It’s Narcissist Friday!
Most narcissists proclaim themselves to be much better than they really are. That seems to be one of the defining characteristics of narcissism. Boasting about past accomplishments, claiming superior skills or wisdom, treating everyone else as inferior—these are classic behaviors. The narcissist wants all the rest of us to believe that he/she is better.
Those in relationships with narcissists learn pretty quickly that the hype is phony. The narcissist is not better at her job. He is not smarter than others. In fact, we often learn that the narcissist is less capable, less successful. And some of the amazing stories aren’t exactly true.
So, do the narcissists believe their own hype? It is clear that they can get others to believe it, at least for a while. But have they convinced themselves?
Yes and no.
There is little doubt that the narcissist believes himself to be superior. His anger comes out of the frustration from his superiority not being acknowledged. For his whole life he has felt that others fail to give him the respect he deserves. He not only wants attention, he believes he is worthy of it.
At the same time, the narcissist is fully aware that his stories are embellished and his performance falls short of superior. He knows that he can’t keep a client or a job for long. He knows that his work was done haphazardly and poorly. He knows that his last job didn’t end in the way he has told others.
But the narcissist has no qualms about lying, remember. The lie comes as easily to his mouth as the truth, easier in many circumstances. A claim to superior ability is the truth in the narcissist’s mind, no matter how much evidence others might bring to the contrary. Adapting the story of a past event to make herself look better is simply telling the story the way it should have been. The truth, for the narcissist, is quite flexible.
We may have been taught that lying is wrong, but the narcissist believes that the lie serves a greater and more honorable purpose. It supports his superiority. As long as the lie convinces the people of the real value of the narcissist (as seen in his/her own mind) it is a useful and appropriate tool.
You see, the narcissist does what the rest of us ought to do. He has separated his worth as a person from his performance. In my ministry of grace I have often told people that their value is not bound to their behavior, either for good or bad. We are not defined by the things we do. Failure does not make you a bad or worthless person, and success does not make a person good. Our value, I believe, is determined by the love of our Lord. He values us, and that makes us valuable. He has cleansed us, and that makes us good.
Because the narcissist firmly believes in his superiority, his behavior and accomplishment do nothing to detract from that. However, because others will judge him by what he does and how well he does it, he adapts his stories to support what he believes. Any failure on his part, any weakness, is inconsistent with who he is—therefore, it must be someone else’s fault or an error in some way. Poor performance cannot be the truth, because the narcissist is superior. Therefore, there are reasons for the poor performance that do not involve weakness or incompetence in the narcissist.
“If I really cared, I could win the prize.”
“I almost had it, but so and so cheated.”
“I knew how it would go, but I didn’t say anything because I wanted them to learn.”
“They didn’t give me enough time.”
“That cop’s radar gun is wrong.”
“My former boss is lying.”
The excuses and covers go on and on.
Yes, these are lies. Yes, the narcissist knows they are lies. But what the narcissist does not know is that he/she is not superior. In the real world, the lies cover another lie.
The narcissist is victim of his own “tangled web.”