Admiration is respect and warm approval. Praise is the expression of approval or admiration for someone or something. Narcissists have an excessive need for both admiration and praise and it makes being around them an exhausting ordeal.

Narcissists crave admiration and praise because being admired and praised by others gives them the narcissistic supply that they need to feel emotionally stable, construct a positive self-perception, and maintain a grandiose public persona that hides their insecurities and abusive tendencies.

This article is going to help you understand the reason that admiration and praise is so beneficial for a narcissist. We’ve also invited Nicki Paull, a Therapist & Professional Counsellor, to speak on the matter. In a short video (see below) she shares fantastic advice about how you can use admiration and praise to keep yourself safe from a narcissist.

Nicki Paull, a Therapist & Professional Counsellor, Speaks About Using Narcissistic Supply to Your Advantage

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Being Admired and Praised by Others Gives Narcissists Narcissistic Supply

Narcissistic supply is the validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control that narcissists receive from their surrounding environment. This section of the article is going to focus on the role that narcissistic supply plays in a narcissist’s life.

Specifically, we are going to explain how narcissistic supply allows a narcissist to feel emotionally stable, construct a positive self-perception, and maintain a grandiose public persona.

Someone learning about narcissistic supply.

It is really important that you learn about narcissistic supply because it will help you understand how narcissists operate, and subsequently, put you in a position from which you can protect yourself and/or heal from narcissistic abuse.

Narcissistic Supply Helps Them Feel Emotionally Stable

The emotional instability of a narcissist is the driving force of their abusive and manipulative behavior. The reason for this can be found within their origin story.

It’s believed by many mental health professionals that narcissism originates from a childhood upbringing with primary caregivers who are emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent.

A narcissist getting yelled at by her parents.

Growing up in this type of environment is abusive and/or unhealthy. Now, there is a very broad spectrum of possibilities when it comes to abusive and/or unhealthy childhood upbringings.

For example, this could mean a child has primary caregivers who are physically abusive (e.g. slapping, punching, spanking, etc.), or it could mean a child has primary caregivers whose emotional availability, responsiveness, and consistency is unhealthy (e.g. too much pampering, being overprotective, lack of boundaries).

Either way, this type of childhood upbringing prevents children from getting the validation, admiration, and reassurance (three out of the five components of narcissists supply) that they need to develop a positive and realistic sense of self and have a healthy cognitive development.

Someone teaching about narcissistic supply.

As a consequence, narcissists developed an incredibly negative and unrealistic self-perception and had an unhealthy cognitive development that destroyed their emotional stability.

We will speak more about this in the next two sections, but narcissistic supply provides narcissists with the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they never received from their primary caregivers. Narcissistic supply fills the void in a narcissist’s life and this makes them feel emotionally stable.

Suggested Reading:

If you are interested in learning more about a narcissists origin story, our article How Are Narcissists Made? has a ton of helpful information about the different theories that mental health specialist have.

Narcissistic Supply Helps Narcissists Construct a Positive Self-Perception

Self-perception is a person’s view of his or her self or of any of the mental or physical attributes that constitute the self.

At a quick glance, narcissists seem to have a very positive self-perception. They are typically charming, confident, grandiose, articulate, and so on. But the truth is that narcissists are some of the most self-loathing people on the planet.

A narcissist thinking about how much he/she hates himself.

They have an insane amount of painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions suppressed within themselves that they use narcissistic supply to manage. You see, the neglect that narcissists received from their primary caregivers led them to believe that they are unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, worthless, and weak.

Sadly, the unhealthy cognitive development that narcissists had during their childhood upbringing left them so emotionally incompetent that they aren’t capable of managing these painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions through healthy forms of regulation such as therapy, journaling, mindfulness, etc.

This is a huge problem because their inability to process and overcome their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions threatens their emotional stability.

