Growing up you were taught to love your family members without question. “Blood’s thicker than water”, you heard your parents say every time you and your sister bickered and argued about something irrelevant and insignificant. “But, I have a narcissistic sister!”, you wanted to scream.
You never did, because you were never sure whether your concerns were valid. Whether you were making things up and putting a HUGE burden on your sister’s back. Whether she was displaying narcissistic behavior or simply being herself – a psychopath, a sociopath, and every other path!
You were never sure whether the put-downs and the let-downs were a part of who she was as a person. Or a part of the narcissistic abuse she’s been displaying ever since the two of you were children.
“Mommy, Jennifer broke your vase! I would never do that to you, I love you!”, she screamed as she was holding the broken pieces together. You should’ve known then and there she was throwing you under the bus. But, you were taught to love your family members without question.
“Jennifer, you’re being silly! I would never take your things without asking first, you’re imagining things.” You should‘ve known she was gaslighting you every time you caught her doing something she shouldn’t be doing. But, you were taught to love your family member without question.
Now that you think about it, you could have had a narcissistic mother without ever knowing. You could have had narcissistic parents or narcissistic grandparents. You could have had an entire narcissistic family and you wouldn’t have batted an eye.
But, you were taught to love your family members without question. What does narcissism mean? What does a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) entail? And, how can you tell whether you have a narcissistic sister?
What does narcissism mean?
When you think of the word “narcissism“ or “narcissist“, your mind doesn’t necessarily go straight to a person that’s battling mental health issues and an NPD diagnosis.
More times than not, you remember your friend Stacy who can’t stop posting way too many selfies on her Insta stories (and her Insta feed!). You remember your first date escapades with Simons and Chads of the world who can’t stop talking about themselves every second of the date.
You remember your sister who can’t stop trying to one-up you every time you do something that steals her thunder and puts you in the center of attention, for a change. These examples could be seen as narcissistic traits, but they’re not necessarily what narcissism’s about.
So, who’s a true narcissist? How can you recognize whether someone has an NPD without committing the crime of stealing their medical records? Obviously, every personality disorder has varying degrees and layers (that’s why we say narcissism falls on a spectrum).
But, you can recognize a narcissist through scrupulous observation and pattern recognition. People who have an NPD believe that they’re better than other people in some way. And, they‘re not afraid to share that with the world.
They want to be recognized and treated as superior because they‘re entrapped within the sense of entitlement and sense of self. They seek validation but display a lack of empathy whenever they’re faced with a disturbed family dynamic.
And, they stand out in the crowd because they’re different. Which brings us back to the original question “How do you know whether you have a narcissistic sister or a narcissistic sibling?” We’ve got your back with these subtle signs that can help you figure out what’s going on.
How to recognize a narcissistic sister? (6 subtle signs)
Here’s the thing, you don’t actually have to know the criteria for diagnosing someone with an NPD to figure out whether or not your sister’s showing narcissistic traits and tendencies. Quite on the contrary, trying to diagnose your own sibling can leave you feeling confused and ashamed.
But (given that you don’t have a qualified expert on hand), you can always look for signs of narcissistic behavior (aka bad behavior) to help you understand what you’re dealing with.
You don’t want to mistake a toxic relationship with your sister for a simple case of sibling rivalry. You don’t want to spend another year or two walking on eggshells every time your sister comes over because you’re terrified of her mental, physical, and verbal abuse.
And trust me, you don’t want to become her narcissistic supply because you’re horrified of telling her you’re done being her punching bag. So, save your self-esteem and throw a glance at these subtle signs of narcissistic behavior your sister might display.
1. She’s the center of attention
“Jennifer, don’t be selfish! Just because you’re the bride doesn’t mean you’re the only one that gets to wear white! You know that white looks STUNNING on me, do you really want me to look bad at your own wedding?!”
Seriously, how can you not let your narcissistic sister be the center of attention at your own wedding? Well, when you’re dealing with a narcissistic sibling you might spend a lot of your time trying to cope with their desire to be better than you at everything you do.
That‘s because narcissists feed off of other people’s admiration and obsession with them. They’re likely to snatch your graduation party to talk about how much they helped you get to where you are.
They don‘t shy away from making use of your engagement party to announce what they‘ve been up to when it comes to their love life. And, they don‘t even think twice about making your own birthday celebration about themselves. “Oh, trust me, Jennifer couldn’t have made it without me!”
So, can you recognize your sister in any of these instances?
