9 underhanded techniques narcissists use to undermine your confidence

There is a fine line between tough love and emotional manipulation. The latter is a favorite tool of narcissists.

Narcissists have a knack for shaking your self-confidence, and they do it so subtly, you may not even realize it’s happening.

They are adept at using underhanded tactics to make you doubt yourself, all while maintaining an air of innocence. It’s not about helping you get better, it’s about keeping you off balance.

In this article, I will highlight 9 tactics narcissists use to undermine your self-confidence. I will be your guide in discovering them, so you can stand strong and protect your self-esteem.

1) Gas lighting
This is a favorite tactic of narcissists, and it’s as evil as it sounds.

Basically, gaslighting involves making you question your reality. Narcissists do this by denying things they have said or done, or by twisting your words and actions to fit their narrative.

It’s like a psychological magic trick – you start questioning your own memories, your own judgement. You begin to believe their version of reality instead of yours.

It’s an insidious technique that can slowly erode your self-confidence until you’re second-guessing every decision you make. Suddenly, you don’t trust yourself anymore.

Learning about this technique is the first step towards regaining your reality. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Trust your instincts and stick to your truth.

2) Constant criticism
I remember a time when I was constantly criticized for the smallest things.

The color of my shirt, the way I prepared my meal, even the way I laugh – it was all under the microscope. It was coming from someone I consider a close friend, someone whose opinion I care about.

At first, I ignored it, thinking they were just being honest. But then I realized it was more than that. It was a constant stream of negativity designed to undermine my self-confidence.

This is another common tactic used by narcissists. They will pick on your flaws, whether real or imagined, until you begin to believe that you are not good enough. It is a subtle and gradual process, but incredibly harmful.

The key is to recognize it for what it is – an attempt to control you by making you feel small. Once you see that, you can start to regain your self-esteem and remember that their criticism speaks more about them than it does about you.

3) Love bombing
Narcissists have a knack for making you feel like you’re the center of their world. In the early stages of a relationship, they shower you with attention, praise and affection. This is referred to as love bombing.

However, it is not a real emotion. It’s a calculated move that makes you rely on it for validation.

And here’s something interesting: it’s actually a technique commonly used in cults to recruit and control their members. The same principle applies in personal relationships with narcissists. They create emotional dependency, so you are less likely to challenge or leave them.

Recognizing love bombing can be difficult because it can feel good to be admired and cherished. But remember, a healthy relationship involves mutual respect and understanding, and neither party is constantly seeking validation from the other.

4) The silent treatment
Nothing can make you feel more rejected and unimportant than receiving the silent treatment from someone you care about.

Narcissists often use this tactic to punish you for perceived slights or disagreements.

It is a form of emotional manipulation that aims to make you feel guilty or anxious, which ultimately results in you asking for their approval or forgiveness.

5) Projection
Projection is a complex and sophisticated tactic that narcissists use to maintain control.

In simple terms, they project their insecurities and flaws onto you. If they feel guilty about something, they will accuse you of the same thing. It can be incredibly confusing and painful.

It’s an attempt to distract attention from their shortcomings by shifting the focus to you. This shift can leave you constantly on the defensive, questioning your actions and intentions.

6) Playing the victim

Narcissists have an uncanny ability to twist any situation so that they appear as a victim, regardless of the actual circumstances.

It’s a heartbreaking tactic because it can make you feel like the bad person even when you’re not. You may find yourself apologizing for things you didn’t do, or trying to make up for situations that weren’t your fault.

This is a manipulative strategy designed to make you feel guilty and throw you off balance. It’s a way for them to avoid responsibility and keep you in a state of self-doubt.

It’s not your job to fix someone else’s problems, especially when they refuse to acknowledge their role in creating those problems. You deserve to be in relationships of mutual respect and accountability.

7) Isolation
There was a time when I found myself increasingly isolated from my friends and family. Invitations to gatherings became less frequent, phone calls became shorter, and I felt more and more disconnected.

Looking back, I realize it was a carefully orchestrated move by the narcissist in my life. They have slowly but surely driven a wedge between me and my loved ones, making me more dependent on them for social interaction and emotional support.

Isolation is a classic tactic used by narcissists. By isolating you from others, they can exert more control and influence over you.

It’s important to maintain your social connections and get support when you need it, because a loving partner or friend encourages your relationships with others, not hinders them.

8) Triangulation
Narcissists are often experts at pitting people against each other, a tactic known as triangulation.

They may bring a third party into a situation, either to validate their own point of view or to undermine yours. It can be as subtle as casually pointing out how much someone else agrees with them, or as blatant as comparing you unfavorably to someone else.

This technique is designed to create insecurity and doubt. It can make you feel like you’re in competition for the narcissist’s approval, leaving you unbalanced and defensive.

9) Invalidate your feelings
Perhaps the most harmful tactic used by narcissists is to invalidate your feelings.

They dismiss your feelings, belittle your experiences, and belittle your fears. They may tell you that you are too sensitive, or that you are overreacting. They may also laugh at the serious issues you raise.

They often use this tactic to undermine your confidence in your perceptions and feelings. It makes you doubt your worth and can make you feel voiceless and unimportant.

If there’s one thing you can take away from this, let it be this: Your feelings are valid. Your experiences are real. You have the right to express yourself and be heard. Don’t let anyone make you feel otherwise.