Grandiose narcissists are arguably the most recognizable type of narcissists out there. They are charming, charismatic, cocky, arrogant, attractive, well put together, and articulate. They are the type of narcissists that society associates with success, glamor, and celebrity. Grandiose narcissists are very much the “textbook” or “classical” type of narcissist.

10 traits that are commonly associated with grandiose narcissists are lack of empathy, a sense of entitlement, grandiosity, arrogance, a chronic need for validation and admiration, superficiality, vanity, hypersensitivity to criticism, proneness to rage, and low emotional intelligence. 

In this article we are going to walk you through the warning signs of a grandiose narcissist. It is our hope that you use this information to better protect yourself from narcissistic abuse. 

They Get Upset When the Attention Is Not on Them

If you didn’t know already, narcissistic supply is the validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control that narcissists receive from their surrounding environment. Narcissists need to have a consistent flow of narcissistic supply to feel emotionally stable. 

A teacher explaining grandiose narcissistic traits

The self-perception and public persona that grandiose narcissists have causes them to come off as charming, charismatic, cocky, arrogant, attractive, well put together, and articulate. This allows them to get into positions from which they can be the center of attention at all times. 

When a grandiose narcissist is not the center of attention, they get extremely agitated and upset because they truly believe that they are so special, important, and unique that everyone in their surrounding environment will just be chomping at the bit to give them their full attention.

10 things that a grandiose narcissist does when they aren't the center of attention

When someone gets visibly upset and/or agitated when the attention isn’t on them, it is a good sign that they may be a grandiose narcissist. 

The Way That They Present Themselves Feels Too Good to Be True

Two manipulation tactics that grandiose narcissists are very good at are mirroring and future faking. These manipulation tactics help narcissists present themselves as the perfect person for you and are often used to keep you trapped in the narcissistic abuse cycle for months, years, and even decades.

Mirroring occurs when a narcissist absorbs an extraordinary amount of information about the identity of someone else, or a group of people (i.e. society), and uses that information to create a grandiose self-perception and public persona that they believe will be validated, admired, and reassured by others. 

A simple example of this would be a man/woman whois on a date with a narcissist and reveals that their sibling died in a car crash 20 years ago. The narcissist says, “I don’t want to take away from what you just said, but my mother died in a motorcycle accident a few years ago so I just wanted you to know that I understand what you are going through.”

A female narcissist mirroring someone that she is manipulating

Mirroring is designed to fill a void in the life of the person being manipulated. It tricks them into feeling seen, heard, and understood. 

  • The void that mirroring fills in a romantic setting is one’s desire for true love. 
  • The void that mirroring fills in a family setting is one’s desire for an emotionally available, responsive, consistent, and safe family member.
  • The void that mirroring fills in a work setting is often centered around the betterment of one’s career. 
  • The void that mirroring fills in a friendship is one’s desire for a trustworthy, reliable, mutual, and safe friendship. 

Future faking occurs when a narcissist makes a false promise for the future to get exactly what they want in the present. For example, imagine that you told the narcissist in your life, “I can’t go on vacation with you because I need to get a summer job to save up for my college books.”

If they responded by saying, “Oh don’t worry, I would be more than happy to pay for your books. Besides, a vacation is what you need. You have just been working so hard lately. You need to give your mind a rest” but had no intention of following through with it because they just wanted to manipulate you into coming on the vacation, this would be future faking.

A narcissist future faking someone that he is abusing

As we mentioned before, mirroring and future faking allow narcissists to present themselves as the perfect person for you. If you have crossed paths with someone who seems a little too good or too perfect to be true, you should take a closer look at their behavior because they might be a grandiose narcissist.

The Use Intermittent Reinforcement to Prevent You From Cutting Ties With Them

Intermittent reinforcement is the delivery of a reward at irregular intervals, and narcissists, not just grandiose narcissists, use it to keep you trapped within the narcissistic abuse cycle. 

Sadly, narcissistic relationships are often so emotionally starved that the “reward” is rarely meaningful. 

For example, the “reward” could be something as simple as a day without invalidating/devaluing you, a small pay raise that is long overdue, a date where the narcissist doesn’t use his/her phone, etc.

A narcissist using intermittent reinforcement on his wife.

What makes intermittent reinforcement such a powerful form of manipulation is a narcissist’s ability to use mirroring and future faking to trick you into believing that they are the perfect person for you. 

You see, when a narcissist uses mirroring and future faking on you, they are giving you the information and showing you the behavior that you need to develop the belief that the narcissist is the perfect person for you and someone who you can safely attach yourself to. 

Once the narcissist senses that you’ve attached yourself to them, they will stop the act and begin their abusive pursuit of narcissistic supply, which is commonly referred to as the devaluation phase. 

Suggested Reading:

The devaluation phase has a ton of manipulation tactics that you need to be aware of if you are going to protect yourself from the narcissist in your life. Our article What Is the Devaluation Phase? has a lot of helpful information about this phase.

The narcissist’s sudden shift in behavior changes the information that you have and the behavior that you see, leaving you with only the belief that the narcissist is the perfect person for you and someone that you can safely attach yourself to. 

