Narcissistic people are known for the type of relationship they establish with their own self-image . They consider that the aesthetics they transmit, that superficial part of themselves, is something that deserves all possible care so that it fits well with an idea of “perfection” that they create to their measure.
That’s why it’s common to find that narcissists try to be the center of attention through the simplest of excuses, and try to create a mythology of themselves that can be transmitted through their social circles.
But there is something else that characterizes the narcissist: he tries to make other people feel bad about themselves and have doubts about their potential .
- You might be interested in this article: “Narcissistic Personality Disorder: What do narcissistic people look like?”
Narcissism and harmful social relationships
The tendency of narcissistic people to underestimate others in a subtle or explicit way is strongly related to their way of being and their self-centeredness ; it is not a coincidence that both characteristics occur at the same time.
But… what exactly is it that makes these kinds of people throw themselves into reinforcing these kinds of toxic relationships? These are the main keys that explain it.
1. Cognitive dissonance
If anything characterizes narcissistic people, it is that they not only believe that they are worth more than the rest, but they strive to make this belief backed up by the facts.
That means that, if he senses that an event can be interpreted as something that calls into question one’s superiority over others, the narcissist will create a new interpretation of what has happened or, one that allows him to continue to trust in the validity of his beliefs about his own perfection.
This phenomenon by which the clash between two incompatible ideas produces discomfort and uncertainty is called cognitive dissonance, and we usually tend to solve this kind of problem in the most botched way imaginable, whether we are narcissists or not. In the case of the latter, they will solve this tension between ideas by acting as if, directly, that proof of the value of the other had not been produced.
For example, if someone has scored better than oneself on an exam, the narcissist can attribute this fact to the luck of the beginners (no, he doesn’t have to try very hard to construct an alternative interpretation to the obvious one). Moreover, not only will he believe in this “new truth”, but he will often pass it on to others . The aim of this is to make this interpretation gain strength and be internalized by his social circle.
Somehow a narcissist will force reality to fit in with personal beliefs that he uses to structure his own identity. And if that means humiliating others or minimizing the merits of others, he will.
2. Frustration with the lack of special treatment
Narcissists think they need special treatment just because they’re them. When they find that others do not offer them the exclusive treatment they theoretically deserve, it is very easy for them to blame others instead of reviewing their beliefs about their self-concept.
In particular, treating others as if they were not worthy of your company in the face of evidence that they do not recognize the genius of one’s self is a recurrent outlet for this class of people.
3. Lack of empathy
Being narcissistic implies having levels of empathy significantly below what would be expected from an average citizen. This means that, beyond the motivations that may lead to humiliating and underestimating others, when this happens the narcissist has no reason to realize that he has made a mistake .
Just seeing how it is done and said hurts others is not enough reason to correct certain behaviors. In other words, there will be no compensation mechanism when others are hurt: remorse will tend not to appear or to be very weak, which allows one to continue trying to influence others in a negative way.
4. Minimizing others is helpful
There will always be a part of the population willing to believe the criticism and comments of contempt that come out of the mouth of a narcissist. These suggestible people will act as if they are not really worth much, and will feed the ideas of grandiosity of the narcissists.
Somehow, without realizing it, they will allow themselves to be emotionally vampirized in exchange for the possibility of being close to or being able to learn from a narcissist. In reality, believing that one is worth little and that another has the keys to what true empathy is is something that allows a social magnet to exist in some contexts and with certain people. In fact, there are some studies that even show that narcissistic people are more attractive.
Creating a world tailored to one’s ego
We have seen that narcissistic people actively construct versions of reality that allow them to continue to believe that everything revolves around their ego. The collateral damage of this strategy to preserve self-esteem will not be valued , because this would require a capacity for empathy that narcissists simply do not have.
However, it should be borne in mind that sometimes narcissists make others feel bad not in order to feel better about themselves, but because from their point of view these forms of expression are not ways of judging, but neutral descriptions of reality.
After all, spending the day building up fanciful explanations about the apparent success of others in certain areas of their lives would be exhausting, and the narcissistic personality would not exist if at least part of this process were not automatic, unconscious and as simple as possible.