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.
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Oh Savannah, I love this blog.
I come back to it often.
It’s so true, they lack insight and no memory.
They justify absolutely every bad thing they say or do.
It’s never her fault always mine.
How long will this take for me to be cured. A year and a half. Why does the word love still come into my mind with her.
A new mindset is what I need. I have a new place now and I love it.
A lot has been going on. I got really sick and then my dad died, even though I have beautiful children around me I felt so alone.
I picked myself up as usual and the codependent that I am got everything organised. It’s like my ex narc has radar with me, the day my dad died she messaged my daughter for a stupid reason, then turned up drunk to her door, then after a couple of months rings me out of the blue to abuse me, with the new girlfriend abusing me through the phone as well. Gosh I answered the call because I thought she was calling me to say sorry my dad died.
Fucccccccckkkkk…………………………………….in her own way maybe. But so horrible.
Love to you all. xxxxxxx
Love to you all.
Read some of the “Abouts” for meglomaniacs out there. It’s constantly amazing to me how people will attach the acomplishments of others to themselves as if they were the same person. Narcissistic behavior is the ultimate dishonesty that warps all of social media and mostly all of the political and geopolitical arenas of life. How do I know that? Just ask me.
The Head Narcissist
Someone asked about telling their “N” why they are breaking up with them with an answer that their significant other is an N. I would advise against that and I am pretty sure Savannah has already advised another reader not to do that. It will only lead to bullying, arguing and in some instances physical violence. They will NEVER agree that they are an N. They will NEVER seek therapy to change their behavior. I suppose there could be exceptions, but part of being an “N” is that they do no wrong. Their problems are always someone else’s fault. I didn’t use the “N” label with my ex but I do remember telling him to stop being in denial. He had a typical N Harem of women and he would say over and over that he did nothing to encourage their behavior and “love” of him. He would tell me “why can’t you just be happy that you have a good-looking, smart and confident man”? And that women were just naturally drawn to him. B and S is what I say! He totally targeted desperate women, he was good at reading people and knowing how to push all their buttons.
Long story short, I was asked over and over why and finally I just said I would not discuss the reasons any more. We had been discussing and arguing our differences for years and it was clear we were at an impasse. The only success to me moving forward was to block him where I could and over and over not respond to any contact. I threw away all photos with him in them and attempt to erase him from my life totally. I am coming up on 3 years no contact and I am just now feeling myself again. I have a way to go still but I FINALLY feel progress. The first year, I wanted the good feelings he gave me. I missed some things (not much thank goodness as I had gotten to a point of disgust) Give yourself time. It is PTSD, I had nightmares for a couple years. I do not date, I focus on family and developing female friendships and hobbies and building a fabulous home for me and my children. I am doing well in my career and finally after 16 long years since my divorce, I am finally recovering financially. It is a lot of work but well worth it.
Unlike my sister, I acknowledge the damage our mother did to our self-esteem. I love my mom (she is now deceased) but I know what damage her words and actions had on me. I don’t dwell on it as my mom was mentally, physically and sexually abused by her parents all her childhood. And her words are being replaced in my head with MY words. I am worth it. I love myself. And I am finally taking care of myself and improving my quality of life. Have patience with yourself but do not be complacent and lazy. Do the work! You are worth it!
Your posts are a constant remedy. The narcissistic parents that reared me still, and probably always will render me as doubtful of my judgement when assessing people, Narcissists are extremely prevalent and wear many disguises and so whenever one of your posts appears in my inbox I just know I’m going to feel fortified in whatever is my most recent encounter with this annoying and pointless human condition.
I was involved with a Narcissist for 14 years, it took 10 years of mental abuse to realize I wasn’t the problem. He changed me mentally and physically. To this day he stalks me , I caught him 2 weeks ago pulling around my house as I was leaving. I don’t understand what his obsession is that keeps him sneaking around. I want to go back to who I was prior to meeting him, but I don’t know how. I don’t want to be the person I changed to appease him, I want me back, and I don’t know we’re to begin.
It made me sad to hear about your son. My father was a malignant N and the father of 7 children. I wish someone had told me it was alright just to get away from his crazy-making but the world tells you to make amends and be kind. I would have been so much better off if I’d just written him off when I left home at 16. I wanted my mother to divorce him for most of my childhood. And he still looked good to lots of people. No one could believe what we told them. After awhile, we didn’t believe ourselves. That toxic crazy world view becomes normal and it has taken me until my 50’s to even know what my father was. Once I found out, though, it was such a huge freedom. Don’t make your kids relate to these people! If they feel bad, they ARE bad.
Thank you Thriving. I need stories like yours.
So get it! In the same boat. I heard a saying that helped me tremendously: “It is not out fault that our parent couldn’t mirror back to us a sense of value and worth. “. Whew!
