There is a beauty bias in our culture. People, who possess beauty, get more advantages and more opportunities than the esthetically challenged. Being the beautiful one in a relationship also has clear benefits, but what is it about a pretty face that makes us take such a drastic leave of our senses?
Society puts a high premium on beauty. Beauty sells products, people like to look at it, and it makes us feel good. We like beautiful things. Obtaining and maintaining beauty is a billion dollar industry. We all want to be beautiful. People try desperately to become it. We exercise to extremes, starve ourselves, go under the knife, take drugs and supplements, spend billions on cosmetics and creams, all designed to make, or keep us beautiful. The fact that we go to these extremes means something. It means that beauty is really important to us.
Beauty symbolizes wealth, vitality, health and goodness. But if we’re not beautiful, or we don’t believe we are, what then? Those of us who have grown up feeling not good enough tend to seek beauty in our partners.
We seek out the beautiful, with the unconscious hope, that we can gain beauty through proxy. We hope that we can take part in their world of advantage. We hope to experience the opportunities that their beauty provides, because the fact that they have chosen us means that there must be something special about us too. It also feels good to be with someone that other people want. There is a guilty pleasure in being envied, which adds to our confidence.
Generally, beautiful people are attracted to beautiful people. When we see an unattractive male with a beautiful female, I have a friend, who always says, “Wow he massively overachieved.” And we all laugh. But we’re all thinking the same thing. “What is she doing with him?” “He must be rich, or famous….(insert large penis joke).” But whatever the reason, seeing two people that don’t line up esthetically sets us off, because beauty generally begets beauty. So if we don’t feel beautiful and we are partnered with someone beautiful, it legitimizes our own beauty.
You Make Me Feel So Ugly
One of the tricks of dysfunctionally beautiful people is to use their beauty to control others. If you can teach someone that they are nothing without you – you’ve gained power over them. There is power in beauty. Being with someone whose beauty makes them popular and shower’s them with attention, can create, even in the most secure partner, feelings that they don’t like or recognize.
Stunning model and actress Irina Shayk is probably best known for her five year relationship with European footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. They were often referred to as the most beautiful couple in the world, appearing on several magazine covers together, including the one above.
Earlier this year, the couple split after Shayk found compromising text messages from other women on Ronaldo’s phone. Later she would comment that being with Ronaldo made her feel, “so ugly.”
How could a woman who is superbly gorgeous, who has graced the cover of every major magazine in the world and starred alongside Dwayne Johnson (the Rock) in the movie Hercules – feel ugly?
The Disfunctionally Beautiful
Dysfunctionally beautiful (DB) people learn early, that beauty is a commodity that can be used to manipulate others. It’s another weapon in their arsenal. From an early age they’ve begun the process of using their beauty to get what they want.
Some of us figure out our talents in childhood, for some it’s throwing a football, dancing, or painting… and we grow up honing these skills. For the dysfunctionally beautiful, their ‘skill’ is obvious right out of the gate, they can sense it in the way adults react to them and by the time they reach adulthood, they’ve become masters at using their looks to control others. By this time it has become so natural to them, they do it without even thinking.
Beauty is their lure, it draws people to them and through experience, the DB’s of this world, know that, as the beautiful one in the relationship, they have a license to behave anyway they want, with a large probability that by making you feel more insecure, you’ll overlook it, because you don’t want to give up all the things their beauty means to you.
Economics teaches us about supply and demand – beauty is always is demand, so there are always buyers, which means that DB people have more options when it comes to partners.” If you don’t like the way I’m behaving I can leave and find someone else who will.” And they can and do so, with ease and we know this – we fear this. So we readily make excuses, rationalize and minimize their bad behavior.
DB people know that losing them is a very real fear that insecure people have. Which makes them perpetuate their partner’s insecurity further. Ending a relationship with a DB is so much more than just an everyday breakup, because you have so much more riding on the relationship than they do. It’s become so much more than just companionship. Insecure people allow their identity to get tied to the relationship – with this person I am beautiful and all things related to that –without them, who am I?
My long term Narcissist was beautiful, model beautiful. His beauty meant a lot to me. It validated me as a person, because if I could win such a prize, that must mean that there was something good about me, that no one else saw. It meant that everyone who ever doubted me, or hurt me, was wrong. It meant that I was worthy, that I was beautiful, that I deserved beautiful things and if you couldn’t see what he saw in me, it added to my mystery. It opened doors for me. It gave me confidence.
