How Do Narcissists Destroy Lives? 9 Common Ways
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If you’ve been involved with a narcissist in any kind of relationship, you know how their manipulation and emotional abuse leave you feeling. They are experts at targeting the strengths of their victims and using your own fears against them. Often, this has devastating consequences for your well-being and self-esteem. In fact, it can ruin your life.
There are a number of ways in which narcissistic manipulation and emotional abuse can ruin your life. Here are 9 of the most common ways:
- Decrease Your Self-Esteem;
- Leave You Isolated;
- Make You Feel Unworthy;
- Drain Your Energy;
- Use Shame to Destroy Your Confidence;
- Make You Dependent on Them;
- Take Control of Your Life;
- Use Your Strengths Against You;
- Leave You with Emotional Scars.
It’s vital to understand how a narcissist can destroy your self-esteem and confidence so that you can also understand how you can heal yourself. Let’s explore each of these ways that a narcissist can destroy your life and how you can heal from their destructive influence.
1. Decrease Your Self-Esteem
When you first encountered the narcissist in your life, you might have thought you had truly met your soulmate. Many people report feeling that way when they first met a narcissist they then had a relationship with, but that illusion doesn’t typically last for long.
Once a narcissist gets what they want from you, however, you start to see their true colors. If they think they’ve got you hooked, they start ignoring you, or worse, they start with the criticism. This often leaves you feeling confused because they seemed so perfect in the beginning.
It can take a long time before you are willing to let go of the idea of that perfect person you thought you knew was just an illusion, a facade designed to reel you in so they could take advantage of your good nature.
By the time that happens, however, you’ve endured almost constant criticism, and this begins wearing down your own self-esteem. That combined with the gaslighting can have you questioning your own perceptions and doubting your ability to understand the world around you. That can leave you suffering from the debilitating effects of depression and anxiety.
The situation is even more dire for the children of a narcissist, who can themselves become narcissists because of the caustic effects of the narcissist’s criticism and devaluation. Just like what happened to the narcissist in their own childhood, the devaluation causes their children to believe they are worthless, and like their narcissistic parents, they bury their shameful true self and construct a false self in its place. That’s what’s at the heart of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), and it has lifelong implications.
2. Leave You Isolated
A narcissist views everyone in their life as mere extensions of themselves. Additionally, they have no empathy for the needs or desires of their loved ones. In the narcissist’s mind, they exist only for what they need them to do.
If you balk at the narcissist’s attempts to control you, among the many manipulations they employ is to try and isolate you from your family and friends. They want to be your only source of information and validation, and thus, they seek to isolate you from anyone who might validate your perceptions.
They do this so that you won’t have anyone to help you see through their manipulations. That gives them more control over you, but it also leaves you with no one in your corner, no one you can turn to when you have questions. If you are eventually able to break free of the narcissist’s emotional abuse, you might find yourself with little or no support. That can have devastating effects on your psychological well-being.
3. Make You Feel Unworthy
It’s common for narcissists to make the victims of their abuse feel unworthy. This stems from the fact that they need to feel superior to all those around them. They need that because they don’t have an internal support mechanism to prop up their self-esteem.
Instead, the narcissist uses the people around them to get external validation — something known as narcissistic supply — and one way they use the people in their lives is for comparison purposes. Narcissists frequently point out what they consider to be flaws or mistakes that others make to try to emphasize their own superiority.
They will point out your mistakes or flaws to those around you, and in their mind, that shows everyone how superior they are because they noticed the flaw. It doesn’t really matter that other people often find them pompous and rude; in their mind, it shows their superiority.
Meanwhile, their actions make you feel worse about yourself, and this can lead to you feeling unworthy of love, of success, and of the good things in your life. This is especially true when the devaluation is a constant influence in your life and on your mood.
4. Drain Your Energy
The narcissist in your life is a constant drain on your energy, and that not only has psychological consequences, but physical consequences as well. It can lead to weight gain, loss of sleep, and other serious health effects.
It also simply makes you feel tired all the time which can lead to depression and anxiety. This is something that can truly slow down the progress you make on your own goals, and that has a devastating impact on your life satisfaction.
It can also cause you to eventually abandon goals you would normally be pursuing. That can have serious long-term effects on your own happiness.
