I am going to say something that’s probably not gonna make a lot of sense, so bear with me…
All Narcissists have huge egos–but not all of them act like it.
In fact, many Narcissist come across as the exact opposite of an ego maniac.
For example, covert Narcissists are very convincing, and come across as humble, gracious, complementary, and dedicated to serving others. People love them. It’s not uncommon for these Narcissists to be leaders in a church, volunteers, teachers, or even therapists. Yikes.
Only those close to them (spouses, parents, children) know the truth–and oftentimes it take awhile for the truth about them to really surface (this is called their “mask slipping.”) And by “the truth”, I mean the exact same bad behavior that an overt Narcissist has (cheating, pathological lying, chronic addictions and stealing)–except without all the bravado that an overt Narcissist comes with. Spouses and children of covert Narcissists often feel very alone in their abuse as to the outside world, as their Narcissist seems like a Prince (Charming) among men–and no one believes things could possible be that bad at home.
Everyone is shocked when they hear stories of cheating, lying, addiction, and stealing regarding this type of a Narcissist. Oftentimes, other people who aren’t familiar with covert Narcissism (even therapists) will encourage the victim to give their Narcissist another chance…and another, and another, and another. In part, it’s because these Narcissists give great lip service to their wanting to change. They might offer to go to therapy, or rehab, or do whatever it takes to fix the problem that you have with what they did–but if you pay close attention, to their actions, you’ll see that they aren’t changing, they are only charming you with their words–which are just said to further manipulate you into giving them more “Narcissistic supply” (food, clothing, shelter, sex, status, public image, money, etc.).
When most people think of a Narcissist, they think of “that guy.”
We all know “that guy.” He’s the one at the party who is talking at you (loudly) all about himself, has a spray tan, the latest designer clothes, calls you babe, and tells you all about how successful and important he is. You can’t get a word in edge-wise, and even if you did, it wouldn’t matter, because you don’t matter to him, and your opinion (if it was different than his) would wrong anyhow. He only leaves you alone after he’s made sure that you are sufficently impressed by him.
“That” guy is an extreme version of what’s called an “overt” Narcissist. These Narcissists are the ones that are a lot easier to spot. They are outwardly very grandiose, arrogant, status-oriented, and egotistical.
But the reality is that all Narcissists are egotistical, and everything they do is to feed their ego.
This is why they never change, and this is why their behavior oftentimes makes no sense–because in order to feed their ego they need to have power and control over everything. They need to call all the shots or they get upset. Their need for power and control is a more traditional sign of an abusive person: jealousy, controlling and/or possessive behavior. These are the people that often come off as real jerks.
However, sometimes their need for power and control is as hidden as their ego.
The victim sees the Narcissists need for power and control (as well as lack of empathy and remorse) when she catches him lying, cheating, stealing, or continuing some sort of addiction that he promised he’d stop. When she catches him in some part of this behavior, and if she digs deep enough, she generally also uncovers a whole host of other behaviors (sometimes a double life) that she didn’t know was there. This is because the covert Narcissists are clever enough to know how to hide their need for power and control. They know if they were outright about it, their partner might not stay–so instead they pretend to be one person (or wear one “mask”) around their partner and their true self is really found in all their behavior that they were trying to cover up.
But make no mistake about it, just because you don’t see their ego, or need for power and control, doesn’t mean it doesn’t drive their behavior–it does.
Both their good and bad behavior feeds their ego. All Narcissists get married to feed their ego. They have kids, join a church, steal, cheat, and lie–all to feed their ego. Feeding their ego is what drives all of their behavior. This is what separates their actions from regular people–and why their behavior comes across as so erratic and unpredicatable (because it is).
In my opinion, one of the main reasons as to why so many normal people stay with Narcissists for so long is because they think they are dealing with another normal person, who just has bouts of bad behavior.
And the victim (understandably) want to work towards getting this person help, or they work on changing their part in the marriage (if the bad behavior–like cheating, is blamed on them).
And because they aren’t familiar with the clinical definition of a personality disorder, or the different ways that Narcissism manifests, they continue to think that their partner is normal–and that no one is perfect and everyone deserves a second chance (or third, forth, fifth, sixth, etc.), and they put up with all the bad behavior and lies until they can’t handle it anymore.
The reality is that Narcissists aren’t normal. They won’t change. And they get worse with time and/or therapy.
You see, normal people get married because they are in love with a person who (hopefully) has similar morals, values and life goals. They generally have children as an extension of this love. They get a job to do what they love, or to pay the bills. They cheat if there are major issues with communication or sex in their marriage.
On the surface, Narcissists might have all of this same behavior (getting married, having kids, a job, cheating), but it’s driven only by what they want in that moment that will feed their ego. That’s it. they don’t love or attach like normal people. Their bad behavior isn’t driven by any need outside of that’s what they wanted in the moment.
