Whenever I write about the topic of sociopathy, whenever I’m given the nudge, I like to think it’s not me! Why do I even want to think these things, let alone write about them? But alas, I’m not really given a choice. It must be God. Christians call it revelation. And here’s another one.
Of all things, narcissism is irrecoverable. That’s what the psychological science will tell you. Those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) have about as much hope of recovering as anyone with any other personality disorder. But there are also those who bear the features of narcissism without having NPD. I’m no psychiatrist, so I cannot diagnose people according to the DSM-5. I’m not even a psychologist, but I am a counsellor with enough experience with couples to see the nuances and subtleties of narcissism in coupled relationships. I’ve also worked with them, around them, and for them enough to know how confounding it is to even contemplate relating with people who insist on having life on their terms to the detriment of others. And I now make a study of them.
The key issue, in a world where narcissists gaslight their victims, alleging they are narcissistic, to the point where we’re all confounded about who is actually narcissistic from who isn’t, is we need behavioural markers. We need to be able to observe facets of behaviour that set people apart from narcissism.
Here are 9 ways to prove you’re not narcissistic:
1. Say you’re sorry, mean it, and stay there—in being sorry for what you did—don’t turn it back on the other person. Remain sorry for what your contribution was. Let’s not leave it at sorry. Let’s say sorry meant so much to you that you change your ways. Can you say you repent by changing your mind in a way that manifests through a change of actions? If you live committed to the principles of repentance—a key tenet of Christian faith—you’re probably not narcissistic.
2. Talk about, and be honest about, your own failures instead of other people’s. Can you say, hand held on heart, that you’re more genuinely interested in learning from your own failures than you are about criticising others about theirs? I say this about those we’re in conflict with, for there are advocates that have roles to highlight failures of others; particularly the unacknowledged failures of leaders. When it comes to dealing with our own conflicts, the craftiest gaslighters, however, are supremoes at diverting attention away from their own flaws by convincing people about the flaws they see in others.
3. While we’re on the topic of failure, can you bear to fail? Or, are you brutalised by failure? No one likes to fail, but the test is how we respond. People who are not narcissistic bear failure acceptably, because failure doesn’t define them.
4. Listen more than you talk. Be interested in others. Prove this by creating that impression in others with sincerity. Is this what others say about you? That you’re more interested in others than yourself, and more interested in listening than doing the talking. It doesn’t mean you’ll always be doing the listening, but that’s where your interest is at; you’re happy not being the centre of attention.
5. Ask about other people’s view of you and be able to accept what they say about you without flipping into rage. Of course, when we hear what we don’t expect to hear it can be upsetting, even humiliating, but that doesn’t mean we respond in fury. No, we take it to God, and we share with those we trust, to process it.
6. What about your treatment of others? Are the people entrusted to you cared for by you? Do they feel safe in your presence? Do most of your relationships work? Those who are not given to narcissism relate well with most people most of the time, and are able to work with people in conflict, and are usually easily able to resolve conflict, reconciling their relationships, restoring their relational world to peace. They are who Jesus calls peacemakers, and who almost everyone else calls a child of God (Matthew 5:9).
7. Is life more about relationships or conquests to be conquered? The person who is not narcissistic doesn’t view life through a win/lose lens. And it shows in their relationships. Theirs is the bigness of relationship, where the littleness of issues swarms and threatens to swallow others whole.
8. Can you handle losing? Narcissists hate losing. None of us really like it. But there’s a big difference between accepting what we cannot change and insisting everything roll our way. If you accept a loss without stewing about it and it compelling you to avenge the loss—but, be honest—you’re probably not narcissistic. Can we reconcile not having control? We must.
9. What happens when people say ‘no’ to you? Are they able to? Can people disagree with you and are they allowed to? If people can disagree with you and you genuinely don’t hate them for it (some of you are thinking, “how on earth could I hate someone just because they disagree with me?”) you prove to some degree that you’re not narcissistic. What do others say about you? Do their views marry up with your own perceptions? Or, are you given to gaslighting people who prove they’re an enemy to you just because they disagree with you? What do others say about you?
What do others say about you? That’s the key test. Except, of course, if you’re scapegoated. What do people of reasonable mind, who know you well enough, but haven’t been tainted by your ‘history’ say?
Perhaps the biggest concern of all is we shouldn’t need to prove we’re not narcissistic.
We should just love God and love others as the great commandments compel us.