Narcissists are generally quite charming and interactive in the beginning. Or, for the more covert variety, they will appear to be humble and self-effacing.
However, once you’re well-versed in what to look for in a person, you will be able to spot a narcissist rather quickly. Their mannerisms and the way in which they interact with others will be a dead giveaway.
Use the narcissist red flag checklist to ensure you never fall for one again, whether it be in love or friendship.
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Narcissist Red Flag Checklist
They Love Bomb
Love bombing behaviour is when a narcissist showers you with excessive attention, admiration and affection. This can manifest as buying you random gifts for no reason, whisking you off on elaborate dates and being excessively generous with paying for meals and drinks, even though you’ve only just met them.
They will say things like, “This is meant to be,” and “I’ve been waiting my whole life to meet you.”
This is known as the ‘soul mate’ effect. It’s simply not possible, nor is it healthy to fall for someone or know them that quickly. It’s either physical attraction and chemistry or it’s a manipulation tactic. It’s not love.
The purpose of the narcissist’s love bombing is to hook you in, make you feel like the most special person in the world and gain your trust extremely quickly. When you feel all loved up, you’ll easily open up, sharing your most vulnerable secrets and fears, handing over ammunition for the narcissist to use against you at a later date.
They Move Very Fast
Narcissists are well-known for moving extremely quickly in relationships. Once a narcissist has decided that you will be a good source of supply for them, they will want to hook you in and secure you into position as fast as possible.
People with healthy boundaries and a solid sense of self are repelled by fast-moving behaviour because they will listen to their intuition, which is telling them that something is off.
For those with low self-worth who are seeking love, validation, security and survival outside of themselves, narcissists can push through their low boundaries extremely quickly. Simply allowing the narcissist to move ahead without questioning their behaviour is a big green light for them that you will be a pliable source of supply and easily manipulated.
They Are Charming (in the beginning)
Most narcissists will appear to be very charming in the beginning, appearing very confident, charismatic and attentive. This is nothing more than a tactic to disguise their true intentions – to plug into your life force energy and siphon out your resources.
When it comes to the covert narcissist, instead of being outwardly charming, they will appear to be quite modest and unassuming. Their game is to come across as the ‘nice’ one, who you can fully trust and bear your whole soul to in confidence.
They Have a Grandiose View of Themselves
The backbone of narcissism is having an inflated self-view. They believe themselves to be more superior and special to others, which brings with it entitlement and a showy attitude. This grandiosity can manifest as flamboyant and theatrical behaviour, as well as being arrogant and egotistical.
This narcissist red flag can be seen in how they present themselves to the world.
They always need to have the ‘best’ car or a house in the ‘best’ neighbourhood. They will only wear designer or name-brand clothing because it’s nothing but the best for them. They will make sure they’re always the centre of attention in any room and all conversations must somehow be about them.
In a relationship, the narcissist will automatically think they are the most important, while you are merely there to serve and fawn over them.
They Have an Extreme Need for Attention
For the narcissist to psychologically survive in this world, their ego created a False Self with an entire fantasy reality to go with it. In this fantasy, the narcissist is a God who sits at the centre of the universe. They are better and more perfect than everybody else.
The problem is that the fantasy, in which the narcissist lives, is nothing more than a made-up delusion. But, for the narcissist to survive and not slip down into the depths of who they really are (someone who’s filled with shame and self-loathing) they must keep this reality afloat at all costs.
To do this, they demand excessive attention, admiration and adulation from the outside world. This is what keeps their fantasy alive and reinforces it as being ‘real’ for them.
They’re Very Envious
In the narcissist’s world, there can only be one person on the throne and as far as they’re concerned, it should be them.
If someone else is having success in their life, the narcissist will be extremely jealous of them because how dare they take that success away from them! They may even go so far as to sabotage the other person’s success as a way of elevating themselves and proving to themselves that the other person never deserved it.
On the flip-side narcissists walk through life believing that everyone else is always jealous of them, which stems from their sense of superiority, uniqueness and entitlement.
