Do they believe their own hype?

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.”


Filed under Narcissism

18 responses to “Do they believe their own hype?

  1. Maggie

    When I read this I see many parallels to that stage of late adolescent development where the world evolves around the teen/young adult. I think it is awful to be stuck in the state as an adult and to mange the ongoing self deception that must increase daily to believe the “hype”. Wasn’t it tough enough the first time around??? Aren’t we all glad to have gone through that stage smoothly. Compassion for those who get stuck and later when their loved ones,counselors, friends, spiritual directors, spouses, children etc.. ask for acknowledgement and change they have no ability to “see” it…or do they ? Pray, Pray, Pray!

  2. Gloria Shediac

    I have been dealing with a person like this for a few years. I try to stay away, but she seems to always be in my face. …she even came to work where I work. ..I don’t know how to deal with this person. I try not to be intimidated by this person.

  3. Lea Anna Curtis

    It is amazing to me how much influence they can have over people, and how so many people think that they are the greatest. However, they don’t realize how much of an act the narcissist is, in reality.

    • Yep. …she does all the time, and if someone has the audacity to correct or confront her. …she goes into anger defence mode. ..she even does it to her own mother. ..she’ll say “how can someone talk to a woman of God that way “….then, when she really gets surrounded with no way to continue manipulating, she’ll stop for a while, then go at it again. …she thinks she knows everything. ..always ready to give advice, but does not follow her own advice. …she has a superior tone to her voice. She likes to be praised. She desires the pedestal position. She finished a course ,and now has the title Pastor. She will walk all over everybody to get where she wants. And she does not let anyone get in her way. …she likes to poke in people’s business all the time, then she uses that information to make herself look better. People can’t confide anything with her, because she repeats everything, right down to the very confidential details. …she runs her mom like you wouldn’t believe. Her parents rent from her and her husband. Her mom even admitted that she started trouble in more then one church. ..she’s already caused trouble for many of her current church. ..she caused brothers and sisters in Christ to come against each other, just to be favored by the church Pastors. ..and they side with her. …Her own husband does not have much to say in their marriage. ..I’ve heard more then once telling her quiet husband to shut up. ..I had gotten away from her, because we found another beautiful church close to home. I hope she doesn’t start coming there. She caused many to leave the church that she’s currently attending. ..I can say for sure 8 to 10 people. ..the only One who can break her is God, so I just pray for her. And love her from a distance for now.

      Sent from my Galaxy Tab® A

  4. Rachel

    And nations can behave like this too, or, dare I say it today, Europe!

    Perhaps the problem for the narcissist is that they can’t bear the apparent paradox that we are both of infinite value to God and made by Him from dust (“humus” the word for soil gives us the word humility). Maybe this causes such cognitive dissonance that it is the root of the peculiarities and behaviours we see and experience at their hands.

  5. UnForsaken

    ” Yes and no. ” Now this makes sense. I’ve often thought my N had at least half convinced himself of his stories, investing in them emotionally, but still acting weirdly as if he knows better around such people as myself – that “don’t matter” .

    He was taught to be strictly honest and he prides himself on it, but what he gets away with in “mistakes”, forgetting, insinuation…can be twice as destructive. He mainly uses honesty as a tool, making everyone else live up to it and redefining each thing.

    I think this redefinition of reality extends to the enablers with flees surrounding the N. Lately I heard a loved one accused laughingly of keeping secrets, simply because they saw no need to tell the N and enabler Exactly what they’d done/where they’d been. This person had no secret, just a desire to occasionally do something without having to explain it. That is: no one should have to explain their existence, or make their daily chores the Ns entertainment. They held their ground with some difficulty – sometimes you have to choose your battles – but the N enabler Insisted that it was still a “secret”. HA!

    ” I knew how it would go…” I like this one. It sounds so pious, wise and perceptive, responsible and yet indulgently letting others make their own mistakes. Everything Ns don’t do!

    Thank you for another thought provoking article, Dave. ❤

  6. HisDaughter

    Very thought provoking Pastor Dave. It was good to be reminded that our value comes from our Lord and Savior. I’ve been really giving myself a hard time because I was behind at work on some things due to a convergence of circumstances and believed I should have been able to still keep up and get the work perfect. Christ’s work on the cross frees us to “let ourselves off the hook” which is much different than being lazy or non-caring!

  7. This was very good. I never heard it put that way before. So it starts with their belief they are superior and why don’t other people get that? And the lies are an attempt to get others to believe as they do. So the narcissist never stops to think they might be wrong or have an inaccurate assessment even though reality is saying something else. So they attempt to shape reality so their belief is supported. It sounds like they are very delusional. This helps me to understand my mother better and others that were in my former life. Right now I don’t have a life. Destroyed by narcs who had a low opinion of me. It was really about themselves.

