A narcissist’s tendency to make up stories is bizarre. While their stories are often grandiose and unbelievable, they are somehow able to tell them in such a convincing manner that even the most skeptical people start to believe them.

Narcissists make up stories to support the grandiose fantasies that they have about themselves and their surrounding environment. The stories that narcissists tell help them accumulate narcissistic supply, maintain a grandiose self-perception, and maintain a belief that they are special and unique.

In this article you are going to learn more about the reasoning behind the grandiose fantasies that narcissists have. Having this information will help you understand a narcissist’s bizarre ability to make up stories that others believe, and subsequently, become less susceptible to their manipulation.

A Narcissist’s Personality Traits Cause Them to Make Up Stories

There are nine personality traits that define narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), these nine personality traits are the following:

The nine traits of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)

1. A grandiose sense of self-importance

2. A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

3. A belief that he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions

4. A need for excessive admiration

5. A sense of entitlement

6. Interpersonally exploitative behavior

7. A lack of empathy

8. Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of him or her

9. A demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes

In this article we are only going to focus on a grandiose sense of self-importance, fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love, a belief that he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions, and a need for excessive admiration as they play the biggest role in a narcissist’s tendency to make up stories!

A Grandiose Sense of Self-Importance

The term “grandiose” means impressive and imposing in appearance or style, especially pretentiously so. The term “sense of self-importance” means an exaggerated estimate of one’s own importance

When put together, what a grandiose sense of self-importance refers to is a narcissist’s unrealistic sense of superiority. This “superiority” is something that they spend their entire lives trying to prove through things like exaggerating their own achievements, devaluing the achievements and talents of others, telling grandiose stories about themselves and the experiences they have had, and so on.

To understand the rest of the article, it is important that you understand where a narcissist's grandiose sense of self-importance comes from so were are briefly going to touch on that now.

Many professionals believe that narcissism originates from an unhealthy/abusive childhood upbringing with emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers.

This is the origin of a narcissist’s grandiose sense of self-importance because the emotional neglect that they experienced prevented them from getting the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they needed to develop a realistic sense of self, and have a healthy cognitive development.

You should definitely read our article How Are Narcissists Made because there is a lot more helpful information about this that answers many of the questions you likely have about narcissism.

But what ended up happening in this unhealthy/abusive childhood upbringing was that the narcissist learned that they could get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to construct a sense of self from society instead of their primary caregivers.

Unfortunately, the narcissist was too emotionally incompetent to seek out healthy forms of validation, admiration, and reassurance. Instead, they began to gravitate to the most superficial, materialistic, and trivial forms of validation, admiration, and reassurance that society had to offer, which caused them to develop a grandiose sense of self-importance.

A simple example of this would be a narcissistic teenager constructing their sense of self out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that he/she gets for being really popular amongst their peers throughout their childhood and adolescenthood.


A Belief That He or She Is Special and Unique

Obviously, a narcissist’s belief that they are special and unique originates from the unhealthy forms of validation, admiration, and reassurance they received from society while constructing their sense of self, but what does it have to do with their bizarre tendency to tell stories?

Remember, the complete personality trait defined by the DSM-5 is “a belief that he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions.

In this section, we have removed the "...and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions..." (but we will speak about it later on) and there's a good reason for that.

You see, the childhood upbringing that narcissists had caused them to develop many painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that their emotional incompetence prevents them from managing through healthy forms of emotional regulation.

Instead, they rely on the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they get from society to suppress all of their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions deep within themselves.

What this means is that they have to believe they are special and unique or else their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions will destroy their emotional stability because of how emotionally incompetent they are.

Interestingly enough, a narcissist’s belief that they are special and unique is a fundamental requirement for their emotional stability and is only made possible by ungodly amounts of narcissistic supply (i.e. validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control). Manipulating others into believing their grandiose stories about themselves is one of the most reliable ways that narcissist’s accumulate the narcissistic supply that they desperately need.

A Need for Excessive Admiration

Admiration is respect and warm approval and/or something regarded as impressive or worthy of respect. It is one of the five components of narcissistic supply (i.e. validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control). The more narcissistic supply narcissists get, the further they can suppress their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

A narcissist’s need for excessive amounts of validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control, is what feeds their:

  • Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Belief that they can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions

So, for the remainder of this article, we are going to focus on how these two aspects of NPD cause narcissists to make up grandiose stories on a regular basis.

A Preoccupation With Fantasies of Unlimited Success, Power, Brilliance, Beauty, or Ideal Love

Just as a quick reminder of everything that has been stated in this article so far, narcissists have a ton of painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they are too emotionally incompetent to manage through healthy forms of emotional regulation.

To prevent their emotional stability from being compromised, narcissists developed a grandiose sense of self-importance and a belief that they are special and unique. This allows them to suppress all of their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions deep within themselves.

Getting others to believe their grandiose stories is one of the many approaches that narcissists have to getting the ungodly amount of narcissistic supply that they need to keep their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions suppressed.

Ok, now that’s out of the way, narcissists are the embodiment of the phrase “fake it until you make it”. The fantasies that they have of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, and love are fundamental requirements for their emotional stability. They need to make up these grandiose stories about their fantasies as if they are already happening.

By living in a fantasy world where they are superior, desirable, unique, special, etc., they are able to suppress their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions and protect themselves from reality that deep down they feel insecure, unlovable, unwanted, worthless, weak, and inadequate.

A Belief That He or She Can Only Be Understood By, or Should Associate With, Other Special or High-Status People or Institutions

Again, a narcissist’s belief that they can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions goes back to the “fake it until you make it” phrase.

 If narcissists are to maintain their sense of self-importance, belief that they are special and unique, and grandiose fantasies, they need to play the part. This means making up stories that support their belief that they can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions.

Of course, there are some narcissists who get lucky and actually find themselves in positions where they are surrounded by special and high-status people and institutions, but for many of them this is not their reality and it is for this reason that they make up grandiose stories that support their sense of self-importance, belief the they are special and unique, and grandiose fantasies.

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

The stories that narcissists make up are designed to support their sense of self-importance, belief that they are special and unique, grandiose fantasies, and need for admiration. Maintaining these aspects of their personality help them suppress all of their painful thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.

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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:

Dumas, Tara M., et al. “Lying or longing for likes? Narcissism, peer belonging, loneliness and normative versus deceptive like-seeking on Instagram in emerging adulthood.” Computers in human behavior 71 (2017): 1-10.

Elaad, Eitan. “Deceptive Behavior: Effects of Rational Thinking, Narcissism, and Self-Assessed Lie-and Truth Related Abilities.” SAGE Open 12.2 (2022): 21582440221085012.