Can a narcissist change? (7 signs they can)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Can a narcissist change?” and explore the various aspects of a narcissist and their personality to help understand the answer. 

Can a narcissist change?

Yes, a narcissist can change. A narcissist can change if they manifest the following 7 signs –

  • The narcissist is truly committed and willing to improve.
  • The narcissist takes personal accountability.
  • The narcissist sincerely listens to others’ feedback.
  • The narcissist pays better attention to others.
  • The narcissist shows better emotional regulation.
  • The narcissist genuinely apologises when slipping into old behavioural patterns.
  • The narcissist is consistent.

These 7 signs that show a narcissist can change will be discussed in further detail below after taking a deeper look at who a narcissist is. 

Who is a narcissist?

A Narcissist is a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental disorder in which persons have an exaggerated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, difficult relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. 

It is one of the numerous forms of personality disorders. But underneath this confident front hides weak self-esteem that is easily shattered by the least criticism.

A narcissistic personality disorder can create issues in a variety of aspects of life, including relationships, employment, school, and finances. 

When they aren’t offered the particular favours or adulation they feel they deserve, people with narcissistic personality disorder may be generally sad and disappointed. Others may not enjoy being around them since they find their connections unfulfilling.

Talk therapy (psychotherapy) is used to treat narcissistic personality disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder –

Narcissists are frequently characterised as arrogant, self-centred, demanding, and manipulative. However, the degree and scope of these symptoms might differ from person to person. Early adulthood is the onset of narcissistic personality disorder.

If you have five or more of the following characteristics, you may be labelled with narcissism:

  • A feeling of self-importance that is grandiose.
  • Preoccupation with ideals of limitless prosperity, power, brilliance, beauty, or love.
  • Belief that they are ‘special’ and unique, and that only other special or high-status people can understand them, or that they should interact with other exceptional or high-status individuals (or institutions).
  • Excessive adoration is required.
  • a feeling of being entitled (unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with their expectations).
  • Interpersonal approach that is exploitative (takes advantage of others to achieve their own ends).
  • Lack of empathy—a refusal to acknowledge or sympathise with other people’s feelings and needs.
  • Others’ envy or the notion that others are jealous of them.
  • Behaviours or attitudes that are arrogant or haughty.

What are these 7 signs that show a narcissist can change?

The narcissist is truly committed and willing to improve.

If a narcissist is truly committed and willing to improve, they can change. Some people may have a better understanding of their own actions and a stronger desire to improve. Unfortunately, there is a scarcity of data on whether (and how) narcissists evolve.

Unfortunately, there is no easy “yes” or “no” response to this question, and the answer may vary depending on where this individual lies on the narcissistic spectrum. “Anyone can change,” Ettensohn adds, “but, like with any personality disorder, the road to recovery is long and tough.”

While there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for narcissistic personality disorder, counselling with an experienced mental health professional can help a narcissist reflect on their feelings, learn about their background, and build new coping strategies. 

In terms of the empathy deficit, research reveals that some narcissists can improve their empathy capacity by practising taking on someone else’s perspective, according to Campbell.

The greatest impediment to a narcissist’s success is usually their own narcissism. Narcissists must be driven to change, and many aren’t because they can’t recognise or don’t care that they have a problem. 

They may not feel obliged to seek therapy until they have had a big personal catastrophe, such as a job loss, the loss of a significant relationship, or another very humiliating incident.

Even if a narcissist makes it into treatment, keeping them dedicated to the hard work that true and permanent transformation necessitates may be a mammoth challenge, as many would sooner quit than hurt their ego.

The narcissist takes personal accountability.

Narcissists generally avoid taking responsibility for anything that can cast them in an unfavourable way. They may minimise, justify, or outright lie about their actions at times. As a result, it’s a good indicator if they take personal responsibility for their choices.

Personal accountability necessitates a certain amount of vulnerability and humility. After all, when someone accepts responsibility, they are admitting to themselves and others that they made a mistake. 

If a narcissist can do it on a regular basis, it might indicate that they’re genuinely attempting to improve their humility.

The narcissist sincerely listens to others’ feedback.

Giving and accepting feedback is difficult for most individuals. Negative feedback, whether actual or perceived, causes narcissists to overreact. 

