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We’ve all encountered narcissistic behavior at some point in our lives. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or coworker, we’ve seen the self-absorbed and manipulative tendencies that come with being a narcissist. But what happens when no one else is around to witness their behavior? It’s when they think no one is looking that narcissists can really let their unsettling traits shine through. In this article, we’ll explore 13 unsettling things narcissists do when they think no one is watching.

The Charismatic Mask

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Narcissists are known for their charming and charismatic personalities. They know how to win people over and make a great first impression. But when no one else is around, they may let their mask slip and reveal their true manipulative nature.

This manipulative nature often manifests itself in the form of gaslighting, belittling, or even blatant lying. Behind closed doors, they might rehearse conversations in front of the mirror, plotting how to maneuver the narrative to their advantage. It’s a stark contrast to the charismatic individual everyone knows and believes to be genuine.

Gaslighting

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Gaslighting is a well-known tactic used by narcissists to manipulate and control those around them. When they think no one is watching, narcissists may use gaslighting to make someone doubt their own perceptions and reality. This can be extremely unsettling for the victim, especially when they have no one to turn to for validation.

For instance, a narcissist might intentionally rearrange objects in a shared space and then accuse the other person of being forgetful or sloppy when they express confusion. This is a subtle but powerful method of making the other person question their own memory and perception. It’s a psychological game that narcissists play to assert dominance and control, one that can be incredibly disorienting and damaging for the person on the receiving end.

Emotional Manipulation

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Narcissists are experts at playing with people’s emotions. When they think no one is looking, they may use emotional manipulation to get what they want or make others feel guilty. They may twist situations to make themselves look like the victim or use emotional outbursts to control those around them.

This emotional manipulation often comes in the form of guilt trips or playing the victim. For example, a narcissist might intentionally cause a disagreement, only to later act hurt and misunderstood. They strategically play out these scenarios to evoke sympathy and manipulate the emotions of those around them. This method not only keeps the narcissist in a position of power but also keeps their victim in a constant state of emotional imbalance, making them easier to control.

Lying and Deception

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Narcissists have no problem lying and deceiving others to get what they want. When they think they are alone, they may let their lies run wild without fear of being caught. This can lead to a web of deceit that can be hard for anyone to untangle. They may fabricate whole scenarios or events, and when these lies are in danger of being exposed, they usually come up with more lies to cover their tracks. 

Remarkably, narcissists are often so persuasive and confident in their falsehoods that they can convince others, and sometimes even themselves, that their made-up stories are true. This repeated pattern of lying and deception serves their immediate needs and builds a façade of credibility and respectability, furthering their manipulative goals.

Self-Absorption

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It’s no secret that narcissists are incredibly self-absorbed. When alone, they may take this to the extreme, spending hours admiring themselves in front of the mirror or scrolling through their social media feeds for validation and attention.

Their obsession with their image extends to their online persona, where they carefully curate posts that paint them in the best light. It’s not uncommon for a narcissist to delete posts that didn’t get enough likes or comments, as they perceive it as a personal failure. They crave constant admiration and validation and will often go to great lengths to achieve it, even if it means exaggerating or lying about their achievements.

Belittling Others

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Narcissists often have a need to feel superior to others, and when they think no one is looking, they may belittle and put down those around them. This can be in the form of subtle comments or outright insults; all meant to make themselves feel better at the expense of others.

The belittling can extend to their close personal relationships, where they may constantly criticize or belittle their partners, friends, or family members, often under the guise of ‘jokes’ or ‘constructive criticism.’ It’s a way for narcissists to assert dominance, feel powerful, and mask their own insecurities. They will often rationalize their behavior, making it difficult for the victim to realize that they’re being emotionally manipulated.

Lack of Empathy

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Empathy is not a trait commonly found in narcissists. When alone, they may not see the need to pretend to care about others and may show a complete lack of empathy toward anyone else’s feelings or struggles.

This lack of empathy can be particularly unsettling as it reveals a narcissist’s true indifference towards the emotions and experiences of others. It’s not that they can’t understand what others are going through; it’s simply that they don’t care unless it serves their own interests. This can lead them to act in a way that is dismissive, cruel, or even damaging to others without feeling any remorse or guilt.

Control Freak

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Narcissists have a constant need for control, and when they think no one is watching, they may take this to the extreme. They may obsessively clean or organize their surroundings, making sure everything is in its place according to their standards. This can also extend to controlling the people around them and manipulating situations to go their way.

Disregard for Rules

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Narcissists believe they are above rules and may break them without hesitation when they think no one is looking. They have a sense of entitlement and may not see the consequences of their actions, leading them to push boundaries and act on impulse.

This blatant disregard for rules and boundaries is not merely limited to laws but also personal boundaries. Narcissists often invade others’ privacy, read their personal messages, or control their time without any hesitation. They believe their needs, wants, and desires are paramount, with little or zero consideration for the rights, feelings, or needs of others. Such dismissive behavior often leaves their victims feeling violated and disrespected.

Excessive Spending

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Narcissists often have a grandiose sense of self and may feel the need to maintain an image of wealth and luxury constantly. When alone, they may indulge in excessive spending on material possessions or experiences to fulfill their desire for admiration and superiority.

This lavish and often reckless spending behavior is a means to impress others and a tool to maintain their self-perceived elite status. Narcissists may secretly accumulate substantial debt or financial difficulties as they incessantly chase their extravagant lifestyle. Additionally, they may use their expensive purchases as a tool for manipulation, using them to gain control or exert power over others.

Seeking Approval

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Narcissists crave validation and approval from others, but when they think no one is looking, they may seek this approval from themselves. This can manifest as excessive self-praise or even talking to themselves positively and grandiosely.

In private, they may rehearse speeches or conversations, honing their charm and manipulation abilities. Their self-dialogue generally revolves around affirmations of their superiority or accomplishments, a strategy they use to boost their fragile ego. This ongoing reassurance of their worthiness helps them maintain their inflated self-image, further fueling their narcissistic behavior.

Lack of Self-Reflection

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Narcissists struggle with self-reflection, which requires them to acknowledge their flaws and shortcomings. When no one is watching, they may avoid any introspection and instead focus on maintaining their image of perfection.

Indeed, the concept of self-improvement is alien to most narcissists as it indirectly implies that they are less than perfect. Despite their outward confidence and bravado, narcissists are deeply averse to criticism. Hence, they cleverly avoid self-reflection, as it might expose their flaws, vulnerabilities, or mistakes.

Hypersensitivity to Criticism

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Narcissists have fragile egos and cannot handle any form of criticism. When no one is around, they may become hypersensitive to even the slightest perceived critique, causing them to lash out or become defensive.

In the solitude of their private moments, they may over-analyze and obsess over the smallest comments or actions, interpreting them as personal attacks or rejections. This can lead to prolonged bouts of self-righteous indignation or revenge plotting, consuming their thoughts and energy. They frequently react to their perceived slights with excessive anger, hostility, or petty vengeance, serving as a protective mechanism to guard their fragile self-esteem.

Conclusion

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The unsettling behaviors of narcissists can often go unnoticed, especially when they believe they are out of public view. From gaslighting, seeking excessive approval, avoiding self-reflection, engaging in manipulative behavior, and reacting hypersensitively to criticism – these are all manifestations of their deep-rooted insecurities and their constant need for admiration. 

Despite these challenging behaviors, it’s important to remember that understanding is the first step towards dealing with narcissism, whether it’s in oneself or others. Compassion, patience, and professional help can go a long way in managing these behaviors and fostering healthier relationships.

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