Years of exposure to a narcissist can have far more harm than just the unsightly mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational scars left behind. Often the residual effect of narcissistic abuse is the adoption of narcissistic traits. This doesn’t define you as a narcissist, but it can very well put you on the highway of becoming a full-time narcissist if you don’t pump the brakes.
As with any toxic relationship, there are red flags that will alert you and those around you.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- How do you use “I” statements? Do you hold yourself accountable? Or do you point the finger in another direction? That may be a difficult question to answer. If you are uncomfortable asking yourself, or don’t trust yourself, listen to your friends and how they tease you. That might give you the answer.
- How often are you in the spotlight? Have you caught yourself hijacking stories your friends tell because you “get it” or because you’ve been there? Do you feel as though your story isn’t taking from theirs but rather strengthening theirs? Pulling the spotlight on yourself from others is a means of keeping the attention on you. You’re not trying to take the spotlight rather; you are trying to use the emotion of the group to your benefit. It’s innocent and seemingly harmless and you don’t realize you are doing it most times.
- How do you handle being interrupted? When you are telling a story, or even have a story to tell, how do you respond when your story ignites a memory for your friend, and they chime in with their experience. Do you listen and find an appropriate gap to continue your story? Or do you make it clear that you were not done telling your story? Basically, are you making sure your spotlight stays on you preventing others from stealing it? (Similar to #2 point above)
These are not exclusive signs in identifying your own narcissistic traits, but they are tale-tell signs of those traits after being fully absorbed into a person who is a narcissist. It only makes sense to assume some of those behaviors when you have spent a significant amount of time with a narcissist.
It is difficult to not follow the example you are exposed to the most. What is difficult is forgiving yourself when you know a change is necessary. Another difficulty is knowing the problem exists and thinking it will resolve itself. It does not. The metamorphosis towards narcissism can happen without intent and it can be alarming, but it is not permanent.
Becoming a narcissist doesn’t make you a bad person, so don’t go there! When you spend a great deal of time with a narcissist incorporating their behaviors is natural particularly when they have conditioned you to do so. Eventually, those techniques become an unhealthy way of protecting yourself because it’s what you have known in a relationship. This doesn’t mean you should punish yourself or put yourself down. It means you have recognized something within yourself and you, now, have the control. With that control you acquire agency. All it takes is your choice. You really can do it.