Loving Yourself with NarcissistsBy Dr. Margaret Paul
June 04, 2017
If you are involved with any narcissists in your life, then it's vitally important for you to learn to love yourself.
An important choice in loving yourself is not to be involved with a narcissist if you can help it. In her excellent book, The Empath’s Survival Guide, Dr. Judith Orloff states,
“Don’t fall in love with a narcissist. Run in the opposite direction no matter how attracted you feel.”
I agree, but the challenge is in knowing who is a narcissist before you fall in love. Narcissists tend to be quite charming and manipulative, and often come on very strong, so if you are in the dating world, it would be helpful for you to read about the signs of narcissism.
Dr. Orloff also advises people to avoid working with a narcissistic boss, but when you can’t avoid this, to learn to disconnect your self-worth from your boss’s narcissistic behavior. When you learn not to take your boss’s behavior personally, you will have a much easier time feeling okay. She suggests that if you need to make a request of your boss, “show how your request will be to the narcissist’s advantage.”
You may also already be in relationship with a narcissistic spouse, parent, sibling, child or friend. If you are going to stay in the relationship with a narcissist, then you need to fully accept the narcissist exactly as he or she is. Having unrealistic expectations of a narcissist’s caring, respect, empathy or compassion will leave you feeling much heartache. Narcissists are not capable of empathy and compassion, so you need to accept your powerlessness over their lack of emotional capabilities and give yourself the caring, respect, empathy and compassion you need, as well as seek out friends who are open, caring and empathic.
If you are an empathic and compassionate person, then you might be making the mistake of assuming that others are like you. I made this mistake for many years—assuming that the people close to me could feel and care about my feelings as I felt and cared about theirs. It was a shock to me to realize that I actually knew very few people who were capable of true empathy and compassion.
Once I let go of believing that others were like me, it became much easier to accept others exactly where they are. When I saw that my parents and other members of my family were incapable of empathy and compassion, I stopped expecting it and stopped getting hurt by them.
When I stopped trying to have control over getting their understanding and compassion, and over being seen and heard by them, I also became much more sensitive to when others are incapable of empathy. Now, I mostly steer away from interactions with people who are narcissistic and not capable of empathy and compassion.
One aspect of loving yourself around narcissists is to stop thinking that caretaking them will change them and then they will be loving to you. This isn’t at all what happens with narcissists. Narcissists get their ‘narcissistic supply’ from your caretaking. The more you give yourself up, the happier they are.
People who are empathic tend to feel very sorry for the abandoned inner child of a narcissist. You feel their pain—even when they are not aware of their own pain—and you don’t want them to hurt. So you may do your best to be there for their inner child while abandoning yourself—which is what caretaking is. Over time, this results in feeling resentful that you are doing all the giving and receiving very little back. When you feel pulled on to care-take another’s abandoned inner child, stop and pay attention to what’s really happening in the relationship. Overdoing for a narcissist can happen slowly over time, until one day you realize that you are completely drained from giving yourself up.
The main issue in loving yourself with a narcissist is to fully accept that there is NOTHING you can do to change or heal the narcissist. They can heal, but you can’t do it for them. For healing to occur, they need to learn to show up as a loving adult for themselves, but the sad reality is that few are motivated to do so, because they are generally not unhappy being narcissists. When you fully accept your lack of control over them, then you are free to take loving care of yourself.
Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships."
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Photo by Jude Beck
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What is your first reaction when someone is harsh, critical, sarcastic, angry, judgmental, attacking? Do you attack back? Do you withdraw and get silent? Do you defend and explain? Today, honor the feeling in your body that says "This doesn't feel good" and either speak your truth without blame, defense or judgment and open to learning, or lovingly disengage and compassionately take care of your feelings.
By Dr. Margaret Paul