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Stop Calling Every Toxic Person a Narcissist

Nicole Hankey
3 min readJul 13, 2020


They’re probably not (a diagnosed) one.

I’ve seen so many posts on here and elsewhere (looking at you, TikTok) discussing toxic relationships with a so-called narcissist. The advice is usually well meaning and helpful, I’m sure, if you do find yourself dating a narcissist. But usually, the advice is composed of general tips you could apply to most any relationship that had similar red flags and toxic tendencies. So while I’m not knocking the advice itself, or the individual experiences of the authors, I feel compelled to clarify what narcissism is (and what it’s not).

First of all, all behavior is on a spectrum between what is considered “normal” and “abnormal”.

Everyone at some point in their life will tell a lie. However, most people do not habitually tell lies. Everyone will manipulate someone to get a desired outcome at least once, but most of us don’t make a habit out of it. Everyone will be over-dramatic and exaggerate, but most of us know where to draw the line. We all end up acting out for attention, or making an impulsive decision, but usually not at the expense of our safety or that of others. As isolated instances, these aren’t great behaviors, but they are normal — doing them every once in a while is just part of being human. The issue is when they become patterns of behavior. When certain behaviors…