A narcissist abuses you emotionally, changing the way you feel about yourself.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 9, 2021. It has since been updated.
Living with a narcissist, who tries to control you, can be extremely harmful to your mental health. They are so good at emotional manipulation that it becomes difficult to call them out and you end up questioning yourself. The more they abuse you, the guiltier you feel. And slowly, with time, you become a hollow shell of the person you once were, subdued and changed forever. So, what are the red flags and how do they change your personality?
It begins slowly. The narcissistic partner initially points out your mistakes with seemingly good intentions, and then, they gradually amp them up. Soon, they start spotting errors in anything you do to the point you begin to think first about their response than your own need. It doesn't matter what you do, they will find a way to criticize you. You feel like you are constantly disappointing them, and the guilt will seep into your personality. This constant barrage of criticism will eventually get to you and you may end up walking on egg-shells around your partner. The fear of disappointing them, according to the Huffington Post, may soon drain you of all your emotional energy. Your old, carefree self is replaced by an anxious person with guilt.
According to Psychology Today, gaslighting is one of the ways in which narcissists dominate their partners incessantly. It is a technique they use to make you question your own reality and confuse your own sense of the world. They will lie to you blatantly, project their own insecurities at you, and may use your weak spots to embarrass you. Gradually, you will start questioning everything you do, including your memory and sanity. You will no longer have the confidence you had earlier because they will never reinforce your achievements. They will amplify your shortcomings in such a way that, eventually, you will end up replacing your sense of self with their version of you.
Being with a narcissist can keep you on a constant vigil, which can either leave you drained and numb or overwhelmed and anxious. A narcissist can only survive when there is a steady flow of attention on them. Which means, they are the center of their world and yours, leaving you very little time, energy, and even mind space to get in touch with your own needs and wants. They aim to increase your reliance on them for their own survival.
They play mind games to do this. For example, they may, at one moment, be extremely affectionate. They may shower you with praise and delight you with their love. But the very next moment they may take it all away. They will act cold, distant, and may not even acknowledge that they are acting this way. You end up feeling that you did something wrong to "lose" their love, when in truth, there is no love in the first place. With time, you will find yourself confused as to how to act, and this leaves you emotionally unstable.
A narcissist is well versed in disguising their intentions. They will never expose their thoughts openly; instead, they will take sly digs at you. This happens especially when you do something well or feel good about yourself. They may say mean things and then say "just kidding." When you get upset, they will try to shake it off as a joke and blame you for being "too sensitive" or "being a prude."
These hurtful jokes, in fact, are meant to target your confidence and aimed to make you feel weaker. Hiding their own insecurities behind humor, they get a sadistic pleasure in watching you doubt yourself. Because they can survive only as long as they keep you unsure and guessing, for which, your self-esteem needs to be low.
A narcissist can be highly manipulative in subtle ways. Their blame-game is very strong, to say the least. Whatever happens, they will put the blame on you. If you point out a mistake, they will call you a nag. If you don't feel affectionate, they will blame you for not caring enough. If you take things in your own hands to take care of yourself, they will call you selfish. Step by step, they will fill you with guilt about every decision you make. You also think more about them and how they see you rather than how you feel within. If you let this continue, you will become a mere shadow of your true self.
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