narcissistic woman

How to Recognize Narcissistic Personality Traits and Gaslighting

Narcissism is one of those easy-to-miss things until it’s too late. Most people with narcissistic traits are really good at what they do, being narcissistic. Most of them would agree with that statement, too. Most of them are self-aware. Most of them know their strengths and their weaknesses and can tell you what people think of them. This is what makes them so great at being narcissistic to begin with. They must know how people perceive them so that they can make adjustments if need be. Most experts agree that, at least to some degree, those with narcisstic traits are somewhat aware of these charactistics. 

People with narcissistic traits are not people pleasers.

They do not care if you are pleased or not, to be honest. It is about them – and they must be admired. So, they will put on their best performance and make a great first impression every chance they get. Have you ever met a really charming, charismatic sales guy who could sell ice to an Eskimo before they even realized it was just frozen water? There’s a good chance that salesperson had narcissistic tendencies.

narcissistic manThose with narcissistic personality traits are expert chameleons. They can easily adapt to any situation and any group of people. They’re able to quickly adjust their personality to manipulate others to like who they are. They are the master of the first impression. Hanging out with their buddies from work? They’ll slip into the locker room talk and an alpha male role. Walking into church on Sunday morning? They’ll dress perfectly and shake all the hands with a warm and seemingly genuine smile. Women can have narcissistic personalities, too. You may have encountered a mother who never gives her children credit for anything. Or the controlling businesswoman who never allows for a mistake and barks orders at everyone around her, then takes over and does it herself anyway…she absolutely has narcissistic traits.

There are degrees of narcissism.

While clinical narcissism itself is actually rather rare, only affecting about one percent of the population, narcissistic traits can be found in just about any of us. Some common narcissistic traits are – a sense of entitlement, manipulative behavior, need for admiration, lack of empathy, and arrogance. It’s when these traits develop into abusive levels of behavior that they begin to be classified as narcissistic personality disorder, or NPD.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental condition where an individual feels they are superior, have a strong need for attention and admiration, and have a lack of empathy for others. It’s established after a pattern of these abusive behaviors has been observed in a person with a narcissistic personality.

Those with NPD are broken down even further into categories – grandiose narcissists and vulnerable narcissists.

Grandiose Narcissist

A grandiose narcissist acts like they are better than everyone else and are more of the “know it all”. They also tend to lack any concern for the feelings and wellbeing of others. You might spot this person in an argument where they are so firm on their point of view that they refuse to listen to anyone else. Have you ever run into this type of person? Well, if you’ve ever seen any elitist-type comments while browsing social media, you’ve likely spotted a grandiose narcissists with too much time on their hands. Their arguments often end with no resolution, and you can sense their desire to prove the other side wrong no matter what. One idea to navigate this situation is to try to sneak in a solution in a way that makes it seem like “their idea”.

Vulnerable Narcissist

On the other hand, the vulnerable narcissist is going to try to pull energy and empathy from you to feed their emotional neediness. For example, you have plans with this person, but you have to change them at the last minute. It happens. That’s life. The vulnerable narcissist will take this personally and make it all about what you did to them. Maybe you canceled plans because you were sick or had an emergency pop up. They will disregard whatever is going wrong in your life and make the canceled plans about the inconvenience or the insult you have caused them. This is a self-esteem problem and the best thing you can do here is stick to the facts in hopes they will eventually see your perspective.

When a narcissist of either type passes into your life, the best defense is a good offense. Be aware of who they are and be proactively alert for the tricks they play so you do not fall into any of their traps!


Because those with narcissistic traits are so good at manipulation, they’ll play games to try and make you seem like the bad guy. You may have heard the term gaslighting a lot over the past couple of years. It is an important term to know, especially when it comes to narcissistic personalities and avoiding them.


Gaslighting is a form of emotional and psychological abuse and manipulation.
Narcissistic personalities will use gaslighting to cause you to doubt yourself just enough for them to manipulate you. That can be a lot or a little, depending on you and your relationship with the narcissist.

Some gaslighting warning signs to look out for are:

  • Constantly make you question your sense of reality and intuition
    • Do you usually rely on your instincts? Are you able to trust yourself in most
      circumstances? Do not let anyone convince you otherwise. If someone genuinely cares about you, they will help you talk things through to help you come to your own conclusions. They will not try and convince you of something that you don’t feel comfortable with or that feels counter-intuitive to what you would normally do.narcissistic abuse
  • Lie and when caught, deny it and create another lie
    • This is something children do. The thing is, they’re not good at it and it’s kind of cute. Little Johnnie, with the icing-covered face, denies eating the cupcake and blames it on the dog. Everyone giggles. It’s not cute when the CFO of a company does it and digs a hole deeper and deeper. Unfortunately, this happens more often than it should.
  • Invalidate your emotions/make you feel like you are overreacting
    • This is one where I have to pick on men a little… Women cry. It is true. The best of us have been guilty of crying at a good Lifetime movie or even a commercial if you catch us at the right time. But, hey! Crying is cathartic. However, when a man (or a woman) says that a woman cannot handle running a business, or hold an office, or do anything because if they get upset they’ll cry – this is gaslighting.
  • Find ways to blame you for things that are not your fault
    • Nothing is ever a narcissist’s fault. They will always find a way to blame you for anything that goes wrong. When things go right though, they are quick to take credit.
  • Tell you how unhappy they are but refuse to let you leave
    • This form of abuse is especially cruel. It’s a form of control and the narcissist is keeping you on the hook because they know they’ve got you. If you find yourself in this situation, please get help. If you aren’t sure, please speak with a professional who can help validate your concerns and help devise an action plan for escape or resolution.
  • Shower you with affection one day and show no interest the next
    • This is also an especially cruel form of abuse. This manipulation is doing just enough to keep you coming back for more. They have identified your weaknesses and are exploiting them, much like drug dealers do with drug addicts.
  • Refuse to acknowledge when they have caused you pain
    • Because narcissistic personalities lack empathy, even when they know they have caused you pain, they either believe you deserved it or believe that they are doing you a favor. Most narcissists are able to admit their negative traits, but they reframe them be positive traits. Call them arrogant and they’d agree but say you would be too if you had everything they did. So, if they cause you pain, they may admit to the offensive action, but not to the offense. “Pain?” They’ll ask. “No. It was for your own good. You should thank me.”

While a clinical narcissist may not be as common as you may have thought…

You have likely encountered someone with narcissistic traits. It’s even possible that you have been gaslighted recently or are in a narcissistic abusive relationship currently. I hope that the information in this blog will help you to identify how to avoid or handle this type of person. If you still need help or have questions, please reach out. This can be a complex and challenging dynamic and you should never be ashamed for seeking support, clarity, and direction. We’re here to help – always.

Sending you light and love,
Claire & The Claibourne Team

~ You are worthy. You are capable. You are enough! ~

Claibourne Counseling Scottsdale


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