Narcissists in general are tough work, but spiritual narcissists take things to the next level.
And what’s worse is that it’s not always easy to spot one – their mask of spirituality makes us believe that they couldn’t possibly be narcissistic.
But the very thing they work to move past (the ego) is what takes control of them and causes a sense of entitlement or spiritual arrogance towards others.
But is all hope lost for someone who has fallen victim to their ego?
Should we be avoiding spiritual narcissists at all costs and banishing them to their spiritual retreats?
As well as covering the top signs of a spiritual narcissist, we’re also going to look at how to deal with them spiritually, and whether the ego can be overcome.
But first, let’s start with the basics:
What is a spiritual narcissist?
The chances are you’ve come across a few of them before you put a name to it: spiritual narcissists.
Quite simply, this is where a person, unconsciously, uses their spirituality to boost their ego.
They have a way of flaunting their spirituality and looking down on those who they think are less spiritually advanced as they are – put bluntly they’re quite annoying to be around.
They’ll hound you with their views and disregard anything that questions their logic or research.
If you’ve ever dated a spiritual narcissist, they’ll use technical jargon and defensiveness to make you feel like things are your fault, all under the disguise of trying to “helping you find your spirituality”.
So why are they like that?
Well, in all variations of narcissism, there is an inflated sense of “self”. Narcissists are known for:
- Having a strong sense of entitlement
- Lacking empathy for others
- Feeling superior to other people
- Being manipulative to get what they want
And when it becomes spiritual narcissism, it’s because the person has started identifying solely as a “spiritual person”.
Their spirituality is what they form their identity around, and it’s easy for them to spiral when this happens.
So how does this happen?
Well, it’s because of the spiritual ego, which we’re going to cover next.
The spiritual ego and the development of spiritual narcissism
The spiritual ego is born through spiritual materialism.
The term was originally coined by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and it explains the process of the ego latching on to spiritual progress and accomplishments to feel boosted.
Somebody quick to brag about how well they meditate or practice yoga to reach a higher connection is probably suffering from spiritual egoism.
Or, someone who believes their way of practicing spirituality is better than others, and who refuses to keep an open mind about different methods of reaching a higher spiritual level.
The problem is, once you start thinking you’ve “perfected” spirituality, you’re already far from reality and far from the journey you originally intended to take (before the ego got involved).
Because there’s no end goal, there’s no test to pass at the end which tells you’ve connected on a higher level, it’s not a course that you take and get a certificate at the end.
That simply doesn’t happen – it’s an ongoing process, there’s never an end to it.
But the spiritual ego doesn’t want you to realize that; it’ll blind you to how you behave and how far you’ve wandered from your original path.
For a first-hand account of what being a spiritual narcissist is like, and how easy it is to fall into the ego trap, watch this video below of Ideapod’s founder, Justin Brown, as he talks us through his journey and the different levels of spiritual ego
Once the spiritual ego has taken over, a spiritual narcissist is born.
And the truth is, the spiritual ego can take place in anyone, no matter where you are in your journey.
It’s quite natural especially at the beginning of spiritual awakening when everything is exciting and your mind is buzzing with all the new spiritual concepts you’re learning about.
Let’s be honest, it feels good.
It’s a thrill, it feels “right” and the ego sees a chance to get in on the action and push you even further towards narcissism.
But that’s why knowing about the signs of the spiritual ego and spiritual narcissism can help people recognize it straight away and work to move past it.
So without further ado, let’s get straight to the signs, and after, we’ll cover what you can to spiritually deal with narcissists.
15 warning signs of a spiritual narcissist
1) They bring you down instead of lifting you up
Whether it’s a guru or a friend in your life who you suspect is a spiritual narcissist, an easy way to tell is by how they make you feel.
Do they use their spirituality to lift you, support you, and help you find your path, or do they use it to make you feel inferior and as if you’re on a lower spiritual level than they are?
For all their boasting, they should be so in touch with spirituality that they know exactly how to encourage you in yours. They should be the epitome of support (since they claim to know it all).
Yet, they aren’t.
And the reason is that narcissists, of all kinds, need to put you down to make themselves feel better.
Even though they don’t act like it, their self-esteem is wobbly, and the only way to stabilize it again is by making others question their own abilities and confidence.
2) They avoid taking responsibility
Another massive indicator that you’re dealing with a spiritual narcissist is if they reject being held accountable for their actions.
When they hurt other people, there’s always an excuse or it was someone else’s fault.
If they’re corrected on something in a conversation, instead of accepting that they’ve made a mistake, they’ll do everything possible to fight their point.
In other words – they’re super defensive.
When it comes to taking responsibility, spiritual narcissists will happily take ownership when it puts them in a positive spotlight.
But if it’s something that they’ve done wrong, they’ll avoid owning up to it at all costs.
Because it would hurt their spiritual ego to admit it, after all, they’re trying to portray an image of all-knowing and superiority.
3) They’re part of exclusive groups
So how do spiritual narcissists get through life, if all it seems they do is put people down and refuse to take responsibility for themselves?
