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How to Stop Being a Narcissist: 12 Steps for Personal Change

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Individuals seeking personal growth may confront the challenge of addressing narcissistic traits within themselves. Acknowledging the existence of such traits is an essential first step toward transformation.

The process of mitigating narcissistic tendencies can be multifaceted, incorporating various strategies to foster a more balanced sense of self.

By prioritizing empathy and gratitude, a person may gradually transform their interactions and relationships into more fulfilling and less self-dominated experiences.

Understanding Narcissism

Female Narcissist

Before exploring how to alter narcissistic behaviors, it is essential to grasp what narcissism entails.

Narcissism is rooted in the psychological framework of an individual. It involves a grandiose sense of self-importance and a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

Narcissists may often exhibit behaviors of exploitation or take advantage of others to achieve their own ends. They may also display envy towards others or believe that others are envious of them.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a formal clinical diagnosis different from the broader term ‘narcissism.’

It is classified as a personality disorder by the DSM-5, characterized by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a need for admiration, and a distinct lack of empathy.

It’s been shown that prevalence rates of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in the United States range from 0% to 6.2% of the population.

Individuals with NPD may show signs of narcissism that greatly exceed typical narcissistic tendencies and can cause significant impairment in their social or occupational functioning. They may react to criticism with anger and may struggle to maintain healthy relationships.

12 Steps for Personal Change


The path to change for someone who exhibits narcissistic behaviors involves a deep exploration into one’s own psyche and a commitment to foster genuine connections with others.

This transformative process requires both an internal reorientation of self-perception and an external adjustment in how one relates to people.

1. Cultivating Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the critical first step in the process of change. One needs to recognize and accept their narcissistic traits before any meaningful change can occur. This involves introspection and a willingness to confront uncomfortable truths about oneself.

Practical strategies to enhance self-awareness include maintaining a daily journal to reflect on behaviors and feelings and seeking feedback from trusted friends or therapists.

Mindfulness practices such as meditation can also assist individuals in becoming more aware of their thoughts and actions in the moment.

2. Seeking Professional Therapy

Engaging with a therapist who specializes in narcissistic behavior can be crucial. They provide tailored psychotherapy to address narcissistic tendencies and may offer guidance on establishing boundaries and developing coping mechanisms.

For many, professional help is a foundational step in initiating meaningful change. By using online platforms like BetterHelp or directories like, individuals can connect with the right therapist to support their personal growth.

3. Developing Empathy and Compassion

Empathy and compassion are antidotes to narcissism, as they shift focus from the self to others. Developing these qualities involves actively trying to perceive and understand the emotions of others.

Individuals might practice empathy by engaging in active listening during conversations, truly focusing on the speaker without preparing a response.

To foster compassion, they can begin by offering kindness in small ways, volunteering, or simply imagining themselves in someone else’s situation.

Being open to vulnerability can further deepen these emotional skills, as it allows individuals to connect authentically with the experiences of others.

4. Implementing Healthy Habits

Healthy Habits

Developing healthy routines supports overall well-being and can mitigate narcissistic behavior. This can include:

  • Physical exercise to reduce stress
  • Adequate sleep to improve emotional regulation
  • Personal relationships enrichment through quality time with loved ones

Such habits foster a holistic approach to transforming one’s lifestyle.

5. Set Realistic Goals

Setting achievable targets with clear milestones can help narcissists understand their limitations.

Long-term goals encourage persistence, while short-term goals provide immediate, attainable objectives. This practice promotes self-discipline and reduces the capriciousness associated with narcissistic traits.

6. Challenge Negative Thoughts

Therapists often encourage dialogue that challenges a narcissist’s harmful thought patterns. They need to learn to:

  • Question their automatic thoughts
  • Replace self-aggrandizing ideas with more balanced perspectives

This strategy helps in reducing the distorted self-image and promotes trust in the feedback from others.

7. Challenging Entitlement and Grandiose Perceptions

Individuals must recognize and confront feelings of entitlement and grandiose perceptions.

Self-assessment exercises can be helpful, where one lists out instances where entitlement-based actions led to negative consequences.