2. She’s entitled
She’s the golden child and you’re the doormat. She somehow managed to convince EVERYONE around you (your family, your friends, even your dog) that she’s the superior sibling and that she deserves to be treated as such.
What do we mean by that? For instance, she demands the best steak at your family’s Sunday barbecue and throws a tantrum when she doesn’t get what she wants. She doesn’t really care that she arrived late or that somebody else had already taken the one she wanted.
Or she demands that she goes to a more expensive university because she’s the older sister, and she’s smarter, and she’s more productive. Or she even demands a bigger part of the inheritance because of whatever reasons she could come up with on the spot.
Growing up, she’s always been the one that HAD to have everything she wanted. She had to have prettier notebooks for school, bigger slices of the pizza, and the sweetest strawberries out of the bunch. She’s always been a narcissistic child – talk about a healthy sibling relationship, right!?
3. She lacks empathy
Narcissists typically don‘t feel bad for other people because they aren‘t capable of putting themselves in someone else’s shoes. They aren‘t capable of feeling bad because someone else seems to be going through something traumatic.
Narcissists typically only care about themselves – which can turn into a problem that concerns everyone. Your narcissistic sister (given that she’s actually narcissistic and not simply rude) can fake feeling empathetic when she figures out that’s something that can benefit her.
She can fake feeling empathetic when she’s trying to get something from you. A simple “I’m so sorry your flight got canceled, can I do anything to make you feel better?” can easily be followed by “Now that you’re not going anywhere you can help me clean my house, right?”
That’s a pretty harmless example of what most narcissists are capable of doing. They take notice of what other people are saying when they’re showing empathy. They mirror their words to appear righteous and selfless. And they sure don’t care about anyone’s well-being but their own.
4. She’s cruel
There isn‘t an easy way of saying this. More times than not, narcissists are beaming with their bitterness, cruel intentions, and lies. And, your narcissistic sister being one of them, she might have stepped on your toes on more than one occasion.
Give it a thought – has she ever lied her way out of getting in trouble with your parents only to throw you under the bus? Has she ever made things up about you with the sole intention of smearing your name?
And has she ever pushed you to hang out with other toxic people because she made you think you didn’t deserve better? We’ve got some news for you because we’re pretty sure that’s a tell-tale sign your sister’s a covert narcissist.
We wouldn’t even be surprised to see her fake a mental illness (and manifested one, apparently) to have everyone feel sorry for her. And (food for thought) for the sole purpose of having everyone on her side on the off chance that you ever confront her about her behavior.
5. She’s a gaslighter
“Come on, Jennifer! You know the only reason I told you that you looked fat was that I love you and I don’t want you to become overweight! You’re just trying to paint me as the bad guy, like always!” And sure, there are times when you would want your sibling to give you a reality check.
But, there are also times when your siblings purposefully tear you down and make you feel not good enough. There are times when your siblings hit you with passive-aggressive comments or give you the silent treatment.
There are times when your siblings refuse to admit their mistakes. They make you feel like you misread and misinterpreted their words. But, you can’t look at these times as the perfect example of a healthy family dynamic when they’re clearly the opposite.
Your narcissistic sister wants everyone to see her as the winner, as the person that has her life together, that has everything under control. And, she’s completely aware she would destroy that image the moment that someone figured out the way she treats you and the rest of the family.
So, she gaslights you into thinking there’s something wrong with you.
6. She’s exhausting to deal with
When you feel like you need a getaway from your sister because she’s EXTREMELY exhausting to deal with, that’s when you know something’s wrong.
Sure, we have our days when we’re annoying and controlling and we’re driving everyone around us crazy. But, we don’t (at least we try not to) make other people feel like they’ve finished a marathon after talking to us for more than ten minutes.
Dealing with narcissists can be difficult because they’re entitled, demanding, and egocentric. God, just imagine the strength you would need to deal with someone who never wants to hear the other side of the story, see things from the other perspective, and never wants to do anything that‘s “beneath“ them.
And, when you find examples of your sibling‘s behavior written within these paragraphs, that‘s when you know you‘re dealing with a narcissistic sister.
How to deal with a narcissistic sister? (6 trustworthy tips)
Here comes the problem. When we’re dealing with people who are displaying narcissistic tendencies we’re inclined to remove ourselves from their vicinity. We’re disposed to walk away and never look back because we‘re not comfortable with being in their presence.
But, what do we do when we‘re not able to walk away? What do we do when the narcissistic person in question happens to be our own sibling, our own sister? We’ve got your back with a couple of trustworthy tips on how to preserve your own mental health.
