It’s Narcissist Friday!     


Sometimes you might be surprised to hear a narcissist put himself/herself down. The popular definition of narcissism has something to do with bragging almost constantly, so we don’t usually expect narcissists to speak negatively about themselves or their abilities. However, that person you suspect is a narcissist may well lower himself in comparison to others at times. This can be confusing.

Why would a narcissist talk down about himself? Such an action, so out of sync with expected behavior, must have a purpose. Yes, and we call it “sandbagging.”

Sandbagging is a term used in competitive sports and games. Gamblers use the term to define the action of a player who suggests he has a low hand by only matching or passing, then raising when the pot is larger (also called “slow-play”). In racing, the term refers to someone who deliberately runs a slower qualifying race in order to convince others that he cannot perform as well. In chess and golf, sandbagging is to purposely play at a lower level in one game in order to gain a higher handicap for the next. A few years ago an Olympic badminton team was disqualified for intentionally playing at a lower level for the purpose of a higher handicap.

You get the idea. Sandbagging is hustling. Almost every form of competition has its hustlers, and sandbagging is a primary method of hustling. For the narcissist, every human interaction is competition.

For some competitors, the goal of sandbagging is the higher handicap. For others it is to influence the betting. For still others, it is to gain a better position. But what is the goal of the narcissist?

Here are some ideas:

1. The narcissist may use sandbagging to get out of work. Real work is anathema to the narcissist. They would rather use the work of others. So the narcissist might claim a physical limitation or a lack of ability to avoid an unpleasant job. “Oh, I am terrible at cleaning,” the narcissist says. So someone else will have to do it.

2. When the narcissist needs praise, and they do crave praise much like other addicts crave their drug, she might say something negative about herself so that you will disagree and lift her up. “I am such a terrible mom,” she may say. To which, of course, you must say, “Oh no, you have been a good mom.” So the praise is gained by a simple self-demeaning statement. (The irony here is that the narcissist doesn’t believe the negative, but says it; while you do believe the statement, but are put in a position to speak against it.)

3. Narcissists are not above simple hustling. To trick an opponent into thinking of the narcissist as less able, then overwhelm with superior ability, is narcissist glory. For example, Jack is invited to play racquetball. He has played all his life, but he says that he isn’t very good. Then he thoroughly enjoys beating his opponent. He has, in fact, beaten the opponent twice. Once by the deception; and once by superior play. Jack may even try to pass off his success as a total surprise, a fluke, just so he can do it again to the same opponent.

4. Some narcissists play the role of a victim so others will support them with help, money, and sympathy. They put themselves down to manipulate the feelings of others. They are disabled, or confused, or depressed, or shy, or whatever it will take to get you to do what they want. By the time you figure out that their negative claims don’t stand up to truth, you have been used.

5. Sometimes the narcissist will sandbag just for the sake of making you feel guilty for questioning or criticizing them. When you have dared to point out an error in something the narcissist has done, you may hear over and over how the narcissist just isn’t good at that. This is not an excuse to get you to do it, but a way of manipulating your feelings. If the narcissist got lost while driving, and you had to help find the right way, he may continually say that he is “so lousy” at directions. Each time you are made to feel ashamed for any criticism you may have felt, whether you shared it or not.

So, if you hear the narcissist putting himself or herself down, ask why. Believe me, there is a reason.


Filed under Narcissism

28 responses to “Sandbagging

  1. A work colleague of my narcissistic ex met me last year at a church event, recognized that she’d seen me somewhere before, and when I asked where she worked, I told her who I was. She looked shocked, eyes flew wide open, and she said, “You’re such a sweet lady!” I can only imagine what “he” has said about me to others at his work. I know he told me after he moved out (after a blatant affair) that his friends at work said he was being “too nice” to me. Now he’s completely bamboozled another woman who thinks he walks on water and is on his second try to “annul” our marriage through the Catholic Church. Oddly enough, in his questionnaire, he completely verified everything I answered in mine, negating his own contention! I think he’s mentally ill on top of everything else. I tried to get two psychologists and a psychiatrist to see his issues in the anecdotal evidence i gave them, but they saw his projected persona and didn’t believe me. Sadly for myself, I have God’s compassion for him, but I’m trying to move past that and stop praying for him, other than asking God to break him to make him truly see God alone is God so God can re-create His original design in the man.

  2. dombeck

    I often wonder if my ex is mentally ill as well. I think it might be a narcissistic tactic of sorts to guilt you into trapped sympathy. Or a way to make you question your own sanity (gaslighting) But then, I think malignant narcissism is a mental illness all by itself. I don’t think you have to stop praying for him. But I wouldn’t expect your prayers to be answered in a way that is evident or visible to you.

