How Narcissists Instill Doubt In Victims

Making someone doubt themselves is a very effective way to gain control over that person.  After all, if someone thinks they are stupid, incapable or even crazy, logic would dictate that they believe their thoughts, feelings, wants & ideas aren’t worth listening to.  It’s only natural a person who feels that way would turn to someone else to tell them what to do, think & feel.  It’s no wonder narcissists do their level best to instill serious doubts in their victims.

Narcissists use many tactics for this nefarious purpose, & I will describe a few here today.  Clearly this is NOT an all inclusive list, but it does describe some common tactics.

One tactic is constant criticism.  A victim’s looks, job, home, significant other, car, pets & more are fair game.  Nothing is good enough for the narcissist’s high standards.  Overt narcissists are quite blunt with this verbal abuse, saying things like, “You’re fat” for example.  Covert narcissists however are much more subtle & crafty.  Rather than tell their victim that they think she’s fat, they will imply it through other ways.  They may say things like, “Why don’t you have the salad for lunch instead of that sandwich?  It has fewer calories,” or, “You don’t really think you need that second cookie, do you?”  These subtly shaming statements don’t use the word fat, but they will make the victim suddenly aware of any extra weight he or she carries.  As a bonus for the narcissist, if the victim confronts the narcissist for calling her fat, the narcissist can say, “I never said that!”  This scenario shuts victims down quickly because it’s true.  The word wasn’t used.  Victims will then think maybe they are oversensitive or reading too much into what the narcissist said.

Along those lines is another common tactic narcissists use: telling their victims that they’re oversensitive, insecure, stupid or even crazy.  Again, they don’t always say those exact words, but they imply them at least.  This instills a lot of doubt in victims by making them doubt their intelligence & even mental stability.

Do you remember how the serpent got Eve to bite the apple in the garden of Eden?  He said, “Did God really say that?” to make her doubt she really knew what God said.  Narcissists use a similar tactic with their victims.  They may say things like, “Do you really think that’s a good idea?”  or, “Are you sure you can do that?”  Such phrases can instill doubts in even the most confident person.

If a victim does something in spite of the doubts at this point, they will either fail or succeed.  If the victim fails, the narcissist probably will gloat, obviously very glad that it went badly.  They will remind the victim they thought it was a bad idea or say that they knew the victim was incapable of handling that task.

If the task goes well however, the narcissist most likely will handle it one of three ways.  Either he or she will ignore the success completely, compare it unfavorably to someone who did it better or claim credit for that success.  Ignoring is when they refuse to acknowledge it, often looking disinterested at the excitement the victim feels or even change the topic of conversation.   Comparing it unfavorably to someone else is common when the victim has siblings & the narcissist is a parent.  The narcissistic parent sings the praises of one child to another to stir up strife between them.  Interestingly, the “good” child is later criticized to his or her face while the “bad” child that was originally criticized is now praised to the “good” child.  Lastly, the narcissist may claim to be the reason for the success of the victim.  They claim to have pushed the victim to do this thing, encouraged them or in the case of narcissistic parents, they claim to be where their child got this ability.

If you are experiencing these behaviors or have in the past, please know that the narcissist only instilled this doubt in you for the purpose of abusing you, not because you are all of the awful things he or she said you were!  Narcissists are miserable people & misery loves company.  They want others to be as miserable as they are, plus they want to control others.  The reasons they tear people down truly have nothing to do with any victim beyond that desire to hurt & control or with the truth.



Filed under Narcissism

11 responses to “How Narcissists Instill Doubt In Victims

  1. Robin Guerra

    Reading this brings such anxiety. Its everywhere!

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. Cynthia, it is truly part of the narcissist playbook. Diminish others and elevate yourself. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Linda Lee Adams/Lady Quixote

    This is what my mother always did. Everything bad about me, she magnified. Anything good, she ignored, dismissed, or twisted into something bad. And then I was ‘too sensitive’ if I reacted in any way.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lisa

    Thank you for this, and your post so accurate, it gave me chills.

    As I read, I couldn’t believe how much this described my mother. I checked off about every item on the list: incessant criticism, subtle put-downs, unfair comparisons, shifting goal posts. The gaslighting was intense, too. I’d call her out on her behavior only for her to deny what I clearly recalled her saying.

    But the worst part was how she fooled everyone into believing she walked on air. She missed her calling as an actress. Even today, I swear I’m the only one who knows the woman behind the mask. And after seeing what I’ve seen, I know why she wears the mask.

    Thank you for this.


  5. ibikenyc

    Me: “The sky is blue.”
    Him: “If you SAY so. . . “


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