How To Be Stoic With Narcissists, Selfish & Mean People?

— Researched and written by Dr. Sandip Roy.

Narcissists are difficult people with inflated egos. In contrast, Stoics are the calm ones with practical self-sense. So, what might happen when a Stoic meets a selfish, toxic person like a narcissist?

In this, I tried to bring these two experiences together and give out my two-pence on how a Stoic would handle narcissistic people, drawing from the wisdom of the great Stoic masters, like Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius.

Here’s how to be Stoic with a mean, selfish, or narcissistic person:

1. By Practicing Emotional Detachment.

First, the Stoics practice emotional detachment.

A narcissist comes with a fragile ego, emotional volatility, and controlling behavior. They can overwhelm people with gaslighting, half-truths, and word salad.

How to be Stoic With A Narcissist - Pin

But a Stoic can detach from an emotionally loaded situation.

This doesn’t mean the Stoics do not let emotions happen to them. They value human emotions, but they do not let emotions control them.

Stoics don’t attach their egos to a narcissist’s opinions or comments, so they don’t feel the urge to correct them. They realize they cannot control how someone acts, and trying to do so can put them into emotional overload.

Detach from the situation and view it as an impartial observer analyzing the narcissist’s behaviors and patterns, rather than taking their slights personally. Note their tactics objectively and rationally, as symptoms of their condition.

Then, like a Stoic, why not reframe a narcissist’s actions as external events you choose not to attach to?

The great Stoic master Epictetus said,

“It is not events that disturb people, it is their judgments concerning them.”

Like a Stoic, realize that a narcissist’s toxic behavior stems from their own insecurities; it has nothing to do with your inherent value as a person. Why lose your cool when they show you what makes them feel small?

Donald Robertson, the author of How To Think Like A Roman Emperor, says, “You will never see an angry Stoic.” He means that a Stoic can feel anger as an internal emotion, but they will never be externally aggressive out of that anger.

  • Separate the narcissist’s behavior from your self-worth.
  • Reframe their actions as external events you cannot control.
  • Practice the discipline of objectivity (be an objective observer).

2. By Pre-Training On Self-Control.

Second, Stoics practice self-control.

Stoics don’t try to control other people or their behavior. Rather, they focus fully on managing their own thoughts, emotions, and actions.

Their main self-control strategy is not to judge other people. Once we learn this, we won’t feel any desire or impulse to react to a narcissist’s provocations.

Stoics also practice negative visualization—essentially pre-training themselves on how to best manage difficult situations by imagining the worst that can happen.

By visualizing themselves in worst-case scenarios, they practice their response to it, and can remain ready for if such a scene happens. It also helps them stay unattached to a specific outcome.

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Stoics also practice self-control via self-discipline, by setting daily goals, following a daily routine, and reviewing their day daily.

They also practice mindfulness—being fully present in the moment, observing one’s thoughts and emotions without judgment.

  • Don’t let their judgment of you affect your self-worth.
  • Avoid judging and reacting impulsively to their provocations.
  • Don’t try to make them see their mistakes or change how they behave.

Marcus Aurelius is supposed to have said of this: “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

Marcus Aurelius said, you have power over your mind, not outside events

3. By Cultivating Empathy.

Third, Stoics cultivate empathy.

While it might be tempting to respond with anger or resentment to a narcissist’s egotism, Stoics strive to understand the motives behind such behavior.

Seneca advised, “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.”

By practicing empathy, we can gain insight into the narcissist’s struggles and potentially help them grow.

  • Practice empathetic listening to understand their perspective without necessarily agreeing with their behavior.
  • Maintain focus on your own emotional boundaries while empathizing with the narcissist’s struggles.
  • Cultivate compassion by recognizing the narcissist’s humanity despite their challenging behavior.
How Do Stoics Deal With Narcissists And Selfish People
“The pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it.” – Marcus Aurelius

4. By Learning To Set Boundaries.

Next, Stoics establish boundaries.

They recognize the importance of protecting their own well-being, especially when dealing with toxic individuals.

As Seneca said, “Associate with people who are likely to improve you.”

By setting limits on our interactions with narcissists, we can minimize their impact on our lives and maintain our peace of mind.

  • Protect your well-being by setting limits on your interactions with mean or selfish people.
  • Limit the time and energy you spend on them to preserve your peace of mind.
  • Prioritize your own well-being and avoid allowing others to compromise your emotional health.

5. By Practicing Forgiveness.

Moreover, the Stoics practice forgiveness.

While narcissists can be difficult to tolerate, Stoics understand that holding onto anger or resentment only harms oneself.

Epictetus counseled, “When you are offended at any man’s fault, immediately turn to yourself and reflect in what manner you yourself have erred.”

By forgiving the narcissist, we free ourselves from the burden of bitterness.

Stoicism encourages practicing humility and recognizing that we are all interconnected and part of a larger whole.

Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher, wrote in his Meditations:

“We were born for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth.”

This perspective stands in stark contrast to narcissistic tendencies, which prioritize self-interest above all else.

  • Recognize that forgiveness is primarily for your own peace of mind and emotional well-being, rather than absolving the narcissist of their actions.
  • Shift your focus from seeking revenge or payback to understanding the imperfections and vulnerabilities of the narcissist.
  • Embrace the Stoic principle of amor fati, accept the narcissist’s behavior as a necessary part of your life experience, and move forward with poise and resilience.

6. By Focusing On Personal Growth.

Finally, Stoics focus on their own personal growth. Instead of getting caught up in the drama of a narcissist’s life, they work on cultivating their own virtues and becoming better people.

Marcus Aurelius reminded us, “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”

By directing our attention inward, we can remain centered and steadfast in the face of narcissism.

  • Instead of getting caught up in the drama caused by mean or selfish people, try building your strengths and virtues.
  • Take the challenges presented by mean or selfish people as opportunities to become the best version of yourself.
  • Work on developing your inner psychological grit and resilience.

7. By Seeking Guidance from Stoic Masters.

Draw upon the wisdom of Stoic philosophers such as Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius to fine-tune your response to mean and selfish people.

  • Don’t seek validation from others. Narcissists crave admiration and often try to reduce the worth of others. Stoicism teaches you to find your own sense of worth and not rely on the approval of others.
  • Focus on what you can control. Stoic masters emphasized that we only try to control our own thoughts, emotions, and actions. By focusing on these internal elements, we can detach from the narcissist’s attempts to manipulate us.
  • Practice emotional resilience. Stoics believed in strengthening their emotional core. You can keep your inner peace by acknowledging and accepting the narcissist’s actions without getting caught up in their drama.
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Final Words

Marcus Aurelius says in his Meditations:

“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him.”

  • Detach yourself from others’ judgments of you.
  • Empathize with people, but not at the cost of your own mental well-being.

√ Please share it with someone if you found this helpful.

√ Also Read: The Stoic Blueprint For A Fulfilling Life That You’d Want To Live Again

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