It was borrowed confidence I quickly learned, because with that kind of beauty, paired with extreme Narcissism there are always other women reaching out, trying to take what was mine and a Narcissist is always reaching back for more supply. The moment he walked out, he took my identity with him. I had no idea who I was, because everything that I had become was all wrapped up in him.
Without his beauty who was I? Insecure people seem to have a belief that they need permission, they need their feelings and beliefs to be authenticated and validated by other people. Without him showing the rest of the world that I was special, I felt lost.
It was the beginning of the biggest awakening of my life. It forced me to figure out who I was all on my own, but more importantly, it sent me on a journey to discover my own specialness. I didn’t need anyone else to validate me, that who I was, was entirely up to me and dependent upon me alone – no one else.
I can’t say that Cristiano Ronaldo is a Narcissist. He is a world famous, ridiculously wealthy, attractive professional athlete. He has wealth, beauty, fame, talent, admiration and respect – everything anyone could ever want. I think what Irina Shayk meant by her comment, was that his star was bigger than hers and he used it to his advantage. It over powered her and she felt lost underneath the weight of his celebrity.
Sometimes the things that we want the most can be the most unhealthy for us. In a cruel twist of fate, I thought that my Narcissist’s beauty would make me feel beautiful too, but it actually made me feel the exact opposite. Like Shayk, being with my Narcissist, I realized in the end, made me feel ugly. I learned that just like self-worth, you can’t gain beauty by proxy, because beauty is an inside job.
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@Lola –Why in the hell do we equate unhealthy, co-dependent, needy (and even stalker) behavior as being smitten?
All of my friends, both men and women, TOTALLY had that response when I complained to them that my ex was love-bombing me! They said things like “he’s just really into you.” One friend even asked me why I was “so mean” to him when I told her that I confronted him about his behavior!
A male friend of mine is in a new relationship (about a month long) with a woman who just rubs me the wrong way (she’s way too into him, too soon). He mentioned her behavior to me in a group setting (she’s been love bombing him), and I was the only person in the group who saw this behavior as a sign of concern.
And oh my god, your comment about Facebook, it is so correct. My ex wanted to tag us everywhere, wherever we went. His newsfeed was filled with photos of us, and he constantly posted cheesy ass things on my page about how much loved me, etc.
I wondered why he did this. At first I thought insecurity. Anytime I see someone post too much about their relationship, I suspect that the relationship is extremely troubled because “they doth protest too much.” But now this makes sense. He wanted all the hangers-on in his harem to want him even more by love bombing me. He would post dishes that he cooked for me, things he bought me, places he took me. He went to this length solely to make the other women in his life pine for him.
I have been off of Facebook for a year and I will not return. I also will not friend anyone I’m dating on social media ever again.
NR: Here’s another cheeseball thing. The somatic boomerang my friend was discarded from is now love-bombing the crap out of his new target. Oh he loves her so much! (Even though she wasn’t even divorced yet when they started dating, aka f-ing.) She’s just so great! The profile pic of him and her together is creepy–his arm is wrapped around her shoulder from the front, so it looks like he’s saying, “Mine!”
Meanwhile he wants harem members to think: “Oh, isn’t he a loyal boyfriend? Doesn’t this prove it?”
Less than a week before he began that “relationship” he was telling my friend lovey-dovey crap and still love-bombing her. Then, discard days later!
Turns out he moved in with the new target after less than 4 months. (Gets him out of his crappy house where he lives with his dad.) He’s also a registered sex offender with a criminal past. Hmm. I wonder if the new target knows this.
Here’s the cheesy thing though: a pic of the DVD of 50 Shades of Grey with a bottle of wine and a rose, implying they’re going to get it on after watching that. “Oh, how cute!” BARF.
Even if I were to do something that cheesy I would be EMBARRASSED if some guy shared that. Why would I want strangers to know of our sex life?
It makes me mad b/c I don’t like how he treated my friend or the girl he hurt and used before her. (Treated her like a dishrag.) He is such a user all his harem members just eat his BS up. Makes me ill.
