A common question among those whom a narcissist has scapegoated is, “Why did the narcissist choose me as their scapegoat?”

Narcissists choose their scapegoats based on the negative self-perceptions they have. When they encounter someone whose traits or characteristics trigger feelings of inadequacy, shame, or other negative self-perceptions, they scapegoat this person to regulate the pain their negative self-perceptions cause.

In this article, I will guide you through ten negative self-perceptions narcissists have to help you better understand how narcissists choose their scapegoats.

Before we get started, if you didn’t know narcissists have negative self-perceptions, I highly recommend you read the following article before you read this one.

Suggested Reading: How Are Narcissists Made? (Insights from Dr. Jolie Avena)

1.) Inadequacy

When a person possesses feelings of inadequacy, they feel as if they are not good enough compared to others or a certain standard.

They constantly compare themselves to others and feel that they always fall short, whether in terms of achievements, appearance, or any other criteria.

If a narcissist meets someone who is exceptionally competent, successful, or confident, it could trigger their underlying feelings of inadequacy. 

For example, imagine their coworker receiving praise for a job or their friend is constantly the center of attention due to their charisma and confidence.

A narcissist's scapegoat looking confident.

This could make the narcissist feel inadequate, causing them to scapegoat this person to manage their feelings of inadequacy.

2.) Worthlessness

When someone feels worthless, it means they believe they lack value as a person. 

They feel like they don’t matter, that their existence is insignificant, and that they have nothing meaningful to contribute.

When a narcissist interacts with someone with a strong sense of self-worth or is valued and respected by others, it could trigger their feelings of worthlessness. 

For instance, if a family member is always the one people turn to for advice or support, or a colleague is always trusted with important tasks.

This could cause the narcissist to feel overlooked and undervalued, prompting them to scapegoat the individual to strengthen their self-worth.

3.) Shame

People who struggle with shame are deeply embarrassed or disgraced about themselves or their actions. 

They carry a heavy sense of guilt and humiliation about who they are or what they have done, and they feel that these things make them fundamentally flawed.

Encountering someone who leads an upright and morally sound life can trigger feelings of shame in a narcissist. 

For example, if a friend or family member is known for their honesty, integrity, and ethical behavior, it could remind the narcissist of their moral shortcomings.

A narcissist getting jealous of the honesty of another person.

To manage this reminder, the narcissist could scapegoat this person as a way to deflect from the feelings of shame the reminder triggered.

4.) Unlovable

When one feels unlovable, it means they believe they are not deserving of love or affection from others. 

Suggested Reading: What Do Narcissists Think Love Is?

They feel something is inherently wrong with them, which makes them unworthy of receiving love, care, or affection from others.

When a narcissist observes someone receiving love, affection, or positive attention, it can trigger their feelings of being unlovable. 

For instance, if a friend or family member has a loving and supportive partner or is always surrounded by friends, the narcissist could feel isolated and unloved.

To manage these feelings of isolation or being unlovable, they could use scapegoating to suppress the painful feelings they are experiencing.

5.) Emptiness

When someone struggles with feelings of emptiness, they feel a lack of meaning, purpose, or substance in their life or themselves. 

They experience a sense of hollowness as if nothing is truly fulfilling or satisfying in their life or within themselves.

Interacting with someone who seems fulfilled, content, and purpose-driven can trigger feelings of emptiness in a narcissist. 

For example, if a friend is deeply passionate about their career or a family member finds great satisfaction in their hobbies or relationships.

Seeing this could highlight the narcissist’s lack of fulfillment, leading them to scapegoat this person to distract themselves from their feelings of emptiness.

Suggested Reading: Why Do Narcissists Feel Empty Inside?

6.) Inferiory

When someone has feelings of inferiority, they feel lesser than others in some way, be it in intelligence, attractiveness, success, etc. 

They constantly feel that they are below others in various aspects of life, which can lead to a lack of confidence and self-esteem.

When a narcissist faces someone who excels in areas where they feel inadequate, it can trigger their feelings of inferiority. 

For instance, if a colleague is more knowledgeable or a friend is more physically fit or attractive, it could make the narcissist feel less than.

A narcissist feeling inferior to another woman.

As a result, they could use scapegoating to manage their feelings of inferiority.

7.) Incompetence

When someone feels incompetent, it means they feel unable to perform tasks or achieve goals as well as others. 

This means doubting their abilities and feeling they cannot accomplish tasks as effectively as others.

Interacting with someone highly skilled or capable can trigger feelings of incompetence in a narcissist. 

For example, imagine a coworker who consistently performs well or a friend who can manage their responsibilities effortlessly. 

This could underscore the narcissist’s struggles and perceived inadequacies, leading them to scapegoat this person to deal with their feelings of incompetency.

8.) Unwanted

When someone feels unwanted, they feel undesired or not needed by others. 

Suggested Reading: What Do Narcissists Want In a Relationship?

This means feeling that others do not want their company, input, or presence, which can lead to a sense of isolation and loneliness.

When a narcissist observes someone being sought after or included by others, it can trigger their feelings of being unwanted. 

For instance, if a friend is always invited to social events or a colleague is always included in important meetings.

This could make the narcissist feel excluded and unimportant, encouraging them to scapegoat this person to manage their feelings of rejection.

9.) Unimportant

When someone feels unimportant, they believe their needs, desires, or opinions don’t matter. 

They feel neglected and insignificant as if others do not value or consider their thoughts, feelings, and needs.

Interacting with someone valued or respected by others can trigger feelings of unimportance in a narcissist. 

A narcissist feeling unimportant.

For example, if a family member’s opinion is always sought after or a friend’s ideas are always implemented, the narcissist could feel overlooked and unimportant.

As you now know, this could cause them to scapegoat this person to maintain their grandiose sense of importance.

10.) Insecure

When someone feels insecure, it means being uncertain or anxious about oneself or one’s abilities. 

Insecure people constantly doubt themselves and feel unsure about their capabilities, decisions, and worth.

Meeting someone confident and secure in themselves can trigger feelings of insecurity in a narcissist. 

For instance, if someone is self-assured and comfortable in their skin, it could highlight the narcissist’s feelings of self-doubt and insecurity.

To manage these uncomfortable feelings, they fall back on scapegoating.

What Should You Take Away from This Article?

If you’ve been a narcissist’s scapegoat, please find ways to remind yourself that their abuse towards you says nothing about who you are as a person.

I’m sure you’re a wonderful person who happens to have positive characteristics or traits that trigger the narcissist’s negative self-perceptions.

No matter what they say or do, remember that you deserve to be loved, respected, heard, seen, and cared for.

About the Author

Hey, I’m Elijah.

I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years. 

I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.

Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.

If you’re ready to heal, visit The Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse to get started.


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