I was 23, newly living in San Francisco. I felt energized, free, eager and calm. I was ready to take on the world.
I was busy taking part in a graduate program full-time and working 40 plus hours per week in retail management. Because of my hectic schedule with the most random "off" days (if I had any at all), and the fact I somehow was staying on top of it all, I generally took to rewarding myself with libation and socialization. On average, I would reward myself once or twice a week.
That is, until I met my ex-boyfriend, who threw me completely off track.
He was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen at 6'5" with green eyes and an incredibly athletic build. I fell for him incredibly quickly, and I found myself in an on-again, off-again, exhausting, four-year ordeal with him.
Why was it an "ordeal?" Because Andrés* is a grade-A narcissist.
We tend to throw around that word a lot these days, proverbially plastering it on the forehead of any guy we think is self-centered, prideful and rude. We even use it to describe a guy who simply doesn't give us what we want as women.
Narcissist, fuckboy, cheater, liar: They're all used interchangeably.
But this is not what true narcissistic personality disorder is.
According to Mayo Clinic, narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is this:
Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultraconfidence lies a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism. A narcissistic personality disorder causes problems in many areas of life, such as relationships, work, school or financial affairs. You may be generally unhappy and disappointed when you're not given the special favors or admiration you believe you deserve. Others may not enjoy being around you, and you may find your relationships unfulfilling.
Obviously, it's a serious psychological disorder.
Narcissists can — and will — completely ruin your life if you allow them to.
However, fuckboys are men who could — and hopefully will — change under the right circumstances.
Here are nine ways to figure out whether the dude you're talking to is a narcissist or a fuckboy:
1. Narcissists expect the world from you.
Andrés used to demand that I make time for him and I learned rather quickly that he may or may not show up for those plans, disappointing me and leaving me disillusioned.
Therefore, I began to make other plans, just in case he would cancel because of "work" (or God knows what). When it got to the point where I'd choose my other plans over plans made with him, he would grow furious and verbally assault me.
His verbal assaults would always include warnings to leave, although he never followed through, as if him leaving would have been the worst thing to ever happen to me. He continually conditioned me to believe that and completely destroyed my self-confidence.
A narcissist expects you to make them much more important than they make you. This is because of their over-inflated sense of self and need of superior treatment from others. They will never treat you as an equal.
Meanwhile, a fuckboy just pretends not to care about you, even if he does. He wastes your time without having a long-term plan of action.
2. Narcissists will always be the alphas.
Andrés literally towers over anyone he meets.
However, aside from physical alpha status, he continually surrounded himself with people who were perceived to have less accomplishments than him. He liked people who seemed to kiss the very ground he walked on due to accomplishments he didn't necessarily earn, like his good looks, manner of speaking and sense of style.
It made me extremely uncomfortable.
However, my friends would always make comments about how powerful his presence is and how sexy that was. But, people should strive to surround themselves with others who inspire them and motivate them to be better people.
This is an endeavor that the narcissist is completely uninterested in.
He fixates instead on fantasies of riches, popularity, success, power, vanity and materialism, and he inflates himself to embody these fantastical ideas. People revere him incredibly.
A fuckboy doesn't possess the charm, the wit and the intelligence to engineer followers based on a false sense of self.
3. Narcissists will place themselves on the same level as people with more accomplishments.
Every narcissist thinks they're the next Kanye West.
Andrés went through different professional phases in his life, first as a nightclub bouncer, then as a tech salesman and then as a finance guy, all the while building his own personal training business. No, it was an empire.
He was always boasting about being a "true entrepreneur" and how much money he spent, how creative his ideas were and how innovative of a businessman he was.
Any time I provided some context to his thought process or attempted to push him to do better, he would put me down calling me "broke" (because I was going to school and working full-time). How would tell me how the major I chose was useless and countless other things to attack the very things I prided myself on.
Good, supportive, balanced partners never would do that.
Most importantly, he would wait until we were around others to do so. He would start attacking me through humiliation, distracting people from focusing on any shortcomings he might have that may be revealed by any means necessary.
He would counter this action by building me up in private. Narcissists feel like they are unique and superior, and this gives them a VIP card to enter any elite class of people, regardless of the fact they have never worked nearly as hard as the elite.
A fuckboy idolizes those with more accomplishments than him. Although he might make light of the actual steps one must take to reach that platform due to sheer ignorance, he generally knows he is not of the same caliber.
This is why he overcompensates, but fortunately, any average Joe can tell he is faking it. Narcissists are so cunning and so manipulative that they can charm some of the most intelligent people in the world.
Every narcissist thinks they're the next Kanye West
4. Narcissists are only truly happy when others are praising them.
You ever see that the guy you're talking to is only happy in conversations that have to either do with building himself up or tearing others down? Chances are, your dude is a narcissist.
The final experience I had with Andrés was this past April, when he came to visit me in LA with a bunch of family friends. He was intending to prove to me that he deserves a lasting place in my life.
Moving from San Francisco to LA in August was a great move for me, in the sense that it gave me time to build back some of the confidence I had lost over the past few years with him. This gave me a much more renewed perspective.
Because of this, I was able to see this all play out in front of me, and I was disgusted by him and the idea I had put up with it for so long. Regardless of whether my visitors were OK with it, it was apparent he had strategically chosen to surround himself with people who would praise him relentlessly.
