Are you surrounded by narcissists? As I write this blog, my heart is racing, ticking over at a rate I lived with on a daily basis, a level of anxiety and I didn’t really understand where it came from.  I look back now with absolute clarity – I know now my gut instinct and intuition was telling me something was wrong and I wasn’t listening.

Today, 25th November is White Ribbon Day.  White Ribbon is the UK’s leading charity engaging men and boys to end violence against women and girls.  Their mission is to prevent violence by addressing its root causes, its work is preventative, aiming to end violence before it starts.

If you believe that violence is only physical, here is the United Nation’s 1994 definition. “Violence against women” means “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”.

I’ve just finished Thomas Erickson’s book ‘Surrounded by Narcissists’ and inspiration from this book has inspired this blog…. Intrigued, please do keep reading….

So, if you’re wondering why my heart is racing… I’ve uncovered some of my journals from ten years ago.  It has provoked a level of anxiety I have not experienced since and will never repeat.  I’ve done a huge amount of learning and personal development since then and I almost cannot believe what I’m reading.  Strangely, my reflections from survival at the hands of a narcissist are written in the third person ‘she did this, she did that’ and maybe at the time I still wasn’t accepting my personal responsibility in the experiences and was disassociating myself from the pain and hurt.  My personal responsibility was that I should have GOT OUT immediately rather than being in an on/off relationship hoping things would get better, for 4 years – yes 4 years… what was I thinking – why did I not listen to my gut and instinct which at times, was screaming at me!  Let’s read on and find out…

The book ‘Surrounded by Narcissists.  Or, How to Stop Other People’s Egos Ruining Your Life’ by Thomas Erikson is brilliant and I wish had been around ten years ago!  Thomas describes the common characteristics of narcissism as the following:

  • Unrealistic, grandiose self-image
  • Incredibly self-centred
  • Speak only about themselves
  • Feeling special and unique
  • Arrogance and haughtiness
  • Quick to criticise and judge others
  • Highly sensitive to criticism
  • Think the rules don’t apply to them
  • Constant self-promotion
  • Feeling entitled to the best of everything
  • Value power and fame
  • Demand constant acknowledgment
  • Will respond with aggression when questioned
  • Deceitful and manipulative


There are 14 things listed here and I recall being at the hands of 9 of these – the criticism, judgement, deceit, and manipulation being the worst.  There was a constant sense of disappointment in who I was ‘you look and behave like a lesbian’ ‘I really hate you sometimes’ (apologies to my friends in same-sex marriages and relationships – I love you all – his words not mine).  I had a strong determination to be my very best so took these comments personally and wanted to make things better.

Here is our first big point – narcissists are brilliant at taking your beautiful qualities and turning them against you…. A narcissist will humiliate others to feel make them feel useless and incompetent – this way they will always be able to keep the upper hand.

A narcissist’s objective is to keep you isolated and alone, to keep you at a distance, to leave room for doubt.  One minute they will shower you with terms of endearment and the next, they’ll be completely dismissive.  I still have lovely cards and notes in my journals but also, notes of words detailing cruelty and manipulation.  On several occasions I suggested we took a holiday, to have the response ‘we’ll see’  leaving me dangling in a space of indecision and absolute control.  We never did go on holiday…

Here is our second big point which Thomas makes very clear in his book – take note on whether what the person says, really matches up with what they do.  It is what they are doing NOW which is key.

Thomas describes how narcissists often plan ahead – performing their role as Prince/Princess Charming, before they show their true colours.  They will charm you, your friends, your family and then they will spring…. For me, this happened overnight!  I note in my journal that kindness, intimacy and attentiveness changed within 24 hours and when I attempted a discussion I was told ‘I’ve done all the hard work for 6 months, now it is your turn’.

Here is our third big point – if it feels wrong, it is wrong.  Thomas describes that a relationship needs a whole number of things in order to function and some of the non-negotiable ones are trust and confidence.  If you can’t trust your partner, it’s not going to work out.  Trust between two adults is the determining factor that gives people the courage to let their guard down and to be themselves.  It gives them the courage to bring up difficult issues and the courage to ask for help.  It gives you the courage to be vulnerable and whenever I was vulnerable, that was turned against me ’you’re too sensitive’ ‘I want you to be tougher’.  Thomas articulates clearly that trust has a limited shelf life.  You can’t trust someone on how they acted 2 years ago.  It is how they acted last week or last night.  It is the person they’ve become you need to focus on.  Trust has to be earned anew every day.  It has a limited shelf life.  Once it expires, the relationship is over.

Here is my fourth and biggest piece of learning – trust your intuition and act upon it.  You have to listen to your emotions.  I didn’t listen, didn’t draw the line, and let the disrespect and cruelty happen over and over.  I allowed the character assassination to continue which in turn fulfilled my lack of self-worth and reinforced my limiting belief I was not good enough.

My inactivity was a choice, a bad choice and thankfully I can look back at the writing in my journal, and now I have finished this blog, I can reassure you I am a self-assured businesswoman, with high levels of self-worth and self-belief.  I have the courage of my convictions, I trust myself, and make decisions based on gut instinct, intuition, facts, and evidence – I flex around all of these.  I have regular coaching and listen to books which maintain my strength of purpose and self-worth.  All of these things aren’t easy and facing up to a narcissist definitely sits in the ‘difficult box’!

All those years ago when I was told ‘motorbikes aren’t for girls’ I can happily say I’ve ridden two and a half thousand miles this summer around Portugal on an advanced riders tour – this girl can do everything she chooses to do and not what she is told!

So, on White Ribbon Day, I’ll leave you with the words of Thomas Erickson ‘If it doesn’t feel good, it isn’t good… you owe it to yourself to do something about it’.