Manipulative, controlling and all-round damaging behaviour aside – it may appear that the narcissist is very near perfect. He or she is likely to be well-groomed, live in an immaculate house, have an important job, and to be mainly seen associating with other similarly important and high-class individuals.
A true narcissist simply has to have a perfect facade. A true narcissist will do everything in their power to conceal ANY less than perfect aspect of him or herself. A true narcissist will never (unless it is part of a love bombing technique) admit to any wrongdoing, or apportion any blame unto him or herself.
In fact, it could be said that one way to spot a narcissist is by how ‘perfect’ they seem. At first glance they – or their stories - may seem a little ‘unreal’ or too good to be true. They may be full of stories of their achievements and so-called successes and appear to lack a ‘real’ or ‘human’ side. A person with an average or healthy ego is more likely to intersperse their conversation with topics other than themselves and how perfect and important they are.
Yet there is a secret behind the narcissist’s perfect facade:
The narcissist is far from perfect. The narcissist is actually a very damaged individual with deep – quite likely unconscious - feelings of shame and inadequacy. He or she has buried their true self so effectively and so completely (and so long ago) that all that now exists is an outer shell – a façade – a false self which may look perfect, but which is actually nothing more than a hollow shell.
How did this happen? It may be that the narcissist was brought up to believe that they were not good enough as they were. So in time, he or she buried their true self and constructed a false self – somebody who was not just good enough but who was actually superior to everybody else.
With no real sense of self or self-esteem to talk of, the narcissist requires almost constant validation from other people to confirm that they are ‘real’ - hence the need to appear perfect. To appear as anything less than this would be a MAJOR blow to their sense of identity. Crazy-making stuff? Yes.
This need to be seen as both perfect and superior to others obviously causes havoc in the narcissist’s relationships. They will be envious of others (I have been on the receiving end of such envy and it is not a pleasant thing) and they will become enraged when they have supposedly been outshone by another (narcissistic rage, anyone?).
Of course, everybody feels envious of others at times. The way a narcissist feels envy, however, is in no way similar to the way in which a regular person feels envy. Narcissists secretly feel envy all of the time. And, because they don’t know how to effectively deal with it (a regular person may process feelings of envy by striving to do or be better), they deal with it the only way they can – by striving to make others envious of them, so they can feel better, and mightier, and more perfect. It is a childish, stupid and never-ending game, and one that I personally refuse to further partake in.
Narcissists don’t know how to truly love others. The people in their lives are seen as tools or pawns and are very carefully selected – only those who are able to assist them in their quest for superiority will do. As well as wanting – needing - to be seen in association with the powerful and the mighty, the narcissist needs people who are lacking in self-confidence and therefore more likely to be ensnared.
Someone who is willing to assist them in their perverse quest for perfection and domination? Perfect. Someone who will readily accept the bad treatment and feelings of shame that the narcissist will so expertly - and regularly - dish out to them? Perfect.
You may have feelings of sympathy for the narcissist – particularly if you are the empathetic type (as I am). But a word of warning here – be very wary of trying to rescue, save or fix him or her. Have sympathy if you must – but then leave them to it. I speak from bitter experience. A true narcissist cannot be cured, because they don’t believe that there is anything wrong with them. In their (hollow) minds, they are perfect. It is everybody else with the problem.
If you have been badly burned by a narcissist in the past, you will likely – hopefully - be better equipped at both spotting and letting another into your life. Once you know the game and how it’s played, you can choose to stop playing. Because, sad as it is, you will never be truly loved by a narcissist. Conserve your energy for someone who although not outwardly ‘perfect’, is perfect for you. Find someone truly capable of giving you the love you deserve. And leave the narcissist to it.
Have you been badly burned by a narcissist? Please, share a bit of your story in the comments.
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