We often hear the term “narcissist,” but in reality, what does that mean? Does it merely describe someone who likes to be the center of attention or likes the way he or she looks, or is there more to it? The psychiatric literature defines narcissists as having specific traits such as having a sense of entitlement or requiring excessive admiration, to name a few. But what are narcissistic individuals really like on a day-to-day level?
Anyone who has lived with or worked for a narcissist will tell you: Narcissists view themselves entirely differently—i.e., preferentially—compared to others, making those around them less valued. And there’s the rub: everything must be about the narcissist. We don’t mind that a two-year-old needs constant attention. That’s appropriate for the developmental stage of a two-year-old. But we do mind when a forty-year–old needs that level of appreciation—and achieving it comes at our expense.
Narcissists victimize those around them just by just being who they are, and they won’t change. That statement may seem extreme until you listen to the stories of those who have been victimized by a narcissist. Then you realize just how toxic these individuals are.
Work for a narcissistic boss and I can guarantee that he or she will make you physically or psychologically ill. Live with one and I fear for you. I can say that because in researching my book Dangerous Personalities, I talked to scores of individuals who have been victimized by the narcissistic personality.
In doing the research, in talking to the victims and listening to story after story of stolen childhoods, destructive marriages, and burdensome relationships, I heard the same tragic refrain: narcissists see themselves as being so special that no one else matters. No one. Over time, the behavior resulting from their defining pathological traits will cast a wide debris field of human suffering.