By Dana Morningstar
This is a type of narcissist who gets their ego stroked from appearing kind, good, and caring, but they only do so in order to get the praise and validation that comes from being seen as a good and caring person. Everything they do is for show. They often give money they don’t have and gifts they can’t afford. And if their charitable acts are denied, they often become angry and enraged. Altruistic narcissists may volunteer a lot, be leaders of a spiritual group, or work in a position that is seen as caring (such as a teacher, nurse, doctor, counselor, social worker, director of a non-profit, etc.). However, those who know them best realize that there are always strings attached to their acts of kindness and that they are better off not accepting any help from them. These acts of kindness are either held over their head and expected to be repaid ten-fold, or they are used to lure people in so they can be exploited. The behavior of an altruistic narcissist tends to come across as confusing, because on one hand the narcissist is so charitable and considerate, and seems to care so deeply, but their emotions seem shallow and insincere, and their actions seem like they are for show…because they are.
Example: For the past three years in a row, Susan has won the company award for the most volunteer hours given to their designated charity. At every event, Susan makes sure to take lots of pictures of herself helping and posts them all over her various social media accounts. She places volunteering and the needs of strangers over the needs of her children and husband. Her children and husband are resentful at how much time she spends helping others and all the accolades she gets, while at home she is either cruel and callous, or simply emotionally unavailable. She’d rather be seen as kind and compassionate by total strangers than loving towards, or loved by, her family.
Example: James is a handsome and charismatic pastor of a local church, who is married, with two adult children and several foster children—which his wife cares for while he gets all the credit. He has the kind of personality men admire and women adore. He shovels snow during the winter for elderly parishioners, plays Santa during Christmas, volunteers at the local food bank, and builds houses for the poor. His adult children have struggled with what to think of their father, as on one hand he seems so loving and compassionate to others, but on the other he has been emotionally (and physically) unavailable, hurtful, and cruel to both them and their mother. Over the years, they’ve grown tired of hearing about their father being such a wonderful man, when behind closed doors he is very different.
Dana Morningstar is a former psychiatric nurse turned domestic violence educator who specializes in abuse awareness and prevention. Her passion is working with survivors of abuse to reclaim and rebuild their self-esteem, boundaries, confidence, and identity. She is an author of multiple books on the subject, and also has a blog, podcast, and YouTube channel, as well as several online support groups, all of which you can find under the name “Thrive After Abuse.”