    • Annette

      Ruby, I am sorry to hear about your situation. One of the ways narcissists prop up their grandiosity is by putting others down. It does not have anything to do with your value, only with the narcissists’ need to appear better than you. You will be better off without those narcissists in your life even if you have to rebuild it.

      • Thanks Annette. It does seem even moving far away hasn’t been as effective as I would have hoped. Just so you know, it can continue long distance. I wouldn’t have believed it myself, probably neither would you because it’s something you and I wouldn’t dream of doing. You’ve got to be really smart about things in a situation like this because if you complain it’s not like you’re going to get an admission of guilt from them.

    • They believe they are superior, and they will convince many others they are superior, too. They pour on the charm, say the right words, appear helpful and empathic, smile, dress well, make funny comments, and have the correct lingo for the situation. Only those who live with them and some who spend enough time with them will see the superiority as a facade.

      My challenge has been to not be frustrated by the many who believe the N is amazing, if not superior, and love the act. Several friends have seen what I see or believe my “behind the scenes” exposes, but most like the facade and don’t want it dismantled. They like the charming guy and don’t want to be bothered with reality. Those who have been hurt by the N’s lies are more likely to see the truth, but even then the N’s charming persona can smooth it over and make them think it’s a one-off and not a character fault. It’s hard to have seen the emperor naked and wonder how others can seen him clothed.

      • Annette

        Ruby, yes, I do know from experience that distance alone is not always sufficient. Some narcissistic relatives try to harass me at times even though they live thousands of miles away.

        There are strategies for going low contact or, if necessary, no contact in order to protect yourself from further harassment. You could search the Internet for advice (and also this blog). Unfortunately, you cannot expect your narcissists to validate you in any way at all.

  8. Janet

    The thing that was always so cutting and heavy for me with my N, was that as blood bought believers, yes, ALL of our sins and failings are nailed to the cross. I was SUPPOSED to forgive my N quickly. But if I mafe a mistake? Sinned against her? Failed her in some way??? OH MY GOSH!!! The extraction of the pound of my flesh did not end until it was satisfied. Total, unrelenting, blatant double standard.

  9. Annette

    “Delusional” is the right term, Ruby. At times it seems to me that narcissists do in fact believe their own lies. While they are fully capable of consciously lying without compunction, a lifetime of lying to themselves as well as to others seems to have messed with their heads so that, at times, they can no longer tell the difference between reality and fiction. This becomes more pronounced as they age.

    I am also wondering about the relationship between Alzheimer’s and narcissism. Alzheimer’s seems to run in my mother’s highly narcissistic family, whereas it is unheard of in my father’s family. Of course there is the impact of genetics. But then there is also Rom. 1:21, 22, which says:

    “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools …”

    Narcissists worship themselves (i.e., their false selves) as god. This is idolatry. Would it be surprising if God allowed them to be afflicted with a disease that no longer allows them to perceive reality? This is not to say that every Alzheimer’s patient is a narcissist or that every narcissist will get Alzheimer’s. However, I have noticed signs of dementia in narcissists far earlier than the age you might normally expect them. As Jesus said, you reap what you sow.

    • HisDaughter

      Indeed…what is sown is reaped!

    • Annette I was thinking about your association of Alzheimer’s and narcissism. I wonder if it happens because they lie so frequently. Their brain wouldn’t get enough exercise as it would in regular thinking. Lying is too easy.

      • Annette

        Ruby, laziness may be part of it. After all, they believe they know it all and therefore don’t need to learn anything. I was referring more to faulty wiring though. One narcissist I used to know often inadvertently said the opposite of what she meant to say, such as black for white or up for down. I guess the brain so much gets used to having to produce the opposite of the truth that it ends up doing so automatically. So it seems pathological lying can cause a certain kind of brain damage.

        Narcissists are living a lie. Every assumption they make is based on the lie that their grandiose false self is their true self. Therefore the outcome of their reasoning based on this false foundation must inevitably be a fallacy. They mess not only with other people’s heads but also with their own. Up is down and bad is good (particularly the latter, given their character disorder). No wonder they can show signs of early dementia.

        It has been noted that the personality traits of Alzheimer’s patients can resemble those of narcissists. That makes me wonder whether those patients had already been narcissists before they got Alzheimer’s.

  10. Lea

    “Boasting about past accomplishments, claiming superior skills or wisdom”

    Oh man, this describes my ex so much. Wish I’d realized that was a red flag!

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