How to spot a female narcissist.

Photographer: Jack Finnigan

Photographer: Jack Finnigan

Written by Chantell Fellows

Wow, what a word, ‘Narcissist’. When we think of a Narcissist we may think of someone who is vain, obsessed with their appearance, self-absorbed, someone who brags a lot, or someone who put’s other people down. I suppose you could even liken that sort of behaviour to that of a bully, right? Right!

Let me ask you this; are you confident reading the word ‘Narcissist’ and knowing what it is to be one? I am sure you have also heard the word ‘Psychopath’ before. But if you don’t know what a Narcissist or a Psychopath is, then chances are you may have encountered one, or even worse, been a victim to their manipulation, games or lies.


But what is a Female Narcissist?

In short: Someone who engages in relational aggression. This is a type of alternative aggression in which harm is caused by damaging someone’s relationships or social status

Since female narcissists engage in this type of relational aggression that teenage girls do, they can easily fly under the radar as the “mean girl”– something we all usually assume they will eventually grow out of. Research indicates that girls who use high levels of relational aggression also demonstrate very little empathy and care towards others. This suggests that behaviours like crossing boundaries, gossiping, exclusion and sabotaging relationships; may actually be more common among those with existing narcissistic traits. Unfortunately, society has just passed off this behaviour as ‘bitchy female traits’. This is not the case, and these shadow behaviours are not related to the feminine. I would like to be clear that these are narcissistic characteristics.

Female narcissists do not “grow out” of their childhood aggression; unfortunately, they evolve into even more effective manipulators in adulthood, using their tactics to serve their selfish agendas and feed their ‘ego’, which are usually pretty darn big!

I know what you’re thinking, how extreme are the terms Psychopath and Narcissist? Especially when you think of a female Psychopath or Narcissist. These seem to be such taboo words, that we assume only criminals could carry a label such as this. The truth is, these NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) personality types could very well be a boss, a colleague, your lawyer, your doctor, even your friend. They make great leaders and often feed on having control over others. Which is a way for them to feel in control of themselves.

There is very little awareness and support for understanding how this disorder manifests, particularly in women. Female NPD’s usually go undiagnosed compared to that of their male counterparts, who are usually outwardly aggressive in nature and more obvious in social settings. In fact, the few studies that have been conducted tell us that an estimated 17% of women fit the criteria of a psychopath (compared to 30% of men).

NPD has primarily been studied in men and very little research has examined whether it even exists in women. So here I am telling you, it does! And if you are or have been on the receiving end of one, your mental and emotional health may be at risk.

Thankfully, I can provide some insight into some helpful tips to bring some awareness to the characteristics of a female NPD and how to spot them.

Here are some signs of a Female Narcissist:

1.  A sadistic sense of pleasure at someone else’s expense

The female NPD obtains pleasure in bringing down others. She enjoys manipulating people and situations whilst watching joyfully as the formerly confident victim looks defeated, wounded and flat. She displays a lack of empathy when the conversation turns to more serious emotional matters, engaging in shallow or cruel responses that invalidate her victim’s reality. She cannot engage in healthy, emotionally fulfilling relationships (due to said lack of empathy and compassion), so she enjoys sabotaging the relationships and friendships of others for her own personal entertainment.

2.  She sabotages your friendships and relationships, stirring the pot within social groups or at work.

The female narcissist may use her affiliation with you to gain access to resources or social status, she will idealise you in the beginning of your friendship, admire you, praise you and show you off to gain your trust and even have you confide in her. NPD’s are attracted to empathetic people as they are usually the easiest to manipulate because of their big soft hearts! Empaths are the perfect target for such personalities to be used as a resource to obtain core objectives.

 3.  She is obsessed with her appearance, her friend’s appearances and how people serve her ego or make her look.

Everything boils down to superficiality and how people make her look and feel, usually on a surface level. In a social setting, it’s all about ‘looking good’ and whether there is something the people in her life can contribute to her appearance or status. Female narcissists also fit the ‘femme fatale’ stereotype quite well. Many of them are conventionally attractive and tend to use their sexuality to their advantage.

4.  A shameless disregard for boundaries and intimate relationships.

Keeping within typical narcissistic behaviour, the female narcissist is likely to have a posse of admirers – consisting of exes that never seem to go away, admirers who always seem to lurk in the background and complete strangers she ensnares into her web. It is also very common for female NPD’s to have affairs, lie or climb the social ladder to fulfil their superiority complex. They also don’t care who they step on to get there.

A female narcissist’s response to your boundaries will tell you all that you need to know. Most narcissists cannot stand to be ignored; they feel entitled to your constant attention, so they will continue to make persistent efforts until they get it or attempt to sabotage you if they fail.

If you’ve made it this far into the article, and are thinking “is all of this real?” the answer is yes, this is very real and this is how deep this shit goes! It’s so hard to truly grasp that people are actively moving along with such calculated motives and consciously manipulating. There is simply not enough awareness around it. It’s almost unfathomable, isn’t it?

In a nutshell, this article explains why female NPD’s are unaffected by the suffering of others; their lack of empathy runs deep within their neural architecture. In a sense, Narcissism is a disorder of the emotional circuitry of the brain, especially the part that deals with interpersonal emotions. Quite often not being able to feel what we call a ‘guilty conscious’.

Have you ever heard the term ‘Gas lighting’ before?

Gas lighting is a subtle form of manipulation and control. A tactic that most Narcissists use to manipulate their surroundings. A victim of gas lighting is usually misled with false information and forced to doubt what they know to be true, even about themselves. Victims end up doubting their own opinions, feelings and own memories of events, victims may doubt their perception, and often end up questioning their sanity. Over time, the gas lighter’s manipulations grow more complex and potent, making them difficult for the victim to avoid or explain.

Gas lighting can occur in personal or professional relationships and gas lighter’s target their victims by hitting them where it hurts: their sense of identity and self-worth.

If you are dealing with a female narcissist in a friendship, relationship or in a professional setting, they are not an easy person to deal with. I completely empathise with you and it’s important to be mindful on how to protect your energy from such people.

Don’t be blind sighted though, sometimes you may be ‘the chosen one’ and if you do find a female narcissist wanting to spend all of her time with you and is pressuring you to spend time with her constantly, it might be a good idea to minimise communication and slow things down. Beware; This is the part where she pulls you into her web before attempting to become your puppet master. If the relationship doesn’t feel organic and natural, then it probably isn’t. If it feels forced and a bit counter intuitive then I say, trust your intuition.

Taking a step back can be a great way to discourage an NPD (but because they have a hard time respecting boundaries be aware she might push herself onto you and those around you) - In addition, but pulling back, she may reveal her ‘true self’ more quickly, whether in a relationship or friendship. Basically, cutting off their air supply (which is their need to control) by taking that step back, you may find yourself saving a lot of time, energy and pain. 

Sarah Fritz