Being rejected by a narcissist is one of the most confusing feelings ever. They put you through a cycle of manipulation to make you believe that they want you to say or do something and then they reject you once you do it.
Rejection has an important function in the well-being of a narcissist. They use rejection to punish you, support their grandiose self-perception, bait you into an argument so they can regulate their emotions, and to shield themselves from any type of emotional closeness that could cause a narcissistic injury.
This article guides you through the different reasons that narcissists reject you. The overarching purpose of rejection is control. In a short video (see below) we’ve briefly summarized the information in our article Why Are Narcissists So Controlling so you can fully understand the role rejection plays in narcissistic abuse.
A Short Video About Why Narcissists Are So Controlling
Narcissists Use Rejection to Punish You
When a narcissist uses rejection to punish you, it often manifests in the form of discarding or stonewalling. Discarding is self-explanatory, it is when a narcissist gets rid of you because they no longer find you useful or desirable.
As difficult as it might be for you, it is very important that you don’t take narcissistic discarding personally. When you get discarded by a narcissist it says nothing about who you are as a person.
In our articles Why Do Narcissists Discard You and Why Do Narcissists Discard So Easily we explain this harsh truth more thoroughly but part of the reason that narcissists discard others is because they don’t really care about other people, they only care about the amount of validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control that they can get from other people.
The narcissist in your life doesn’t view you as a person with thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs, they view you as a tool that they can use to get their needs met. If you were to do something that made the narcissist see you as useless or undesirable (e.g. set a healthy boundary) they could reject you through discarding to punish you.
Stonewalling is when a narcissist refuses to participate in the communication and connection of the relationship that they’re in. Don’t let the word “relationship” mislead you, this can happen in any type of narcissistic relationship (e.g. romantic, friendship, family, workplace).
There are three primary forms of stonewalling: the silent treatment, gaslighting, and intimacy anorexia. The silent treatment occurs when a narcissist stops verbally or electronically communicating with you.
Gaslighting is when a narcissist doubts or denies reality. For example, if you confronted the narcissist in your life after they called you stupid and they said, “What? I never said that, you are f*cking insane!” their response would be considered gaslighting.
According to Dr. Doug Weiss, intimacy anorexia is the active withholding of emotional, spiritual, and/or sexual intimacy from a spouse or significant other.1 In short video (see below) we speak more about intimacy anorexia in narcissistic relationships and unpack a survey we conducted among 300 survivors of narcissistic abuse to find out how common it is!
A Short Video About Intimacy Anorexia In Narcissistic Relationships
Much like discarding, if you were to do something that made you useless or undesirable to the narcissist in your life (e.g. for romantic partners aging could cause this and for other types of narcissistic relationships holding them accountable for their behavior could cause this) they could punish you with rejection by using a form of stonewalling refusing to participate in the communication and connection of the relationship.
Narcissists Reject You to Protect and Support Their Grandiose Self-Perception
Narcissists have a grandiose self-perception that causes them to believe that they are special, unique, desirable, powerful, attractive, successful, and in control.
In the next section we will speak more about where this grandiose self-perception comes from, but for now it is important that you know that protecting and supporting their self-perception is a fundamental requirement for their emotional stability.
To protect and support their self-perception, narcissists need to constantly feed it with narcissistic supply, which is the validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control that they get from their external environment.
A simple example of this would be the praise they get for being really good at their job or the admiration and attention they get for having a lot of money. But they also get narcissistic supply by devaluing, degrading, humiliating, invalidating, and minimizing others.
Again, we will talk about this in the next section a lot more but narcissists have many painful emotions suppressed behind their grandiose self-perception that they are too emotionally immature and stunted to manage on their own.
By devaluing, degrading, humiliating, invalidating, and minimizing others, they can regulate these painful emotions because it allows them to figuratively point their finger at others and think to themselves, “They are the unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, worthless, and weak one, not me!”
So, it is very common for a narcissist to reject you in an attempt to devalue, degrade, humiliate, invalidate, and minimize you so they can support and protect their grandiose self-perception of being special, unique, desirable, powerful, attractive, successful, and in control instead of unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, worthless, and weak.
Rejection Helps Narcissists Regulate Their Painful Emotions
Narcissists are incapable of using healthy forms of emotional regulation to manage their emotions so they rely on maladaptive coping strategies (e.g. gambling, sex, aggression, substance abuse, etc.) to regulate their emotions.
The reason for this can be found within their origin story. It is believed that narcissism originates from an unhealthy/abusive upbringing with primary caregivers who are emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent.
Before we go any further in this article, you should know that narcissism originating from an “unhealthy/abusive upbringing with emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers” is a very broad concept that you need to understand.
Our article How Are Narcissists Made is a thorough exploration of the extensiveness of this concept, but as we just mentioned, narcissism originating from an unhealthy/abusive upbringing with emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers has a very broad spectrum of possibilities.
