15 Narcissist Quotes that Will Help You Deal with the Narcissist in Your Life
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"Don't set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm."
What is a narcissist?
You might think of you can spot a narcissist by looking for the closest mirror. But narcissists aren’t just people obsessed with their looks.
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental illness characterized by a pattern of a sense of grandiosity, a constant need for admiration, and lack of empathy according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5). Some narcissism can escalate to abuse. (These are the signs of narcissistic abuse therapists need you to know.)
Narcissism usually begins in early adulthood and the traits are consistent through different relationships, situations, and social contexts. It’s estimated about 5 percent of the population, or 1 in 200 people, meet the criteria for NPD. About three-quarters of people with NPD are men.
Living with a narcissist
But while that’s the clinical definition, the way most people use “narcissist” is to describe a person who has an excessive interest in themselves and who cares very little about other people’s feelings or experiences, explains Sander van der Linden, PhD, a social psychologist at the University of Cambridge who has done extensive research in narcissism. “Narcissists tend to have a diminished sense of empathy, meaning that it is difficult for them to attend and relate to the thoughts, feelings, and suffering of others,” he says.
When you put it like that, nearly everyone knows someone—a parent, sibling, friend, coworker, or romantic partner—who falls on the far end of the narcissism spectrum. And dealing with a narcissist can be intensely painful and difficult. (Here are signs you’re dating a narcissist.)
One way to cope with the narcissist in your life is through inspirational quotes. They offer laughter, education, sympathy, and the knowledge that you’re not alone in your struggles.
It’s about manipulation and control, not love
“How many narcissists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? None, they don’t use lightbulbs, they use gaslighting!” — Anonymous
Gaslighting is when someone uses manipulation and distraction tactics to distort the truth, making their victims question their own reality, says Robin Stern, PhD, a licensed psychoanalyst, author, and co-founder and associate director for the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and an Associate Research Scientist at the Child Study Center at Yale. The end goal for many narcissists is total control of their victims. (Find out: can a narcissist change?)
Social media is a breeding ground for narcissism
“One of the main effects of social media is our confusing of someone’s obsession with their appearance with self-love or confidence.” ― Mokokoma Mokhonoana, author and philosopher
Narcissism and Facebook go hand in hand as any type of social media can feed their need for attention and praise. They often put a great deal of time and energy into creating a perfect-looking veneer through exercise, expensive clothing, makeup, hairstyles, cars, accessories, and other public displays of power and status, according to research published in the Journal of Research in Personality. Understanding this can help you stop comparing yourself with people you see online.
It still wouldn’t be enough
“Don’t set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm.” — Anonymous
Narcissists are often called “emotional vampires” for their ability to bleed out every last bit of compassion and help from their targets. If you’re in a relationship with someone who is emotionally abusive, you may give 110 percent of yourself to them, because you love them, but it will still never be enough for them, Stern says. Someone who really loves you will encourage you to make and maintain healthy boundaries, even with them, she adds. The opposite can lead to narcissistic abuse syndrome.
Narcissism can be mental or emotional abuse
“Narcissistic abuse is not just that someone dumped you or who you had a little tiff with them. NA is psychological abuse and brainwashing using intermittent reward and punishment, coercive control and withholding normal empathetic, emotional reactions to lower your self esteem.” ― Alice Little, author of Narcissistic Abuse Truths
This type of abuse is more common than you think. More than 43 million women and 38 million men will experience mental or emotional abuse by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to data from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The HealthyWhat have you done for me lately?
“There may be no ‘I’ in ‘team’ but there are three in ‘narcissist!'” — Anonymous
Narcissists love nothing more than to talk about themselves and their own achievements, van der Linden says, and the tendency to brag is often one of the first tip-offs as to their true nature.
I know you are but what am I?
“A narcissist’s criticism is their autobiography.” ― M. Wakefield, author of Are You in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship?
A narcissist will often accuse their victims of doing the bad behavior that they, themselves, are doing, like cheating, Stern says. (Does this sound familiar? Make sure you know the early signs of an abusive relationship.)
A good therapist is worth their weight in gold
“Narcissistic personality disorder is the only mental condition where the patient is left alone but everyone else needs treatment.” — Anonymous
As anyone who has grown up with a narcissistic parent can tell you, they leave a path of pain and destruction in their wake and it can take years to sort through and understand. Getting therapy can be instrumental in helping you heal, Stern says.
