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How Narcissists Steal Your Personality, According To An Expert

Article by: Shahida Arabi

January 16, 2024

Note from Elysian Dream -

"It took me over a decade to reclaim my life, energy, wellness, and dreams after collapsing at stage 12 of burnout from working in a toxic environment. Imagine not being able to apply for a job because your resume no longer reflects who you are. What took so long? The lack of support, proper medical care, and occupational resources. Most doctors do not understand occupational wellness, burnout, or identity theft from narcissistic abuse.

As a private person, I was uncertain about entering the business world, but I realized my story and services could help others. Elysian Dream was created to help people develop professional identity, navigate life and career transitions successfully, avoid burnout, recover from burnout, find alignment, support for workplace bullying and abuse, and reinvent their lives.

Entering the business world, where the percentage of narcissists is high, has been a new adventure with its own challenges. Seeking business support and collaboration, we faced cancellation attempts by other businesses trying to claim our brand and identity, leading us to enlist legal support and trademark our brand to continue our mission.

Confession: I went from a state of flow to battle mode, reaching stage 3 of burnout and gaining a good 20 pounds. It is crucial to take time to step back, reassess, and readjust because the slide to stage 12 happens fast.

We provide career services and coaching to college-bound students, mid-career professionals, midlife empty nesters, service members, veterans, those in burnout or suffering from workplace bullying or abuse. Medical referrals are provided as necessary.

Reach out to me at or if you or someone you know is struggling with workplace bullying, narcissistic abuse, or burnout and would like support, strategy, resources, and an exit strategy. Let me help you reclaim your life, energy, wellness, and dreams."

- Very Sincerely Yours,

Georgia Lee Arts


Image Source: Bing Free Images

Narcissists steal your words, your life stories, your interests, your style, and even your identity and personality. A researcher exposes the manipulation tactics of malignant “identity theft” and why it should never be ignored.

Imagine a narcissistic or psychopathic person looking into a mirror every morning and asking, “Who should I be today?” Many survivors of narcissistic people note that they had their “identities” stolen during these exploitative relationships. Whether it was a friendship, romantic relationship, or even in the context of family and the workplace, narcissistic and psychopathic individuals can “morph” into a distorted version of you, adopting your traits, mannerisms, words, distinct sense of style, and even your life stories in an attempt to gain praise and attention they would not otherwise obtain. This can feel like an erosion and negation of the victim’s own identity. We’ve seen manipulative tactics like malignant mirroring discussed with regards to the idealization phase of a relationship with the narcissist, but what does it look like outside of it?

In the beginning, the narcissist traditionally mirrors you in malignant ways to love bomb you into a relationship, friendship or business partnership; they pretend to be your soulmate, claiming to share the same hobbies, interests, goals, and characteristics as you to get you to trust them. Yet the imitation doesn’t end there nor is malignant mirroring limited to romantic relationships or love bombing. It can escalate into stalker-like, pathological behavior across different contexts. This type of “mirroring” is vastly different from interactions where we naturally mirror others due to empathy, attraction, or trying to establish a social connection – it includes a driving force of malicious envy, resentment, and trying to sabotage others or even take over their lives. Note that the “identity theft” we talk about in this article refers specifically to the mirroring behaviors and motivations of narcissistic and psychopathic individuals and does not refer to any other conditions. It should only be read in the context of emotional abuse and malicious intent. 

Why Malignant Identity Theft Isn’t a Compliment

Thousands of survivors of narcissists have disclosed to me over the years that they feel deeply violated by the psychological identity theft they’ve experienced by narcissistic and psychopathic individuals.  As survivors tell me, it can feel like getting devoured by the manipulative individual – a person who seems to follow your every move, mimicking and mirroring whatever they see to make themselves appear more interesting and palatable to other people around them while wearing your personality. We’ve all heard the common saying that “imitation” is the highest form of flattery. Yet this is a denial, invalidation and dismissal of the exploitative and abusive nature of identity theft. This is like telling the victim of a robbery, “You should be flattered they stole some of your hard-earned savings from you! They want what you have and now can pretend it is their own while benefiting from it! Now they’re off telling everyone that they worked hard for money they stole. Isn’t that a compliment?” Let’s be clear: It is not flattering to have someone take on your personality, steal your words, labor, work, life stories, goals, dreams or sense of style to the extent narcissistic and psychopathic individuals do, especially when they are not giving you due credit or profiting off something they did not create.

Through psychological identity theft and erosion, manipulators and pathological con artists can try to siphon the same attention from people they would not otherwise get by “becoming” you. They try to mimic talents and skills they do not possess, embody the energy that makes you unique and special, pursue the hobbies and interests that they have no genuine interest in and reap the benefits of a life they did not live and the labor or creativity they did not undertake. This is what makes identity theft such a disorienting and violating experience for so many. Below, you will find examples of what this identity theft can look like across various contexts. These examples highlight common scenarios based on thousands of survivor accounts. 

Examples: Narcissistic Identity Theft – What Does It Look Like? 