Acknowledging the constructive role of critical feedback helps counterbalance the often admiration-seeking behavior of narcissistic individuals.

8. Cultivate Humility

Being intentional about humility can reshape one’s self-identity.

Engaging in conversations where they listen more than they speak, and acknowledging the achievements of others, are practical ways to practice humility. Regular reflection on gratitude can further reinforce this trait.

One can engage in role-playing exercises designed to simulate social interactions, focusing on the needs and interests of others.

9. Understanding and Respecting Boundaries

Respecting Boundaries

In any relationship, boundaries are vital. They are the guidelines that individuals establish to signify their comfort levels and expectations.

A person seeking to foster a healthier interpersonal dynamic should engage in conversations to understand a partner’s boundaries.

It isn’t just about accepting limits; it’s about appreciating them for the role they play in protecting and respecting another’s emotional well-being. Consistently respecting these boundaries contributes to a foundation of trust.

10. Learning to Communicate Effectively

Effective communication is the bedrock of all thriving relationships. This involves not only articulating one’s own thoughts and feelings clearly but also actively listening to the other person.

In the context of reframing narcissistic behaviors, one should consciously avoid tactics like love bombing, which is an attempt to influence a person through demonstrations of attention and affection.

They should instead focus on honest and straightforward conversation, where both individuals feel heard and validated.

11. Managing Anger and Frustration

Individuals may experience anger and frustration as intense, often disproportionate reactions to perceived slights or criticisms. They are encouraged to:

  • Identify Triggers: Recognize situations that provoke anger.
  • Develop Coping Strategies: Utilize calming techniques such as deep breathing or counting to ten before responding.

12. Maintaining Support Networks

A support network is critical in providing feedback, encouragement, and accountability. Individuals are encouraged to maintain connections with others who understand and support their journey towards change.

These support networks might include friends, family members, or support groups specifically for those struggling with personality disorders.

With determination, individuals can fortify their improvements and diminish the risk of reverting to previous harmful behaviors.

For those seeking personal growth away from narcissistic behavior, it is essential to remain open to the influence of this network and to embrace the ongoing journey of self-improvement.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible for a person with narcissistic tendencies to change and how?

Change is possible for individuals with narcissistic tendencies through consistent effort and professional guidance.

It often involves a long-term commitment to personal development and behavioral change strategies that focus on self-awareness and emotional regulation.

What strategies can I employ to improve empathy and reduce self-centered behavior?

Improving empathy can be achieved by practicing active listening and putting oneself in others’ shoes. Individuals may also work on being more mindful of others’ feelings and reacting appropriately to social cues.

How can I develop healthier relationships if I have narcissistic tendencies?

Developing healthier relationships involves respecting others’ boundaries, engaging in fair give-and-take, and showing genuine appreciation for others.

These behaviors can be fostered through interpersonal therapy and improving communication skills.

What are the warning signs that indicate narcissistic behavior might be improving?

Signs of improvement may include expressing genuine remorse for past actions, greater consideration for the feelings of others, and decreased defensiveness when receiving feedback.

It’s important to notice and acknowledge when one takes responsibility for their actions, signaling a shift towards less narcissistic behavior.


Ronningstam, E., & Weinberg, I. (2013). Narcissistic personality disorder: progress in recognition and treatment. Focus11(2), 167-177. Link.

Weinberg, I., & Ronningstam, E. (2020). Dos and don’ts in treatments of patients with narcissistic personality disorder. Journal of personality disorders34(Supplement), 122-142. Link.

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About the author

Eliana Galindo
Eliana is a dedicated psychologist from Colombia who has gained extensive experience and made significant contributions in child development, clinical psychology, and rehabilitation psychology. Her work as a rehabilitation psychologist with disabled children has been transformative and compassionate. In the child development field, she creates nurturing environments through assessments, interventions, and collaboration with families. In clinical psychology, she supports individuals overcoming mental health challenges with empathy and evidence-based approaches. Inspired by her experiences, Eliana is motivated to write about mental health, aiming to raise awareness and advocate for a compassionate and inclusive approach to well-being.

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