One of the most important aspects of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) that you should have a clear understanding of are the different ways that narcissists see themselves.

When a narcissist has enough narcissistic supply, they see themselves as charming, special, successful, desirable, unique, charismatic, and virtuous. When they don’t have enough narcissistic supply, their painful emotions get triggered and they see themselves as unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, weak, and worthless.

This article is going to guide you thought the positive and negative perspectives that narcissists have of themselves so you can have a much more comprehensive grasp of narcissism and narcissistic abuse!

Why Do Narcissists Have Such a Negative Perception of Themselves?

In our article How Are Narcissists Made we provide readers with a thorough exploration of the different theories surrounding the origin of narcissism. It is such an important topic to understand because it explains so many different aspects of a narcissist’s behavior and intellection, including the negative perception that narcissists have of themselves when they don’t have enough narcissistic supply.

Again, there are many different theories about this, but generally speaking, narcissism originates from an unhealthy childhood upbringing with primary caregivers who were emotionally unresponsive, unavailable, and inconsistent.

This has a negative effect on a narcissist’s perception of themselves because the emotional neglect that they experience on a regular basis prevent them from having their thoughts feelings, emotions, and needs mirrored by their primary caregivers.

This means that they never get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to develop a realistic sense of self and have a healthy cognitive development. What this does is it causes the narcissist to develop many painful emotions about themselves.

A child with negative emotions about themselves.

These painful emotions are extremely powerful and compromise the emotional stability of a narcissist. As we mentioned before, narcissists did not have a healthy cognitive development and because of this they do not possess the emotional skills that are required to utilize healthy forms of emotional regulation to manage their painful emotions.

To sum everything up that has been stated so far, narcissists can’t construct a realistic sense of self because of the emotional neglect that their primary caregivers have subjected them to and their emotional stability is constantly being threatened by the painful emotions that they have about themselves that they are too emotionally stunted and immature to manage effectively.

What happens next?

Narcissists will turn to their external environment to get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to construct a sense of self (e.g. a narcissistic teenager who constructs his/her sense of self out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they get from their external environment for being popular amongst his/her peers).

Then they use this false sense of self as their primary form of emotional regulation by suppressing and hiding their painful emotions behind their charming, special, successful, honest, desirable, goodhearted, charismatic, and virtuous false sense of self.

The false sense of self that narcissist’s have is so fragile and one-dimensional that it needs a consistent flow of validation, admiration, and reassurance, also known as narcissistic supply to stay intact. The slightest contradictions to a narcissist’s false sense of self triggers their suppressed painful emotions and compromises their emotional stability.

A narcissist feeling his negative emotions being triggered.

In other words, contradictions to a narcissist’s false sense of self stop the flow of narcissistic supply that narcissists need to preserve their emotional stability and serve as a constant reminder that deep down they have an unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, weak, insecure, vulnerable and worthless perception of themselves.

Why Do Narcissists Have Such a Positive Perception of Themselves?

There are a lot of moving parts to a narcissist’s positive perception of themselves that are really important for you to grasp a comprehensive understanding of. The first part of a narcissist’s positive perception of themselves that we want bring your attention to is how it is formed.

As we mentioned before, narcissists suppress all of their painful emotions behind a false sense of self. This false sense of self is constructed out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that narcissists get from their external environment.

Mirroring

The technique that narcissists use to get narcissistic supply from their external environment is called mirroring, a manipulative technique that narcissists use to absorb an extraordinary amount of information about the identities of others to create a falsified identity that is designed to portray them as “perfect” to others.

We highly recommend that you read our article How Do Narcissists Use Mirroring to learn how narcissists use mirroring to trap people within the narcissistic abuse cycle, but they also use mirroring on a much larger scale to get validation, admiration, and reassurance from their external environment.

When a narcissist searches their external environment for validation, admiration, and reassurance, what they are doing is they are absorbing information about society to construct a falsified identity that can accumulate the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need for their grandiose self-perception.

a narcissist using mirroring to construct a self-perception

The problem that they run into is that they are too emotionally stunted and immature to look past society’s superficial exterior and because of this they construct their falsified identity out of the most superficial, materialistic, and trivial aspects of life.

Meaning on the surface, narcissists have all of the qualities that everyone wants (e.g. charming, special, successful, desirable, unique, charismatic, and virtuous) and this helps them maintain a positive perception of themselves. But the second that anyone dives past their falsified identity, they find all of the painful emotions that they are hiding from both themselves and others.

Projection

The second element to a narcissists positive perception of themselves that we want to bring to your attention is a defense mechanism called projection. It occurs when someone takes parts of their identity that they find unacceptable and project them onto other people (e.g. a man who feels insecure about his sexuality so he makes homophobic jokes to his friends to project his insecurities onto them).

Narcissists use projection a lot because it allows them to preserve the positive perception that they have of themselves. The painful emotions that narcissists have contradict the charming, special, successful, desirable, unique, charismatic, and virtuous perception that narcissists have of themselves, which is unacceptable for them.

Instead of destroying their emotional stability by acknowledging them, they simply project them onto others by turning the people that they abuse into repositories for all of their suppressed painful emotions.

Projection can be pretty straightforward (e.g. a narcissist feeling worthless so he/she tells his/her victim that they are worthless instead of acknowledging his/her own painful emotions) but it can also happen on a much larger scale.

By invalidating, devaluing, degrading, humiliating, and dehumanizing the people that they abuse, narcissists are able to project their entire emotional instability onto their victim. By making someone else feel as horrible as they do, narcissists are able to figuratively point their finger at their victim and think to themselves, “I’m not the the unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, and weak one, they are.”

You can learn a lot more about projection in our article Why Do Narcissists Use Projection but it is a very common technique that narcissists use to preserve their positive perception of themselves.

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

Narcissists have very positive and negative perceptions of themselves depending on the amount of narcissistic supply that they are getting. If a narcissist has a consistent flow of narcissistic supply, they are able to maintain a charming, special, successful, desirable, unique, charismatic, and virtuous perception of themselves. If not, their negative emotions get triggered and they feel unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, and weak.

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