Most narcissists generally lack self-awareness. Indeed, their sense of self-esteem and self-worth depends on how others perceive them, and they tend to deny flaws in themselves and blame others for their own shortcomings, mistakes, and misfortunes. This is called projection, and people with narcissistic tendencies are projection-heavy individuals.
Here we will explore five different but related ways people with strong narcissistic, sociopathic and psychopathic tendencies deny, project, blame, confuse, and hurt others.
1. Calling you things that you are not
A classic example, “You’re cheating on me,” when you are not, but you can bet they’re cheating on you.
Or, “You’re selfish because you don’t want to do what I am asking you to do. You only think about yourself.” Meanwhile they are the ones who constantly make up excuses, break promises, are unreliable, think only about themselves, or compete with you. Not only that, they will forget all the things that you have already done for them.
In their eyes, they are entitled to your resources (time, money, energy), and you are aggressing against them when you won’t, can’t, or don’t give them what they want. They will not reciprocate unless there is some reason for them to. They will use various manipulation and abuse tactics like name calling, mocking, bullying, triangulation, minimizing, character defamation, berating feelings, trolling, obscuring the issue, deflecting, gaslighting, guilt-tripping, provoking, unreasonable criticism, nitpicking, or plain verbal abuse… all to make you feel bad and give into their demands.
If it’s not you, then there’s always someone else. “Look how horrible this other person is! And do you know what that person did?” Meaning, forget about me and my shortcomings; let’s find someone else with flaws and talk about them. That way, in their mind, we don’t have to think about my shortcomings, or we will come to a conclusion that I’m great by default because everyone else is so horrible.
2. Grandiosity, mimicking, and exaggeration
Narcissists think that they are super-ultra-turbo-mega special, that they deserve exceptional treatment, or that they are justified in hurting others. They have grandiose goals and exaggerate their achievements to appear more impressive and more superior.
Narcissists often feel a need to compete with others since they are factually not that special and terribly insecure on top of it. They will pretend, lie, hurt or exploit others, or do whatever else they deem necessary for personal gain.
As a result, they may take upon other people’s character traits and achievements. This originates from a place of envy and self-aggrandizement. Often to the degree of mimicking, plagiarizing, stealing, and being a fraud, all while defaming and belittling others. This is meant to destroy the credibility of their victims while appearing to be more competent themselves. This provides a handy distraction from what is really going on.
This is another weird form of projection where they see something they admire in someone (be it actually admirable or just a status symbol), and then instead of actually working on achieving it they simply claim they already have it or that they are entitled to it. Usually simply by saying it, with confidence and conviction. Consequently, as they claim the positive traits, achievements or characteristics of others, they discard their own negative features onto their victims. They may or may not be aware that it is happening, but it is happening nevertheless.
This whole process requires a lot of delusion, pretending, and deception. Sadly, many people fall for that and see the narcissist as this wonderful and amazing human being that they present themselves as, yet in actuality are lightyears from.
3. Preemptive strike
Whenever a narcissistic person feels threatened, they will call you the things that they themselves are as or are afraid that others see them as. And then they will try to stalk you, slander you, or discredit you. They will try to sabotage and destroy you. They will start a smear campaign and attempt character assassination. In their mind, frighteningly, you have become their mortal enemy.
They also have no problem doing all of it preemptively and calling it defense.
So if you privately call them out, set healthier boundaries, or end the relationship, they may be afraid that you can see their flaws, or that you will tell others what kind of person they are. Whether you do that or not is not important to them. Because in their mind the mere possibility of it is a good enough excuse to label you as an enemy. And because a narcissistic type of person has little or no empathy, they may imagine that you will behave as they would in these situations. If they would lie, or more likely are already lying, they will accuse you of lying.
And so they will do all these things just because they think you are somehow trying to or might hurt them. They also will accuse you of the very things they themselves are doing.
4. Playing the victim
A common narcissistic strategy is to play the victim. “You hurt me! Poor, poor me.” Instead of working through the issue with you or internally, they have no problem dragging others into it by lying and painting you as the perpetrator and themselves as the victim.
Oftentimes, this involves the aforementioned preemptive strike or provoking to get a reaction. For example, destroying your property, slandering you, turning people against you, or physically attacking you. And then when you respond appropriately to their active or passive aggression, now they can say that you’re the aggressor because you are hurting them or that you’re unreasonable because of your “wild, unacceptable behavior.”
It’s callous and calculated, and again, it involves accusing you of the things that they themselves are doing or have done. So it’s not uncommon that the audience of this dramatic spectacle doesn’t see the whole picture or doesn’t care enough to figure out the full story. It is not uncommon that many will take the side of the narcissist. The narcissist is desperate that their spectacle be believed for the sake of their emotional management, so much so that they will say and do almost anything.
For a narcissist, it is rarely about the truth and almost always about their audience’s perception.
This way they receive false validation that they are right and good, and that you are wrong and evil. Here, their sense of self-esteem is restored and their feelings of shame and inadequacy are managed. So it’s all well and good. Except for those who got hurt—but who cares about them, right?
5. The “No, you!” defense
If you call them out on their crap or if they suspect you can see through their smoke and mirrors, they will say that it’s you—or others—who are all these things. Or that all of it is false and nonsense. They may even say that they are honest, caring, and authentic, and that you don’t understand these things, you are projecting, you are pretending, you are triggered, you are gaslighting, you are narcissistic—you are whatever buzzword they have learned!
Because people with narcissistic tendencies can be interested in human psychology, too. A lot of them actually work in the helping, teaching, and medical fields or pretend to be experts and intellectuals on social media. Some of them are really smart, eloquent, and popular, which makes their statements more believable to an unaware audience.
They can learn all these fancy terms and phrases, yet they often don’t understand or even care about how to apply them correctly. Here, it’s another tool for manipulation. For them, learning means finding ways to justify all of their disturbing thoughts and behaviors, or use the knowledge as a tool against others for personal gain.
They will do anything but accept reality and become a decent person—yet they can play one quite well.