These possibilities could range anywhere from primary caregivers who are physically abusive (e.g. slapping, punching, spanking, etc.) to primary caregivers whose emotional availability, responsiveness, and consistency is unhealthy (e.g. too much pampering, being overprotective, lack of boundaries).
It is very important to remember this when you are learning about the origin of narcissism because we often associate “unhealthy/abusive” with physical abuse, and obvious forms of emotional/psychological abuse (e.g. invalidation, devaluation, degradation, humiliation, etc.), but there are many narcissists who never experienced those forms of abuse.
So, when the narcissist experienced the emotional neglect that comes from an unhealthy/abusive upbringing with emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers, it 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.
The emotional neglect that narcissists experienced also caused them to develop many painful emotions about themselves (unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, worthless, and weak) because their primary caregivers’ neglect taught them that their true identity wasn’t good enough to be validated, admired, or reassured.
As you can imagine, the narcissist began to hate themselves but had no way of managing their self-loathing attitude and other painful emotions because of the unhealthy cognitive development that comes from the emotional neglect of an unhealthy/abusive upbringing.
To prevent themselves from crumbling under the pressure of their self-loathing attitude and painful emotions, narcissists mirrored society to create a falsified identity (a.k.a a public persona) that could accumulate the validation, admiration, and reassurance that their emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers couldn’t give them.
When speaking about narcissism and narcissistic abuse, the term “mirroring” refers to a narcissists 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 falsified identity that allowed them to appear “perfect” to others.
This ordeal is where their grandiose self-perception of being special, unique, desirable, powerful, attractive, successful, and in control came from but it also put them in a very tough position because they still had their painful emotions and self-loathing attitude.
To manage this, they used their newly constructed self-perception to suppress their painful emotions and self-loathing attitude. This is a maladaptive coping strategy because it makes them feel better in the short term, but in the long-term, it is very harmful for the narcissist because they still don’t have a reliable form of emotional regulation.
One of the maladaptive coping strategies that narcissists use to regulate their emotions is Antagonistic Baiting! This occurs when a narcissist says or does something manipulative (e.g. reject something that means a lot to you) to manipulate you into having a negative confrontation with them so they can start a huge argument that they can “win” to regulate their emotions.
Suggested Reading: How to Respond to Narcissistic Baiting
By “winning” the argument, the narcissist can project their painful emotions and self-loathing attitude onto you. Projection is a defense mechanism that occurs when we take parts of our identity that we find unacceptable and place them onto others.
Similar to rejection designed to protect and support the narcissist’s self-perception, “winning” arguments give a narcissist the opportunity to devalue, degrade, humiliate, invalidate, and minimize you so that they can think to themselves, “They are the unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, worthless, and weak one, not me!“
Narcissists Will Reject You to Protect Themselves From Narcissistic Injuries
The self-perception that narcissists have is extremely fragile. When it gets contradicted, narcissists experience something called a narcissistic injury. A narcissistic injury is essentially an ego injury and when narcissists experience them it triggers their suppressed painful emotions (unlovable, unwanted, worthless, inadequate, weak) and self-loathing attitude.
Narcissistic injuries are an incredibly destabilizing feeling for a narcissist because it destroys their grandiose self-perception and compromises their emotional stability. Unfortunately, narcissists experience narcissistic injuries on a daily basis because of how fragile and vulnerable they are.
It is very possible that the narcissist in your life rejects you to protect themselves from experiencing a narcissistic injury. One of the most common ways this could manifest is when they reject any type of emotional closeness (e.g. talking about the direction of your relationship, comforting a crying child, kissing, hugging, being vulnerable with another person, etc.).
Suggested Reading: Do Narcissists Enjoy Intimacy?
The reason for this is that the unhealthy/abusive upbringing with primary caregivers who are emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent that narcissists had caused them to develop a deeply rooted hatred for emotional closeness because they were led to believe that it makes them unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, worthless, and weak.
So, emotional closeness is a massive narcissistic injury waiting to happen for a narcissist because all it does is remind them of how unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, weak, and worthless they feel on the inside. It is for this reason that narcissists use rejection to protect themselves from the narcissistic injuries that emotional closeness and other aspects of life cause.
Suggested Reading: 5 Examples of a Narcissistic Injury
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
When a narcissist rejects you, they are doing so to serve their own selfish needs. It could be because they want to punish you, protect and support their grandiose self-perception, bait you into an argument to regulate their emotions, or avoid experiencing a narcissistic injury.
But you shouldn’t take it personally because it says nothing about who you are as a person and it says everything about how unhealthy and abusive narcissists really are.
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Besser, Avi, and Beatriz Priel. “Grandiose narcissism versus vulnerable narcissism in threatening situations: Emotional reactions to achievement failure and interpersonal rejection.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 29.8 (2010): 874.