A therapist talking about managing painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

However, narcissists quickly realized that they could mirror society to get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that their primary caregivers couldn’t give them and use it to create a positive self-perception and suppress all of their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

In the narcissistic realm, the term “mirroring” refers to a manipulative process that narcissists use to absorb information about the identity of others and use that information to create a falsified identity that portrays them as “perfect”.

For example, imagine that you told a narcissist that your sibling died in a car crash two years ago. They could mirror you by saying, “I don’t want to take away from what you just said, but my mother died in a motorcycle accident a few years ago so I just wanted you to know that I understand what you have been through.”

A narcissistic woman mirroring someone.

Do you see what is happening here? The narcissist is using mirroring to make you feel heard, understood, and valued. Over time, this manipulation tactic is going to allow the narcissist to present themselves as the “perfect” person for you.

Suggested Reading:

Our article How Do Narcissists Use Mirroring? has a ton of helpful information that you can use to grasp a better understanding of mirroring and how narcissists use it to manipulate others.

Anyway, narcissists quickly learned that they could mirror society, meaning that they created an identity capable of being accepted by society, to get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they needed to build a positive self-perception and suppress their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

However, the unhealthy cognitive development that narcissists had left them so emotionally incompetent that they are unable to look past society’s superficial, materialistic, and trivial exterior when mirroring.

A narcissist speaking about his emotional immaturity.

Because of this, narcissists end up attracting the most superficial, materialistic, and trivial forms of validation, admiration, and reassurance that society has to offer. A simple example of this would be a narcissist constructing his/her identity out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they get for being popular in school.

All this does is it puts the narcissist in a terribly challenging position where they are condemned to a lifetime of chasing narcissistic supply to maintain a positive self-perception (i.e. “…I am important, special, unique, successful, wanted, strong, intelligent…”) so they can feel emotionally stable.

So, to sum up everything that has been stated in this section, narcissistic supply gives narcissists the validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control that they need to maintain a positive self-perception and suppress all of their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

A narcissist burying his emotions so he can get more admiration.

Without narcissistic supply, narcissists would be forced to face the fact that they feel unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, worthless, and weak. They cannot allow this to happen because they are too emotionally inadequate to take steps towards using healthy forms of regulation (i.e. therapy) to manage their emotional instability.

Narcissistic Supply Helps Them Maintain a Grandiose Public Persona

Grandiose means impressive and imposing in appearance or style, especially pretentiously so. Public persona means the personality that a person presents in public and that they are known for by most people.

Narcissists use narcissistic supply to create a grandiose public persona that hides their insecurities and abusive tendencies. Generally speaking, a narcissist’s insecurities are their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

Two people talking about insecurities.

The reason that narcissists want to hide their insecurities is because if they were to acknowledge them and allow others to see them as well, it would destroy their positive self-perception and compromise their emotional stability because they are incapable of managing their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

In addition to this, narcissists want to hide their abusive tendencies from others because they know that if they were exposed as an abuser, it would prevent them from getting the narcissistic supply that they need to construct a positive self-perception and suppress their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

A man telling a woman that she is no longer going to be validated.

When narcissists get narcissistic supply from their surrounding environment, meaning they are being admired, reassured, validated, and put in positions of power and control, they are able to maintain a positive self-perception and subsequently, a grandiose public persona that portrays them as charming, charismatic, confident, articulate and pleasant.

Suggested Reading:

If you’re interested in learning more about the grandiose public persona that narcissists create, our articleWhy Are Narcissists Nice to Others?has a lot of information that you may find helpful.

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

Narcissists want to be praised and admired because it gives them narcissistic supply. They then use this narcissistic supply to manage their emotional instability, construct a positive self-perception, and maintain a grandiose public persona that hides their insecurities and abusive tendencies. Admiration and praise are a narcissist’s best friends.


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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:

Zagenczyk, Thomas J., et al. “The moderating effect of psychological contract violation on the relationship between narcissism and outcomes: An application of trait activation theory.” Frontiers in psychology 8 (2017): 1113.

Olden, Christine. “About the fascinating effect of the narcissistic personality.” American Imago 2.4 (1941): 347-355.