One of the key characteristics of narcissism is a sense of grandiosity or a sense of being superior to others. In addition to just thinking they are better than everyone, including their partners, the narcissist constructs a fantasy world where they are always on center stage, regardless of what is happening around them.
The narcissist demands attention from others, which includes constant praise and recognition for everything in their world, even if they were not the individual responsible for the work. At the same time, the narcissist is quick to blame others and manipulate the situation to point the finger at others if something is not successful or is not ideal.
To maintain this false reality, the narcissist must see others as inferior, flawed, or having negative qualities. In fact, the narcissist is putting all of his or her insecurity, mistakes, character flaws, and inabilities into the other person to avoid acknowledging they have these human flaws.
Signs of Being Devalued
Narcissists, despite their need for attention and to be seen as a superior individual, do not start out in the relationship this way. Instead, they shower their partner with love and attention, often playing to a need in the other person for that level of love and support.
Signs of devaluation in a relationship can be difficult to spot for people who have a history of being in emotionally toxic and abusive relationships. Often these relationships include how the individual was treated as a child by parents. Cycles of being put down, emotionally neglected, or even going through emotional abuse are not unfamiliar and are almost anticipated, which makes it difficult to see when a relationship turns from healthy to unhealthy.
The fear of being rejected or left alone is also involved in this complicated relationship. The narcissist routinely plays on this as part of the devaluation and manipulation tactics. These can include:
· Passing the buck – blaming you for everything, even their own actions
· Gaslighting – this is essential for the fantasy world of the narcissist. They will create a narrative of how something occurred that makes them look good, and you look bad. They will maintain this narrative and make statements that you are misremembering, have something wrong, or are experiencing some sort of mental or emotional crisis.
· Catastrophizing – everything you do becomes a major crisis, while their issues are minor or non-existent. They will also inflate your reactions to their behaviors while downplaying anything they do or say.
· Constantly putting themselves first – this includes breaking commitments and promises, failing to consider you at all, or treating you as if you did not exist. If you attempt to express an opinion, you will be labeled as demanding and self-centered.
· Spreading negative information – at the heart of devaluing a partner, the narcissist goes outside of the relationship. They will talk to anyone and everyone about your lack of caring, empathy, understanding, and commitment to the relationship while making themselves out to be the long-suffering victim of your emotional abuse.
Keep in mind, devaluing often proceeds the narcissist discard, where they will leave you and then manipulate the situation to keep you locked into believing they may return.
Tips for Recovery
If you are in a relationship and recognize the signs of being devalued, reaching out for help is the first and most important step. Start by meeting with a therapist with experience in assisting people in relationships with narcissists to break the cycle of narcissistic abuse. You can also join a community of others going through a similar experience such as my tribe Wake Up Recovery online group coaching program for healing narcissistic abuse and toxic relationships.
In addition, individuals can also:
· Challenge “their” reality – journaling or reflecting back on situations and recognizing their gaslighting and manipulation for what it was and see the situation accurately.
· Stop the self-blame – learning to let go of blaming yourself and recognizing the toxic behavior of the other partner is critical for recovery.
· Self-care – get comfortable putting your own needs first. This starts with healthy habits to feel good about yourself again.
· Cut off contact – eliminating contact with the narcissist is often a crucial part of recovery and finding yourself.
You can learn to value yourself after being devalued. Working with a therapist or joining my online group coaching program Wake Up Recovery is one of the most effective ways to make this critical change for your wellbeing and growth.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW and Transformation Coach