  3. Anonymous

    This was a real thinker for me. I couldn’t recall this behavior in my ex. But then yes, I forced my self to remember.

    In the bedroom. He just wasn’t very good at it. He said so. He wasn’t expected to even try. It was all on me. And even then there was guilt. Being good at it meant practice and experience. It’s not a thing to be proud of, if you are a woman married to an old narc. Yes, it was a form of manipulation. He wasn’t just a selfish lover, he used my “expertise” to guilt me into never expecting anything more or different from him It was a punishment. And a complete mismatch on a physical\sexual level.

    I know this is a sensitive topic. But when it comes to marriage, or life partners, it’s pretty crucial. Sexual compatibility is not a subject to be glossed over, hush hushed, or a relationship dynamic that is likely to change, or “get better” over time. I know. I tried. It just never got better.

    Yeah, it got worse. His dogs got more affection than I did from day one. I’m not sure if it is a narcissistic characteristic but it became a consistent and blatant pattern of abuse/neglect. I became guilt ridden and filled with shame. When I carefully explained my hurt and discomfort with the comparison between the affection and kindness he gave his dogs, compared to how he demonstrated his love for me, his wife, he told me not to be jealous of his dogs. I honestly wasn’t. At least I didn’t think I was. So then I felt stupid. But I argued my position further and he accused me of accusing him of bestiality, and he turned from me in complete horror and disgust. The THOUGHT never occurred to me. The subject of sexuality became taboo. For me, it was such a turn off, sex became taboo.

    Now that I am away from him, I on rare occasion revisit these memories. And on occasion I question if he was involved in some sort of perverse activities with his dogs. I shutter to think. And I am eternally grateful that long and disgusting chapter of my life is over.

    Yes. There was a reason he claimed and lived up to being not a very good lover. Well for one, he just wasn’t and I have to give him credit for telling the truth at least once in his life. I remember the sadistic grin of secret pleasure on his face when in his final argument he defended his position with, “I am getting older. I’m just not as interested anymore.” He delighted in my disappointment and hurt.

    You see, it wasn’t all about sex. It was about holding hands, hugging, just touching. It was about affection. Being a “good” lover had nothing to do with it. He just wasn’t interested in making me feel good or physical human contact. He had a bigger interest in making me feel less worthy than a dog, shameful, lustful, perverted, and needy.

    Who knows what caused this behavioral disorder? What do you call it? How do you fix it? Or remedy it? I spent more than two decades trying to answer these questions. I finally realized it wasn’t my responsibility to find out or help him. In short, there were no answers or remedies and the only person really suffering was me.

    Many years ago a therapist explained to me that alcoholics use people to feel their feelings, that way they don’t have to and they do it because they can.

    I was being used to suffer and feel that which he did not or could not deal with himself. So I got out. He was like a drowning man pushing me under, climbing on top of me, using me as a flotation device. He was a narcissist that absconded a trophy wife to hide who he really was. I was a great cover story.

    Praise God it’s over.

    • Daffodildeb

      Being married to my narcissistic father LITERALLY killed my co-dependent Mom. I’m VERY happy that you “got out.”

    • Anne

      Anonymous, my ex wasn’t into sex either. We got married at 21 and I didn’t have much experience to know what to expect. He could go months without it until I eventually asked, which became our pattern. When our children were born he allowed them into our bed at night (over my objections) and I felt jealous of my own daughters for getting all his affection.

      I asked him several times over the years why he wasn’t into sex and he just said he didn’t need it as much as other people. I told him he should have been a monk. This went on for over 40 years until I opened my eyes and took him off the pedestal he never belonged on. I realized he was a covert narcissist first, then I found out he had been on the down low our entire marriage. He’s one of those gays who prefers sex with men in public places. Yet he is considered by most to be a wonderful and kind man.

      I had never heard of sandbagging before but I see now that he did this all the time. In the past I thought he was just being overly modest. Now I realize it was just part of his game plan. It’s been almost a year since our divorce and I am still dealing with the pain. Most of our family and friends believe his lies and I have been scapegoated into the crazy one. I don’t know if I will ever be able to forgive him but I am moving on with my life.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah…the rest of the story…he, like Bruce Jenner, enjoyed dressing up like a woman. I don’t know if he was or is transgender, a transvestite or gay. I don’t care. But he frequently bought me intimate apparel from Victoria Secret. I wasn’t really into it. Not apposed to it but…I never shopped there. Was never asked or invited to shop there. I would wear it, but never got rewarded for it–no comments, smiles or interaction–crickets.

