A narcissist will insult you every single chance that they get. You could dedicate a hundred percent of your time to validating, admiring, and reassuring a narcissist, but they will still make it their mission to insult you as frequently as possible.
Generally speaking, narcissists insult you to regulate their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions and validate their grandiose self-perception. Insulting you gives them the narcissistic supply that narcissists need to protect and maintain their emotional stability.
In this article we are going to guide you through a narcissist’s insufferable need to insult others so you can get the information that you need to protect your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs from the narcissist in your life.
Narcissists Insult You to Regulate Their Thoughts, Feelings, and Emotions
When a narcissist insults you, they are attempting to regulate their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions by projecting them onto you.
Projection is a defense mechanism that occurs when someone takes parts of their identity that they find unacceptable and places them onto others.
For example, a married woman is attracted to a colleague, but rather than admit this to herself, she accuses her colleague of flirting with her.
Interestingly enough, everyone uses projection at one point or another. Since it is a subconscious action, many people don’t realize that they are using projection unless someone points it out to them.
Obviously, projection isn’t the healthiest way to deal with your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. But even though it is a difficult habit to break, most emotionally competent people are capable of overcoming it at some point in their life.
The keywords here are emotionally competent.
You see, narcissists are so emotionally incompetent that they are incapable of managing their thoughts, feelings, and emotions through healthy forms of regulation.
Therefore, narcissists rely on projection to manage their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
If you didn’t know already, these painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that we keep mentioning are powerful ones such as a sense of being unlovable, inadequate, unwanted, weak, and worthless.
It can be difficult to imagine someone so grandiose and someone who at one point had so much power and control over you, having ton of painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions, but it is true! Our article “How Are Narcissists Made?” has a lot more information about this but we will also speak more about it in the next section.
So, how does insulting you help a narcissist regulate their thoughts, feelings, and emotions?
Narcissists use insults that are filled with invalidation, devaluation, degradation, minimization, humiliation, and other forms of emotional abuse to attack your emotional stability. Eventually, this is going to erode your emotional stability, leaving you feeling helpless, powerless, confused, doubting yourself, ashamed, isolated, etc.
When this happens, narcissists are able to project all of their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions onto you by figuratively pointing their finger at you and thinking to themselves, “I’m not the weak, inadequate, worthless, unlovable, and unwanted one, they are!”
Does that make sense?
Because when you feel helpless, powerless, confused, doubting yourself, ashamed, isolated, etc., developing a sense of being unlovable, inadequate, unwanted, weak, and worthless is inevitable. This is exactly what the narcissist wants because it allows them to project their own emotional struggles onto you.
Narcissists Insult You to Validate Their Grandiose Self-Perception
Ok. Let’s talk about the grandiose self-perception that narcissists have and how insulting you validates it. Grandiosity is a huge sign of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
The term “grandiosity” refers to an unrealistic sense of superiority in which someone (in this case, the narcissist) believes himself/herself to be unique and/or better than others.
You might be thinking right now, “How can someone who feels so unlovable, inadequate, worthless, unwanted, and weak also be so grandiose?”
Well, the answer lies within their childhood upbringing.
It’s believed by many mental health professionals that narcissism originates from an unhealthy/abusive childhood upbringing with emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers.
That said, it is important to note that “unhealthy/abusive” has a very broad spectrum of possibilities.
In some cases, an unhealthy/abusive childhood upbringing means that the narcissist had primary caregivers who were physically abusive (e.g. slapping, punching, spanking, etc.)
In other cases, it could mean that the narcissist had primary caregivers whose emotional availability, responsiveness, and consistency is unhealthy (e.g. too much pampering, being overprotective, lack of boundaries, etc.)
Nonetheless, the emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers that narcissists had never gave them the healthy forms of validation, admiration, and reassurance that the narcissist needed to develop a realistic sense of self and have a healthy cognitive development.
Narcissists couldn’t have a healthy cognitive development because their emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers were incapable of mirroring the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs of their children.
Without healthy parental mirroring, a primary caregiver’s accurate reflection of a child’s expressed thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs, narcissists were left to figure out both their internal and external environment on their own.
This neglect taught the narcissist that their true identity wasn’t good enough to be validated, admired, or reassured, which is why narcissists have the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that we mentioned in the previous section (i.e. a sense of being unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, worthless, and weak).
As you can imagine, this type of childhood upbringing caused the narcissist to hate themselves. But because of the unhealthy cognitive development that narcissist’s had, they were left with no way of managing the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they have.
Therefore, to prevent themselves from crumbling under the pressure of their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions, narcissists mirrored society to create a public persona powerful enough to accumulate the validation, admiration, and reassurance that their emotionally neglectful primary caregivers could not give them.
In this context, the term “mirroring” refers to a narcissist’s ability to absorb an extraordinary amount of information about someone’s or a group of people’s (society) identity and use that information to create a public persona that portrays them as “perfect” to others.
Ok. What does any of this have to do with a narcissist insulting you to validate their grandiose self-perception?
Well, on paper, narcissist’s approach to create the ideal public persona to get the validation, admiration, and reassurance seems like it would work.
However, for narcissists, all it did was make them more emotionally unstable as they are not able to be their true authentic selves; only a version of themselves that they believe others would admire.
This happened because the unhealthy cognitive development that they had left them so emotionally stunted and immature that they were incapable of looking past society’s superficial, materialistic, and trivial exterior during the mirroring phase.
As a result, they constructed their public persona, and subsequently, their self-perception, out of the most superficial, materialistic, and trivial aspects of their life.
For instance, a narcissistic teenager using the validation, admiration, and reassurance they get from their external environment for being the most popular boy/girl in their school to build their self-perception and public persona.
As you can imagine, this type of validation, admiration, and reassurance led the narcissist to developing a grandiose self-perception.
Unfortunately, narcissists used this newly constructed self-perception to suppress all of their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions. This was the worst thing that they could have done because now they have to maintain their grandiose self-perception to keep their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions suppressed.
Now, the reason that insulting you is so important for a narcissist’s grandiose self-perception is because they have to keep you in a subordinate position at all times.
Let us explain…
According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), narcissistic personality disorder is defined as the following:
When a narcissist hurls insults at you that are filled with invalidation, devaluation, degradation, minimization, humiliation, and other forms of emotional abuse, they are forcing themselves to see you as a subordinate so they can feel important, special, unique, high status, etc.
It is incredibly immature, but they need to see you as a subordinate so you can keep their grandiose self-perception intact, and subsequently, all of their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions suppressed. Insulting you validates their grandiose self-perception and protects their emotional stability.
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
The insults that narcissists throw your way serve a purpose. By insulting you, narcissists get the narcissistic supply that they need to protect their emotional stability.
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Pincus, Aaron L., and Mark R. Lukowitsky. “Pathological narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder.” Annual review of clinical psychology 6.1 (2010): 421-446.