A narcissist needs constant admiration because fundamentally, narcissists are extremely insecure and do not have the ability to process shame in healthy ways.
A fuckboy makes up elaborate, hard-to-believe lies about his accomplishments, while a narcissist strategically exaggerates accomplishments that he can easily convince people he has.
A fuckboy is also insecure, but he is much less refined in his approach to hide that fact.
5. Narcissists always expect special treatment.
Does your guy always go to the front of the line at a club, thinking he can just charm the doorman? He could be a narcissist.
They expect special treatment and obedience from others in such a way that they simply expect all things to go their way.
Granted, you cannot control some things from occurring in life, but narcissists are extremely regimented and skilled in picking people to manipulate for long periods of time. They can slowly continue to add more people to their menagerie of loyal followers.
The dangerous part is, narcissists are used to being able to control or manipulate whomever they come in contact. Therefore, they think they're much better than anyone they come into contact with. This usually leads to them being successful con artists.
Fuckboys want special treatment, but they're not typically expecting it.
6. Narcissists will always exploit others if given the opportunity.
Andrés would use people for whatever he could, and then he'd brag about it.
Whether it be free dental cleanings, the gaining and letting go of a business partner for financial security or having a whole separate girlfriend to satisfy the narcissistic characteristics I could not (all unbeknownst to me at the time), he was always taking advantage of someone for something.
People typically limit themselves when it comes to taking advantage of others because of a little thing called values.
Since the narcissist doesn't have the empathy to truly possess a value system and is simply faking it, there is no limit to how far they'll go to exploit and use others. They only care about achieving personal gain, whether it be financially, emotionally or psychologically.
Think of narcissists working on others like an incubus does.
They're attacking them in a psychologically or emotionally dormant state, depleting people of their energy and positive, humanistic traits and then leaving them wholly dependent so they can continue to utilize them for personal gain for as long as they can.
Fuckboys are not this methodical.
Although they do and say things that are not generally praised by the general population, they only do so because people let them get away with it. This happens consistently enough for them to think it'll continue to work.
That way, they think they'll be able to achieve whatever they say they will.
7. Narcissists lack true self-awareness and empathy.
Relationship-oriented conversations with a narcissist are impossible, and if you're intuitive enough, you'll be able to figure that out.
They have an extremely keen sense of who is self-aware and who isn't. They know that self-aware women can be easier to manipulate than others because they are dedicated to self-improvement, which is foreign concept to narcissists.
To them, it's a weakness.
They are completely unwilling to empathize with other people's feelings or needs, and they never provide forward-thinking solutions to any relationship problems.
They believe "sorry" should be enough, and you're lucky to get one of those. Their energy is closed off during conversation, and they will blame your lack of cognitive abilities for your wrongful perception of them.
Fuckboys don't even engage you in relationship-oriented conversations. They don't pretend to truly care about you, know you or understand how you think and feel well enough to truly engage in deeper conversations that could solidify and grow your relationship.
A narcissist needs constant admiration because fundamentally, narcissists are extremely insecure.
8. Narcissists are extremely jealous.
During our relationship, if I was doing anything without him, he'd make a point to convince me I couldn't do any better than him.
During one of our off-seasons, I dated a professional athlete. Andrés called me one day attempting to reconcile, and upon learning who, I had been dating, he completely flew into a rage.
A big, black, millionaire athlete was about the only thing that could make him come across as truly jealous. This man had the power to break me free of Andrés' hold.
He proceeded to accost me, called me every offensive name in the book and ended the conversation with, "He probably looks at you like a hoe, anyway, dumb-ass. Get ran through."
If I ever made him jealous, he would do everything he could to get his power over me back, whether it be through flowers, dinner or doting.
A fuckboy will ghost you if you move backwards, sideways or onwards. He will think he has benched you, even if you've hopped over to an entirely new roster.
9. Narcissists will be proud and arrogant in social settings.
Pretty self-explanatory, but this is a necessary superficial quality in narcissists that is easy to identify from the onset.
They must have attention on them always, and they are desperate for it. They are pompous and sarcastic, negative toward others and only positive in regard to themselves.
Fuckboys aren't always successful in their attempts to pretend to be the "big men." People don't follow them blindly the way they do the narcissist, and they don't give them nearly as many passes to continue their behavior.
Narcissists are dangerous, and they will always leave you feeling completely used and abused, even if you are the one to terminate the relationship. They leave you wondering if you are worth anything at all, and they make you ask yourself, "How in the hell did I even get here?"
Particularly in a large city, young women have a difficult time figuring out who they truly are and, more harrowingly, who the people in their circles are.
Narcissists are very skilled at identifying empaths, or as we like to call them, "good women."
I recall a few times Andrés stating he didn't like girls who were "too cool." He liked them kind of dorky.
I confused it with having a preference or a type. I saw it as sort of a compliment to this philosophy nerd who may know just about everything there is to know about "Game Of Thrones."
And to some degree, I was right, but not for the reasons I thought. His type was strategically engineered to serve him and only him.
Chances are, that asshole you're dating or have dated before is just a fuckboy.
But if he's a narcissist, run fast. Because it only gets worse. You deserve better.
*Name has been changed.