A strong indication of personal maturation is the willingness, the eagerness to learn and grow. Each stage in life offers the potential to add to lessons learned in the past. With age, your experiences become a powerful teaching device, and as you remain open to the lessons in front of you, good things can happen.
As a contrast, a defining feature of narcissism is smug self-satisfaction. Narcissists have concluded (contrary to much evidence) that they are the ones who have figured life out. And making matters worse, they are not bashful in superimposing their poorly conceived ideas upon you. Often they are blatant (overt) in their impositions, but they can also be sneaky (covert) with those impositions. Either way, they convey the belief that they have no need to change and adjust.
Instead, you’d be better off if you would just acquiesce to their presumed enlightenment.
Predictably, the narcissist’s resistance to learning leads to traits like stubbornness, close-mindedness, and illogic, yet when you call them out on such tendencies, inevitably they remind you that you are the ill-informed one.
Narcissists rarely recognize their own problems that seem quite obvious to others. You won’t hear them say “I need help.” They are clueless (or they just don’t care) regarding the negative impact they have on relationships. In their minds, when adjustments are necessary, it is you who needs to conform to them.
Knowing this, it becomes your task to recognize what you are dealing with. Narcissists want you to accept the blame for their lack of growth, but when that happens, you can remind yourself that most of their relationship problems are set up by their own inner stagnation.
To that effect, let’s look at eight of the most common signs that narcissists will not grow.
- Not just dismissing your concerns, but ridiculing them. Rather than honoring you by hearing and considering your perspectives, narcissists are prone to thinking something like: “That’s just stupid,” or “Where did you come up with an idea like that?”
- An inflated sense of their own uniqueness. Each person has the potential to act and think in ways that can benefit those connected with them. It’s part of the beauty of relationship growth. Narcissists, however, have such an inflated ego that they conclude there is little need to hear from you since they are the gold standard. “Clearly, you don’t see things, well, like I do.”
- A deep habit of blame-shifting. Healthy people recognize that mistakes or problematic situations represent an opportunity for insight. They are willing to take a personal inventory regarding what does and does not add to their quality of life. This in in direct contrast to the narcissist whose primary reaction to problems is to find someone to blame.
- A chronic need to control. Having the freedom to live according to one’s own principles and priorities is a natural desire for anyone. Narcissists, however, insist that they can and should superimpose their ways of living and thinking onto you. This greatly inhibits the give-and-take communication so necessary for relationship maturation.
- Seeks out only people who will prop them up psychologically. Naturally, we gravitate toward those who share similar mannerisms and interests, but growing people also have a willingness to ponder ideas represented by other traditions. Narcissists, however, fear diversity. In their insecurity, they cannot listen and learn if a person is too “other.”
- Not just skeptical, but cynical. Part of the growth process requires the ability to weigh ideas and experiences with reason and insight. That involves healthy skepticism. Narcissists, however, will weigh others’ ideas and experiences with a strongly negative and pessimistic slant. That is cynicism and it also prompts ongoing invalidation.
- Repeating the same old maladaptive behaviors. The longer you engage with narcissists, the more you see the same dysfunctions in play. Illustrations include poorly managed anger, insensitivities toward you, immature conflict resolution skills, absurd defensiveness, and more. Amazingly, when it becomes clear that those patterns are harmful, they will then remind you it is your fault, not theirs.
- Creating drama, then blaming you for not responding well. Instead of growth, narcissists are interested in winning. Often they will be argumentative or non-cooperative, knowing it will bring out the worst in you. They when you react poorly, it allows them to point the accusing finger at you, reminding you that you are the cause of their problems.
One major question to ask yourself is: When narcissists reveal that they have no need to change, but they make you out to be the problem, do you unwittingly participate in their dysfunction? Do you argue? Plead your case to no avail? Fall apart?
Remind yourself that narcissists’ unwillingness to change is entrenched. It is part of what makes a narcissist a narcissist. They cannot say: “I have my own blind spots and mistakes in need of examination.” There is virtually nothing you can say or do that will prompt them to think: “I’d really like to hear from you so I can learn and grow.”
That being the case, your task is to apply your commitment to growth by reminding yourself: “I’ll use my insight to respond wisely to their lack of wisdom.”
~Les Carter, Ph.D.
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