might seem ironic, but the narcissist needs a great deal of empathy without judgment. The narcissist may unconsciously feel empty inside and have missed out on early formative love and support or have, on the contrary, been incorrectly indulged producing their sense of grandiosity and unwarranted power.
This is why only highly trained mental health professionals can, over a long treatment, actually stop someone from being a narcissist. This person needn’t be regarded as bad but in need of great care and understanding. They are in emotional pain.