One of the reasons that narcissistic abuse is so isolating for those experiencing it is because narcissists are often very popular people. Their popularity allows them to maintain a charming, charismatic, attractive, and virtuous public persona that they can use to hide the abuse that they subject their victims to behind closed doors.
Narcissists are often popular in our society because they are good at creating a falsified identity out of the superficial, materialistic, and trivial aspects of life that our society values. It allows them to present themselves in such a convincing manner that society naturally places them on a grandiose pedestal.
In this article we are going to explore a narcissist’s ability to create a falsified identity that society often blindly accepts.
Narcissists Use Mirroring to Make Themselves Popular
When speaking about narcissism and narcissistic abuse, the term “mirroring” refers to a narcissist’s ability to absorb an extraordinary amount of information about person’s/group of people’s identity and use that information to create a falsified identity that allows the narcissist to present themselves as “perfect” to others.
There are two primary reasons that narcissists use mirroring that we are going to explain to you and then reveal how they allow a narcissist to be so popular. The first reason occurs during their childhood upbringing and is because they are trying to construct a self-perception that they are proud of.
There are many different theories pertaining to the origin of narcissism/a narcissist’s childhood upbringing that we explore in our article How Are Narcissists Made, but generally speaking narcissism originates from an unhealthy/abusive childhood upbringing.
This upbringing consisted of primary caregivers who were emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent. This level of emotional neglect prevented the narcissist from getting the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they needed to develop a realistic sense of self (self-perception) and have a healthy cognitive development.
The emotional neglect that narcissists experienced from their primary caregivers also caused them to develop many deeply rooted painful emotions about themselves (e.g. inadequate, worthless, unlovable, unwanted, weak, etc.)
These painful emotions would be difficult for anyone to manage but because of a narcissist’s unhealthy cognitive development, they don’t have the emotional intelligence that is required to use healthy forms of emotional regulation to manage the painful emotions that they have about themselves.
In an emotionally inadequate and immature attempt to manage their painful emotions, narcissists mirrored society to create a falsified identity that was designed to get validation, admiration, and reassurance from their external environment so that they could construct a self-perception that they were proud of.
A very simple example of this would be a narcissist mirroring some of the superficial/materialistic things that society values to become popular among their peers (e.g. social status, appearances, social media, etc.) to get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that comes with it.
With this newly constructed self-perception narcissists are able to suppress all of their painful emotions and maintain a belief that they are successful, desirable, attractive, virtuous, special, unique, important, charming, and charismatic. However, to maintain this belief narcissists need a consistent flow of narcissistic supply.
Narcissistic supply is the validation, admiration, and reassurance that narcissists get from their external environment but their self-perception requires an excessive amount of it to remain stable so narcissists are forced to find more viable sources of supply.
Unfortunately, the most viable source of narcissistic supply that narcissists have access to are the people that they abuse and it is also the second reason that narcissists use mirroring!
That’s right, the second reason that narcissists use mirroring is to manipulate the people that they abuse into becoming viable sources of narcissistic supply. They absorb a ton of information about their victim’s identity and use that information to create a falsified identity that is designed to manipulate the victim into believing that the narcissist is the “perfect” person for them.
It makes the person truly believe that the narcissist is the key to a happier, healthier, and more secure life.
They believe that the narcissist is someone who they can be the best version of themselves with. They end up ignoring the red flags by justifying, rationalizing, and normalizing the narcissist’s abuse because they are blinded by the image that the mirroring creates.
This type of mirroring occurs in every single type of narcissistic relationship! In a short video (see below) we’ve put together examples of mirroring in romantic, family, and work relationships so you can have a clear understanding of what it is and why it is so powerful.
These two types of mirroring allow narcissistic to create a charming, successful, innocent, honest, desirable, goodhearted, charismatic, and virtuous public persona that manipulates society into enabling their behavior and placing them on a social pedestal where they are free to be some of the most popular people in their social groups.