Well, I am changing the subject because of my own struggles this week. The beauty is not an issue in my life as both myself and me ex-husband were relatively similar, good looking, but not beautiful(I think I look better than he does, however, for whatever that means about me–my insecurity?–but he was an MD so that “made up” for it).
However, I write because I just came up with a new resolve for myself and probably all of us who struggle with codependence and narcissism: NEVER READ A “HOW TO SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE” ARTICLE AGAIN. It just doesn’t work for us and will just make us feel like we should have done better, should have given it one more go-around. Those articles DO NOT APPLY TO US. SO DON’T READ THEM. Obviously I got sucked into reading one on Facebook this morning and it sent me or an unnecessary crying jag. No, there is nothing I could have done to have saved the marriage. No, the marriage was not worth saving. No, I was never loved, honored, or cherished. So it was done before it started and I spent entirely too many years of my life trying to pretend I was happy and to make it into a marriage. One person cannot do that. You guys will understand. Thanks.
@Free At Last: This is so right on! It would be great if these advice columns and articles came with a disclaimer, because they generally only apply to normal, healthy people that are having normal, healthy problems.
Before I knew that my ex was a Narc and I was trying to assess what was going on, I got caught up in reading these types of articles, too. I even came across one that nearly convinced me that we just simply spoke different “love languages.” Savannah’s site is the only one that clearly helped me identify who and what he really is.
While we’re going through the healing process we really have to stay away from those type of self-help articles, since as co-dependents we tend to blame ourselves for everything, anyway. And there’s also no cure for our exes (Narcs) assholery.
Those articles are BS when you’re dealing with someone with narc/splath tendencies. I think they’re prob BS even when you’re dealing with healthy people as well. Basically it gives you this notion that if he is love-bombing the crap out of you that that means ‘he’s really into you.’ They get you to Romanticize the guy and imbue emotions into him that probably aren’t there.
I’ve even stumbled across some articles that said that if a guy says you’re perfect then he’s into you and you must be ‘the one’. Well no. It doesn’t mean anything. My friend who was discarded from the somatic boomerang–he said that to her, along with hinting at relationship talk. Then he moved in with someone else. So no, it meant nothing.
I think those articles merely just prop up the Romantic Hollywood myth which isn’t true.
They give the guys too much clout and don’t take into consideration people might just be telling you what you want to hear, which is what NPD’s and anti-socials do.
From the outside when we see a couple moving in together after only 4 months or saying ‘I love you’ only after a week we want to think, ‘aw, they’re really in love.’ When in reality, that’s not love but merely intimacy being rushed (bad sign).
For every rushed relationship that works out there are 99% that never do. That’s what those articles fail to mention.
BTW Narc Repellant: I remember you saying how much your narc love-bombed you in the beginning. If you don’t mind my asking, how long did that early phase last before he began starting to show his true signs? I know that the duration can vary and hence I am curious.
@Lola — To answer your question:
My Narc love-bombed me within the first month of dating. It was so bad (in an annoying, saccharine way, not a creepy way) that I actually invited him out to coffee to confront him about his behavior.
When we met, I said he was calling me too much, texting too much and that I was feeling smothered. I recall saying that I am very dedicated to my career which requires long hours and don’t have a lot of time for anyone and that I am someone who needs a lot of space, and if this was going to continue or if he thought this kind of needy behavior was normal, that it was best that we end the courtship right now.
What’s crazy to me now is how even back then, before I was healed, I was: #1) Setting a boundary; #2) Knew something was wrong with him.
But I see now that what I did incorrectly was take the time to explain this to him (now I think a simple declarative call or text would have sufficed) and also giving him a second chance was a huge mistake. The new me would be ending things then and there.
Here’s how he reacted: He said he was embarrassed and that he was behaving this way because he was “just so smitten and taken” by me and that he’s “never felt this way before” (so cheesy and dumb). He then did everything to verbally assure me that he was not clingy and needy (not true).
He then pretended to be normal for several months while dating. It wasn’t until he moved into my house that he reverted back (slowly) to his controlling, obsessive behavior and that his true colors as a Narc showed.
Thanks for your reply, NR.
What is it with these narcs and always being so damn cheesy when they’re trying to get us under their wing?
There’s always the whole, “you’re so perfect, beautiful, sexy, I love your intelligence (even though I’m going to discard you for someone who can barely spell), etc.”
