After ongoing exposure to narcissists, you will begin to notice how they have many ways of presenting themselves publicly that contradict who they are privately. For instance, let’s suppose a person declares how he had a wonderful childhood and how his family was the envy of many. You know that his family life consisted of much chaos and anger. Or likewise, you may know of a person who purports to be the picture of composure and civility in public. However, she is chronically tense and agitated behind the scenes.
Operating with low honesty or self-awareness, narcissists tend to have multiple, persistent contradictions as they project themselves in ways that are not at all consistent with their true character. Maintaining a “better than thou” image is so important to narcissists that their public portrayals of themselves are phony.
To get an idea of how this plays out, let’s identify the most common ways narcissists attempt to portray themselves.
7 most commons ways narcissists contradict the truth
- “I’m worthy of your trust.” It is very common for narcissists to insist that you should illustrate blind loyalty to them and that you should show high levels of trust as they spell out their initiatives. And yet, it is also common that narcissists lie easily and keep secrets. They feel little need to be accountable to you.
- “I’m an appealing person; people admire me.” Because narcissists are often desperate to be admired and affirmed, they will go to great length to appear wonderful. Then, as they are complimented, or pile up achievements, they will smugly point to that as proof of their likeability. All the while, you recognize such behavior merely as knowing how to “work a room.”
- “You’d be a better person if you would just heed my advice.” Narcissists tend to be quite free in giving advice that you neither want or need. Their criticism is perpetual. As you consider the many ways narcissists give directives, it becomes clear that they make little effort to know your unique circumstances, nor are they comfortable with nuances. They merely apply one-size-fits-all solutions that may or may not be relevant to you.
- “I’ve overcome lots of obstacles.” Knowing that others might learn of some glaringly obvious flaws or miscalculations from their past, narcissists can sometimes cover their tracks by declaring that their historical problems should be dismissed. Evidence, however, can illustrate that they do not learn from past blunders…they just declare their past problems are solved, which means they do not need to be held accountable.
- “I don’t have anger issues.” Knowing that they could be held in low regard if they overuse anger, some narcissists will simply state that anger is not an emotion that plagues them. They want you to see them as calm, cool, and collected, even though you know of many times when they have used anger harshly, or that they sit on top of much resentment and contempt.
- “I’ve done lots of nice things for you.” Narcissists maintain a strong attitude of entitlement, presuming that others should cater to them because of who they are. As proof positive, they will point to favors they may have done or remind you of responsibilities they performed. In doing so, it allows them to cling unashamedly to the notion that you are constantly in their debt. This illustrates that their niceness is little more than a cover for their manipulative mindset.
- “I have quite a bit of depth in my approach toward life.” Wanting to appear beyond reproach in their musings, narcissists can declare that their life habits are the result of soul searching and introspection. And yet, what they portray as in-depth thinking is little more than intellectualizing or wishful thinking. Their so-called depth does not translate into solid character development.
Reality vs. fantasy
As narcissists press forward with these (and other) predictable contradictions, it reveals much about their lack of maturity and credibility. They seem to believe that if they say or pretend that something is true, then that somehow makes it irrefutable. Instead, they are masters of public posturing and little more. Facts are less important to them than self-promotion. They have rationalized their improprieties so strongly that they have become experts in the art of compartmentalizing.
There is one matter that narcissists fail to come to terms with. Truth has a way of rising to the surface over time. Perhaps some narcissists will skillfully fool others for a long time, but they have such a grating presence that they cannot uphold their False Image forever.
Knowing how predictably narcissists will contradict what you know to be true, you can conclude: “It’s true that this person does not prioritize honesty…with me or with oneself. But instead of making it my job to force that person to adjust in ways their insecurities won’t allow, I’ll make my own adjustments accordingly.”
~Les Carter, Ph.D.
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