The Real Impostor

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Last week, I wrote about “Impostor Syndrome,” and I said that the narcissist invests in a message that brings down your self-esteem and confidence. You doubt yourself, very likely, because someone told you that you were incompetent. You worry about others discovering your inadequacy because someone invested that message in you. Why would someone do that?

It’s called “projection,” and we have talked about it before here. Projection is the simple (!) act of putting your weaknesses and compromises on others. My old art teacher used to say, “It takes one to know one.” In other words, what you call others you are yourself. But, of course, the narcissist would deny that.

This particular projection touches the core of the narcissist. We have talked a lot about how the narcissist feels afraid and weak. Narcissists deal with fear of exposure and rejection all the time. They are the little child hiding, hoping you will ignore them as they present the image for you to admire. They are the small man behind the curtain, pretending to be the great Wizard of Oz.

If you test the actual work of most narcissists, you will find they are both lazy and incompetent. Most of those who seem to do well in their jobs use the work of others or excel at intimidating and politicking. Some have learned to make a good show of working hard. They complain about the hours, the lack of resources, and their co-workers. They work hard only at making themselves look good.

Because the narcissist believes he is incompetent and unworthy, he must make the people around him feel that way. The more he can pass those feelings on to others, the less they will think them about him. In other words, the poor salesman will put down your sales abilities so you don’t notice his inadequacies. Just like the gossip will accuse you of gossiping.

But projection can be very subtle. The narcissist may never say that you are incompetent. He/she will just give “helpful” comments that make you feel that way. Why? Because every comment made about the narcissist’s work is heard that way. Any advice, any compliment, any appreciation is heard as a criticism to the narcissist. Even though he/she invites the praise, the narcissist will find it hard to believe. Even though he/she invites the critique, the narcissist will hear only attacks and rejection.

The narcissist feels like an impostor. In many ways, the narcissist is an impostor. It might be better to say that the image is an impostor. By focusing your attention on the superior image, the lie, the narcissist only reaffirms the negative judgment of his real self. Every time the narcissist boasts of abilities or admiration, he/she is revealing insecurity and shame. And, yes, he knows it. That creates even more insecurity and shame.

Once again, this internal struggle reveals the source of the narcissist’s anger, criticism of others, and need for constant admiration. The narcissist lives with almost debilitating tension, but blames others and tries to give that tension to them.

So. When the narcissist makes you feel inadequate or unworthy, remember that he/she is trying to give those feelings away. You are not the incompetent one. Sure, you make mistakes. We all do. Everyone does. Just because the narcissist is quick to point out your mistakes does not mean you make more than others. And, even if you do make more mistakes than some, how many of them are due to the tension the narcissist has created to help you fail? And when was the last time the narcissist owned a mistake, without blaming someone or something?

Lift up your chin. You are not what the narcissist says you are. If you had narcissistic parents who spoke shame and insecurity into your heart, you may evaluate those words and reject them. Don’t let your identity be molded by someone else’s fears.

Instead, listen to the words of love Jesus speaks into your heart. You are unique, beautiful, strong, good, and of great value. You are greatly loved!


The recent interview with Dan Duval at Bride Ministries is here:


Filed under Narcissism, Uncategorized

8 responses to “The Real Impostor

  1. Cookie

    Great interview Pastor Dave! Good to see you talk in person, virtually of course!

  2. Annette

    In my experience narcissists tend to believe their own lies. All too often they suffer from strong delusion. Therefore they are likely to believe that their false self is their real self. My impression is that any fears of their own inadequacies are essentially unconscious. But yes, these unconscious fears drive them to set others up for failure in order to exalt themselves at the expense of others. If you happened to be a scapegoated child of a narcissist, for instance, they made you believe that you were worthless and a failure from birth. If you believe that you are worthless and a failure, you are likely to act that way too, and thus it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The narcissist will then blame you for your failures again, of course. This behavior is entirely wicked; however, the narcissist doesn’t care. In fact, quite the opposite: If they can destroy others or—even better—degrade them to such an extent that they end up destroying themselves, narcissists feel really, really good about themselves.

  3. Cecilia K

    When I was involved with my (now ex) bf, I did not know about narcissism. Well, he introduced me to the term, because he accused his ex-wife of being a narcissist, which she may be. I don’t know; I never met her. Anyway, I never bothered to look it up until after the relationship was over; I just thought, like most people, that it was someone who was extremely vain and loved looking at themselves in the mirror (based on the myth of Narcissus).

    Consequently, I didn’t know about projection either, while I was dating this guy, so I found it uncanny when he would accuse Me of something I was about to accuse Him of! And although I know about projection now, I’m still a bit astounded at how he always seemed to time his accusations right when I was preparing to confront him about the same action/behavior/wrongdoing. It was like he was clairvoyant or something and could sense when I was about to bring it up.

    And of course, once they accuse You of their own wrong behavior, it essentially weakens/nullifies your accusation of Them, because it looks like you’re just saying it about them, because they said it about You. I’m sure they know this, of course, and that’s why they use the projection tactic. They’re very cunning and devious.

    • Janet Siegel

      I also didn’t know anything about narcissism, projection, gas lighting, etc. I was completely duped, convinced and destroyed. I have never been the same.

    • KayJay

      I don’t know how many times I’ve wondered if he was reading my mind. Excellent post, pastor Dave!
      They are lazy and incompetent in some sense, maybe that’s why they’re able to get people to do everything for them, but they also seem to be uncannily intelligent when it comes to manipulation and even historical subject matter that can help them seem super competent to “the outside.”
      Projection has been part of my life from early on with a N parent and then a N spouse. Praise God for his healing grace!

  4. Janet Siegel

    This. Is. Brilliant. Spot. Freaking. On.!!!!!!!!

  5. Maya

    My narcissist ex did the projection thing all the time. I was able to withstand his abuse and with God’s grace and healing, I was not damaged…and am much stronger today.
    However, he also projected onto my daughter, who was a teen at the time. Since God removed him from our lives, she has confided many instances of emotional abuse. She told my parents and one girlfriend what was happening, but I never knew. People were afraid of him. His false image was a big bad biker dude. She lived in fear, but hid it well and basically internalized everything.
    He would berate her when I wasn’t around, telling her she would never be successful. Well, he was the unsuccessful one…alcoholism, fired from jobs, now sponging off his girlfriend and abusing her, I am sure. He is/was such a loser, rejecting God over and over, and he instilled into my daughter that she’s a loser too. To her credit, she always stood up to him and never let him think he was crushing her. She remained strong and never gave in to his stupid and abusive demands.
    The ex has been gone 5 yrs now. The projection my child suffered at his hands has manifested itself. She is riddled with anxiety and fear; although she knows it is unfounded, she is unable to work and is sick quite frequently. In her case, the abuse crushed her long after it happened. She is terrified of angry people and anxious when leaving her house.
    My point here is to warn all readers….if an angry narcissist has access to your children, he/she is causing severe damage to them. You may not know until it is too late, like me. I so wish I had left him, but I was totally brainwashed by him. That is no excuse. It is heartbreaking to know my child did not trust me to help her at the time. She thought I would side with him.
    Please do whatever it takes to protect your vulnerable children!!

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