5. Use Shame to Destroy Your Confidence
Narcissists use every tool they can to undermine your confidence, but perhaps the most devastating one they use is shame. As world renowned author and social worker, Brené Brown notes, shame is an “intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”
When you feel that way about yourself, you don’t have confidence in your perceptions and decisions. Of course, narcissists love that and will use it against you at every turn. They will do everything they can to undermine your confidence in yourself because they want you to be completely under their control.
Shame is something the narcissist is well-acquainted with since they have a deep-seated shame and self-loathing. It’s almost an act of vengeance to shame others, and it makes them feel superior by comparison, but it has long-lasting effects for you even if you do break free of the narcissist in your life.
6. Make You Dependent on Them
Most of the weapons a narcissist uses against you are geared toward one purpose — to make you dependent on them. They want to have you under their control so they can guarantee that you will continue to provide them with their desperately needed narcissistic supply.
It’s almost a vampiric relationship. They need your total submission and dependency so they can feel validated. In their mind, you exist for that reason, but of course, it can destroy your life and leave you with no recourse should you decide you want to get away from them.
Such a bleak outlook can often lead to depression and other mental health problems. It can also develop into codependency where you ignore your needs in order to ensure the narcissist’s needs are satisfied. Even if you escape one narcissist, when you feel as though you cannot survive on your own, you often turn to another abuser, something that can become a lifelong pattern.
7. Take Control of Your Life
Another tactic narcissists use to make you dependent on them is that they take over total control of your life. They pay the bills, buy the groceries, decide what luxury items to buy and when, and they earn the money.
You have no say in the decisions made in your life. This further undermines self-confidence, and it makes you even more dependent than you might otherwise be. You have no control and no way to change the circumstances in your life.
You can easily fall prey to the gaslighting the narcissist uses to skew your perceptions and manipulate what little choice you may have. If you do break free, you’ll likely feel adrift with little idea how to make decisions in your life.
8. Use Your Strengths Against You
If you’re kind, the narcissist will exploit you. If you’re strong, the narcissist will use that to push you to your limits. If you’re a good employee, the narcissist will use that to get what they want in life. Any strength you have, the narcissist will use it to undermine your confidence and self-esteem.
They will gaslight you until you believe that those are not strengths, but weaknesses you need to discard. They will use your strengths to get what they want and then turn them against you. This can have long-term impacts on your ability to recover even if you get away from the narcissist.
9. Leave You with Emotional Scars
All of these actions taken by the narcissist to use and abuse you will leave you with lifelong emotional scars that you’ll have to heal. When your self-esteem is constantly undermined, your self-confidence consistently beat down, and your own sense of worth deflated, it leaves you traumatized.
There’s no other word for it, and even if you go no contact with the narcissist, you’ll be left with the emotional scars that can affect your behavior for the rest of your life. It can be devastating for your happiness and life satisfaction.
What Can You Do to Fight Back?
Many experts will tell you to get away from the narcissist as fast as you can, and that’s probably the best advice. It’s not always possible; however, and if you don’t have that option, you have to work hard to take care of yourself and stand up for your own well-being.
That means you have to constantly practice self-care techniques to soothe your psyche and repair the damage done by the narcissist. You also need to learn to heal old emotional trauma and set strong boundaries.
That often means confronting the narcissist in your life as well as telling them what your boundaries are and the consequences they will face if they violate them. When they do violate them — and they will — you must enforce the boundaries every time without fail.
You’ll also need to look elsewhere for the normal return on a relationship that you expect with someone you love. The narcissist won’t be able to give you empathy, compassion, or the kind of loving care you provide them. If you can accept that and get those needs met elsewhere, you might be able to have a long-term relationship with them but it will always be a guarded relationship.
Narcissists use manipulation and control to destroy the lives of many of the people around them. They will lie, gaslight, and otherwise emotionally abuse you to get their needs met. They have no empathy or compassion, and therefore, they are unable to meet your emotional needs.
To put it simply, a relationship with a narcissist is a one-sided matter — you give and they receive. It can last, but only if you are able to carefully tend to your emotional needs and maintain strong boundaries that prevent narcissistic abuse.
Whether you continue in your relationship with the narcissist or not, it’s critical that you know how to heal the wounds they create. This post has several important tips on how you can heal your inner child following narcissistic abuse.
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