The fatal mistake every narcissist makes.
Is it projection? Is it envy? Hm… No, not really. I mean, sure, a lot of narcissists (although maybe not EVERY one) rely on projection and envy; But these aren’t fatal mistakes for them. They can keep going about life staying envious of most people, and projecting their own faults onto other people… And survive pretty well. In fact, they do, they walk among us deceiving and playing games, and that never stopped them from having success in life. It’s a sad truth, but it’s true nonetheless.
Here in this article, I’m gonna focus on a different thing entirely: a mistake they keep making over and over, and proves fatal every single time. As in: this mistake actually hinders them from having the life they want — which is, deep down, if they’re being honest with themselves, a life where people keep praising and validating them and DO NOT walk away. That’s what they want, love it or hate it, whether or not they admit it.
“Wait… WHAT?” you might be thinking. “Lucy, for fuck sake, why are you giving narcissists key information on how to achieve what they want? Are you crazy? Are you out of your mind?”
I understand the confusion, in case you’re thinking the above. And I’m not going to deny that. Indeed, in case a narcissist or two stumble upon this article and decide to read it, they WILL find information (in between the lines of course) that could help them keep the act going for a longer time.
So… Why am I unafraid of that?
Well, here’s the thing: I don’t think a narcissist can follow the advice I’m gonna give here, and AT THE SAME TIME keep being narcissistic. It requires acknowledging their true selves and healing from it. I’m saying this matter-of-factly, not just morally: it’s logically, physically, psychologically IMPOSSIBLE for a narcissist to address this fatal mistake without healing from narcissism itself. They’ll have to choose “either or”. One or the other.
Narcissists only see themselves. They don’t truly see other people.
I like to make visual metaphors, if you follow me you know that. So, here’s another one. This is the fatal mistake I’m talking about: narcissists don’t truly see other people. This isn’t a matter of circumstance or bad luck or external factors in general. No. It’s willful blindness. they’re not INTERESTED in other people. They only care to look at themselves, like the metaphor above: looking at her own navel.
And in saying that, I don’t mean narcissists are able to see the entirety of their own selves either. This is important and will be relevant later, so pay attention: they cherrypick the parts of themselves they’re willing to see, just like the model above is “filtering” her vision of herself through the tinted lens in her sunglasses. So, essentially, a narcissist’s perception of self is already “tinted” and incomplete, but at least it exists. Their perception of other people, though, doesn’t even exist. They don’t care to even look. They don’t care to take their eyes off their own navel. I hope that’s clear.
Whoa, hold on… Wait a second. So if narcissists don’t see others at all, why are they so good at lovebombing and finding admirers?
This is the next question I’m predicting (let me know if not). I have a personal speculation about why, but feel free to share yours in the comments too.
Essentially, narcissism doesn’t mean stupidity. Most of the narcissists I met are actually very smart and intellectual. They know pretty well how to act and behave in order to get what they want, and that’s no different with relationships.
✨ Narcissists rely on stereotypes in order to navigate the external world.
Take note of the above. Write it down, it will come in handy.
By “external world” I don’t mean what this expression usually means for normal people. If you’re normal (as in, not narcissistic) you probably think your external world involves, Idk, something like “coworkers, acquaintances and strangers”. Right? Because when you’re not narcissistic, you aren’t operating from that navel-gazing and obsessive self-preservation mindset. You value your inner circle (which might include family and close friends, no blood relationship required) as much as you value yourself. So, your inner circle of human beings EXISTS. It’s not just “yourself”.
You could die for one of these super close people in your life. A narcissist wouldn’t, because subconsciously they’re like “where’s my payment? I can’t be sure something exists after death, I can’t be sure I’ll get the chance to SEE others praising me for the sacrifice after all”. Please take this metaphorically, I speak of death of the ego only. A normal ego can take it; an overinflated one can’t.
For a narcissist, “external world” means “everyone but me”. Even if that includes a parent, a child, a lover, a god, you name it. A narcissist does NOT value their inner circle as much as they value themselves. A lot of them might engage in self-deception and even wrongfully assume they’re not narcissistic because “oh, I value my inner circle after all” — but in reality they don’t. In reality, if the worst comes to the worst (eg: let’s say someone else is in danger, but saving this person will NOT give them any reward, not even praise and recognition, not even a “thanks”, it’s entirely an invisible endeavour, something no-one will ever notice, but needs doing), they’re very able and willing to sacrifice someone else in order to preserve themselves. It’s easy to say you value other people when everything is fine and your reliance on narcissistic supply isn’t being threatened. This is why, often times, children of narcissists wonder why behind close doors there was neglect but in front of others they were pampered. It’s because others were seeing, and giving the parent that sweet supply. I know, it’s dark, but it’s the truth.
I bet, if a narcissist is reading here (keep your eyes in the comments btw in case I get any angry comments, it will be a very tell-tale sign) they’ll rage at me for saying the above. They’ll see the shoe fit (won’t SAY that, just SEE), but rage at me because what I’m proposing is “impossible” or naive or stupid or whatever. “Nobody is THAT selfless”.
That’s what I’m talking about. That kind of comment, in case it happens, will prove my point. Generalisations coming from a narcissistic (aka navel-gazing) place. “If I can’t do it, nobody can do it either”. “If it’s not familiar to me, nobody else will achieve that either”. Except, no, people can and do achieve what I mentioned above. But there’s no arguing with narcissists. They operate from a position of only looking at the mirror and never at others. It’s subconscious, so I can’t even blame them for that, but it’s true. They don’t see others. What they see is an empty shell of others, filled in with their projections of themselves onto these “others”. Why? Because of what I said: they only look at the mirror. Never at others. They’re genuinely not seeing you, it’s not even evil… Just sad.