Slightly off topic, but I just wanted to say:
Mozart was known to have claimed he was the greatest composer in Vienna during his lifetime. But he also WAS the greatest composer in Vienna. There’s nothing wrong with claiming to be great at something if you can back it up. I find most ‘humility’ to be dishonest and self-serving anyway, as it puts society then in the drivers set, meaning one can only have value once everyone else thinks so. Most great artists, for example, were completely ignored and mocked in their day.
The problem comes when you have those with little or nothing to offer, claiming they are the greatest or best at whatever. They want the attention without having to work. These people ruin it for those who actually DO have the talent and aren’t afraid to say it.
I suppose what I am saying is for people to not be immediately turned off if someone IS claiming to be a master at something–maybe they are. If you encounter someone claiming to be a great piano player, and you see them perform and they can render Chopin like nobody’s business–and explain it, one can actually learn from someone like that.
The difference is that while they will claim to be great, those who really are have a passion for their field, and will talk endlessly about it–not just themselves. They know their shit. You can tell.
And keep in mind too, those who are a master at something know it very well and it can very frustrating when one isn’t given that recognition…like so many great artists in history, until long after their death.
Van Gogh, anyone?
I see the issue differently.
True greats promote their heroes and role models over themselves. Mozart didn’t praise himself during his lifetime. He reserved his highest praise for Haydn (his teacher) and JS Bach (his hero). For the record, so did did Beethoven after Mozart died, so did Schubert after Beethoven died, and so did Brahms after Schubert died. I don’t know where you’re getting this information from that Mozart tooted his own horn. Far from it – when you read letters he wrote to his sister and father, you realize Mozart often had a crisis of faith in his own abilities and needed to be reassured his work was good by his family members.
True greats don’t put themselves on the level of their heroes until they have surpassed them in accomplishment. By the time Michael Jordan considered himself the greatest sportsman, he had outplayed Magic Johnson and Larry Bird on the court. By the time Warren Buffett considered himself a great trader, he had overturned every record set by his mentor Benjamin Graham. By the time Bill Gates considered himself to be a great tech CEO, he had put multiple competitors out of business and superceded tech giant IBM’s OS/2 with his own Windows rollout.
True greats who offer praise generally praise their work ethic and accomplishments, rather than praise themselves. Almost every great i’ve ever investigated has gone on record saying they owe their success to back-breaking work ethic and nothing else. Many insist that the average person could do what they do if they’d only apply themselves. This is a constant refrain when true greats are asked how did you do it.
True greats cooperate, but take the lion’s share of responsibility for their accomplishment, own their mistakes and losses, and return from a setback with ever more determination. When Beethoven went deaf, he responded by writing some of the most sublime music ever heard, even though he himself never heard a note of it.
True greats make sure they have nobody left to challenge them before they toot their own horn, and they make a point of smashing records on the way up, including records set by themselves. You will notice no true great is ever a one-hit wonder; instead, they have a long CV of accomplishments that build in power over a lifetime.
True greats are generally transparent about what they do and how they do it. Usually, when you examine what they actually do, it’s so basic at the core that you wonder why everyone didn’t think of it before they came through and conquered with the same idea. In hindsight, what the great did seems to be an excellent elaboration upon the inevitable, and an ever-hardening combination of basic principles that never fail.
Most importantly, true greats have their genius recognized by peers and predecessors who are accomplished in and of themselves. They find friends in high places who raise them to be successors to the throne. Many times the outgoing champion will abdicate their position at the top for the newcomer to step into power. Other times they end up at odds, where the younger, sharper newcomer bests the outgoing ruler. Always there is a changing of the guard.
There are many other examples of these characteristics in true greatness beyond these 3 role models, but these rules generally hold true.
The narcissist is not like that at all.
The narcissist is quick to praise themselves, accomplishment or no accomplishment. To them, they are great just for showing up. Everything they do on top of that is them showing off, and you are expected to appreciate this. There is never a question – the narcissist is always perfect, everything they do is beyond reproach or correction. How dare you suggest otherwise?
The narcissist has no superiors to vouch for them, only yes-men. Anyone who disagrees is an enemy and must be slandered. How dare you not recognize the legend in their own mind?
The narcissist is there to take the credit when things go right. When things go wrong, the blame belongs to you.
The narcissist is not known in their industry. Nobody has heard of them. The narcissist is a delegator. And this is how they delegate: you take the work, they take the credit. Again, when things go wrong, the blame belongs to you.
The narcissist breaks no records. At best their accomplishments are only slightly better than average, on some occasions approaching actual excellence, but never of legendary status. The narcissist doesn’t live to build themselves up, their game is to tear others down, so ability to break personal records isn’t in their personality.
