THE BLOG

Is Your Need for Attention Ruining Everyone Else's Life?

08/01/2012 01:01 pm ET | Updated Oct 01, 2012
  • Lisa Haisha Creator of Transformative Therapy, SoulBlazing and Host of The Legacy Series

Identify someone in your life who is strong, unique, willful, and in charge, and you're probably thinking of a narcissist -- one of the eight "impostors" I've identified that manifest in people's lives. The narcissist is arguably the most noticeable in the impostor family because it doesn't just expect the spotlight -- this impostor demands it.

Since I work as a celebrity life coach in Hollywood, I run into narcissists every day. In fact, there's no small number of narcissists among celebrities, as pointed out by University of Southern California's Drew Pinsky and S. Mark Young in a 2006 study on celebrity narcissism. They found that celebrities are notably more prone to admiring themselves than the average Dick and Jane -- women celebrities even more so. But that doesn't mean the "narcissist impostor" can't show up elsewhere. It can... and it does!

The "Narcissist" in Action

Here's what a typical "narcissist impostor" looks like:

  • The narcissist often occurs when someone grew up in a household where other siblings received more attention, perhaps because the sibling was often sick or in trouble.
  • "Narcissists" feel that the focus was always on someone else, so now it's their turn to have the spotlight.
  • Often strong-willed and outspoken, they tend to disassociate from their own flaws and are intense people.
  • Their singular goal is for perfection. As such, they are often hypercritical of others and believe that other people are beneath them in both ability and talent.
  • They often possess an overbearing sense of entitlement and a lack of empathy.

Interestingly, despite any rudeness or lack of understanding toward others, the narcissist has a compelling power to attract people. And while the narcissist typically has sex appeal, it doesn't singularly rely on that to gain attention. This "impostor" often puts both its appetite and sphere of influence on display for others to witness. They are masters at indulging in the cravings most people have but don't dare act on.

On the outside, this "impostor" has certain qualities many people aspire to, because people often confuse the narcissist's self-inflation with confidence. The narcissist lives to prove it is better than others, elevating its stature and position within any career field as a means of reinforcing its own self-worth. One of the repercussions is the narcissist's inevitable dissatisfaction once a situation or a romantic partner has been "conquered" or lost their novelty.

How to Deal With the "Narcissist Impostor"

"Narcissists" are everywhere -- you can't miss them! If you find yourself entangled with one, here are some suggestions for protecting yourself:

  • If you're in a relationship with a narcissist and they are being abusive, you will not win. Put on your gym shoes and run! Seek out friends, counseling, or a safe house if appropriate. Don't expect them to change -- they won't.
  • If you know someone who is a chronic narcissist but on the path to excellence, have a conversation with them about how their actions make you feel. Sometimes that can be sufficient. If not, quit or separate from them. Just remember why you're making that decision and don't resent them if they go on to achieve greatness.
  • There are people whose "wounded inner child" parades around as a narcissist. In these cases, you're also dealing with a fractured, sensitive person. There's no point in trying to put them down. Just politely listen and move on.
  • Also, if you find yourself in a relationship with a narcissist, know that they prey on the "wounded inner child" impostor. They know they can't control a "healthy" person. They seek out the weak, needy and helpless. If you're a "wounded inner child" being manipulated by a narcissist, it's time for you to stand your own and take responsibility for your own life. Remember that no one can rescue you but you.

Love Yourself... And Others

There's no denying that the narcissist's preoccupation with attention and its overinflated sense of self is particularly pervasive in society today, especially among the country's youth. Thanks to reality television promoting mediocrity as success, we have an entire generation of children who aspire to fame with no specific career in mind.

If you're tired of existing within a limited sphere inhabited by only one -- yourself -- rest assured that this "impostor" can learn to make room for others. By recognizing the narcissist and keeping the "impostor" in its place, you can share the spotlight and live a full life with the enjoyable company of others.

EXERCISE: Selflessness Boot Camp

If you struggle with the "narcissist impostor," try out this exercise. When my clients have stuck with it through the challenges and their own resistance, they've seen dramatic shifts in their lives.

For a month, spend 2-3 hours each week volunteering or doing some kind of charity work. If you don't know which non-profit or charitable organizations are in your area, VolunteerMatch.org and Idealist.org are good places to start your search.

Now here's the kicker -- don't tell anyone. Not a peep! Dedicate yourself to service, forsaking glory and the admiration of your peers. I encourage you to journal about the experience, which can help relieve some of the pressure of wanting to tell someone about it. What was your experience like volunteering? What did it feel like not telling people about your service?

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About the "Impostors"

The "impostors" are the cast of characters that star in Lisa Haisha's Soul Blazing. They could be a metaphor for the "masks" that you wear, especially when confronted with something that you fear. Sometimes they're the voice in your head telling you that you're not good enough or reiterating negative conversations or experiences from your past that keep you stuck, like quicksand that keeps you from picking yourself up. These pesky devils are the saboteurs and squatters that live in the temple of your Authentic Soul, and keep you from shining bright!

There are eight Impostors in this cast, and they are:

• The Wounded Inner Child
• The Over Thinker
• The Counselor
• The Sex God(dess)
• The Narcissist
• The Philosopher
• The Clown
• The Fixer

Find out which "impostor" is residing within you by taking this free quiz.