When you hear the word narcissist, your mind probably associates behaviors like arrogance, cockiness, and entitlement.
While these are certainly characteristics of someone with narcissism, there is quite a bit going on that is much deeper than the superficial exaggerated self-opinion.
Here are seven fundamental truths you might not have known about narcissists that can explain why they behave the way they do.
1. Narcissists have conditional self-worth.
While narcissists seem confident, their self-worth is, in fact, conditional, whether they’re aware of it or not. It is based on certain experiences, specifically external events. A narcissist thinks “I feel good about myself if” as in:
- “I feel good about myself if I feel superior to you.”
- “I feel good about myself if you agree with me.”
- “I feel good about myself if you tell me that you admire me.”
Of course, a desire to feel good about yourself is a universal human longing, and to some extent, fundamental psychological hunger propels our interactions with the world. For a narcissist, this is demonstrated in comparing himself to others and craving (almost needing) to feel exceptional.
This is why narcissists often bully others. They try to put people down so they feel better about themselves.
It is also why they personalize when someone disagrees with them. Rather than acknowledging a difference in opinions, the narcissist will interpret it as a personal attack, which cuts at his or her ego.
2. A narcissist constantly needs more validation.
With the aforementioned conditional self-worth comes a constant “need” to be validated. This is why one compliment isn’t enough; one “victory” of being right and the other person being wrong doesn’t satiate a narcissist’s need for validation. Once they achieve a win, they move on for more. And more.
3. A narcissist is motivated by intense fear.
Yep, it is actually an intense and deeply rooted fear that propels a narcissist’s reactions—both internal (how they interpret what you do) and external (how they react). The fear? That they are not good enough, not lovable, not worthy. This fear, however, is so ingrained that the narcissist is often not overtly aware of it.