One of the things that a narcissist can’t live without is a scapegoat, which is a person who is blamed for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults of others.

Narcissists need a scapegoat to preserve their self-image, avoid taking responsibility for their actions, and to feel emotionally stable. 

In this article, I will explain each of these reasons so you can better understand why narcissists need scapegoats so badly.

1.) To Preserve Their Self-Image

The first reason narcissists need a scapegoat is to preserve their self-image.

This is because narcissists have what researchers call fragile high self-esteem.

Their feelings of self-worth are unstable, uncertain, based on unrealistically positive self-views, and entirely dependent on external validation and self-deception.

Learn More: Do Narcissists Have Low Self-Esteem?

The key point here is “external validation.” 

You see, because narcissists depend on external validation, they spend most of their time crafting the “perfect” public persona to hide their shortcomings.

When a narcissist is in a situation where they fear that their shortcomings could be brought to light, they preserve their “perfect” self-image by targeting their scapegoat.

For example, imagine that the narcissist in your life consistently portrays themselves as a fantastic cook.

An image of a narcissist cooking eggs.

One evening, they burn the dinner they were preparing for a family gathering. 

Instead of admitting their mistake, they quickly blame you, claiming you distracted them with “irrelevant drama.” 

Guests at the gathering sympathize with the narcissist in your life, offering comforting words while you are left feeling confused and hurt. 

This is an example of a narcissist using a scapegoat to preserve their self-image. 

2.) To Avoid Taking Responsibility for Their Actions

The second reason narcissists need a scapegoat is to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

As mentioned in the previous section, narcissists construct a “perfect” public persona to hide their shortcomings.

They do this to ensure that they get the external validation they need to protect their feelings of self-worth and unrealistically positive self-image.

Now, their dependence on external validation is actually a huge weakness for them because of how manipulative and abusive they are. 

What do I mean by this?

Well, generally speaking, narcissists know that their abusive and manipulative tendencies are largely frowned upon by society. 

Two narcissist talking about hiding their abusive tendencies.

This is why they are good at being charming, charismatic, and relatively pleasant in public, but they are abusive and manipulative behind closed doors.

Using a scapegoat to avoid taking responsibility for their actions is how narcissists protect their public persona and hide their abusive and manipulative tendencies.

For example, imagine the narcissist in your life is known for their charm, being the life of the party, and a pillar of the community. 

One day, in a moment of anger, they break a valuable family heirloom. 

When friends visit and notice the missing item, the narcissist immediately blames you by saying you had been careless and knocked it off its stand. 

This is an example of a narcissist using a scapegoat to avoid taking responsibility for their actions to preserve their public persona.

They are doing this because they know that if their abusive and manipulative tendencies were to come to light, they wouldn’t get the external validation they need.

3.) To Feel Emotionally Stable

The third, and arguably, the biggest reason narcissist need a scapegoat is to feel emotionally stable.

If you didn’t know this already, narcissists struggle daily with many painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

It can be hard to wrap your head around this, especially if it is your first time hearing about it, but deep down, narcissists feel unlovable, unwanted, worthless, inadequate, and weak. 

Learn More: How Are Narcissists Made? (Insights from Dr. Jolie Avena)

This is a big problem because narcissists lack the emotional skills to manage these thoughts, feelings, and emotions through healthy regulation. 

Because of this, they are emotionally unstable.

To gain a sense of emotional stability, they project their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions onto their scapegoat through manipulation and abuse.

Learn More: 7 Reasons Narcissists Use Projection

For example, imagine you have a narcissist in your life.

Every time you make a minor mistake, like spilling a drink or forgetting something they said, the narcissist berates you for hours, calling you “worthless” or “careless.” 

What is happening here is the narcissist is projecting their deep-seated feelings of worthlessness onto you. 

They are using you as a scapegoat so they can figuratively point their finger at you and think to themselves, “I am no the one who is unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, worthless, and weak, they are.”

A narcissist thinking about her scapegoat.

This is projection and it is a manifestation of a narcissist desperately attempting to relieve themselves of their internal turmoil so they can feel emotionally stable.

What Should You Take Away from This Article?

Narcissists need a scapegoat because they use them to preserve their self-image, avoid taking responsibility for their actions, and feel emotionally stable. 

About the Author

Hey, I’m Elijah.

I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years. 

I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.

Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.

If you’re ready to heal, visit The Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse to get started.


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