Surely, they must get called out by people?
In an ideal world, that’s what would happen. But spiritual narcissists take measures to protect themselves.
And these come in the form of exclusive, “cool” clubs or groups – usually meditation groups and yoga retreats.
So once in this group, the spiritual narcissist will surround themselves with like-minded people.
It’s the narcissist’s way of keeping their self-esteem high (there’s no one to criticize them) and reinforcing the belief that what they practice spiritually is correct.
The problem with this is that they’re not exposed to the real world, it’s like they’ve got blinkers on and all they can see is their chosen path ahead of them.
4) They use spirituality to prove their points
But when they do come into contact with other people who question them, the spiritual narcissist will twist and adapt spiritual learnings to suit their argument.
It happens a lot in religion, for example, extremists who have interpreted and adapted holy scriptures to suit their politically-motivated cause.
But it gets worse:
A spiritual narcissist won’t just keep these twisted views to themselves, they’ll try and persuade other people that they’re right.
And very quickly, having a rational conversation with them can start to feel like hard work.
5) Conversations always turn into debates
On that note – if you’ve ever dealt with a spiritual narcissist, you’ll know how hard it is to have a balanced, fair conversation that doesn’t need a right or wrong conclusion.
Narcissists have to be right (even when they’re wrong).
This can take a casual, friendly chat to a heated debate or argument that ends with them asserting their dominance and taking over the conversation.
It’s not fun for anyone.
Instead of discussing spirituality and learning from each other, the spiritual narcissist will make it all about their beliefs and the latest spiritual craze that they’ve discovered.
And even if it was something genuinely helpful or interesting, they’re not simply talking about it, they’re trying to push people around them into truly believing in it.
It’s all another form of needing validation and of appeasing the ego – when the spiritual narcissist is “right”, the ego feels proud and strong.
6) They try to convert other people to “their way” of spirituality
That brings us to our next point – trying to convert people.
People who feel that their faith or religion is better than others will often go out of their way to “help” other people get onto the right track (or what they perceive to be the right track).
It’s been going on since the start of time, and it’s how many of the major world religions spread across the globe.
But what does it have to do with spirituality?
Well, spiritual narcissists will use their spirituality to try and push their beliefs onto other people too.
They won’t respect that each person has to find their way when it comes to spirituality and they’ll argue that their way is the right way until you finally give up or just start avoiding them.
7) Their actions don’t match their words
But even though they’re so cemented and dogmatic in their beliefs, you’d be surprised at how much they don’t practice what they preach.
Spiritual narcissists will go above and beyond to criticize you and your beliefs, but when it comes to their own, they’re never in the wrong.
Your spiritual narcissist friend talks about how much people should be uplifted and helped in their spiritual journey.
Yet, you notice that when they’re around people who are beginning their spiritual journey, the narcissist is quick to look down on them and even make them feel bad for not doing more than they already are.
Keep an eye out, and you’ll notice a lot of inconsistencies with what a spiritual narcissist says and does.
8) They act like they’re superior
And keep an eye out for an air of superiority – this is another classic telltale sign of a narcissist.
Their spiritual ego is at an all-time high, and they believe that they’re above everyone else, regardless of how far along they are in their spiritual journey.
Even if they don’t know much about you, a narcissist will just assume that they’re better than you and that they’re more spiritually advanced.
So where does this superiority come from?
Well, the ego has a habit of overinflating and exaggerating the truth – this leads the narcissist to believe that they are special and different from the rest of us.
9) They’re overly positive
You might be wondering, “How can they be so positive if they make other people feel inferior?”.
Valid question – the narcissist is positive about their life, not necessarily about other people’s lives.
And the truth is:
They may not even have a lot to be genuinely positive about, but because they’re trying desperately to cover their insecurities and fears, they’ll do anything to paint a rosy picture of perfection.
You see, some people genuinely appreciate what they have in life, but narcissists will try to portray their lives as being over-the-top “amazing”.
From the salad they had at lunch to the new retreat they’ve just got back from, you’ll rarely hear a spiritual narcissist talk about the negatives.
And this is dangerous because they aren’t viewing the world with a healthy balance, the negatives are there whether they’re acknowledged or not.
But by suppressing these emotions, the ego can continue to believe that everything is under control.
10) They constantly brag about their spirituality
Another classic sign of spiritual narcissism is when the person can’t stop boasting about how spiritually aware they are or how well they’ve perfected their spiritual practice.
But in doing this, they forget that bragging goes against the fundamentals of being spiritual in the first place.
And, it does nothing but makes other people feel bad and it only serves to lift the ego – something most people are trying to move past instead of feed.
11) They don’t have any interest in the world around them
For all the narcissists’ talk of spirituality, connecting on a higher level, and helping people around them, they usually lack any genuine curiosity about the world.
In their mind, they’ve got the answers, their beliefs are firm and they don’t need to engage with other people or explore out of their depths.