      Years later I caught him wearing his most recent purchase, a Valentine’s gift for me, in a state of arousal. ZINGER. SHOCK. I try not to judge but…I had to come up with some sort of coclusion. I felt used, betrayed, cheated and like a complete idiot. This WAS my business, and YES, I TOOK IT PERSONALLY.

      Even the gifts for me were deceptive items bought for himself. Out and out identity theft. I was just an excuse, like I said, a cover story. He was not willing to share his sexuality with me. He was completely autonomous. He didn’t need me for anything. Just a cover story is all.

      It was a complete release of the secret yoke he burdened me with when it ALL went in the trash before I left. FREEDOM.

    • Arendale

      Amen. Though women can be narcissists (my aunt was one), I can speak from a man’s perspective and personally say that a man who is a narcissist (ie. delights in hurting and guilting others like your ex did you) does not and cannot love anyone. I just wish that churches and Christian [marriage] counselors talked about these kinds of things a lot more often. Most women (I’d like to say all women), if they knew (as in understood) the workings of a narcissist’s mind (which is to use and abuse) and heart (which is disdain and contempt for ‘the weaknesses of being human’ (ie. contempt for ALL imperfections)) would never date or marry a narcissist. I hope you got away from your ex still intact and able to relate and love.

  4. Anonymous

    Bwahahaha. Laughing through the tears. It’s all you can do.

  5. healingInHim

    So many comments I can relate to.
    I also accused the man I married of giving more attention to the dog than me … I found out years later that as a teen he experimented with his sexuality with a family pet …
    And then, as I questioned some of his desires in the bedroom he would blame it on a past girlfriend who he claimed ‘introduced’ him to some pornographic practices …
    There was always an excuse for his character which even his mother condoned. She too, blamed other women for his “short-comings” …
    Dare I go on as to how his sister felt sorry for him?? …
    What hurts is my adult children and SIL’s also feel “sorry” for him, claiming that ‘he’ takes full responsibility for the family turmoil. Yeah??? Well, then why has he not repented and want to make his life “one with the woman” who covered up a multitude of sins??? Instead, I have been allowed to live ‘here’ but not speak to him except about yard work or car maintenance.

  6. what is your view on exposing the narcissist and telling our side of the story to all family members about the abuser, i’ve been no contact for 2 years now and finally recovering from abuse, control and manipulation which escalated when i went no contact. they made some stories about me to my friends and family, made threats, police told me it was domestic abuse and malicious communication and after reporting it to the police it stopped. I’d still like to tell others about the abuse so they are aware and stay safe, what is your experience with exposing them, from your article it seem like your view is just to get away from them, if they are in your church to move to another church etc… ?

    • Daffodildeb

      Speaking from personal experience, most people won’t believe you and YOU will be accused of being bitter, angry or a liar. I lost a childhood “friend” when I detailed my Narc Father’s abuse of me (and my Mom) to her. (I came to realize that the childhood “friend” was also a Narc and her anger at me was due to the fact that I FINALLY recognized the narcissistic abuse from my father and her and refused to continue to be “supply.”)

      • healingInHim

        Daffodildeb — You are right… most choose not to believe our testimonies. Even recently, a couple of long-distance phone calls revealed my siblings becoming more abusive. The twisting of past events just has me amazed except for the fact that God’s Word is infallible and speaks of such sins against family.
        I am beginning to believe that the Lord is truly drawing me away from blood relations including adult children as all seem to live much like the man I married. Quiet lives to the public eye but high expectations of me to bow to them otherwise I’m seen as being disloyal.
        I can not condone lying, cheating, etc. Not since the Lord saved me!!

      • thanks. just to add and that that when going to the police the junior officer didn’t take it seriously at first but i insisted and kept telling him about the amount of abuse, he spoke to his boss who told me to take a report and told as it was called malicious communication and domestic abuse and I had an option to have them invited for questioning or tell them that its been reported to police and to stop and if anything else happened then the police would press charges.

