Traits of Those Vulnerable to Narcissists
It is all too easy when in recovery from abuse to focus on the actions of the person that hurt us. We relive situations over and over again. Stuck in a loop of trauma, imagining if we said or did something different would the outcome have changed. Reflection serves a purpose; you are trying to make sense of what happened to you. However, the actions of an abuser may never make sense. You may never have answers that provide comfort, but with time and support you will move forward.
What Are My Vulnerabilities
An important piece of healing from a relationship with a narcissist or any abuser, is understanding what made you vulnerable to this individual. Please note! I am not victim blaming! I am encouraging people to understand how and why they ended up in the situation they did. Because if you can understand what led to a situation, you can avoid that same situation again. One of my primary beliefs as a therapist is that the past matters. Not blaming the past but understanding how past experiences beginning in childhood shaped us. How our beliefs about ourselves, what we view as “normal” in relationships, how we assert our own needs, and at baseline our own assessment of our worth affects the partners we choose and the behaviors we tolerate.
There is Nothing Wrong with You
Most people assume that there must be something wrong with them to end up in an abusive relationship. There is nothing wrong with you, instead it’s more about what happened to you. What happened in our early life coupled with our own unique characteristics like our temperament and personality create how we interact with the world. There are certain characteristics that a narcissist finds attractive in a partner because those characteristics help the narcissist get their needs met.
Narcissists require a constant source of validation and reassurance. This is often referred to as narcissistic supply. The reason narcissists require this is because they are not able to validate for themselves that they are good enough or worthy, even though they often act as if they are better than others. Narcissists learn quickly who is willing to give them grace for their behavior, who will validate their worth, and who will put up with their abuse behaviors.
Remember your personality traits are not weaknesses! They are exploited by narcissists and other abusers, and end up feeling like vulnerabilities. In actuality they are assets and strengths. The importance of understanding them is to help you protect yourself. If you understand your character traits, the ways they are strengths, and the ways they can be used against you, then you more easily recognize when you are in vulnerable positions.
One trait that is attractive to a narcissist is empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and relate to another’s feelings. Empathy is an amazing gift because it helps us connect more deeply with those people in our lives. We can put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and really understand another’s experiences. Empathy keeps us tied to a relationship with a narcissist. Empathy makes it more challenging to set healthy boundaries. We imagine how much pain our partner must be in or imagine how they struggle without us. Empathy sometimes discourages assertiveness because we don’t want to hurt anyone else.
Persistence is another trait attractive to someone with narcissism. Being persistent means we don’t give up easily on situations or on people. It means we try and try to make a situation work sometimes to our own detriment. Someone with narcissism needs a persistent person because someone less tenacious would not stick with them through the ups and downs. Narcissists need people who don’t give up on them quickly or easily.
Another attractive trait is high integrity. Someone with high integrity struggles when another accuses them of doing or saying things that don’t jibe with the standards, we hold ourselves to. There are times when we say things or do things that we aren’t proud of. Sometimes we are wrongly accused, and the accusations are more of a projection from the narcissist. Regardless, we fear that what our partner is saying is true. We are left feeling ashamed and questioning if we are the actual problem. We often own more of an issue than what is ours to own. This is a definite advantage for someone with narcissism because they never own their actions. If they can blame problems on someone else all the better.
High Levels of Trust
A high level of trust is a fourth quality in those vulnerable to narcissism. If you are a naturally trusting person and don’t require others to earn trust, then you go into relationships with the expectation that everyone is trustworthy. This allows a person with less than noble intentions to take advantage of you over and over again. A naturally trusting person will overlook the egregious breeches of trust holding on moments when their loved one is calm, stable, and consistent to their word. We want to trust at all costs. It feels uncomfortable inside to not trust another. So, we quiet that part of self that says, “you know they aren’t going to change.” And we ignore the part of self that says, “you can’t keep walking on eggshells forever.”
A Desire to Help Others
A sincere desire to help or fix others is a final trait in those vulnerable to narcissism. We want to help others. Our empathy allows us to see those that are suffering, and we believe that we can help anyone. We try to help that other person see how they are misinterpreting out intentions or the outcome of a situation. We speak calmly, we yell, we get frustrated, and we don’t give up. It is easy to forget that a person only changes if they want to. And that until someone owns their own mistakes and chooses to do differently, we may have to walk away for our own good.
No Shaming or Blaming
This post is not about victim blaming or shaming. If you see these traits in yourself, you can learn how to recognize when someone is using or abusing your strengths. It is so much harder to use character traits against another once one’s awareness grows. Please reach out to someone if you see yourself in this information. If you reach out to me, I will not tell you what you should do. Instead, we figure out together what is right for you. It is hard to stay and hard to go. Neither is easy. Trust yourself that you will know what to do when the time is right. I am here to hold on to hope until you can hold on to it for yourself.