Most 3rd parties witnessing love-bombing think it’s “real love” –“Oh, I’m so happy for you!” when it’s just red flag over and over.
FB is great for the love-bomber. That way his harem can all see it and think what a great guy he is and how they’d just love to have someone like him. How convenient for when he finally tires of his new target.
I agree to this also. My narcissist boyfriend makes me feel insecure but tells me I’m beautiful in the same sentence. He has beautiful long eye lashes that the lady’s love about him. But he’s a chubby Italian/ UK guy that loves getting attention from other women. Even when the waitress flirting with him when I’m sitting right he gets a kick out of…acts like an immature kid. Makes me feel like I’m not doing a good enough job at being his girlfriend. He has made me lose myself and I have people tell me I’m beautiful and there’s tons of guys who would love to be with a girl like me snd I deserve sooooo much better. Just trying to find the way out and finding myself and my confidence scares me. I seen a poster on a gym wall one time and I love it.. It said “finding the courage to let go of the familiar”
What a riveting article. Only half read it so far. I’m savoring the rest for later, AFTER work. Your keen eyesight of the inner landscape of the human psyche makes for very good reading. I love how you think and how you write and what you write about and how you write it. I have a question for you. Do you ever feel like you know too much? About human behavior? I get accused of being too “deep” sometimes. I’ll be honest. Nothing wears me out more than pretending to be interested in all the boring, trivial stuff that passes the time by people in the form of “small talk.” But when I come here, I feel my spirit is fed with rich nutrients made of REAL substance, minus all the trivial “filler.” Sorry, off the cuff, and not about the article, but it is, actually. Because the “beauty” I see has nothing to do with skin depth, but your amazing ability to articulate these subjects that all hum below the surface. And I like it.
The way you talk how you felt about your narcissist and why you needed him… the confirmation we think we got from them for being worth, because finally a really beautiful and charming person choosen us, describes so much how I felt before! (what a delusion!)
My ex was quite handsome and had a great body, like a model as you say. And at first, I find it nice of him to choose to had a long relationship with a fairly less beautifull person than he was. I saw her, I didn’t find her ugly as he said, not at all. I found she was quite normal, less pretty than him for sure, but quite cute and sweet! That made me think he was not shallow. That he had choosen to stay with her for so long because he really loved her.
Later I started to realize that his relation with her was mostly based in a “power” thing rather than love. He was the handsome one in the relationship, he just did what he wanted the whole time because he felt powerful, he thought she wouldn’t find anything better. And he was wrong. She fell for an ugly but much better guy.
Oh…He used to tell me I wouldn’t find anyone better than him. I just laughed the first time I heard that and said “excuse me?! What do you mean by better?” That was a big red flag for me, he could be the most handsome guy I ever dated, but his attitude seemed so wrong and … if he says such, then what does he actually thinks about me? That I’m a loser? Oh what the hell?!
Btw, like Ronaldo, I’m portuguese too and we’re the same age. That guy could be the best football player around, but weirdly I’m not proud of him. I never liked that guy, he’s so full of himself it makes me sick.
I believe beauty- like strength, intelligence, wit, charm, money, success, achievements- are gifts in life like icing on the cake- extras to be enjoyed and shared while they are around and happily let go of when they go. The gifts may make life easier and exciting for a moment but they do not give lasting or deep happiness. If we cling to them when they go they actually rob us of our peace. If we depend on them for our happiness and even worth as a person we will suffer because they are not meant for this- they are like shifting sand- always changing, never stable. True lasting happiness- peace, joy and deep fulfillment- is only found in unconditionally loving and accepting our authentic, true, inner selves- our soul- just as we are and having no attachment to the gifts in life for happiness, security, anything. I believe it is also from following the spiritual path- trusting there is a benevolent force in the universe abundantly providing everything we need: good things, strengthening lessons and challenges so our soul grows and we authentically and peacefully fulfill our purpose for the day. Accepting ourselves and life as it is and flowing with it. If we are codependent, we were taught at a young age the ego’s lie that we were not good enough just as we are. In order to be happy and secure in life we had to cling to and fill ourselves up with the external gifts of beauty, intelligence, perfection, submissive kindness and the validation of others while resisting and hiding our flaws. Of course we would be a perfect match for a narcissist. Both of us disconnected from true self/soul love and were dependent on external things for our validation (also- seeing the world wrongly: as a threatening place). I believe, when we let go of the ego and all the external validation and attachment to life’s gifts and we love and live out life exactly as we are and trust ourselves, our path and God/higher power/benevolent force then we can emotionally detach from narcissists. Their validation/love bombing of us will be insignificant because we don’t need it nor are we impressed by it. Their invalidation- their insults, threats and sabotage are insignificant because they can’t take anything important (like our inner peace) from us. We truly love and accept ourselves so their negativity towards us will ring false, even silly, and we will know the truth in all our being: that their negativity is about their unhappiness and has nothing to do with us. This freedom is why I think it’s so important to prioritize and not put off our healing, growth and spiritual journey.