Jennifer was disturbed to find out that her ex, Steven, had been going around repeating a traumatic life story from her childhood and using it as his own to garner sympathy from potential dating partners and friends. When she spoke to his friends and family, they told her that not only had he been repeating this life story, he seemed to have taken on Jennifer’s identity.
Steven was suddenly pretending to be passionate about animal rights activism and jiu-jitsu, both passions Jennifer had that she had told Steven about during their relationship. Yet Steven never seemed all that interested in these passions until he could pass them off as his own and pretend to be more fascinating, athletic, and compassionate to people he wanted to impress.
He had even begun regurgitating the same jokes Jennifer had told him. Jennifer had also began going to school to become a dentist, a dream she had also talked to Steven about many times and suddenly Steven was pretending he was applying to medical school, telling his family about his newfound passion for one particular field – dentistry.
Melissa began noticing that one of her co-workers, Brenda, would constantly bring up ideas she had disclosed to her during one-on-one conversations at staff meetings, taking credit for these ideas in front of others. Brenda had also adopted the way Melissa spoke, going so far as to frequently use the same gestures, tone, and word-for-word phrases as her. She began dressing like Melissa and even began expressing interest in topics she had never had any prior interest nor expertise in that she knew Melissa was genuinely passionate about.  
Melissa was thoroughly creeped out by this behavior, especially when Brenda plagiarized a copy of her proposal before another staff meeting and tried to pass it off as her own. Linda felt disturbed by the antics of her next-door neighbor, Laura. Laura had seemed kind and pleasant in the beginning but was now infiltrating her life in invasive ways she did not feel comfortable with. She would regularly invite herself over to Linda’s house even when she wasn’t invited to play with Linda’s kids and even tried to flirt with Linda’s husband, going out of her way to perform favors for him that he never asked for. It was almost like she was trying to be a mother to Linda’s kids and her husband’s “new” wife.
Linda noticed that Laura started wearing the same jewelry as her and even dyed her hair the same color as Linda’s platinum blonde hair.At first, Linda thought these “interesting” new changes was just a coincidence. However, as time went by, she began to realize that Laura was not just stealing her sense of style, she was beginning to talk like Linda and even take on her personality traits, hobbies, and interests.
She had been telling their other neighbors Linda’s stories of vacations and travels that she herself never went on, pretending these stories were her own. She even began imitating her career. Linda was a therapist and professor and suddenly Laura was acting like she was a mental health expert, even though she did not have a college degree let alone a career like Linda’s. She wanted to be Linda and take over her life.

What To Do About Psychological Identity Theft

Identity theft can enact a kind of psychological violence on the victim that enablers of toxic people may not validate or understand. Survivors of narcissists have expressed to me that they feel abused and violated by this type of malignant mimicry, and they often have to take time and space to recover from this type of psychological violence and reclaim their identity and mental health after such an experience. If you’ve been the victim of psychological identity theft and erosion, it’s important to seek support from a trained professional who is well-versed in narcissistic manipulation tactics and empathic to your needs.

You must reconnect to what makes you unique and special and take the steps to reclaim ownership over what is rightfully yours. You are the one who deserves to reap the benefits of your life, skills, and personality – not a distorted copy. Some enablers in society may gaslight you about this phenomenon, but it is important to resist this gaslighting. Psychological identity theft isn’t normal nor should it be encouraged. It is a blatant violation of privacy and of one’s basic rights.

We should not be teaching people to imitate others or act like it is a compliment. Adopting the same hobbies, passions and interests in an attempt to seem fascinating is an insult to the person who is genuinely interested in them and has expert knowledge in these areas. Drawing inspiration and giving due credit to sources is one thing, plagiarizing is another. Passing off the life stories of others as your own is downright exploitative and violating. Sharing mutual dreams organically is different from suddenly pursuing a dream you never had just to get “bragging” rights and one-up someone you’re envious of.

What Society Must Understand About Malignant Identity Theft

Psychological identity theft falls into the area of emotional abuse, stalking and harassment. If someone is looking at your every move to mold their personality to yours, they are trying to exploit what makes you who you are as well as profit off your labor and natural talents, gifts, and talents. And it’s not just the identity thieves that need to be held accountable: potential enablers must take action as well.

Friends and family members need to take note of these disturbing patterns when they see them and call them out for what they are. Bosses and colleagues must encourage more creativity, transparency, and originality, making it a rule to credit others when warranted rather than allowing exploitative workers to bully, harass, stalk, and steal from their more talented and hard-working peers. They should never punish those who speak out about such blatantly abusive behavior while rewarding and praising those who do not possess the skill sets nor talents to produce original work, lest they risk alienating the very people that have contributed the best work.

Most therapists and researchers who are trauma-informed take these behaviors seriously as they know the effect this type of behavior has on mental health. However, those who are not well-versed in these tactics must take special care to learn about them and be careful not to dismiss or invalidate such experiences. We are all unique in our own ways and these differences should be celebrated and recognized. For the narcissistic people who need to copy in order to seem unique, they will travel from person to person trying to find the perfect “personality” to don as a mask to meet their agendas and fail to meet their goals long-term once exposed. For the “originals,” their lives will continue to follow the path of authenticity and thriving as they deserve. As one survivor told me, you can attempt a similar recipe, but the original “sauce” can never be replicated.

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