All humans can be narcissistic at times, but we don’t like to see ourselves in this way, even though it’s part of being human. Often, we associate narcissism with the shadiest, self-absorbed and unempathetic of folk. In reality, every single one of us has an inner narcissist–our ego–that’s regulated or running wild depending on our boundaries.

Approaching things from a place of inferiority or superiority is our inner narcissist. Many of us are familiar with the grandiosity of superiority from narcissists and the narcissistically-inclined. Assuming, though, that ‘everything’ is our fault is delusions of grandeur about our exaggerated flaws and power. So is believing that our worthiness influences and controls what others be and do.

It’s inverted narcissism: making ourselves ‘special’, albeit in a negative way by being the best of the worst.

But there are common everyday occurrences that also illustrate where our inner narcissist pops up, too. Often, our initial response to criticism, being broken up with, hurt or wronged is driven by our inner narcissist. Our ego takes over.

  • You can’t criticise me [because you’re inferior].
  • You can’t break up with me [because you’re inferior].
  • Wait, what? You’re criticising me when I’ve gone out of my way to please you precisely so that you wouldn’t criticise me?
  • You want to break up with me even though I’ve done all of this stuff for you? You should be licking my feet! If anyone should be ditching anyone, it’s me doing it to you!
  • I can’t believe they got there first. It should have been me telling them about themselves/dumping them/having the last word.
  • How dare you dislike me (even though I don’t actually like you)!
  • Everybody else likes me, so why don’t you?
  • Because you broke up with me/hurt me/wronged me, you shouldn’t be happy. I should be happy first. You should be miserable like I am and crawling around begging for forgiveness.
  • There must be something wrong with me because they hurt me and wouldn’t commit. I’m still unhappy, but they’re on Instagram parading their new relationship. It’s got to be my fault!
  • I can’t believe that people still think he/she’s a good person when I know how they were in a relationship.
  • Why are they praising him/her/them when I’m the one who’s more accomplished?
  • Hmm, I think I could fix/heal/help/change you. Let’s start a relationship!
  • I’m way prettier/good looking/cleverer than them. Why the hell are they in a relationship/enjoying opportunities that I’m not?
  • I did everything right. They should have given me what I needed/wanted.
  • How could they turn out to be so disappointing when I thought we were so similar?

Having narcissistic moments doesn’t make us a narcissist; it makes us human.

When we’re not an actual narcissist, we will eventually realise there’s something off with our thought process. We gradually become more truthful about what happened, something an actual narcisisst can’t.

Healthy boundaries are what help us to not only become more of who we really are but to regulate our ego. Concerned with inferiority and superiority, winning and losing, being right and making someone else wrong, and who holds the power? That’s ego, the inner narcissist, not the real us. Our true self, which is represented by our inner voice that we might not listen to that much, doesn’t give a shizzle about those things.

Instead of panicking that we’re a ‘terrible’ person because we’ve been ego-driven at times, we need to use recognition that we are thinking, feeling and behaving in this way to get grounded and boundaried. In noticing our responses, we can use these as a cue to recognise that we’re not being truthful with ourselves and that we’re, yes, angry and hurt.

Knowing where we end and others begin is the cornerstone of healthy boundaries.

It’s knowing the difference between our thoughts, feelings, body, stuff and someone else’s. It’s owning our side of the street in a situation no matter how teeny-tiny we might consider it to be. Boundaries, after all, are two-fold: when we know what the boundary is for someone else, it means that we need to know what our boundary is for the same thing.

Setting boundaries with you and living by them regulates your inner narcissist.

So does mindfulness:  bringing awareness to the origins of your feelings and behaviour without having to immediately react. Be curious about why you’re responding in that way.

Of course, we can (and will) still get annoyed, irritated, frustrated, mad, resentful and goodness knows what else with others. But recognition of boundaries means that at some point, we acknowledge what we’re thinking, feeling, being and doing to create our response in the situation. We realise, ultimately, that we can choose how affected we are by others by choosing healthy boundaries.

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