Believingdavidslies: the reason men do not call as often as the average girls is that they think you would reject them. Being rejected be a beautiful woman is much harder on our low self esteem than being rejected by an average woman. If you want dates you may try coming half way to the man so that he believe it is possible to date a beauty like you.
Though I hate to admit it. This is true. I’ve been told by countless men of my beauty, in fact, I can almost guarantee that any man I go out with will want more, some of them very rich, some of them very attractive. Yet I am riddled with self doubt. My xN made me feel not good enough. He treated me like I had no value and I ate it up. Always trying to prove myself as being good enough for him. He is very handsome, an ex model and actor. I’ve never felt so beautiful and unwanted at the same time. This relationship uncovered my blind spots. I was using him to feel validated, because I honestly wouldn’t have put up with a fraction of what I did had he not been as handsome.
So many striking insights in your post. My xN is a person who learned to manipulate people early on, and her striking good looks are her prime weapon. The toxic formula seems to be: great natural beauty + dysfunctional childhood = unhappy beautiful monster. I was thinking of Carl Jung’s idea that in any myth the different characters can be thought of as aspects of a single person. My xN is a great example; she is the children’s story “Beauty and the Beast.” But she will never achieve the reconciliation of the story, because her conflicting internal characters never communicate and come to understand each other. The ugly rage filled monster is stuck in the dungeon and never gets to speak its pain. The seductive beauty covers up all feelings, and is always seeking supply compulsively. There is no peace inside her and never will be.
When I see a vain, attention-seeking beauty now I turn away. When I meet a lovely person with warmth I am interested. And I’ve come to see that beauty is not what I thought it was. It is not the cover of Vogue or the swim suit issue of a sports magazine. It is that bright inner light, the glow of an authentic person who is comfortable inside and who has that sense of authenticity. Beauty is the expression of a living soul — someone seeking intimacy, not an audience. The most beautiful people don’t know how beautiful they really are. Unlike the narcissist, who knows exactly how much beauty they have, which they spend like currency. Only it’s a bankrupt currency. Their selfishness and vanity are in fact deeply ugly.
What you’re saying to describe your ex matches this somatic boomerang I know. I wrote about him in another post–I call him Bo. All Bo has going for him are his looks–he sculpts them and works on himself profusely. His entire supply and self-worth are gathered through women wanting him or believing they want him.
He propped himself up as being an alpha male, working for this big name chemical company, claiming to make $100 K a year. Was evasive about his college (he never went) and liked to come off like he was a chemist or engineer.
He discarded my friend after love bombing her for 6 months. He found new supply–some girl in her 20s with 2 kids who isn’t even divorced yet and now he’s love bombing her.
Turns out we came to learn he is a registered sex offender, has been in and out of jail many times, has 4 mugshots from just one state alone, as well as reckless driving, violating probation, going in and out of jail sometimes for 2 months at a time, driving on suspended license, no insurance, the list goes on. Not to mention refusal to pay his court fines for years. He was also divorced and never mentioned he was even married. His place of residence is shared with his dad, and Bo is nearing 40, in some very run down dilapidated home. But he has a nice truck with huge tires that he takes photos of. How cliche.
And yet, for someone wondering if a guy is willing to ‘change’ simply b/c he is perhaps not engaging in crimes anymore–(that we know of) the answer is no b/c his recklessness has transferred over into his relationships. The minute someone could actually care for and love him, she will get repulsed by his terrible behavior once the mask slips and be done with him. (Those with self-esteem anyway.)