The ego is a funny thing.
In many ways our ego is like our inner three year-old. If that inner three year-old isn’t kept in check, then chaos breaks loose as three year-olds live in the moment and feel outrageously entitled to get whatever it is that they want– and they resent you or anyone who denies them of what they want.
Narcissists are the same way.
Seriously, think about it. Can you imagine if a three year-old could drive, had access to money, and made all the decisions in their life–and yours too. They’d probably have no problem spending all the household money on toys, expect everyone to eat cookies and chicken nuggets for dinner every night because it’s what they wanted, keep their baby brother locked in the closet because they found him irritating and he took too much attention away from them, and, of course, they’d demand that you cater to their every whim.
It’s because Narcissists are very much the same way.
Their inner three year-old is piloting their brain. And like most three year-olds, they know when to hold things together, and when to have a temper tantrum–most of the time. they don’t throw a fit if they know they can’t get away with it. Notice how they usually are on their best behavior around strangers, or people they are trying to impress, but have melts downs when it’s just you and them.
Again, same with a Narcissist.
Narcissists are very concerned about their public image. They know they can only effectively manipulate if this is kept intact, and of course, to many of them, their public image really feeds their ego. They love it when others think they are this amazing person, and get complemented and acknowledged for it (think Bill Cosby).
If they are questioned, or denied what they want, Narcissists suffer a perceived “Narcissistic injury” (injury to their ego) which leads to “Narcissistic rage” (flashes of extreme anger or irritation, oftentimes that are disproportional to what happened). It’s really jaw-dropping to see how offended they get, and the hurtful or ridiculous things they say when this happens, or how violent they can become over “nothing.” This rage can be screaming, yelling, threatening, or it can become physical–leading to rape (sexual abuse) or beatings (physical abuse).
This is why Narcissists get so butt-hurt when their victims move on–even if the Narcissist is remarried! In their mind, we are supposed to stay single and wait for them to come back and play with us and our emotions some more. Again, it’s that three year-old mentality. Everything is theirs. “Mine” is probably the most common word at around that age, and “mine” is probably the best way to describe a Narcissist’s mindset as well.
This is why they do everything that they do.
In other words, they want what they want, when they want it, and that the rest of the world just needs to be okay with that.
This “mine” thinking is what makes Narcissists so dangerous and destructive–and unpredicatable.
This is why you have Narcissists like Scott Peterson, or Jodi Arias who seem like normal people and then kill their significant other like it was nothing. They killed them because to a Narcissist, life is nothing more than a play, where they are actors in the starring role–and the rest of us are just mere props to them. To them, we aren’t much different than a couch, or a hat. We serve a purpose in one of their scenes, and when that scene is done we are discarded (either broken up with or in some cases, killed).
Now this is an extreme example, but it’s not uncommon. According to the latest statistics, 14% of all murders in the U.S. are done by intimate partners; and 33% of murdered women are killed by their intimate partners (7% for men). On average, women leave an abusive (doesn’t have to be just physically abusive) partner seven times before they either leave for good, or are killed.
The bottom line is that all Narcissists are driven to do seemingly strange behaviors because they are trying to get their ego fed. And they won’t ever change. If you are in a relationship with one, please know that they will only ever bring you hurt, heartache, and disappointment.
Continue onto Red Flag of a Narcissist #11: Status Items
(Here is a link to all of the “Red Flags of a Narcissist” series articles and videos in a list. I will be putting this link at the bottom of all the articles and videos so you can refer back to them in an easier-to-find way.)
This “Red Flag of a Narcissist” series is not designed to diagnose anyone with a personality disorder. It is designed to present a broad brush look at behaviors that most (if not all) manipulative people tend to have (not just Narcissists). Not all of these red flags are a signal to run for the hills, and a person doesn’t need to have ALL of these flags present to be dangerous or destructive.
These red flags also occur on a spectrum, meaning that they will be more obvious and troublesome in some people, and not so much in others.
At the same time, keep in mind that EVERYONE has some of these red flags—however, manipulative people tend to have them to a more troubling degree than normal, non-manipulative people. Keep in mind that Narcissists and Antisocial Personality Disordered people’s red flag behavior is more driven by their lack empathy and remorse, desire to manipulate and exploit other people for their personal gain, which is often not the case with those without these disorders. So don’t panic if you see some of your behavior in these red flags, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a Narcissist, or have a personality disorder. 🙂
My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.
Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.
It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.
Latest posts by Dana (see all)
- Episode 28: Gratitude Can Help Keep You Grounded - March 21, 2017
- Episode 27: Learning How to Tune Into Your Emotions - March 19, 2017
- Episode 26: Live Stream from March 8, 2017 - March 14, 2017