Quick to label someone a narcissist?
It can be tempting to label someone a narcissist, but there might be a perspective that is more accurate, more useful even. I’ll get to it in a minute, but here is the drawback of the term narcissist as I see it.
The term narcissist is almost like terminal diagnosis, especially for being in any kind of relationship with that person. It’s hard to come back from “narcissist”. It’s almost like labelling someone as evil…not much room for redemption there.
Labels shape reality. And your reality affects your own actions and abilities. I have found that labelling others has actually limited my own growth, and ability to deal with challenging situations. Casting people away allows me not to deal with them and to not take personal responsibility.
It becomes difficult to engage with or deal with the narcissist because the belief is that any kind of relating is impossible.
Disclaimer #1 – Here is the tricky part. There could be truth to this. And it could be true for you that ending the relationship might be the best thing for you in that moment, for you and your health.
However, what if the reality is that you want to or have to keep dealing with that person? That person might be co-parent or an ex that you continue to deal with. A coworker maybe? Or perhaps it’s a current partner that you choose to stay with or are actually trying to work things out with.
Disclaimer #2 – Do what you need to do. If you recognize signs of hurtful behavior and have been affected by the hurtful actions of another, get help, protect yourself, advocate for yourself and others, and hold boundaries. 100%. Do what you need to do.
And… here is another thing to consider, something that has helped me in places where I felt like casting someone away, felt like labeling someone, but chose to look at it differently… was to look at people in terms of emotional maturity.
We are all on a spectrum of emotional maturity. Seeing people like this allows for more understanding more skillful dealings, and more personal growth. This perspective does not take away any right to assert or hold boundaries. I have found that this perspective actually allows for more insight and more leadership in the situation.
It is akin to parenting in a way…to really understand that I am the parent in the situation, I am the emotional leader of the relationship, and I that I am dealing with someone who might not be emotionally mature. There is a responsibility here, but also a peace of mind.
Disclaimer #3 – If taking this kind of leadership doesn’t work for you, don’t do it.
I have found (and teach) really good skills to learn for this kind of leadership. There are skills to steady yourself, center yourself, assert yourself. There are skills to learn about how to respond to emotional immaturity. How to lead so that safety is more present for everyone. How to lead to create the most constructive relationship possible.
Here is an article on emotional maturity. Take a look at it and see what you think.