The greatness of the narcissist is always top-secret. You’re nosy for asking them for proof, and untrustworthy for questioning their process. Always you are the villain for doing anything but offer more flattery to them. Even when you do flatter the narcissist, you are treated with contempt. To the narcissist, you can never be more than a useful idiot to their legend.
The narcissist has no champions, only flatterers. They’re not recognized by their predecessors, for the simple fact narcissists come to power through libel and poisoning the well. Those aren’t abilities recognized or respected by anyone of actual ability.
There’s a great difference between a true great and a narcissist. For that reason, i question anyone too quick to toot their own horn without an accompanying list of accomplishments given by others not in their corner.
With that said, time will tell. Water finds its level given time. When you can’t tell who’s who, put the issue on the back-burner. Over the long term, underperformance and scandal will generally weed the narcissists out of contention, and the true cream rises to the top in every profession.
My exhusband claimed to be a war hero with many Purple Hearts. One of them he received from rescuing soldiers in the Gulf War. His helicopter hit a land mine and his genitals were cut off. They were sewn on by a German doctor (female) who did a great job! Well – one of his other ex=wives told me that he would have been dead if he hit a land mine!! Who cares about the private parts. This story always gave me a good laugh.
Oh – and he wrote a book about how he was lost at sea and had to battle sharks. Quite the grand story. He even published a book (vanity press). It was a terrible book and of course, nobody bought it. He was angry about that.
Now he lives with his fourth wife and is a noted horse trainer! God knows the stories he told her!?
But I do know how easy it is for a codependent to believe the stories. The narc tells them so well and you want to believe everything they say and help build them up. That is what a good codependent does. Thank you for your insight.
I knew a narcissist once. The day I extracted myself from that terrible toxicity was a great day.
X was an academic, accomplished in his field. He (X) didn’t seem to brag about his accomplishments much, but he wanted to control his area of academia to the point that he organizes attack other academics, and many were/are afraid of criticizing his work or him for fear of being one of his ongoing targets.
X has a social media page. He seems to appear to think it’s like a real life organization with many 10s of thousands of members. It’s like he has delusions of grandeur about this page. X insisted that those who assist him on his social media page should not question him in public and the same applied coincidentally in private (although he didn’t state that). It was death to the “friendship” if one ever questioned X’s behavior or his constant conflict-seeking online. X would not fight his own battles online and would elude to his page admins (not ask them directly) to fight his battles for him and they would do so with great loyalty. It bordered / borders on cult-like behavior. If anyone dare criticize anything about X, any of his attacks on people online, X would then turn on those individuals and then attack and slander them relentlessly.
I don’t really know if X has any insight whatsoever into his behavior. It’s hard to tell but X certainly knows how to cover his tracks and has a system tried and true of slandering anyone who speaks of him privately or publicly in any truthful way. X does that so that no one believes anything these targeted people say. I think X really believes that anyone who criticizes him or rejects him is just being a “vicious” and “evil” person. He gets his admins to engage in cyberbullying.
The thing I find fascinating is that despite X using social media to constantly seek out conflict online and using it to draw attention to himself through this conflict, otherwise intelligent people continue to be recruited to his group. Some are aware of X’s behavior before they join, others not. Many even abandon their friends in life and online if X indicates he doesn’t like them or after X has slandered them (which he does often) to the point that his page admins believe the lies and slander. X has been doing this now for at least a decade but probably more and he continues to slander and lie to his new followers (whom he grooms and flatters initially) and the cycle continues. He chews them up and spits them out and gets new recruits if any of them “catch on” to his narcissism and bad behavior.
My question is, why is it that people ignore the obvious problems and red flags with this narcissist and continue to support him?
Sara Tonin, why is it that people ignore the obvious problems and red flags with this narcissist and continue to support him? This is the same question I keep asking myself. But, I also keep asking myself, why do I have to read Savannah’s blog regularly (a year after a legal divorce from a Narc) waiting every Monday for her confirmation that yes, my ex was a Narc and yes, my ex did not love me and neither he loved our son, not in a sense I understand love.
I still have so much trouble telling people that knew us as a “great couple” that it wasn’t what we presented outside. Now, I get furious when people tell me that he really loved me and the fact that he got with another before he was through with me only means that he is suffering a re-bound and he wants to upset me. Yeah, he supposedly knows that I would be upset that he keeps bullying our son and that’s why he does it, blah, blah, blah… It’s true that he does upset me, particularly when I see my son suffering again because of his dad’s sick behaviour but… I consider it my problem letting this get to me. I have trouble telling the grown up son that sorry, but your dad has never ever truly loved you and now needs you only as a supply to his own amusement.
