Reality Check: Narcs are actors

Reality Check takes statements about those with NPD from across the Internet and gives a narcissist’s perspective on their validity.

The narcissist is an actor in a monodrama, yet he is forced to remain behind the scenes. The scenes take center stage, instead. The Narcissist does not cater at all to his own needs. Contrary to his reputation, the Narcissist does not “love” himself in any true sense of this loaded word.

The narcissist feeds off other people who hurl back at him an image that he projects to them.

Sam Vaknin, Malignant Self Love

This is pretty much true. We are actors, but we largely don’t realize we are acting.

A narc’s acting is not as cut and dry as the sociopath’s “mask”. Those with ASPD admit to switching out personality traits when it benefits them, and depending on who they are “targeting”. At least according to the sociopaths of Reddit.

Narcs on the other hand don’t do this to be devious or “trick” people. We just want people to like us. With a narcissist, it’s more like, how can I put my “best self” on display for others to see?

If I want people to think I’m smart, I’ll find a way to bring up this story about this great super smart thing I did that one time—with a few small embellishments. I’ll go over in my mind all the possible ways I may be able to bring that story up with my intended audience, hoping others would be impressed. I’m rehearsing.

I imagine what I’m wearing, how my hair is done, what music I’m listening to. I literally set the stage. Then I look for opportunities to act out this “fantasy” in person. I’m playing the role of the smart person because inside I fear I’m actually not that smart.

Mostly I tried to play up traits I do actually have. I never knowingly lied about anything, although my self assessments weren’t always accurate. I used to play up how incredibly empathetic I was, never realizing I had very little empathy for others.

I may even practice it in the mirror. Sometimes I practice reactions to things people may tell me. For example, if someone tells me something personal about their life and I really don’t care, what face will I make and what tone of voice will I use to make myself sound engaged and empathetic?

We are so used to doing this, we don’t even realize it anymore.

This is all because we seek approval. And because we’re afraid you won’t like the real us. That thought is somewhere in the back of our minds though — not up front. So we don’t really recognize our own motivations. We’ve been doing this since childhood, when it was made clear to us that the person we were was unacceptable to our NPD parent. We felt we had to put on a show and impress to get love or attention. Now we don’t really know the difference anymore between our authentic self and the facade.

It’s also true that we love when people mirror our best selves back to us. It’s a huge self-esteem boost. It tells us that we are in fact smart and interesting, etc. Highly manipulative people use this type of mirroring often, so if you find someone who just seems to immediately “get” you like no one else, back up a bit, stop talking about yourself and observe, so that you don’t unwittingly become a target for further manipulation or abuse.

Reality check: Yup, narcs are actors. They just don’t realize it.

Submit questions for Reality Check via the contact page. Please include a link to the original statement.

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