Is It Possible To Change A Narcissist? The Honest Truth

Ever found yourself wondering if a narcissist in your life can truly change? It’s a question many people grapple with, especially those in relationships with someone displaying narcissistic traits. The honest answer is complex, with a mix of hope and realism. While change isn’t impossible, it’s certainly not easy and requires a very specific set of circumstances. Let’s delve into the factors that influence the potential for transformation in a narcissist.

1. You can’t fix a problem someone won’t admit exists.

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The first hurdle to change is recognizing there’s an issue. As Psychology Today explains, narcissists often lack self-awareness and see themselves as superior, making it difficult to accept they have flaws. Without this initial realization, change is unlikely. It’s crucial for them to genuinely acknowledge the negative impact their behavior has on themselves and the people around them.

2. A willingness to seek professional help is key.

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Narcissism is deeply rooted, often stemming from early childhood experiences. Overcoming it requires professional guidance and support. Therapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can help people identify and challenge unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors. However, many narcissists resist seeking help, making this step a major challenge.

3. It’s a long and arduous journey.

Even with the best intentions and professional support, change takes time and commitment. There will be setbacks and struggles along the way. Patience and understanding from loved ones are essential, but enabling behavior or making excuses will only hinder progress. It’s important to remember that change is a process, not an overnight transformation.

4. True change comes from within.

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External pressure or manipulation rarely leads to lasting change in a narcissist. Genuine motivation must come from within, driven by a desire for personal growth and healthier relationships. The person must be willing to take responsibility for their actions and put in the hard work required for change.

5. It’s not about “curing” narcissism.

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Narcissism is a personality disorder, not a simple behavior that can be easily corrected. While people can learn to manage their narcissistic tendencies and develop healthier coping mechanisms, they won’t suddenly become entirely different people. It’s more about modifying behavior and finding ways to interact with people in a less harmful way.

6. Empathy is a crucial ingredient.

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One of the hallmarks of narcissism is a lack of empathy. The ability to understand and share other people’s feelings is a must for healthy relationships. Developing empathy is a challenging but crucial aspect of change for narcissists. It involves actively listening to people, validating their emotions, and putting oneself in their shoes.

7. Building a support system is vital.

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Recovery from narcissistic tendencies is not a solo journey. Having a strong support system of friends, family, and professionals is essential. These people can provide encouragement, accountability, and guidance throughout the process. It’s also important for loved ones to seek support for themselves as they navigate this challenging situation.

8. Small steps can lead to significant changes.

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Don’t underestimate the power of incremental progress. While complete transformation may seem daunting, focusing on small, achievable goals can lead to significant changes over time. For example, a narcissist might start by practicing active listening or making a conscious effort to validate people’s feelings.

9. It’s about accepting imperfection.

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Even with change, a narcissist won’t become perfect. They may still have moments of self-centeredness or struggle with empathy. It’s important to have realistic expectations and accept that everyone has flaws. Change doesn’t mean erasing those flaws entirely, but rather managing them and minimizing their negative impact.

10. Forgiveness plays a role, but not at any cost.

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If a narcissist genuinely demonstrates change and takes responsibility for their past actions, forgiveness can be a powerful tool for healing. However, it’s crucial to prioritize your own well-being and not forgive blindly. Forgiveness should come from a place of understanding and acceptance, not from a sense of obligation or fear of abandonment.

11. Recognizing manipulation is crucial.

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As WebMD points out, narcissists are often skilled manipulators, making it difficult to distinguish genuine change from a ploy to regain control. Be wary of promises that seem too good to be true or behaviors that don’t align with words. Pay attention to actions over words and trust your gut instincts.

12. Change requires consistent effort.

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It’s not enough for a narcissist to make a few changes here and there. True transformation requires consistent effort and a commitment to personal growth. If you see a pattern of positive change that lasts over time, it’s a more reliable indicator of genuine transformation.

13. It’s about prioritizing your own well-being.

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Whether or not a narcissist changes, your well-being should always be your top priority. Don’t sacrifice your own happiness or mental health for the sake of someone else’s transformation. Set healthy boundaries, seek support, and make choices that prioritize your own needs.

14. Get some professional help for yourself.

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Dealing with a narcissist can be emotionally draining and confusing. Seeking guidance from a therapist or counselor can help you navigate this challenging situation. They can provide tools for coping with narcissistic behavior, setting healthy boundaries, and prioritizing your own well-being.

15. Remember, change is possible, but not guaranteed.

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While it’s possible for a narcissist to change, it’s not a given. It requires a complex combination of self-awareness, willingness to seek help, consistent effort, and genuine motivation. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. Focus on your own well-being and make choices that empower you.

Phoebe Mertens is a writer, speaker, and strategist who has helped dozens of female-founded and led companies reach success in areas such a finance, tech, science, and fashion. Her keen eye for detail and her innovative approach to modern womanhood makes her one of the most sought-out in her industry, and there's nothing she loves more than to see these companies shine.

With an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and features in Forbes and Fast Company she Phoebe has proven she knows her stuff. While she doesn't use social media, she does have a private Instagram just to look at pictures of cats.