10 Ways Narcissists Steal Your Creative & Intellectual Fire (And How Coaching Can Help)

1. N’s are critical to an extreme 

When you try to write, think, teach, create after exposure to an N, your internal editor is a beast. It convinces you that your next sentence is the wrong one and your next project will fail. You freeze. Your mind races. You give up. Or you manage to push through that wall but then keep holding on to your work until it’s absolutely “perfect.” But, perfection is just an abstract goalpost the beast keeps moving. Maybe this is why you have a computer file full of unfinished projects? With coaching, you can learn how to tame and eventually vanquish the beast, which can translate into finishing projects more quickly and being happier with what you produce.

2.  N’s are volatile 

People often describe dealing with N’s as walking on eggshells – or through landmines. You tip-toe around, never knowing when the next explosion is coming. It’s no surprise that one of the most common side affects of being abused by an N is anxiety. (Do you startle at the slightest sound? Are your neck and shoulders often tense?) Survival means reacting quickly, and you take that habit into your work. “If I don’t do this now, I’ll never have the chance again!” Or, “Somebody else will do that amazing thing if I don’t act fast!” Or, “I should just take this low-paid/totally unsuitable/completely awful work because otherwise I’ll miss out!” But what helps you survive abuse can often hold you back professionally. When you learn to overcome that anxiety, your calmness increases, and with it your confidence. You begin to say “no” to the wrong things more often, leaving more space to say “yes” to the right ones. 

3.  N’s are paranoid

They convince you to worry – and to imagine the worst. They goad you into thinking, “That writer stole my idea.” Or, “My editor isn't responding to my emails because she hates my work.” Or, “My dept. chair is trying to get rid of me.” Techniques like meditation and acupuncture can help calm the worrying mind (and the anxious mind) that blocks the way to the sharp, clear, “aha!” thinking you need. 

4. N’s are talented at making you feel doomed 

They are even better at making you feel as if everything is your fault. When your work is rejected, you quickly run to “I’m a failure.” And worse, “I should just give up.” But, to paraphrase Freud, sometimes a rejection is just a rejection. And we can’t always know why. The editor’s budget ran out, your experience outranked the job you applied for, there were internal politics. By extracting the emotion from work, the structure of coaching helps remind you that “it’s just business.” That helps you to bounce back from rejection more quickly, put more work out there, and increase your chances for acceptance and success.

5.  N’s thrive on black-and-white thinking and they see the world in extremes 

You’re an intellectual, so you must be terrible at sports. You’re creative, so you can’t be practical. You write about literature, so you can't possibly understand science. You don’t praise me to the skies all the time, so you must hate me. All writers are crazy. All professors are out-of-touch. All editors are selfish. All publications are failing. When you adopt the N’s way of looking at the world, you miss the richness that makes a good story, powerful art, and nuanced analysis. Coaching helps you see the complexity in situations, people, and the world by helping you ask the right questions about the specific projects you’re pursuing.

6.  N’s make you feel unloved – and that no one will ever love you because you aren’t good enough.

That can sometimes mean that  when someone intelligent/successful/powerful offers to help you, you’re sure you’ve found the solution to all your problems. You might think, “My whole life is going to change! Everything will be different now! This is PERFECT!”  But then when it doesn’t and isn’t, you revert to feelings of self-doubt again, not realising the pressure we put on the situation helped make it go wrong. Coaching can help you see each good thing as a piece of your puzzle, not the whole puzzle. As your confidence improves, you naturally begin to make the next good thing happen on your own.

7.  N’s are beguiling and charming – at first

And when you have a personal N, you often attract a professional N. Before you become aware of the damaging patterns, you might find yourself excitedly thinking, “This editor/colleague/chair is SO nice.” Or, “I’ve found the person who really gets my work like no one else.” Or, “We just clicked and knew everything about each other right away! It’s so great to find a soul mate!” Only later, you find it’s just another narcissist feeding off of your energy again. Coaching teaches you how to spot – and avoid – an N while it helps you walk away from people who string you along by promising to help your career (just so long as you do what they want) but then ultimately never deliver.

8.  N’s seem like they have a lot of self-esteem but it’s really a cover for a very fragile self 

Long-term exposure to N’s can mean you pick up some of their worst traits; short-term leaves your ego cowering in the dark. This makes survivors very diverse animals when it comes to social media. At one end of the spectrum, some survivors feel unable ever to tell others about their achievements. At the other, some survivors shout it so loud and so often without nuance that it turns people off. Coaching helps you to feel genuinely confident, appreciate others as you promote yourself, collaborate rather than compete, and develop a social media voice that helps you get the likes and shares that give work a greater impact. 

9.  N’s demand your attention 

The Golden Rule of dealing with an N is to get out of the situation and stop engaging. This is difficult when your livelihood depends on giving your work to readers/reviewers/editors/students every day. The N conditions you to respond to all the people you invite to experience your work; the N trains you to justify, explain, apologise. Coaching can help you stop reading comments on online publications, student evals, book reviews, etc. It also teaches you coping skills when you do decide to engage selectively.  

10.  N’s are habitual and practiced liars

Cross a charmer with a damaged ego and you get the creature who has to create layers of pretence and stories within stories to not be found out. After even short-term exposure to an N, you can often find yourself unable to trust what agents, editors, colleagues, readers say. You end up questioning praise as much as you’re stung by rejection. You often feel unstable and unsure of where you stand with others. You might waste time contemplating someone’s ulterior motives. Coaching can help you stop caring about trying to find the “truth” and feel more stable so that you have more time to pursue the meaningful work you love.

Ready to start undoing the damage and becoming more productive and confident? Find out how coaching works.