They may become verbally abusive, violent, passive-aggressive, or entirely withdrawn as a result of this. In certain circumstances, they will try to smear the reputations of others in order to get retribution.

So it’s a sign of progress if they truly listen to someone’s critique without becoming defensive. It indicates that they are receptive to what others have to offer. Rather than presuming they know what’s best, they’re considering what others have to say.

The narcissist pays better attention to others.

When it comes to making relationships with people, active listening is a must-have ability. Narcissists, on the other hand, frequently have one-sided relationships. They spend time with individuals who appreciate, prioritise, or validate their needs in some way.

As a result, transformation occurs once they can let go of their urge to be the centre of the universe. This begins with really caring about other people’s lives, making intelligent inquiries, and refraining from passing judgement or gossip. It’s a good indicator if you observe them putting up constant effort.

The narcissist shows better emotional regulation.

Many narcissists have emotional outbursts in response to stress or embarrassment. To get attention and secure their requirements, they may scream, cry, demand, or become angry. Self-destructive behaviours, such as substance abuse or self-harm, will be used by some.

As a result, incorporating greater stress management is critical to overcoming narcissism. It’s a positive indication if you observe increased attention and tolerance for unpleasant feelings. It suggests they’re attempting to become more tolerant of their sentiments, rather than reacting to them.

The narcissist genuinely apologises when slipping into old behavioural patterns.

Relapse is unavoidable with any mental health problem. Such regressions can be triggered by stress, changes in habit, and the appearance of other mental health problems. 

Narcissists who wish to change, on the other hand, are aware of their habits. As a result, they can easily detect when they are drifting into undesirable behaviours. As a consequence, they will swiftly apologise for their errors if they endeavour to change their ways.

The narcissist is consistent.

Consistency is crucial beyond anything else. It is insufficient if they strive to be a decent partner, friend, or parent for a week. There must be long-term growth and advancement attempts.

A narcissist who wants to change will understand that building trust and feeling safe takes time. If they have betrayed you in the past, they will understand the need of regaining your confidence. If you’re still careful, they won’t rush you or grow irritated.

What are 3 signs that show a narcissist cannot change?

  • When faced with problems such as having to be accountable, apologise, be honest, let their guard down, cope with hardships, and having a mirror held up to their dubious actions/mistakes, they deflect, act out more, blame others, get defensive, and so on. It is quite unlikely that there will be any change if difficult situations expose genuine colours of unavailability, a lack of empathy, dishonesty, and selfishness.
  • When they are confronted with the same situation/trigger that generated the pain, friction, drama, etc., their habits/patterns do not alter.
  • They won’t accept wrongdoing until the proof is unmistakable. However, the same thing keeps happening over and over again.

Conclusion – 

This blog post aimed to answer the question, “Can a narcissist change?” and reviewed the various aspects of a narcissist and the narcissistic personality disorder to help determine if a narcissist can change. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

Arzt, N. Can a Narcissist Change? (2021, November 3). Retrieved from https://www.choosingtherapy.com/can-a-narcissist-change/ 

Legg, T. J.  Can Narcissistic People Change? (2020, January 16). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/can-a-narcissist-change 

Krouse, L. Can a Narcissist Actually Change? Experts Explain Exactly What It Would Take. (2020, October 10). Retrieved from https://www.prevention.com/health/mental-health/a34331423/can-a-narcissist-change/

Sybertz, A. Can a Narcissist Change? Here’s What Experts Say. (2021, January 19). Retrieved from https://www.thehealthy.com/family/relationships/can-a-narcissist-change/

Can a narcissist ever really change and be in a real relationship with someone? Quora. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.quora.com/Can-a-narcissist-ever-really-change-and-be-in-a-real-relationship-with-someone

Perina, K. Can Narcissists Change? (2013, September 20). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/romance-redux/201309/can-narcissists-change

Wiley, C.  Once a Narcissist Always a Narcissist? (2020, January 17). Retrieved from https://www.talkspace.com/blog/narcissists-can-they-change/ 

Smith, M. & Robinson, L. Narcissistic Personality Disorder. (2021, October). Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-disorders/narcissistic-personality-disorder.htm

Adamo, N. CAN A NARCISSIST CHANGE? 3 SIGNS THAT HE/SHE WILL NEVER CHANGE. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://natashaadamo.com/can-a-narcissist-change/ 

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