It’s an epidemic of narcissism
“Americans are experiencing an epidemic in narcissistic behavior in a culture that is intrinsically self-conscious and selfish, and citizens are encouraged to pursue happiness and instant gratification of their personal desires.” ― Kilroy J. Oldster, author of Dead Toad Scrolls
Does it seem like narcissism is becoming more rampant and accepted? You may not be wrong. Cultural forces can drive narcissism by rewarding narcissistic behavior.
Self love vs. narcissism
“Self love: Being content with the work-in-progress you are. Not seeking approval from others. Being yourself. Comparing yourself only to who you were in the past, not to others. Not thinking you are better than anyone else. Narcissism: None of the above.” — Zero Dean, author and life coach
People may try to excuse their narcissism as having good self-confidence or self-esteem but there’s a big difference, van der Linden says. Delusions of grandiosity and a strongly inflated sense of self-importance and entitlement are not the same as loving and accepting yourself, he says.
The HealthyNarcissists are their own worst enemy
“To be your own god is to be the biggest participant in creating your own hell.” ― Craig D. Lounsbrough, author
Narcissists may appear extremely confident on the outside but many are deeply insecure underneath, says Zlatan Krizan, PhD, a personality and social psychologist and a professor of psychology at Iowa State University. “These individuals still think they’re special, entitled, and they want to be great, but they just can’t do it,” he says. “As a result they’re vulnerable, their self-esteem fluctuates a lot, they tend to be self-conscious and not very proactive, but passive, shy, and introverted.”
Pay attention to what they do, not what they say
“A narcissist can be your husband, wife, mother, father, sister, brother, boyfriend, girlfriend, neighbor, boss, church member, or anyone you come in contact with. There are endless possibilities of ‘who’ they can be. The important thing to remember is the actions, behaviors are all very similar.” ― Tracy Malone, author
Narcissists come in all forms and often make an incredible first impression—confident, sexy, attractive, smart, warm, and funny, Stern says. It’s once you’ve become invested in a relationship with them that their true colors begin to show. Here’s how to tell if you have a narcissistic mother.
You can fall in love with the wrong person
“Nice people don’t necessarily fall in love with nice people.” ― Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom
Because control is so important to narcissists, they are often attracted to people they can manipulate into doing what they want—and someone who loves you is the most vulnerable to manipulation, Zlatan says. So just because you fell in love with someone who turned out to be a narcissist doesn’t mean you’re not a good person. Find out what a narcissist does at the end of a relationship to help you cope.
They might tell you what they are
“I don’t care what you think unless it is about me.” ― Kurt Cobain, lead singer of Nirvana
Some narcissists take pride in their narcissism and there’s a solid chance that a narcissist will just tell you they are a narcissist, says van der Linden. “Our research, as well as that of our colleagues,’ shows that people are surprisingly willing to self-identify as narcissists. The ‘narcissist’ label seems to provide an opportunity to differentiate themselves from other people because it signifies a unique status, which likely makes them feel even more ‘special.'”
Boundaries are everything
“Toxic people make you think you’re holding a grudge when you’re really holding a boundary.” — Mel Robins, motivational speaker
Manipulation and exploitation are the narcissist’s main weapon in relationships and friends and family are only good for what they can provide, like feeding their ego or providing them with money, sex, or advanced social standing, van der Linden says. However, setting healthy boundaries is your best defense, regardless of how upset they may get about them.
How to tell if you’re the narcissist
“The narcissist test: Step 1—Take a moment to think about yourself. Step 2—If you made it to step two, you are not a narcissist.” — Anonymous
Identifying narcissism in yourself or others can be tricky as it exists on a spectrum, according to the AJP study. Even people with a diagnosed narcissistic personality disorder may be grandiose or self-loathing, extraverted or socially isolated, captains of industry or unable to maintain steady employment, model citizens or prone to antisocial activities, the researchers noted.
- Sander van der Linden, PhD, a social psychologist at the University of Cambridge who has done extensive research in narcissism
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed.: "Narcissistic personality disorder"
- American Journal of Psychiatry: "Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Diagnostic and Clinical Challenges"
- Journal of Research in Personality: "Sounds like a narcissist: Behavioral manifestations of narcissism in everyday life"
- Robin Stern, PhD, a licensed psychoanalyst, Co-founder and Associate Director for the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and an Associate Research Scientist at the Child Study Center at Yale, and author of "The Gaslight Effect: How to spot and survive the hidden manipulation others use to control your life"
- Zlatan Krizan, PhD, a personality and social psychologist and a professor of psychology at Iowa State University
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Preventing Intimate Partner Violence"