I finally got into a few of my relatives’s heads, including my 88 year mother that as much as she loved her ex son-in-law, and as much as she thinks my ex was a wonderful father, I made the right decision. As much as they think that is not good for my son not to see his biological father, it is really healthier for my son.
The worst thing that I hear now and I really get upset when people tell me I should encourage my son to let go of his hurt and build a bond with his dad. They are both adults and my son has showed enough good will in the past. I am actually proud of him that he found the strength to distance himself from his dad and that he is able to say no. But yes, it breaks my heart. Because that is not how it’s supposed to be, period!
People divorce all the time and the healthy people can stay civil to their ex-spouses and the children. I will forever be sorry for my kid that I chose him a father that has no idea what responsible parenting and love is. The only hope I have is that my son will not repeat the Narc pattern that runs in the ex family. So help me God!
What I had to put in my mother’s and some other wishing me and my son well people, was that you have to stop excusing my ex because you liked him and because you would never ever even think of behaving the way my ex was and is. Once, I get this in their heads and tell them to look at the facts, the real facts not emotions, they start to comprehend.
Most people go look at life from their own inner guidelines. If they wouldn’t do it then it’s hard to understand that other people would do it. If they would have scruples then other people should have them too. That’s how it goes. So why other people can’t read Narc’s obvious signs? First of all, Narcs are extremely skillful wearing a mask, secondly, most people believe in other good intentions.
I am a recovering co-dependant who was with a Narcissist for 20 years, 17 of which we lived together. I have read that a co-dependant is really the same side of a coin. But that is another
subject for another day.
At the heart of the problem with a narcissist seems to be a problem with the N lacking the basic skills necessary for being able to form bonds with others. How they got that way is another story. But all of my narcissistic research led me to conclude that it is connected to how they were treated by the adults who helped shape the way the child views the world. Adults that the young child was around the most and looked up to as his/her role model. So don’t blame yourself for their lack of skills on knowing how to relate to others.
There is so much emphasis on how much damage a relationship with a N can cause the significant other and their children. And how cruel and heartless a N can be. Which has been known to cause the significant other, post traumatic stress. I believe that a N is able to fall in love and feel love. But it is short lived because they only feel comfortable with hiding behind a mask and make believe facade. Which causes a N to become disconnected from him or herself and from reality. Consequently, they are very unhappy people as a result of the way they experience life by proxy. I have come around to feeling sympathy rather than anger and extreme grief on my journey to healing and being able to feel again. The problem they have has nothing to do with you. And can only be repaired if the N is willing to admit that the way they view close relationships is fatally flawed. And as long as you don’t blame the N for the way they are able to relate to people. As they tend to have very fragile egos.
I do hope my comment will help you learn how to forgive your ex and heal, by understanding things from the Narcissists point of view!
Hi Marie: You’ve got it mostly right, but I just wanted to make a few clarifications. There is no definitive conclusion as to how a Narc becomes a Narc – there are many firmly in the Nurture camp and just as many in the Nature camp and even more who believe that both play a roll. Their feelings are superficial. Love to them is more like obsession. They don’t fall in love, they fall obsessed. At the core you could say is their inability to form attachment bonds to others, as well as their impaired ability to feel empathy. Your repair argument is not entirely valid, because for the reasons explained in this post, they don’t believe there is something wrong with them – to them it is always someone else’s fault. As well, people change when you hold them accountable for their actions – not talking about their behavior is the reason it continues. Keeping silent is what codependents do really well and thriving in the silence is exactly what the narcissist is seeking.
Savannah, as I’m writing this I have ended my 10 yr relationship with a N for the 2nd time. He told me about an hour ago he and his son will be out of my house by the 1st and when I said ok, he looked as if he wanted me to ask him to stay. Whenever we argue I always name the sxs of a N, but have never out right told him he is. And the reason is when I call him out he becomes a bully and intimidates me by getting in face. Ive stuffed my real feelings down for 10yrs and I know before the 1st he will ask “so we’re breaking up b/c of what?” I want to just finally call him out and tell him. What do you think? And even though he exhibits all the signs of a N a part of me feels he will some how be a better person for the next girl. I know I sound crazy!
My Ex N’s mother was a nurse, so therefore so was she. One day, we were at a restaurant and an elderly woman fainted. My ex N rushed over, cleared the area, announced that she was a nurse and administered medical attention to this woman! Medical attention! She’s not a nurse! No degree, no training, nothing! Everyone was so relieved and grateful that this angel appeared out of nowhere and saved the day. Meanwhile, all I kept thinking was “OMG she’s not a nurse”. . . “what if this woman dies”? How can you do that? Turned out fine. Ambulance came, etc. etc., and she spent the rest of our meal meeting and greeting other restaurant patrons who just wanted to “stop by and comment on her heroics. Talk about supply. . .