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I’ll cut to the chase here, I am so sick of reading about narcissists—recovering from, how to spot one, how to break away—blah, blah, narcissism.
I won’t deny that we, as a whole, have a narcissism problem.
Using my handy-dandy sociologist googles, I could name a long list of factors that have contributed to this phenomenon that is now spanning generations; currently fueled by an over-enmeshed sense of society and community with the ever-growing presence of public social media platforms.
Narcissism is classified as a personality disorder and requires a diagnosis. Two of the most known traits of a narcissist are an exaggerated sense of self-importance and entitlement that requires excessive and consistent praise—often demanding recognition as superior even without any qualifications. They expect special favors and uncompromising compliance.
This is a short list, but since the internet is full of articles about it, I don’t think I need to reiterate the point much.
It’s all well and good that we’re starting to notice these characteristics, that there are a ton of articles out there about it. This is the first time in generations these issues have been spoken or written about it. We are only now beginning to learn and share about our experiences with narcissists. And only now are we beginning to understand how to do all that—plus, recover from it.
I need you to know that all this information being churned out will make no impact on the narcissist in your life. That’s the thing about narcissism: they don’t believe they have a problem.
No true narcissist will read a list of narcissistic traits and then get that sudden flash of fear that perhaps, they may have those qualities like non-narcissists do.
More importantly, narcissism is being repeatedly and inherently mistaken for emotional immaturity. They present themselves in nearly identical manners.
Here are some ways to differentiate:
Emotionally immature adults (EIA) will do the following:
1. Name-Calling and/or Blaming.
Like small children, emotionally immature adults will resort to shifting blame and name-calling when a situation is above their ability to understand, empathize, or is outside their interests.
Narcissists also display this trait when they are faced with any negative repercussions for their actions, too.
Again, a trait of small children. EIAs will resort to lying to stay out of trouble in an uncomfortable situation.
3. Emotional Escalations.
EIAs have no gauge for the human range of emotions. They will cry, pout, scream, or shout in any situation they feel uncomfortable in. This will likely include situations in which you express your emotions, particularly if those emotions fall into the ones perceived as “negative” (anger, sadness).
It may present like this:
You: “You really hurt my feelings when you said (insert phrase here). I would appreciate it if you didn’t do that in the future.”
EIA: “I guess I am the worst friend ever! I’m so sorry. I’ll never talk to you again.”
By doing these zero to sixty emotional escalations, it makes you feel like you are in the wrong for simply stating a normal emotional response. This can illicit feelings of guilt, shame, or wrongdoing when there are none.
4. Poor Impulse Control.
A child may behave recklessly when they feel threatened, hurt, or mad. Often resorting to impulsive actions without regard to potential consequences. Emotionally immature adults will do this, too.
Sometimes, this can present as an adult who constantly interrupts you as you are speaking to push their “agenda”—fueled entirely by their emotions.
Mature adults can pause and think things through.
5. Immature Defenses.
“I know you are, but what am I?”
Sound like a playground from kindergarten to you? EIAs do this too. It stems from a basic human defense response mechanism (coined by Freud, by the way).
This will present itself as attacking anyone with a different viewpoint than what they would like. Rather than being able to listen to others’ concerns and then think through basic problem-solving, EIAs will resort to using these defense mechanisms.
When combined with a few of the other traits above, this can present as claiming they didn’t do or say something when they clearly did. Even if you provide proof, an EIA will continue to deny.
6. Lack an Ability to Engage in any type of Introspection.
They don’t learn from any mistakes they may make. When a mature adult has lost their temper in a situation, they can see that with hindsight and will (most often) go back to acknowledge, take responsibility, and apologize.
7. Need to be the Center of Attention.
Dominating conversations, pivoting any event so they can gain the most attention from it even if their involvement was ancillary—EIAs are the kings and queens of doing this. Leaving a mature adult feeling unheard, invalidated, or like their loved one has no interest in whatever event took place.
All these behaviors leave a whisper of budding narcissism in the air; this is how the two become intertwined and emotional immaturity becomes mistaken for narcissism.
One surefire way to tell the difference is that an emotionally immature adult will perpetuate a victim mentality. Narcissists often will not.
And to make matters worse for the rest of us, narcissists and emotionally immature adults are seemingly wildly attracted to each other—the combination can be devastating to navigate.
If you’ve ever had an emotionally immature caretaker, you might stay stuck in a cycle of feeling hurt, then believing whatever happened was your fault, and finally circling back to “fix” it. It can make you question your reality; believe you are inherently flawed; or believe that others perceive you as a crazy person.
Navigating the fall out from this requires strict boundaries and a whole lotta self-love and compassion.
Again, we absolutely have a narcissism problem—a big one at that.
But emotional immaturity is just as rampant, yet is often mistaken as narcissism; ultimately making some of us feel as though we are stuck ticking off narcissistic qualities, yet not quite the whole list, while simultaneously experiencing a whole range of other closely related behaviors.
You are not crazy my friend.