You would think that you’d be able to see this shift in behavior and distance yourself from the narcissist in your life, but it isn’t that simple. You see, when the narcissist changes the information and behavior, they cause something called cognitive dissonance (image below) 

A man explain cognitive dissonance

In an attempt to ease this tension we will change one or more of the elements that are causing the inconsistency to make everything consistent. In narcissistic relationships, cognitive dissonance manifests in the forms of the justification, rationalization, and normalization of abuse. 

So, once the narcissist has changed the information and behavior by starting the devaluation phase, they will use intermittent reinforcement (e.g. take you out on a date, spending time with you, giving you a raise) to manipulate you into believing that they are still the perfect person for you and someone that you can still safely attach yourself to despite all of the abuse that you are experiencing.

Suggested Reading:

Intermittent reinforcement triggers the reward center in your brain and floods your body with dopamine. This can cause the trauma bonds commonly found in narcissistic relationships to feel like an addiction. Our articleWhy Do Trauma Bonds Feel Like an Addiction?has a ton of helpful information about this.

Generally speaking, healthy relationships are steady and calm. A dysfunctional swing between high and low points in a relationship (i.e. intermittent reinforcement) could be a sign of a grandiose narcissist that you should stay away from. 

They Are Only Concerned With Superficial and Materialistic Things

Narcissists, not just grandiose narcissists, are very shallow people. This is because narcissists use mirroring on society to create a grandiose self-perception and public persona that they believe will be validated, admired, and reassured by others. 

The problem with this is that they are so emotionally inadequate that they are incapable of looking past society’s superficial, materialistic, and trivial exterior. This means that they end up constructing themselves out of the most superficial, materialistic, and trivial aspect of life.

A teacher explaining the childhood upbringing that narcissists are believed to have had.

These types of primary caregivers are incapable of mirroring the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs of their child. In this context, mirroring means a set of behaviors that are intended to convey to the child that they are heard and that the parents understand their emotional state.

When a child isn’t mirrored by their primary caregiver, they don’t get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to develop a realistic sense of self and have a healthy cognitive development.

Narcissists quickly learned that they don’t need their primary caregivers to give them validation, admiration, and reassurance, they can just get it from society with mirroring. 

But as we mentioned before, they are too emotionally incompetent to look past the superficial, materialistic, and trivial exterior that society has, because of their unhealthy cognitive development, so they construct themselves out of superficial, materialistic, and trivial aspects of life. 

A simple example of this would be a narcissistic teenager constructing their self-perception and public persona out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they get for being really popular amongst their peers. 

A person like this will naturally be drawn to superficial and materialistic aspects of life, which is why this is a sign of grandiose narcissism that you should watch out for.

Suggested Reading:

Our article “How Are Narcissists Made?” has so much information about the childhood upbringing that narcissists are believed to have had. This is a really important topic you should understand if you want to protect yourself and/or heal from narcissistic abuse.

They Make You Feel Emotionally and Intellectually Deprived

Unsurprisingly, narcissists don’t seek out genuine connection with other people. In fact, they don’t even value the relationships that they have with other people the same way an emotionally competent person would. 

What we mean by this is that narcissists don’t care about the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of others. They only care about how much narcissistic supply (i.e. validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control) they can get. 

For example, in a romantic relationship a narcissist might be incredibly sexual with you because of the attention and validation that sex brings gives them narcissistic supply. But once it is time to express their thoughts, feelings, and emotions, they shy away from it. 

Another example of this would be the relationship between a narcissistic parent and the golden child. The narcissistic parent will be very involved with the golden child’s life when the child is doing something that gives the narcissist supply (i.e. being the best basketball player on the team, winning a spelling bee, doing really well in school, etc.)

A narcissistic mother being nice to her golden child.

But once it is time for the narcissist to mirror (i.e. a set of behaviors that are intended to convey to the child that they are heard and that the parents understand their emotional state) their child’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs, they will shy away from it. 

Being in a relationship with a narcissist, not just a grandiose narcissist, is emotionally and intellectually depriving. They are incapable/unwilling to express the thoughts, feelings, and emotions needed to form a genuine connection with someone else. 

If you feel emotionally and/or intellectually deprived in a relationship with someone, you should definitely take a closer look at the relationship you have with them because it is clearly not healthy, but they also might be a narcissist.

Suggested Readings:

Our article Do Narcissists Enjoy Intimacy? has helpful information that you can use to understand the reason that narcissists don’t naturally gravitate towards genuine connections with others. Also, our article What Do Narcissists Want In a Relationship? has information that will help you understand what narcissists search for in a relationship.

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

When you’re learning about the different types of narcissistic personalities, it is important to remember that narcissism is on a continuum. A continuum is a continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptibly different from each other, but the extremes are quite distinct. 

Therefore, narcissists who are considered to be very grandiose are clearly different from those who are considered to be very covert, communal, malignant, etc., and vice versa. However, once you move closer to the center of the continuum that narcissism is on, the characteristics and personality traits of the different types of narcissists begin to overlap.

This is important to remember because you might have a narcissist in your life who doesn’t fit the exact definition of one of the types of narcissists, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t narcissistic. Narcissism is on a continuum so it is very common for there to be some overlap.

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All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References:

Miller, Joshua D., et al. “Grandiose and vulnerable narcissism: A nomological network analysis.” Journal of personality 79.5 (2011): 1013-1042.

 American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5)