Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”Matthew 7:15 (KJV)
The concept of narcissism has gained popularity in recent years. Although I think that the term is overused, I appreciate the importance of spreading awareness on the topic. We may not have been using the term “narcissist” for long, but we have been cautioned against this type all our lives. We heard of it in the scriptures and even in our fairytales growing up.
Between the tale of “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” and the rising popularity of vampire shows and movies, the topic of narcissism and narcissistic traits keeps coming up. It is surprising to me that the characters in these shows are glorified and even loved by many. We seem to overlook all the dreadful things they have done and fall for the charming, captivating, intriguing aspect of the narcissist’s personality.
The narcissist knows this. They use their charm and charisma to get close to their victim. They take and take and take some more until the victim has nothing left to give. After that, they move on to their next target. They are exploitative. So how do we protect ourselves from this type?
I like to think of Little Red Riding Hood and how unassuming she was, wandering around alone in the woods and chit-chatting with a stranger. She told the wolf where she was going and who she was going to visit with no hesitation. Her “innocence” was a display of poor boundaries. A good boundary, in this case, would be not to talk to strangers. We need to have certain boundaries in place. No amount of charisma, infatuation, and flattery could get us to bypass the usual amount of time it takes to earn trust and build a relationship.
Narcissists hate boundaries. If your boundaries are labeled as “fear” or “limitations,” criticized or scrutinized, you may be dealing with a narcissist or maybe just a messed up individual. Either way, your boundaries are not up for discussion. Part of setting boundaries is knowing what course of action to take if your boundaries are violated or ignored.
Keep in mind that at their core, beneath the grandiose personality and “vision,” narcissists feel inadequate. Why else would they present this image of themselves to the world that is nothing like their true self? Granted, we all do that to a certain extent. According to Carl Jung, we all have a “persona.” This is the outward mask we present to the world. We hide our true selves and reveal parts of us only to those close to us. Narcissists wear different masks for each person or group of people. It is intentional and a tailor-made approach designed to lure you in, by whatever means necessary, to exploit you and take whatever they can take from you: your resources, validation, ego boost, and so on.
For someone to fall into the category of a narcissist, they need to be diagnosed. Most of us are not qualified to make a diagnosis. I am sure that most people we label as “narcissists” are not really narcissists but very toxic individuals. Regardless of the diagnosis, we can be on the lookout for “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” We can identify deceitful and manipulative takers by looking past their words and occasional actions and focusing on behavior patterns. We must listen to our intuition and gut feeling that tells us that something isn’t right. There are “holes” in the “Big Bad Wolf’s” image. Like Little Red Riding Hood noticed the big ears, big eyes, and big teeth, we can notice their real self come out. Maybe when they used a condescending tone with the waitress, which is so unlike them. Or the manipulative way they tried guilting us into doing something we didn’t want to do. We could notice the subtle difference in the recount of the story the second time compared to the first time we heard it. The thing about lies is that it is hard to keep up with them. If you had to repeat the truth repeatedly, you would give the same account each time. However, when lying, it is more likely to give different accounts because it is easy to forget the details of the original lie.
If you find out that you have been dealing with a “Big Bad Wolf,” try not to beat yourself up about it too much. Most of us with a big heart won’t realize that we are dealing with a deceptive person, especially because they can be very good at being manipulative. It is when their true character is revealed to us that we must make a decision. This is when our character is put to the test. Shall we choose to believe the fantasy? Or look at him as the blood-sucking, deadly, draining, morbid vampire he truly is?
I understand the need to confront this type of person. When we are wronged, it is natural to look for closure. But it is unlikely to find closure in the same person who caused us to hurt in the first place. Do you think that if Little Red Riding Hood had the opportunity to confront the wolf, that he would repent? If she had to explain to him how he took advantage of her open, loving heart and used her and manipulated her, would he give her closure? If she could get him to understand how much damage he has caused, would this stop him from doing this to someone else?
No! He wouldn’t, and it wouldn’t. Do not be fooled. He would gaslight her, make her feel like it was all in her head. Yet another figment of her imagination. An “apology,” if any, would be a carefully crafted, calculating one, designed to get her to let her guard down so he can take advantage of her all over again.
So, find closure within yourself, validate yourself, learn the lesson, and use this as an incentive to become a better version of yourself. Give the “wolf” the attention he deserves – none. He is irrelevant. He does not deserve access to you. This is how he knows that you finally see him for who he truly is: inadequate, unworthy, and undeserving of your attention.