One of the most common questions I get asked is “am I the narcissist or co-dependent?” because actually there are similarities with the behaviours and so I wanted to take a closer look and hopefully provide you with some answers.
I started off by doing a YouTube Live on 4th February 2018 with a live Q&A session to answer questions from the public. They may well have asked the exact question you’ve been wanting to ask so take a watch of the replay.
I hope from the replay you can see that you are not alone in having this fear. Being in a relationship with a narcissist can cause you to question everything, including your own personality. We also find ourselves behaving in ways which are totally out of character but which we feel we have to do in order to survive. This can then make us questions who we really are.
For many of us, we do share some similarities with the narcissist, and this can lead us to wonder “am I the narcissist or co-dependent?” Therefore we are going to take a closer look at the symptoms of co-dependency and hopefully help you to see the difference.
Symptoms of Co-dependency
- Low self esteem
Like the narcissist, a co-dependent will suffer with low self esteem and feelings of guilt and shame.Unlike the narcissist, a co-dependent will be painfully aware of this and turn their frustrations inwards (self harm, depression, suicide attempts)
The co-dependent will struggle to say no and will go out of their way to sacrifice their own needs in order to please someone else. They have to help someone else even to the point of forgetting about helping themselves.
- Poor boundaries
It is no surprise that someone who struggles to say no will have issues with setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. They can have disorganised boundaries which are confusing to others – being particularly rigid about certain things but incredibly open and having weak boundaries about something else.
Codependency is an addiction to trying to fix someone. It keeps the relationship dysfunctional
Co-dependents take things very personally. If you disagree with them, they take it as a personal slight and may become defensive.They can become obsessive if they think they have made a mistake.
Control helps a co-dependent feel secure and safe but also limits their ability to relax and share their feelings. They may have an addiction which helps with this (drugs, alcohol). They also need to control others and use their people-pleasing and care-taking skills to manipulate others.
- Dysfunctional communication
Co-dependent’s are scared to be honest about their feelings in case they upset someone and this can lead to dishonest and confusing communications. They often try to manipulate others through this fear.However they will deny they have a problem and instead keep going from one relationship to another without acknowledging their part in the issues.
- Inability to be intimate
Being intimate with someone means really opening yourself up and feeling vulnerable and a co-dependent hates feeling that way. Therefore they will be withdrawn and pull away to avoid getting too close and potentially judged and hurt.
As you can see, there are some similarities between narcissism and codependency. Therefore it order to really answer the question “Am I the narcissist or co-dependent?” we need to go a little deeper.
Co-dependent’s will often have an anxious or avoidant attachment style.
Co-dependent’s with a anxious attachment style tend to be self-critical and insecure. They seek approval and reassurance from others, yet this never relieves their self-doubt. In their relationships, deep-seated feelings that they are going to be rejected make them worried and not trusting. This drives them to act clingy and feel overly dependent on their partner. These people’s lives are not balanced: their insecurity leaves them turned against themselves and emotionally desperate in their relationships.
They rely heavily on their partner to validate their self-worth. Because they grew up insecure based on the inconsistent availability of their caregivers, they are “rejection-sensitive.” They anticipate rejection or abandonment and look for signs that their partner is losing interest.
However the avoidant attachment style co-dependent will often steer clear of emotional closeness in romantic relationships. They may seek out relationships and enjoy spending time with their partner, but they may become uncomfortable when relationships get too close. They may perceive their partners as “wanting too much” or being clinging when their partner’s express a desire to be more emotionally close.
Narcissists on the other hand have a disorganised attachment style with overtones of avoidant attachment. The adult with a disorganised pattern of attachment has difficulty viewing others without significant distortions. As children they had parents who frightened them. Often they’ve experienced chronic early maltreatment within a care-giving relationship and may be described as having significant dysfunction in their capacity to form emotionally meaningful relationships and attachments. This has resulted in their internal working model of how they view themselves as being inadequate. In relationships they rely upon someone else to keep these thoughts of inadequacy at bay and their primary motivation in life is to protect that true self by projecting a false sense of self and all inadequacies in the relationship onto the other person.
I think that statement “in relationships they rely upon someone else to keep these thoughts of inadequacy at bay” is exactly why narcissists and co-dependent’s enter into relationships with one another. The co-dependent NEEDS to feel needed and the narcissist NEEDS someone who will devote themselves to regulating their feelings and emotions by sacrificing their own.
I hope now, that by understanding the behaviours and underlying motivations for narcissism and co-dependency, you can confidently answer the question “Am I the Narcissist or Co-Dependent?”. However if you are still struggling and would like to know more please do book in for your free 30 minute Break Free session with Sarah.
Please do comment below with any questions and share your experiences if you are comfortable in doing so.