Narcissists Have to Be Popular to Feel Emotionally Stable
A narcissist’s emotional stability is dependent on the amount of narcissistic supply that they can get. Meaning that being popular isn’t a choice that narcissists make, it is a fundamental requirement for their well-being.
As we mentioned before, the largest and most consistent amount of narcissistic supply that narcissists can get are from the people that they abuse. With manipulative techniques like mirroring, breadcrumbing, love bombing, etc., narcissists are able to turn their victims into validating, reassuring, and admiring machines.
However, a very close second to the people that narcissists abuse is social media. Generally speaking, narcissists love social media because it gives them access to billions of potential sources of narcissistic supply at the click of a button.
Narcissists will make grandiose, passive-aggressive, argumentative, and victimized social media posts to get narcissistic supply and become more popular so it is important that you understand what each one looks like.
A grandiose social media post is extremely difficult to spot because we all make grandiose social media posts. These types of posts are to show off our accomplishments (e.g. “I just bought my first car! Hard work pays off!”) , keep people updated on the best parts of our life (e.g. “I just had the best week of vacation with the love of my life in Bora Bora!”), and make us feel good (e.g. (“Oh my gosh congratulations, you are amazing!).
In one way or another, we all use social media for validation, admiration, and reassurance because that is what it is made for! The key difference between a normal grandiose post and a narcissistic grandiose post is the frequency at which they are posted.
Narcissists need an excessive amount of narcissistic supply so they are constantly posting grandiose posts to get it. They are going to have a disproportionate level of bragging, envy inducing, and validation seeking elements to them when compared to the other grandiose posts that non-narcissistic people make.
A passive-aggressive post is designed to manipulate others into feeling negative emotions/feelings such as guilt, shame, fear, doubt, etc.
For example, if you were to miss the birthday party of the narcissist in your life for personal reasons and they posted something like this on social media, “I had a great birthday party today! Thank you everyone for coming even though you have busy lives! It is nice to know who my real friends are.”) that would be a passive-aggressive post!
It is a very strange post because when you really look at them, you can tell how negative, manipulative, and passive-aggressive they are. But narcissists have a strange ability to rally people around the narcissist so they can be bombarded with the validation, admiration, and reassurance of others.
A victimized post is a post that is designed to create a narrative where the narcissist is the victim of someone or something else (e.g. “I thought the saying goes, ‘hard work pays off’… right…? I guess that doesn’t apply to me though… maybe if I was the coach’s daughter it would.”)
While they are very similar, the difference between a victimized post and a passive-aggressive post is the audience. When a narcissist makes a passive-aggressive post, they are usually targeting a specific person or group of people.
When a narcissist makes a victimized post like the one above, they are going for a much broader audience to get as much narcissistic supply as humanly possible.
An argumentative post is a post that is designed to use the vulnerabilities and insecurities of others to trigger an argument that allows a narcissist to victimize themselves, portray others in a negative light, and devalue, degrade, and invalidate the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs of others.
An argumentative social media posts could manifest in the forms of very insensitive political posts, controversial jokes at the expense of others, propaganda, antagonistic posts that are directed at a specific group of people, etc.
The confrontations that these types of posts create give narcissists an opportunity to project all of their painful emotions onto others. When they make a post that sparks an argument they can figuratively point their finger at someone else and think to themselves, “They are the irrational, crazy, inadequate, unlovable, unwanted, scared, vulnerable, worthless, and weak ones, not me.”
By doing this narcissists are providing themselves with the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they desperately need.
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
Narcissists are popular because they use mirroring to present themselves as “perfect” to others. Being popular gives them access to unlimited amounts of narcissistic supply that they can use to suppress their painful emotions and self-loathing attitude and protect their self-perception and emotional stability.
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Barry, Christopher T., and Katrina H. McDougall. “Social media: Platform or catalyst for narcissism?.” Handbook of trait narcissism (2018): 435-441.
Buffardi, Laura E., and W. Keith Campbell. “Narcissism and social networking web sites.” Personality and social psychology bulletin 34.10 (2008): 1303-1314.