  7. What happened to amongst other things is that the abusers in my family cheated me out of my half of a holidayhouse for which i paid for by withholding the papers that were meant to be given to me and sent to the land office. They did this as a way to try control and manipulate me after I had enough of their repeat abuse and went no contact (i lived alone since early teens and reconnected with them years later just to find out that the abuse got even worse). Eventually had to hire a lawyer and they tried to stalk her and abuse her also and she negotiated that they pay me a small proportion of the value of the house because there was no other way to get the actual value as we had no proof and they claimed that they ‘lost the papers’. They stalked my friend via social media and got other family members to try and contact me and speak with me and tell me to let it all go but I asked for some justice and for what is mine. The lawyer advised advised me to take whatever they offer because we made a mistake trusting them with the papers. They tried to get me to sign an agreement not to talk to anyone about their behaviour but i refused, I’d like to tell my story to others because whichever way you look at it they cheated me and their behaviours was abusive and don’t want them to cheat other people and for others to suffer. But you are probably right narcs can twist this to make us look bad. I believe that there are some people like childhood friends that would be on my side and at least i;d like more people to know my side of the story how I lived alone sign early teens and how my grandparents warned me about my narc mother and i didn’t believe them, how she physically abused me all the time for no reason and now tries to emotionally and psychologically abuse me , how many times and told me that we were burden to her. how she values things she owns more than her children. how its all about what other people think and her image. i know i made some mistakes and I try to correct them and pray and study the bible and become a better person but they are not prepared to admit that they did anything wrong and its not possible to discuss anything sensibly with them without encountering abuse.

  8. This post is so timely. I have been partnered with a narcissist at work. She turns most conversations to herself, but there are times when she seeks extra attention by pretending to be suffering from one of several health issues, or goes on about being overworked, overwhelmed, and mistreated. In fact, she is quite capable of doing her job, and loves when she can “come through in a clutch” to get admiration and praise from her supervisor and peers. I didn’t have the words for what she was doing, but it always made me uncomfortable. She greatly decreased the sandbagging with me after I began pointing out that she has the same workload and opportunities for time off as her peers, and that her supervisor gives her preferential treatment. I just keep trusting God to guide me and give me wisdom in dealing with her.

  9. Dombeck

    This is a pretty good description and very informative site on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

    • Dombeck
      I would like to reserve this condition for veterans, and those of us who survived extreme abuse. I am apposed to self-diagnosis, however, I found it helpful in understanding some of my own behavior, and the actions of others who allow and facilitate my healing.

      Hypervigilance is one of the characteristics that really struck me, along with the feelings of impending doom. I am kind of a pessimist that way. I like to be prepared for the worst case scenario. I think of it as survival. And just so you know, I’m pretty sure it’s going to snow next week.

  10. Dombeck

    I can’t seem to edit or delete my repeat comments. My apoligies.

  11. Irene

    I Stumbled onto this website accidentally but anonymous you are describing me! So glad I found this!

    • Anonymous

      you know the old saying that misery loves company? I think it’s true because I honestly take comfort in knowing I am not the only one who has suffered this sort of covert narcissistic abuse. Why? Because I hope you can find your voice. Even if it is anonymous. Letting go of these secret nightmares propagated by abusers is part of recovery. You are NOT alone.

      And as a precautionary note, anyone, male or female, who demands and expects to sleep with their pet, or children, has got intimacy issues. It’s a red flag. I’m not negating the notion that letting your child into your bed after a trauma or nightmare is nurturing, but to “sleep” with children and/or pets as a continuous pattern is not healthy. The bedroom is sacred to intimate partners. It should be reserved for exclusive interaction with your mate, wether you engage in sex or not.

      For those adults who sleep with your pets, yet have a life partner, grow up. You aren’t ten years old and this isn’t a game. What you are doing is not harmless. Have some respect for your partner.

  12. UnForsaken

    This IS my Narc. You could not have nailed it better!!! When someone is slyly playing this game they often are treated and praised like princes. “The Prince” is a relation’s affectionate but ironic nickname for their father.

    This is both deception and betrayal at it’s best. Narc enablers who have “flees” also utilize these techniques to get attention. I think they are often very attention needy. They can never get enough even if they squash it out of you, as the N drains them dry with their total output of worship.

    Whenever in the past I was so unwise as to talk about my amazement in seeing people like this, I was told I was imagining things. This may be somewhat “hidden” behavior that would be called Passive-Aggressive, but those of us who are Meant to see/feel it, find it only Aggressive! I think it leaves the same impression as those stupid jokes people make to try and get a rise out of you.

    This is one of the things the Bible calls mocking.

  13. SafeintheLord

    Right now I’m at a place of truth. Blinders gone and peace and hope ahead. Why did I spend 20 Years in church falling deeper in the abyss. I believe it’s this hierarchy being low on the totem pole as they say. A woman with faith in God and a sound mind very dangerous indeed. Have your hierarchy keep your posts they are of no affect to the daughter of The King…

    • This comment puzzles me. Is it positive or negative in regard to the post? Did you read the post, or did you just react to the word “hierarchy”? Anyone who reads here knows that this is not a site that promotes what you seem to be responding to. We believe that you are greatly loved!

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