What You Need to Know about a Narcissist Smear Campaign

It’s ugly. It’s brutal. And it’s often an unavoidable part of separating from an unhealthy relationship. A narcissist smear campaign can make you wonder if it’s worth the pain it causes. But if nothing else, this blatant destruction shows you why it’s more important than ever to gather your strength and hold on. Take a breath and tune in here for a few minutes as you learn how to move forward.

Why a Narcissist Spends Energy Destroying Your Reputation

A narcissist knows where to get the most bang for their emotional buck, and it’s in the destruction of your reputation. Narcissists are emotional warriors and will do pretty much anything to stay on top. Some are more overt braggarts about their self-importance, others are coyer and keep it more internalized. No matter which type you are dealing with, they can get a lot of mileage out of watching your reputation suffer from all angles.

First, it’s important to know that anyone with even somewhat prominent narcissistic tendencies suffers from a weak ego. Yes, even the bold guy that walks into your office like he owns the place is fighting a battle with his self-worth every day. Rather than doing healthy positive things to boost his self-esteem, he has learned to feel stronger by being more powerful and wielding control over others.

So, when a narcissistic person’s significant other leaves them, they feel emotionally vulnerable. A smear campaign is a perfect answer to this problem. They can pull all sorts of emotional strings attached to their significant other and watch them crumble from the strain. Or at least, that is their hope. They’ll spread rumors, lies, and plant seeds of doubt in the minds of anyone connected with their significant other. They’ll tell coworkers, family members, mutual friends, and anyone who will listen about all the horrible things they’ve had to deal with.

The narcissist paints a picture of them as the hero and their significant other as the destructive villain in the story. Of course, this is the reverse of the real picture. Anyone who falls for it becomes the instrument of the narcissist and causes trouble for the significant other.

Here’s how this strategy serves the narcissist so well:

  • Isolating the victim – This approach keeps the power out of balance in favor of the narcissist. The other person is attacked and on the defense from the start. Anything that tears away support makes them weaker in the eyes of the narcissist.
  • Distracting from the facts – Compelling stories from the narcissist keep everyone distracted. This strategy is meant to prevent others from realizing the truth and empower the significant other.
  • Controlling the message – The narcissist always wants to control the message, because whoever gets it out first sets the tone.
  • Keeping the other person off balance – A narcissist will intentionally disrupt relationships and environments in the other person’s life to keep them disempowered and off balance. This is yet another way the narcissist stays in power.
  • Elevating their self-esteem – The end game for the narcissist is to raise and restore their self-esteem by appearing stronger and “in the right”. They cannot face the pain of their vulnerability, so they choose power plays to soothe themselves.

The foundation of any smear campaign is usually set up long before the other person has any idea about leaving the relationship. The narcissist is always looking for ways to appear more powerful and in control, so it’s likely that they’ve thrown some chaos into the other person’s social circles before. Once that has happened a few times early on, it’s no trouble to use those same channels and lay it on thick when the time is right.

The narcissist does a dance of simultaneously appearing victimized and heroic. This gives them all the advantage up front and makes it easier to gain sympathy when the campaign gets into full swing. Since this is done by design long before the victim suspects anything, the narcissist has the advantage from the beginning. By the time the other person understands what’s happening around them, they are in a tailspin.

How to Cope with a Narcissist Slandering You

So if any of this is sounding way too familiar, this is the part that you’ll want to read closely. The narcissist in your life has set traps for a long time, and you need to manage your way through them. They have the advantage of planning this far in advance, but you can use your support network and level head to push through to the other side. Take a closer look at these points as you learn how to build yourself up and stay strong.

Your Reaction – It Fuels the Fire or Puts it out

  • Your reaction makes a big difference here. Go for NO reaction at all, at least publicly. Be  assured that it’s perfectly normal to feel defensive about this situation. However, any emotional response from you serves to further “prove” the narcissist’s destructive narrative. It provides the emotional struggle that keeps the energy flowing in their campaign. The narcissist needs your help to keep it moving, so your best action is to starve it out by doing nothing at all.
  • You may not be able to completely disengage from them for various reasons such as close living arrangements, divorce proceedings, or a shared work environment. Even so, it’s so important to use a “less is more” approach. Rely on your support team as much as possible and avoid engaging any more than is absolutely necessary.

The Reaction of Others – It Keeps the Campaign Rolling

  • You can’t control how others respond to this campaign, and it’s possible it will actually work on some people in your personal circle. However, it doesn’t need to tear you apart inside. No matter how bad it looks, nobody can actually control your thoughts and emotions from the outside. They can do a lot to manipulate them and put pressure on, but they cannot force you to absorb the lies and the destructive message. When you can decide not to care about other people’s opinions of you, you preserve and uphold your personal power.


  • One of the greatest challenges here is dealing with a master of manipulation. Narcissists are experts at acting one way in private and another in public. They are demeaning and hurtful to you when you are alone, but they are friendly and polite to you and everyone around you in public. Your emotional upset looks so out of place when the narcissist is on their best behavior, and it makes you look like the unstable one.
  • It’s this duplicity that allows for the “crazymaking” that keeps the smear train chugging along. The crazier they can make you look, the better the narcissist feels and the more heat that stays off them. Again, remain as disengaged as possible with they try to flip-flop in front of you. It only helps them if you look bothered by it.

Direct and Subtle Manipulation

  • An effective smear campaign is done both with direct action and with subtlety. Casting doubt about your reputation can be just as effective as blasting out rumors. No matter what the approach, an element of truth is always thrown in for more believable stories. Any time a seed of doubt starts to grow in your support network, the narcissist chalks up a score. They have begun to discredit you from afar.
  • In truth, you know that nearly everything that’s being said about you is actually what the narcissist is doing. These are projections of the narcissist’s dysfunctional behavior painted directly onto you. Be aware that they may use a mix of public and subtle ways to get under your skin.

The Art of Dodging

  • The narcissist in your life is ultimately more dedicated and skilled at the craft of manipulation than you are, so don’t fight it. Instead, be strategic in your response. Consider this in the context of martial arts. Sometimes a seemingly small movement using leverage is the most effective defense against a big hit.  
  • The narcissist is expecting you to fight back with intensity when they strike out at you. But you can give them a surprise by giving no response. Instead of going fist-to-fist with an experienced boxer, dodge the blow and let them go off balance for a change. Instead of connecting a hard punch on you, their momentum will fly past you into thin air.

Get Through the Narcissist Smear Campaign with a Plan and Support

A narcissist mentality is one of scarcity. Anything that gives to someone else takes away from them, which is why they cannot afford to care about others. Unfortunately, there’s little you can do about it except to step away. It takes courage and endurance to deal with the manipulation and lies. But if you go into it with a plan and support, you’ll get through it.

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