How do I tell a very old friend that she is selfish and self involved?

How do I tell a very old friend that she is selfish and self involved? She thinks she is a wonderful person who her friends adore, but she drives us all nuts and it’s a very one sided relationship.


In a universe of stars, it is rarely all about you.

02-13-15-20-29 / 02


Hello Diner. In another Fortune, I advised that one-sided romances should be ended early and directly. A friendship should be no different. But sometimes it is not that easy. A very old friend in your case may be a sister or brother in another Diner’s situation. Either way breaking things off would be hard. Therefore, I can help you understand possible reasons for her behavior, and you decide from there what would be best for you.

It sounds like your friend has narcissistic tendencies. I cannot diagnose her, but for simplicity I will use the word “narcissist.” Drs. Morf and Rhodewalt point out that a narcissist is very entitled and self-important, but he/she also seeks admiration from others to keep up this grandiose view. A narcissist finds it hard to feel for others; they often use their social circles as comparisons instead of as intimate, give-and-take friendships. The authors also note that the narcissist’s personality is usually off-putting, and that may lead to driving away the one thing he/she craves: admiration from others. It is a very vulnerable kind of personality, and you may have noticed your friend lashing out when she feels a real or imagined threat to her standing.

This type of personality comes from a very deep and old place in your friend’s life. Remember these important things:

You are not her therapist. Narcissists seek out complementary personalities that help them maintain their sense of superiority–people who will go out of their way to help make the narcissist feel important. Without training, helping will make the behavior worse.

Chastising her will not help. Narcissists have developed defenses that help them turn off threats to their fragile sense of importance. Tough love will fall on deaf ears.

It is not your fault. Your friend is in a constant state of survival since her self image is very fragile. She is effectively using you as fuel to keep herself going, and in survival conditions people look out for themselves.

She cannot see what is wrong. Since this is her personality, she does not have any other way of viewing the world. This kind of personality makes it hard to imagine what it is like in other people’s heads and to understand how her behavior is affecting other people.

The Internet has the full spectrum of ways to deal with someone who may be a narcissist. Advice range from accommodating that person’s behavior to confronting the person and forcing an inevitable separation. Be careful in your research.

I advise that you do not put yourself in a position to be used for someone else’s fragile sense of importance. Because this is your Fortune, you are the one who matters to me. That said, only you know of the intricacies of your relationship with your friend. She means no ill will, but she also cannot help herself. Remember to protect yourself. Remember to be fair to yourself. Good luck searching your soul, Diner.

 

Reference:

 

Morf, Carolyn C., Rhodewalt, Frederick (2001). Unraveling the paradoxes of narcissism: A dynamic self-regulatory processing model. Psychological Inquiry, Vol 12(4), 177-196. doi:10.1207/S15327965PLI1204_1