Even if no one is actually jealous of the narc, just the belief in their delusional mind is enough to prop up their False Self.
Due to the narcissist’s extreme, yet false view of themselves, they genuinely believe that they are entitled to say and do as they please without consequence.
On top of that, since they think they have a God or Goddess-like status, they think that they are entitled to whatever resources they want in this lifetime. Whether it be money, sex, material items, or success in career and hobbies, narcissists feel those things are their due simply because of ‘who they are.’
They Make Everything About Themselves
One of the most obvious narcissist red flag checklist items is the way in which they manage to make everything about themselves.
If you step back and observe a narcissist, notice how many times they’ll use the words, “Me” “Myself” or “I” in a conversation. You’ll need a tally book just to keep up!
They will interrupt others to tell their own stories, because in their world, their stories are the only ones worth hearing anyway. And if no one’s listening they’ll just talk louder and louder until everyone has no choice but to stop talking and focus on them. It can be cringeworthy to watch and nope, the narcissist couldn’t care less about how self-involved they are, as long as they get what they want.
At the crux of it all is their incessant need for attention and admiration. When the focus is on someone else, they cannot handle it and must somehow shift the focus back to themselves in order to receive the validation they so desperately crave.
They Exaggerate Their Successes
Another narcissist red flag to watch for is when they exaggerate their successes to inflate their ego. They might regularly drop their credentials into conversation or tell you multiple times about the trophies they received in the past for different achievements.
At first, you might think they’re just super confident and talented, but after a while, it becomes a bit nauseating. People who are truly skilled and secure within themselves don’t need regular applause and big gold stars for their achievements. This is the mark of someone who’s deeply insecure and needs external validation to give them a sense of self-worth.
They Refuse to Accept Accountability
Due to narcissist’s inflated sense of superiority, they deem themselves to be perfect in every way. Their ego has them believing that they are a God, who is flawless and beyond reproach.
The only way the narcissist can uphold this fantasy version of reality (which is nothing more than a figment of their imagination), is to refuse any evidence to the contrary.
In other words, any time someone tries to make the narcissist accountable for their hurtful words or actions, it means they are being shown evidence that they are not perfect or superior. So, to protect their fantasy, they must annihilate that information.
To extinguish the evidence, they will flat-out deny that such things ever happened or project the very things that they are doing onto someone else and blame them instead.
The narcissist’s need to evade all accountability is to deny the very reality that they refuse to accept – that they are a flawed and regular human being, just like everyone else on the planet.
They’re Extremely Quick to Anger
Anyone who’s spent any time with a narcissist will tell you how quickly they can go from 0 to 10 in a matter of seconds.
The narcissist’s ego is extremely fragile since there is nothing authentic to hold it up. Their whole False Self is built on a delusion, which can easily be blown away in the slightest breeze.
Therefore, any perceived slight towards the narcissist (whether real or made up in their mind) will be met with extreme anger. This is their ego’s way of rejecting the criticism or evidence of imperfection from the narcissist’s fantasy reality. The ego believes that if it doesn’t allow that evidence to enter, then it does not exist.
|READ: When a Narc Loses Control →
The next point in the narcissist red flag checklist is their controlling behaviour.
You see, for the narcissist to keep their fantasy reality afloat (where they are perfect and superior), they must control everything around them.
They need constant feedback and approval from the outside world that confirms for them that their grandiose view of themselves is ‘real.’ So, they will control others in such a way as to elicit the responses they need and prop themselves up, while pulling others down.
Underneath the narcissist’s charade, they are nothing but a scared, vulnerable child who fears being abandoned and rejected. However, to acknowledge those parts of themselves would be to admit that their whole facade is not real at all.
To stop their own house of cards from blowing over, they are constantly manipulating others to feed them validation and resources to make themselves feel as important as they believe themselves to be.
To be able to remain in the world of a narcissist for any length of time, you will inevitably need to enter their fantasy with them. This means slowly handing yourself over to the narcissist and allowing them to be the superior, flawless God that they think they are.
One of the most commonly used tactics narcissists use to psychologically control others is through gaslighting.
