Like most characteristics of personality, narcicissm can be expressed on a spectrum. Some people may exhibit narcissistic tendencies without it manifesting into something much more pathological. Narcissists are best known as being excessively preoccupied with maintaining positive self-concept and approval. Dealing with a narcissist can be incredibly draining, leaving negative impacts on your interpersonal relationships and everyday life. This is why learning how to identify a narcissist can be an important social tool when navigating personal relationships. The warning signs of a narcissist are not always obvious, though there are patterns in attitudes and behaviours that can make them easier to identify. Whether it’s a spouse, a friend, or even a parent, here are 5 ways to spot a narcissist.

1. Control is everything

Although narcissists display an impermeable sense of self-importance, it is important to remember that their undeserved egos are extremely fragile. Vulnerability might make them uncomfortable, which is why weakness or inadequacy will often be masked by grandiosity or superiority.

If a narcissist feels threatened that they might lose the attention or admiration of those around them, they will go to extreme lengths to regain control over a situation. This is commonly seen in relationships when one partner will impose control over the other partner’s choices whether it be their circle of friends, the c

lothes they wear, or the career they uphold. They might even threaten abandonment to assert more control. Through the eyes of a narcissist, feeling in control gives them more power.


2. Gaslighting is their favourite game

person crying beside bedIf you’ve ever been in conflict with a narcissist, you might have dealt with extreme self-shame. The language that a narcissist uses in an argument might often leave you feeling like you are “crazy” or undeserving of having your needs met. Gaslighting is a form of micromanipulation, because it isn’t always recognized as a direct form of abuse. If you are a victim of gaslighting, the perpetrator (or narcissist) will have you questioning or doubting your thoughts and memories. A narcissist will use this tactic to destabilize individuals, which can inflict low self-esteem, causing a victim to become increasingly dependent on the narcissist.



3. They lie frequently

A narcissist will work very hard to upkeep their projected self. This is often done through patterns of lying behaviour. They might lie about their accomplishments, skills, or abilities in order to maintain a consistent supply of approval and adoration from others. They might also engage in underhanded behaviours with the intention to hide it; such as snooping through belongings. This is why they have a tendency to continually violate boundaries in relationships and lie about these broken boundaries without concern. In relationships, they lie frequently in order to acquire more dominance or previously mentioned, control. 


4. They go hot and cold 

We are all deserving of an unconditional type of love. But if you find yourself in a relationship with a narcissist, you might feel like you are only loved on certain conditions. AKA they love conditionally, using affection as a tool to control. This is displayed through games of hot and cold, where a narcissist might pursue, and appear emotionally available one minute, then become emotionally distant the next. Their love will often become contingent on another person fulfilling their needs. They might use the things they offer as leverage to make you feel guilty. 

man in white robe beside woman in white shirt


5. They’ll never admit to being one

The calculated actions of a narcissist make it easier for them to hold less accountability. There is a huge lack of acknowledgement in the harm that their actions inflict. A telltale sign in spotting a narcissist is their degree or lack of self-awareness. It is unlikely that a narcissist will self-reflect, admit to mistakes, or seek help for this behaviour, making it incredibly difficult to confront them. Because they work hard to maintain their polished self-image, they will take criticism very personally. This is why you will rarely witness a self-aware narcissist. 


Being in a relationship with a narcissist can be emotionally exhausting and confusing. It can erode your self-worth and lead you into developing codependency. If you are a victim of narcissistic abuse, you are not alone. There are ways to repair and reclaim a purposeful life! If you wish to seek help and speak to a therapist, we are here to listen. Click here to reach out for a free 20 minute consultation.