A lot of people get taken in by the facade and the bravado displayed by the Narcissists in their lives. Confidence is sexy, there’s no doubt about it, but Narcissists tend to display an immeasurable amount of confidence without the corresponding accomplishments to back up their attitude. This is one of the most important measuring sticks when you’re trying to evaluate whether or not you’re involved with a Narcissist.
Many Narcissists make up stories, identities, careers, they tell lies, live double lives, and exaggerate the hell out of their achievements in order to help create the illusion they’d like you to believe. Like most people, they want to look good. However most people have an innate sense of right and wrong, of fairness, credibility and deservedness, Narcissists tend not to be encumbered by these feelings. You generally don’t hear them being self-deprecating (unless it’s to gain sympathy), nor do they paint themselves in an unflattering light. Usually, problems, failures and mistakes are all someone else’s fault and they can draw remarkable illustrations of their victimization.
When others contradict them, point out the reality of a situation, or speak of them in unflattering tones, a Narcissists will get incredibly defensive. Some fly into rages, others deflect, gaslight, while still others go on the offensive and start attacking anyone who doesn’t give them their due.
By behaving in an outrageous and unpredictable manner, anytime they are contradicted, there is a level of conditioning going on for the recipients of it – they are training others not to challenge them, not to point out their flaws, lies or exaggerations, because if they do, it’ll get very unpleasant for them.
They need the attention and the admiration that goes with being the hero, or by claiming to have extreme talent, intelligence, athletic prowess, beauty….. they need it like a drug addict needs their next fix, so heaven help anyone who gets in the way of that.
I once accompanied a former Narc-friend to a convention in Florida that she attended every year. She knew all the people there and unbeknownst to me had created a web of lies about herself. I was making small talk with someone I had just met and I discovered that she had told everyone that she owned her parents house and because they were elderly, she allowed them to live with her. Not only did she create the illusion that she was financially successful, she got to look altruistic to boot. The reality was that she lived in her parents home and that at 36, they felt she should be living on her own and very much wanted her to move out. When I was asked about it and spoke the truth (not knowing she had lied about it), she spun it like I was crazy and didn’t know what I was talking about. I was left looking the fool and even had to taste her ire for speaking the truth.
I also had a Narcissistic friend, who kept telling the same story over and over again and with each telling, he would add another heroic feat. He was a great story teller and held his audience in rapt attention. The only problem with the story was that it wasn’t true. I know this because I was there. The fact that I knew he was spouting rubbish made no difference to him.
My ex-Narcissist had a mother that became a doctor at the age of 40. She was highly intelligent and went on to become an very successful Oncologist. Her son gained considerable supply through her achievements. For a cerebral Narcissist having a high achieving parent meant that he could rest on her laurels without having to lift a finger. Through the magic of genetics he believed he was owed the same reverence as his doctor mother. We met when I was in University. He was a high school drop out and I had tried to help him by enrolling him in a program that would aid him in getting into University as an adult. He signed up, paid the fee, attended 4 classes, but by the time the first assignment was due, he had decided that the course was stupid and a waste of his considerable intelligence. Throughout the next 10 years of our relationship, I never once saw him pick up a book, yet he still behaved like he was the one with the medical degree.
Still, if you Google something like, ‘man practices medicine on patients while faking medical degree,’ you’ll get pages and pages of stories of individuals who want the title and the prestige, without doing the necessary work or obtaining the necessary credentials. Narcissists can’t be bothered with doing the work or doing things properly. This is why they surround themselves with partners who are caretakers, fixers and helpers. They want people to do the work for them.
I had a client who had a Ph.D in Anthropology and had met a man who was inspired by her success. Though he was not qualified, with her tenure at the University, she helped him get into Graduate School. She continued helping him – on every assignment, every paper and even on his dissertation. When he obtained his Ph.D. he dumper her.
With their overall sense of entitlement, they truly believe that they are deserving of any and all achievements, whether feigned or not. The question is don’t they know that they have lied, made stuff up, didn’t do the work?….The answer is yes, but mostly no.
Narcissists have a very fragile ego. Underneath the facade and the bravado is an incredibly insecure individual. From a cognitive perspective, one has to conclude that if a person is of sound mind and has memory, of course they know when they are lying and making things up, but Dr.’s Dunning and Kruger have a different perspective.
The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cognitive bias where people of a lesser ability suffer from illusory superiority, whereby they mistake their cognitive ability to be greater than it is. Metacognition is our ability to have insight, to be aware of our awareness, to think about thinking. With persons who lack insight, their ability to judge their own ineptitude is impaired. Without metacognition individuals of lesser ability cannot objectively evaluate the actual competence or incompetence. (Wickipedia)
David Dunning and Justin Kruger state that the cognitive bias of illusory superiority results from an internal illusion in people of low ability and from an external misperception in people of high ability; that is, “the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.” (Kruger, Justin; Dunning, David (1999). “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments”)
Unless you’re Mohammad Ali, you should not be running around spouting off that you are the greatest and the prettiest. Ali can do that, because he actually was the greatest. Most Narcissists will never achieve greatness because they believe that the requirements are for other, lesser people. Some Narcissist do experience success, the reasons behind their success are more than likely all self-serving. When a Narcissist does have money, or has achieved some level of success, believe me you’ll know it. Humility they name is not Narcissist.
An inflated view of their own self-importance is a trait shared by most Narcissists. If you are involved with someone who behaves in an arrogant, haughty manner and who lies or misrepresents their achievements, this is not something that you should ever just brush over. It’s a clear indication that this person lacks insight and does not have a firm grasp on reality. Once you have evidence of this, this is your cue to leave.
Someone coined the term “flying monkeys,” to refer to the yes-men and women that Narcissists surround themselves with. These are people that, among other things, turn a blind eye to the truth and reality and willingly participate in and perpetuate the false world that a Narcissist lives in. Don’t be one of them.
Always remember that all healthy relationships consist of two people with both their feet planted firmly in reality. If you can’t call a thing a thing without an argument, or punishment of some kind, you are not in a relationship, you’re in a dictatorship. Fight your way through the doubt and the confusion, and get yourself out of the clouds and back down to earth.
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