This is where they deliberately mess with your memory and perception of reality in order to chip away at your self-worth, confidence and ability to trust yourself. Over time, you end up being easily controlled and manipulated by the narcissist, which is what they want.
This all serves to confirm to the narcissist that they are extremely important and powerful since they are so easily able to control your memory and emotional state.
|READ: 9 Signs of Being Gaslighted →
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They Have Low Empathy
It’s a bit of a myth that all narcissists lack empathy. While that might be the case for malignant narcissists who have heavier psychopathic and sociopathic tendencies, it’s not completely true for the other types of narcissists.
Empathy is the ability to understand what someone else may be feeling, which many narcissists are capable of. The defining factor is that they lack a conscience, which means they have no compassion (i.e. the ability to genuinely care).
In other words, narcissists have very low levels of empathy, it’s just that they do not care about how their actions affect others. Everything is filtered to them on a scale of how much it affects themselves and that is the only thing that matters to them.
In fact, they will use that small amount of empathy against other people. It’s a way for them to gauge how they can intentionally trigger someone’s wounding to hurt them and extract a reaction, feeding them grade A narcissistic supply.
|READ: 10 Narcissist Types →
They’re Pathological Liars
If you listen to a narcissist long enough and just observe what they’re saying, you’ll notice that they will reveal themselves and what they’re actually doing.
Narcissists are pathological liars, meaning that they lie for no particular reason other than personal gain. This can come out as embellishing details and stories to inflate their false image or flat-out lying about where they were or what they were doing.
But don’t they feel bad for lying to their friends and family?
Nope, narcissists do not feel guilty for duping others if it means they get away with their behaviour or gain something that they want. Everything is transactional to a narcissist and they are so entitled that they feel they deserve whatever good things they get, even though they’ve done nothing morally sound to have achieved them.
What made the narcissist a ‘narcissist’ in the first place was their unconscious choice to amputate their authentic True Self, leaving them to be wholly ruled by their ego. The ego is predatory in nature, meaning that from that point forward the narcissist lives a life as a ‘service to self’ being.
“What’s in it for me?”– famous narcissistic words
Narcissists will only ever put energy into something that they can get even more energy out of. They’re perpetual ‘takers,’ feeding off and exploiting people who have a more ‘service to others’ nature.
When the narcissist severed the connection with their True Self, they also cut off their connection with the divine life force energy. It’s through this divine life force that we are able to be our own source of love, validation, security and survival on a psychological level.
Without this direct access, the narcissist is left needing to steal the life force of others just so they can feed their inner black hole, which is where their True Self used to sit.
However, no sane person is going to willingly hand over their life force to an energetic vampire. So, the narcissist must manipulate and coerce others into handing it over to them without them realising the truth of what’s going on.
The narcissist’s ego is a masterful manipulator and can wear whatever masks are necessary to trick people into willingly handing their resources over to the narcissist. This could be money, material items, accommodation, transport, sex, attention or whatever else the narcissist needs in that moment.
|READ: 11 More Narcissistic Traits →
They Play the Victim
Next on the narcissist reg flag checklist is how easily and frequently they play the victim.
Narcissists will play the victim to avoid having to take accountability for any of their behaviour, plus it’s a very effective way to elicit sympathy (i.e. attention) from others.
They will also pull the victim card when they want others to solve their problems for them, which is another form of not taking responsibility, like a healthy, fully-grown adult.
Covert narcissists are the biggest victims on Earth and will use this technique to hook in new victims since they don’t have the confidence or extroversion to switch on the charm as grandiose narcissists do.
|QUIZ: Are They a Covert Narcissist? →
They Use Guilt-trips
Narcissists know that the best way to coerce empathetic people into handing over whatever they want is to lay the guilt on thick.
While narcissists don’t ever feel guilty for their behaviour, they know that others do and they’ll weaponise it against them every, single time.
Examples of guilt-tripping:
- “How could you do that to me?”
- “After everything I’ve done for you.”
- “Go on, leave me just like my dad did.”
