18 Signs A Narcissist’s Mask Is Slipping

18 Signs A Narcissist’s Mask Is Slipping

Narcissists spend a lot of time cultivating that charming, flawless persona, but they can’t keep the act up forever. Here’s how to spot the cracks in their mask – the subtle shifts in behavior that expose their true self. Protect yourself by knowing what to look for – you’ll save yourself a lot of time and energy.

1. The rage is real.

Narcissists might try to maintain a calm exterior, but when their mask slips, their true nature can show up in outbursts of anger, rage, or aggression. Be wary of sudden shifts in mood and explosive reactions to perceived slights. Remember, these outbursts are often their way of trying to intimidate and control you, not genuine expressions of how they’re feeling.

2. The blame game escalates.

woman looking at boyfriend side eye

Taking responsibility is rarely a narcissist’s strong suit. Watch for an increase in blame-shifting, deflection, and attempts to manipulate you into feeling responsible for their actions or emotions. Don’t fall victim to their gaslighting; trust your own memory and version of reality because it’s likely true.

3. Their lies are getting sloppy.

Couple have a conversation, while he's been ignored by his girlfriend

Narcissists love to weave elaborate webs of lies, but under pressure, their stories start to unravel. Inconsistencies, “forgotten” details, and outright BS become more frequent and expose the truth under all of their lies. Pay attention to inconsistencies in their stories and fact-check their claims whenever possible.

4. The pity party starts.

Conflict, upset and couple fighting on a sofa for toxic, cheating or relationship breakup. Upset, problem and frustrated young man and woman in an argument together in the living room of their home.

As their mask slips, narcissists may resort to playing the victim, seeking sympathy and attention through exaggerated tales of “bad luck” or perceived injustices. Don’t get sucked into their emotional manipulation; focus on their actions, not their words.

5. The grandiosity gets grating.

Bragging and self-importance are two mainstays of narcissism, but when the mask slips, their boasting can become more outlandish, self-centered, and ultimately off-putting. Don’t engage in their love of bigging themselves up. Establish healthy boundaries and prioritize your own self-worth.

6. The devaluation deepens.

Initially, the narcissist might shower you with affection, but as their mask slips, their true colors appear. Expect tons of criticism, put-downs, and attempts to belittle your achievements or self-worth. Make sure you recognize this as a tactic to control you, and remember your own strengths. Don’t let their negativity define you.

7. The gaslighting intensifies.

Distorting reality and making you question your own sanity is a common narcissistic tactic. When their mask slips, gaslighting might become more blatant as they attempt to control your perception and reality. Trust your gut and seek support from trusted individuals if you experience gaslighting.

8. The isolation tactics ramp up.

Narcissists often try to control your social circle and isolate you from loved ones. As their mask slips, they might become more possessive, restrict your interactions, or attempt to sow discord in your relationships. Maintain strong connections with your support system and don’t let them dictate your social life.

9. The empathy tank runs dry.

True empathy is rare in a narcissist’s world. When their mask slips, their inability to understand or care about your feelings becomes more evident, leaving you feeling emotionally neglected and unseen. Prioritize your emotional well-being and seek support from individuals who offer genuine empathy and care.

10. Their sense of entitlement becomes demanding.

Narcissists have an inflated sense of entitlement, but when their mask slips, their demands and expectations become outrageous and unreasonable. They might become more controlling and manipulative to get what they want. Set clear boundaries and don’t be afraid to say “no” to unreasonable demands.

11. The future fades.

Narcissists excel at charm and promises, but a slipping mask reveals their inability to follow through. Expect broken commitments, unfulfilled promises, and a disregard for your needs and expectations. Don’t rely on their empty promises; focus on their actions and hold them accountable.

12. Their jealousy becomes extremely possessive.

Narcissists often struggle with deep-seated insecurities, leading to possessiveness and jealousy. As their mask slips, their need to control you and monitor your every move can become suffocating and obsessive. Maintain healthy boundaries and don’t tolerate controlling behavior.

13. The grandiose fantasies crumble.

Narcissists live in a world of inflated self-importance. When their mask slips, their grandiose fantasies and unrealistic expectations can appear delusional and detached from reality. Don’t get caught up in their fantasy world; focus on reality and maintain healthy expectations.

14. The charm offensive fizzles out.

girl shouting in female friend's face

The initial charm that drew you in might start to feel forced and disingenuous. As their mask slips, their attempts to manipulate and control become more transparent and less effective. Trust your intuition and recognize when their charm feels manipulative rather than genuine.

15. Their sense of vulnerability is fleeting.

unhappy female friends sitting on couches

Narcissists rarely show true vulnerability, but a slipping mask might reveal glimpses of their insecurities and hidden fears. However, be cautious – this vulnerability can be a manipulation tactic to win your sympathy. It’s essential to remain vigilant and recognize when vulnerability is genuine versus a ploy to maintain control.

16. Their public persona shifts.

Angry Caucasian man and senior dad sit separate on couch ignore avoid talking after quarrel fight. Mad stubborn mature father and adult grown son have family misunderstanding. Generation gap concept.

The charming, successful persona they project to the world might not match their true behavior behind closed doors. Watch for inconsistencies between their public image and how they treat you in private. Pay attention to these discrepancies as they can provide valuable insight into their true character and intentions.

17. Their respect for your boundaries disappears.

Young couple arguing at home needs couples therapy

Narcissists struggle with respecting boundaries. As their mask slips, their disregard for your personal space, time, and emotional limits becomes more blatant and intrusive. It’s crucial to assert and reinforce your boundaries firmly as their behavior escalates, prioritizing your well-being and emotional safety.

18. Their apologies lack sincerity.

True remorse is rare for a narcissist. Their apologies, when they offer them, might feel insincere, self-serving, or accompanied by blame-shifting, making it difficult to believe their words. It’s important to trust your instincts and evaluate their actions alongside their apologies to discern their sincerity and genuine desire for positive change.

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Harper Stanley graduated from Eugene Lang College at The New School in NYC in 2006 with a degree in Media Studies and Literature and Critical Analysis. After graduating, she worked as an editorial assistant at The Atlantic before moving to the UK to work for the London Review of Books.

When she's not waxing poetic about literature, she's writing articles about dating, relationships, and other women's lifestyle topics to help make their lives better. While shocking, she really has somehow managed to avoid joining any social media apps — a fact she's slightly smug about.