1. Accept the situation but don’t accept the behavior
What do we mean by this? When you’re dealing with a sibling that‘s been making you feel bad about yourself for years, you might feel relieved to learn that the reason for that might be their NPD or narcissistic tendencies.
Accepting the situation, educating yourself on what it means to live with an NPD, and what you can do to help her feel better might bring you peace. Knowing that your sister doesn’t necessarily hate you or that she doesn‘t have some personal vendetta against you might make your day a bit better.
But, having a mental health condition or a personality disorder doesn’t excuse anyone’s bad behavior. Nobody expects you to act like your narcissistic sister didn’t belittle your existence from the moment she could speak. Accept the situation, but don’t accept her bad behavior EVER AGAIN.
2. Avoid confrontation
There’s nothing in this world a narcissistic sister would hate more than to be confronted for everything she’s ever done to you. Sure, having things FINALLY go your way might sound like a great idea. But, you’re not really sure how she’s going to take that.
Narcissists are very sensitive to criticism. Any attempt at knocking some sense into them could backfire and make the situation that much worse. Don’t expect her to reflect on her behavior, empathize with what she’s done to you, or apologize for her actions.
Without proper therapy, she won’t even be able to understand why you’re so angry with her. More times than not, she might even get angry with you and demand an apology for wrongfully accusing her of something she didn’t do.
You might not get the satisfaction you were hoping for. But, you’re better off pretending that everything’s fine while working on your own mental health and happiness.
3. Maintain healthy boundaries
One very important thing to remember when you’re dealing with a narcissistic family member – you can‘t control a narcissist, but you can control yourself. You can control the way you treat them, the way you let them treat you, and the way you let them make you feel.
When you’re 100% certain that you’re dealing with a narcissistic sister, you have a couple of choices to make. Are you going to have a conversation with her and (please don’t) confront her? Are you going to pretend that everything’s fine and continue making allowances for her?
Or, are you going to set some healthy boundaries and maintain your relationship based on whether she respects them or not? Trust me, when you’re dealing with a narcissist, rules, limits, and boundaries become your reason to get out of your bed every morning.
“No, you can’t wear white at my wedding because this is MY wedding.” That’s a pretty straightforward way of showing her you have a voice and you’re not going to let her make you her personal punching bag.
4. Get support
Seeking help from a professional should be a given when you’re dealing with someone like your sister. Someone who hasn’t been diagnosed with an NPD but keeps displaying narcissistic traits and tendencies might use that against you on the off chance that you decide to confront them.
We‘ve already mentioned that confronting your narcissistic sister might not be the best thing you can do for yourself. But, seeking professional help and guidance to make sure you’re doing everything you can to feel less lonely and deal with the abuse can make your life a lot easier.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your friend or other members of your family about what you’re going through. Your narcissistic sister might try to employ triangulation to turn them against you when she starts suspecting you’re onto her. So, you might want to cover your bases beforehand.
We’re not trying to paint her the villain of the story. But, you have to understand that her narcissistic traits can cause you emotional and physical pain. You’re better off taking proper precautions than dealing with the aftermath later.
5. Focus on yourself
Surround yourself with people you can trust, seek professional help when necessary, and focus on your own needs. Don’t forget that she’s not the only one that can control the situation – you have the same buttons she does, you just have to learn how to use them.
Keep in mind that you always have a choice – you can remove yourself from the situation, you can finish the conversation when you’re no longer comfortable, you can block her on social media, and warn your friends against trusting anything she says.
“You calling me fat doesn’t diminish my worth in anyone’s eyes. You won’t inspire me to lose weight, but you will inspire me to lose the friend I had in you.” You have a voice and you can stand up for yourself no matter how annoyed that makes her. And you can learn how to love yourself again.
6. Distance yourself
When push comes to shove, you can always resort to pushing and shoving your sister away. She’s your sister and the two of you might be living under the same roof. That would make physically distancing yourself a little bit harder. But, nothing’s impossible when you’re locked and loaded.
You can distance yourself emotionally by pretending she’s not your sister and nothing she says matters to you. You can pretend that she’s your colleague or someone you know only briefly. And, you can adopt a professional demeanor when you’re talking to her.
On the other hand, you can distance yourself physically. Move out of the apartment (when you can), or spend most of the time away from her. Spend some time alone in your room, go out with your friends, and do everything you can to avoid having to talk to her.
And remember, you can always seek professional help. You don’t have to carry the burden of caring for your narcissistic sister alone. Seek advice from your parents or other siblings, confide in your friend, or go to a therapist. Good luck!