- “I’m just asking for a bit of help, but you can’t even do that.”
- “I can’t believe you’d do this to me. I never thought you were that type of person, but now you’ve shown your true colours.”
The purpose of guilting is to pull at your heartstrings and make you feel like you’re a terrible person for not helping them. Anyone with a conscience doesn’t want to intentionally hurt another person, so the narcissist will make you feel like you’re being callous, cruel or even abusive for not handing over your life force energy to them.
|READ: The Real Reason Narcissists Cry →
They’re Hot & Cold
With a narcissist, you can be presented with a normal, cheerful person in one breath, then a rageful, venomous person the next.
There are two reasons for the narcissists switching into someone awful on a dime:
- They are low on narcissistic supply (life force energy)
- They’ve had a narcissistic injury (triggering of an inner wound)
When a narcissist is low on supply or has a narcissistic injury, they’ll begin to fall into their inner black hole, which is filled with shame, self-loathing and disgust. The narcissist cannot bear to feel those things, so like a rubber band being released, they’ll explode outward as a way to escape falling inwards.
This is when they’ll do anything they can to dump those unhealed wounds onto the nearest person by starting an argument, devaluing them or blaming them for something.
When they are able to elicit such heavy emotions from another person, they think “I must be so incredibly powerful to be able to control their emotions like that,” which feeds them narcissistic supply and temporarily relieves them from their own inner darkness.
They Punish Others
If you don’t go along with the narcissist’s false version of themselves or say “No” to them in any way, get ready to be hit with a punishment.
Narcissists program the people who are closest to them to do as they say or else. They will use intermittent rewards and punishments as a way of keeping you on a rollercoaster of anxiety, which trains your body to be chemically addicted to them (without you even realising what’s going on).
If the narcissist feels you’ve slighted them or gone against them in any way, they’ll dish out their punishment, which is usually the withholding of whatever is most important to you. It could be silent treatment (communication), lifts to work (support), physical contact (affection) or any other number of things.
This sends your body into a state of anxiety, especially if you don’t even know what you’ve done ‘wrong.’ The only way for you to feel relief from the intense anxiety is for the narcissist to grant back the thing that they’re withholding. They will do this at a random time, making you desperate for it.
This is called a trauma bond and is the reason why so many people stay in abusive relationships with narcissists without being able to see beyond the fog they’re living in.
|READ: Trauma Bonding Explained →
Outside of relationships, narcissists will still punish others, even random strangers if they feel slighted in any way. If someone cuts them off in traffic, they’ll swerve at them or brake-check them. If someone takes the last item on the shelf at the supermarket, they’ll make a scene or dob them into security for stealing.
Narcissists think they’re a God whose purpose is to teach other people ‘lessons’ for doing them wrong.
Another point on the narcissist red flag checklist is their extreme hypocrisy.
While they expect you to be there for them whenever they need you, they’ll go awol in your time of need.
They might have many friends who they text and catch up with of the opposite sex, but don’t you dare have one single friend in that category.
When they walk in the door after work, they’ll demand all of your attention as they debrief about their day, but will be outright disinterested or annoyed when you talk about your own day.
For your safety and survival it becomes pertinent to favour the narcissist’s wants and needs, while distinguishing your own.
All of the narcissist’s hypocrisies work to reinforce that they are the only one who truly matters, while you are there to serve them. Your needs a nothing but an inconvenience to them and over time, they will program you to not even prioritise them yourself.
They’re Extremely Critical of Others
A big narcissist red flag is their extreme criticism towards all others. They will constantly make negative, judgemental comments about other people, while fluffing themselves up to feel superior.
When it comes to their partner, they’ll regularly make negative and judgemental remarks to them, from how they look to how they drive and everything in between.
Over time this chips away at their partner’s self-esteem, making them feel worthless, useless and unattractive. This is another tactic that the narcissist uses to hold their partner in the abusive relationship, avoiding abandonment and keeping hold of their emotional punching bag.
They Devalue & Belittle
Narcissists will commonly make belittling comments towards others, claiming “It was just a joke, lighten up,” when others call them out on their hurtful words.