It explains why he always went for much younger women, so he could get them to worship him and also easier to control. They don’t see what a loser he is, in other words.
When I see someone like that, all I can feel is pity. Not only are we convinced he is a narc, but he is dipping into sociopath territory. And many women like to think that some broken guy with a past can be ‘fixed’ if only he finds the right woman. But you can’t fix broken. They will only take from you what they need and then be done with you once they resent you for being able to help them, or even by the fact that you think they need help.
I always sensed a very hurting, angry, insecure man underneath all his bravado. It’s sad too b/c he had a daughter when he was a teenager but was never there for that child growing up–always in different states, in and out of jail, utterly reckless. He kept this all hidden, of course.
Which explains why he is so obsessed with his looks–it’s all he has, really. Yes, on the very surface, before ‘knowing’ him he seems like he has his shit together, a hard worker, someone who managed to ‘pull through’ hard times, and someone all the women lust for, but how far from the truth that all is.
@Cowboy — You totally hit the nail on the head. The most beautiful people truly don’t know how beautiful they are, and they don’t use their looks to manipulate others.
Two good friends of mine come to mind who are great examples of this. One is a woman who won a beauty pageant title when she was in college, and the other is a man who looks like a runway model. Honestly, when I met them both, I made the assumption that they would be “Mean Girl” types just because of how they look and I wasn’t keen on hanging out with them.
But I got to know them, and I was completely wrong. They are both a little socially awkward and geeky (in a really endearing way) and they are both oblivious as to how attractive they are. They are gentle, genuine souls.
I agree with you that they are not dysfunctional beauties and unhappy monsters because the toxic childhood is missing from the equation in my friends’ lives. They both come from very loving homes. My female friend was encouraged to have several intellectual pursuits while in school. You can tell when meeting them both that neither of them have relied on their looks to get ahead in life. They both cultivated good lives and friendships for themselves through hard work and being genuine.
Your ex N and mine (and several of the exes mentioned in this community) used their looks as their main currency in life instead of focusing on hobbies or creating other talents. It’s really sad that they are a product of their environment and what was most likely really bad parenting, but it doesn’t make what they’ve done to us OK.
There are people out there who are beautiful, inside and out. And now that we’ve been with our Narcs we know how to spot the bad ones. I agree that we need to stay away from people who are overly vain (that’s a huge tip off)and people who exude the wrong frequency of confidence.
One more thought about my DB mother. It was a both/and. She both got attention easily and she put me down regularly. I felt like she was in competition with me from even an early age. So it is easy for me to imagine how anyone can feel ugly around a DB.
For me it was confusing until sites like esteemology helped me see what I had been dealing with. Learning about narcissists has helped me move forward.
My mother always commented: “Being beautiful is a curse.” She was stunningly beautiful, and had so many men on her heels, and yet love was completely elusive to her. Inspite of her beauty, she suffered from low self esteem. To which she endored a ten year relationship with her own Narc. That ended very badly. She never regained her self esteem, and therefore became a recluse. She is not your standard beauty any longer. Age and lack of care had stolen that from her.
I admit that I always envied her beauty through out my life. I was not unattractive, but I wasn’t a show stopper as she was. I always felt insecure knowing that everyone I knew, including my boyfriends fell all over her looks, and disregarded me as “cute”. So, my experience was the opposite of what you described, until now.
It took me many years and self awareness to finally bring me into my own beauty. I am now considered very attractive, and men do oggle me (not to appear like a Narc–lol), but I realized she was right. Beauty is a curse. While my average looking fun loving friends are enjoying dates and boyfriends, I on the other hand sit home on Saturday nights. Men are attracted to me, but are elusive to me as well.
I suppose the grass is always greener. But on the other hand, I have learned that beauty is beauty and what is on the inside is what truly matters. It’s what shines through, not what is on the outside.
Thank you again for such a wonderful article.
Thanks for the validation. I grew up with a DB mother who needed & got lots of attention – bottomless pit really. I felt safe when I was around other people with her since even strangers responded positively to her without exception. I was not safe at home with her with all her rages so I experienced the Dr jekyll Mr Hyde nature narcissists can exhibit. But feeling safe & getting needs met easily when we were with other people seemed like magic that never happened when she was not there.
I really like the term DB. It helps me think straight about my family history.