Their level of spirituality takes them above everyone else, you see, so they don’t think that anything can be gained by being around “ordinary” folk or people less spiritual than them.
What they don’t realize though is that there’s a wealth of knowledge to be found in the ordinary, sometimes boring, routines of life.
And more often than not, it’s these real-life experiences, not books and scriptures, that connects someone higher to their spirituality.
12) Spirituality is about theory not practice
But that’s not the only problem:
Spiritual narcissists tend to over-intellectualize spirituality.
Instead of putting everything they read about to physical use, they’ll waste most of their time looking for deeper meanings, reconfirming their beliefs, and analyzing their thoughts.
And as a result, they don’t ever actually go out into the world and use their spirituality to heal and to connect with others.
Their heads are stuck in scriptures and there’s only so much you can learn from reading.
The rest comes down to experiencing real life, having connections with people, and exploring the world – this is the stuff that sticks and forces you to grow spiritually.
13) They act like they’re the savior of humanity
Quite often, spiritual narcissists feel that it’s their responsibility to save the world.
They seek authoritative roles such as being a spiritual leader or guru. Some even develop a messiah complex where they believe their destiny in life to be a savior to others.
But this makes sense:
Narcissists crave attention, they love feeling in control and they want bold, loud accomplishments that can further boost their ego.
So being a guru with half a million Instagram followers does just the trick.
Now, not only is the ego satisfied, but the narcissist can fulfill their desire to influence other people – and shape them to follow their way of spirituality.
14) They’re better at talking than at listening
Another sign of narcissism that is often overlooked is their inability to focus and listen, especially when the conversation isn’t flowing the way they want it to.
When the narcissist does join in the conversation, it’s because they want to get their point across, not to connect or discuss ideas.
They’re quick to push their ideas across, defensive when challenged and they don’t like anyone else stealing the limelight.
But there are exceptions.
A spiritual narcissist will only make an effort to hear out people who they respect – people that they view as higher in their spirituality or someone who is an “expert” in the field.
15) They don’t reveal their true selves
Our final point brings us to the essence of spirituality – finding a meaning, or purpose to life, and connecting on a higher level with yourself and with others.
But a spiritual narcissist will do the opposite of this.
They won’t face their fears, deal with their insecurities, and work hard to heal their wounds (although they’ll preach to everyone else about doing it).
Instead, they’ll hide all of these “negative” parts of their life and only show the face they want people to see.
The truth is:
They limit themselves from having real experiences and from stepping into the unknown, but they still don’t want other people to know that.
It doesn’t serve their image or their ego.
So, there we have the signs of a spiritual narcissist.
I know it’s a lot to take in, but the sooner you know the signs, the quicker you can recognize the spiritual narcissists in your life.
And be sure that dealing with narcissists isn’t easy – it requires a lot of patience and the willpower to see past their arrogance and self-absorbed tendencies.
How to spiritually deal with a narcissist
Now you’ve identified whether there’s a spiritual narcissist in your life – what can you do about it?
Most advice points towards avoiding narcissists at all costs. Countless advice forums will tell you that they’ll never change, and you’ve got to save yourself while you can.
But what if there was another way?
I’m talking about dealing with narcissists spiritually.
Instead of cutting a spiritual narcissist out of your life completely, take a kinder approach, and see them for what they are.
Narcissists may come across as conceited and pompous, but deep down they’re going through an internal battle, just like the rest of us.
Only their battle is one where the ego has taken over, and they’re unable to see how their behavior and actions hurt others.
With a little understanding, a light-hearted attitude, and a heck load of patience, you can learn to deal with narcissists in a way that doesn’t bring you down or alienate them completely.
Because the danger of cutting them out completely means they may never realize their narcissistic tendencies, and so they’ll remain that way forever.
Can a spiritual narcissist overcome their ego?
Now, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking, “Is it even possible for a spiritual narcissist to change?”.
Many people would argue that there’s little hope for a narcissist to realize their habits and take action to overcome them.
Some would say the ego is simply too strong by this point.
But the truth is, anyone is capable of breaking free from their spiritual ego.
With the right environment, good people around them, and a willingness to change, even the most narcissistic person can improve.
And, you never know how far along someone is into their spiritual narcissism.
Some people may be in the very early stages so they’ll benefit by having friends in their life who challenge them and keep their ego from inflating too much – people who keep them grounded when they need it the most.
Others won’t – your attempts will fall on deaf ears and they’ll continue like this, but at least you know you’ve done right by humanity and tried to help.
The key here is in the balance – if you can tolerate the spiritual narcissist in your life, and you want to be a guiding light back to reality for them, go for it.
But if you find that the spiritual narcissist is taking things too far and it’s impacting your emotional health (because it can, narcissists can be extremely draining and toxic at times) then know when to walk away.
Ultimately, they’re people who have got caught up on their journey to spirituality, they face a block in the road but it doesn’t mean they can’t overcome it – they just need some support, kindness, and a cold, hard slap of reality from time to time to keep their ego in check.