~by Carrie Barron M.D.
Narcissism can be protective in the sense that you do not feel that badly if you offend another. Narcissism can be pleasantly deceptive. When criticized, you can tell yourself and others, “It is them—not me.” Deflect, project, externalize and feel relieved of the problem. If you manage to convince relevant parties (plus your self) that your offense was justified, non-existent or that you were the victim rather than the perpetrator, you escape responsibility. If you turn your envy into arrogance, you no longer have to feel inferior. In the short run, that works pretty well. In the long run, a trail of deception can lead to trouble. If you are caught and confronted, painful consequences can ensue. Being revealed or to having to deal with the truth is very upsetting for you.
An unpleasant moment might arise if you rage against someone who criticizes or exposes you, but you will probably bounce back quickly. Since your conscience isn’t too troubled, moving on and into social situations with upright shoulders and a smile is no problem. Narcissism feeds self-esteem in that denial covers up (suppresses) limitations so they are not in your face. You do not have to feel weakened by them or make the tiresome effort to change. Inflated self-esteem keeps you psychologically intact, organized and safe. If others are attracted to your strut and charisma, you can breeze through life with a facile ease.
But there is a problem. True narcissism is a defective solution. It is a flawed defense, an unsound shield. Believing that you are better than you are leads to hard falls if you are put to the test. If you are cocksure about your skills you may not take the time to actually develop them. The requisite healthy worry that leads to persistence, attention to detail, stubborn grit and solid ability eludes you. When you claim credit for something you did not do, people pick up on it and it disturbs them. This can compromise your success, as you are not seen as trustworthy.
Charming others in superficial or infrequent encounters is a piece of cake but close or intimate relationships are a problem. If your self-concerns are paramount, there may not be room for anyone else’s. You may destroy important relationships because your lack of empathy, compassion and concern wears people out. Your unwillingness to own up and apologize alienates others and you are seen as someone without integrity. You become tainted, rather than respected, which is troubling for a person who cares deeply about image.
As you do not see dangers as dangerous, you take risks that set you up for payback. Consequences you never expected—loss, abandonment, debt, legal trouble and ultimate loneliness might become your lot and a situation that your high-honed tactics cannot undo. At a certain point you cannot brush it off or continue the ruse.
Therapeutic, spiritual, community, or educational interventions can help you. Start with a self-inventory, achieve insight, break out of the script, say “I’m sorry.” Humility can actually feel good. Enjoy the hope that when you change, some meaningful connections may come your way.