If you go to a beach, but decide to only look down at your feet in the sand the whole time, will you ever see the horizon? You tell me. Maybe the horizon reminds you of people drowning, and the warm sand is too comfy to get out of. Okay. Valid. But you can’t deny that when you only look down, you can’t know what’s up. If you only look inwards, you can’t know what’s outside. You can imagine, fantasise, stereotype, but you can’t KNOW. It’s plain logic.
Still in the same metaphor: ask that person (who is only looking at the sand) to describe the horizon to you. They’ll say “it’s a line between sea and sky”. Dictionary definition, stereotype. Ask them to be more specific, what does this horizon they’re experiencing (not, lol But anyway) looks like. Still without taking their eyes off the sand, they’ll say “oh, it’s blue and cloudless”. Maybe they happen to be right (even a broken clock is, twice a day), but in case they aren’t, it won’t matter to them. You can take as many photos of the clouds in the sky as you want, they won’t believe you.
I’ll repeat: this is not even evil. They don’t WANT to give in and look at the real thing. That’d require taking their eyes off themselves. This has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them.
This song summarises what I’m trying to do here with this article. Especially the “open your eyes, open your eyes, open your eyes” part.
Funny thing, by the way: I shared this song with a lot of people I later on realised had narcissistic traits, BEFORE I knew about these traits (Don’t generalise though. I also share it with normal people because it’s catchy. You’ll only know who is who, if you’re one of the people I talk to. I don’t gossip here). It’s like my subconscious was telling me, or something. Or maybe I’m indeed learning to read the future :)
That’s no insult, by the way. I myself have narcissistic traits. Every survivor does (especially the ones who rage at me for saying that). The problem isn’t HAVING them; the problem is refusing to acknowledge and own up to it. Again: open your eyes, open your eyes, open your eyes.
Like Mirabel, I spent a good few years trying to “fit in” with people who wouldn’t let me in, only to realise that these people were coming from a narcissistic place after all. Encanto talks about that, family trauma and generational curses, the producers themselves said that. Personally, though, I see a more specific kind of generational curse in it: narcissism.
Think about it. Each and every Madrigal with superpowers starts off seeing these powers from a stereotyped and “socially acceptable” lens. Isabella thinks every plant is a beautiful flower; Luisa thinks strength is only physical strength; Dolores doesn’t believe her hearing when she can’t see the source (hence “I always heard Bruno” at the end of the movie). The list goes on and on. In the end, Isabella realises she knew about carnivorous plants and cacti all the time, it’s not like she REALLY thought every plant is a flower; it was a narcissistic kind of self-deception to hide the “ugly and messy” in her at all costs. So did Luisa with emotional strength, or she wouldn’t have sung Surface Pressure at all. Etc.
When everyone lets go of their self-preserving superficiality, open their eyes, and agree to acknowledge the “imperfect”, the “messy”, the “complicated”, the “not fully classifiable in neat little boxes” in themselves and others… ONLY THEN Mirabel’s superpower shows up: the power of rekindling the magic when it appears to be dead. Because before that, they couldn’t perceive it. They weren’t in tune with Mirabel’s energy of authenticity and accurate vision (symbolised by her glasses).
That’s the fatal flaw of narcissism.
That’s why a narcissist can maybe cause a lot of damage, but they can NEVER ensure a victim will forever “take it”. Eventually, people walk away. Why? Because survivors realise the narcissist can’t see them.
They can justify their wrong and stereotyped perception of other people all they want. They can try gaslighting, manipulating, triangulating, every trick in the book. Eventually, the truth comes forth: they weren’t looking at these other people at all. They were blind and just relying on theory to interpret the world, out of a fear of actually experiencing it.
A broken clock sometimes gets lucky — maybe people keep looking at it during these 2 times per day when it’s right. But sooner or later, the act will fall flat, and people will realise it’s not actually telling the time. It’s just going off an abstraction; theory; an idea of what could have been. It needs fixing.
Narcissists operate from a place of constantly doing the very bare minimum in order to hopefully deceive others into giving them more than they’re receiving. “Here’s a token perception [something I read in the dictionary about people of your kind, not just you individually — that takes more effort I’m not willing to make. I’m out of battery like that broken clock] — now give me a super accurate and detailed perception of ME”.
“Here’s a breadcrumb of affection — now give me actual, genuine, caring LOVE”.
“Here’s a very superficial interpretation of what you said — now give me a nuanced, respectful, minucious, thorough and intellectual interpretation of MY OWN WORDS”.
Yeah, it’s not gonna happen. Not for long.
Or, let me rephrase it: that’s not gonna happen — people will not give narcissists these genuine emotional gifts to fill the hole they have inside — UNLESS they’re willing to stop relying on narcissism. As long as they keep the act going, and keep believing the world owes them reparation for a thing they suffered in childhood (and if we’re being honest, only THOSE ABUSERS from the past owe the narcissist anything — not the ENTIRE WORLD. See the difference?)… They won’t get anywhere.
But some narcissists are super stubborn, and will keep ignoring this thing I’m trying to bring to light. It’s like the saying goes, you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. And in that case: thoughts and prayers.