Like the quintessential schoolyard bully, narcissists must pull others down in order to make themselves feel better.
They don’t have anything authentic or substantial to elevate themselves with, so they will resort to attacking others instead. But all in the guise of a ‘joke’ of course as a way of disguising their true vindictiveness.
Plus, when they can blame the other person for their ‘over-reaction’ to the comment, it affectively absolves them of any wrongdoing.
|READ: How Narcissists Blame-shift →
They’re Stingy With Their Resources
Narcissists do not like giving unless there’s something in it for them. They will be especially miserly with their resources, including their time and money. They believe that people should be giving to them, not the other way around.
If you ask a narcissist for help, they will either not be available or they’ll grudgingly show up but make the whole process so unbearable you’ll wonder why you bothered to ask in the first place.
Even with their own children, they can be resentful of having to fulfil their parental duties or just outright neglect those needs of the child and prioritise their own instead.
When it comes to spending money, they can be very generous if there’s an audience and it will make them appear cashed-up and successful. But unless there’s adoration and applause involved, they can be extremely tight-fisted.
They’re Overly Competitive
The next point in the narcissist red flag checklist is their overly competitive nature. I’m not talking about on the sporting field here, although it will certainly play out there too for the athletic narcissists.
In the world of a narcissist, there can only be one winner, making everyone else the losers. Of course, the narcissist must always come out on top to feed their inflated image of themselves as being superior, special and entitled.
You will see competitiveness sprinkled throughout the way the narcissist lives their entire lives. From needing to have the best house, the fastest or most expensive car, the most epic annual holiday or the most successful career.
Whatever the story, the outcome is always the same. The narcissist must either be the biggest HERO or the biggest VICTIM.
And if you’ve got something going on in your life, you can bet the narcissist will one-up you to have done bigger and better.
Their competitiveness can even go the other way with struggles and illnesses. If you’ve had a sore leg, they’ve had a broken one. If you’ve had cancer once, they’ve had three times.
Following on from the previous narcissist red flag checklist item, narcissists are extremely argumentative. This is partly an extension of them having to ‘win’ at everything, but more than that, they must always be ‘right.’
Remember, narcissists live in a fantasy delusion where they are perfect, superior and the centre of all things. So, if you say something that goes against anything that supports their fantasy, they will argue with you until they’re blue in the face.
Narcissists will not back down in an argument because to do that would be to admit to themselves that their fantasy is not real. They will keep at you until you are so drained you either admit defeat or agree to disagree through sheer exhaustion.
Possessiveness can so easily be confused with protectiveness, especially for those who are desperately seeking love and validation from outside of themselves.
Narcissists are very possessive of their partners, not because they value and respect them, but because they think they ‘own’ them. They don’t see others as individual autonomous beings with their own desires and needs. Instead, they see them as being their toy to use as they sit fit. And since narcissists are extremely greedy, they do not like to share their ‘toys.’
They Isolate You From Others
The final narcissist red flag checklist item is that they will slowly and subtly try to isolate you from your friends and family.
They will do things to put a wedge between you and your loved ones so that your support system falls away and you end up largely or solely dependent on them. This way, you’re easier to manipulate and less likely to talk about things the narcissist does, which could alert alarm bells within others.
There are many ways they’ll work to isolate you. It could be starting arguments with your family, making it difficult for you to see them. They might even make you feel like you need to choose between them or your family, setting an ultimatum in place.
Or, they might subtly sabotage your catch-ups with your friends in such a way that it becomes easier just to say no to those invitations. That way you won’t have to deal with the narcissist’s tantrums or backlash.
After going through the narcissist red flag checklist, hopefully you’re more easily able to spot narcs early on and get out while you can.
For those who are already in an established relationship with a narcissist, it’s imperative for your mental health to plan a way out, pull your energy back from the narcissist and into healing yourself.
|READ: Tips for Leaving a Narcissist →
▶️ VIDEO: 29 Narcissist Red Flags to Look Out For!
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