Who becomes a target for narcissists – are you a moth to the flame?
Narcissists are attention-seeking, grandiose, self-absorbed, self-entitled predators who have a well-tuned radar for picking out potential targets as sources of narcissistic supply. They may go straight for the jugular, or test you out more subtly to see if you are as weak as they would like for their preferred source(s) of supply (property, money, sex, free labour or whatever…).
A narcissist will target those who have the qualities the narcissist lacks (empathy, self-awareness, kindness for example). They will put on the charm offensive or ‘love bombing’, devaluing and discarding, smear campaigns, creating drama, gaslighting, manipulating, projecting blame onto the target and making them look like the crazy one, diminishing them even further, so they have no sense of self (not that they had one, or much of one, in the first place as they were taught their feelings and instincts weren’t real). This crazy-making screws with the targets’ minds and it’s hard to know who to trust. My ‘go to’ is – if you don’t know where you stand 100% with someone, then chances are they do not have your best interests at heart, to say the least.
Often targets are conditioned as children to be ‘scapegoats’ to feel lesser than (others), and to be the ones to have parental poison, blame, criticism and all kinds of abuse dumped on them. These children grow up without a solid sense of identity, are unsure of themselves, have poor self esteem and self worth, and seek validation from those around them. Others sense their poor boundaries and the inability to defend themselves. Narcissists then start and continue extracting supply because these scapegoated children are conditioned to take the abuse, often ending up in adult relationships which reflect their earlier relationship with their parents.
Children of narcissists are also never taught boundaries, or anything else, except that they aren’t worthy of love, and have no value, unless they go along with the narcissistic parent. They are objectified and submit to the narcissist conditionally in order to survive. They were also taught to feel guilty any time they tried to assert boundaries, winding up in situations of major conflict and over- or under- reacting against those who violate them by overstepping the mark. Although, if you challenge a narcissist, it will trigger their control issues. ‘Grey rock’ or ‘no contact’ are the best ways to deal with them if you can. You can’t change them or anyone else, however you can set limits on what behaviour you will tolerate, and you are perfectly entitled to enforce those limits.
As you learn to have healthier boundaries and to speak up for yourself, the narcissist(s) who have taken advantage of you not having them will absolutely hate it. They will throw tantrums, make threats, and manipulate. Please make sure you ignore them. As you learn to have healthy boundaries and to maintain them, you are valuing and honouring yourself, which is positive for personal growth so if toxic abusers fall by the wayside in your life, that is a good thing. Be discerning about who you let in.
Those of us who are targets of narcissists need to build our self-esteem, knowing, and believing in, ourselves and therefore not sending out a signal that we are easy targets. We also need to learn strategies to be assertive and to communicate effectively. Self-care is important too – in mind, body and spirit. Do not give yourself away to people who don’t deserve it. If you feel or know that you are a target, start taking notice of whether or not you ‘people please.’ Start pleasing yourself first, and take the time to consider whether you really want to say ‘yes’ to what someone wants you to do. If it is something done especially out of fear, obligation or guilt, then you probably need to say ‘no.’
Educating yourself on narcissism will also empower you and give you techniques to disarm them. The people who see through narcissists will see the narcissist pull out all stops to destroy them, as they wish to continue their sick games which revolve around power and control. Narcissists fear being ‘unmasked’. If you see them acting in their robot manner, projecting their false selves then you will be considered a big threat to be ruined and defeated.
Further, if you stay in a situation where you are the target of a narcissist, you will never be able to live in peace as there will always be a drama to contend with. If you believe you are a ‘moth’, you will need to to learn to let the ‘flame’ go. You don’t need these energy vampires to validate you; YOU need to validate and approve of yourself. As a child who never received any love or approval from a parent you had no power back then to change the situation. As an adult, now you do. The power resides within you to recognise that you don’t need to be drawn to these types to validate your own life. Seek therapy if you need to to work on healing the wounds from an abusive, dysfunctional, toxic childhood so you don’t attract these predators in the future. Then you can find, and be, your true self.