Narcissist of Substance vs. Narcissist of Appearances

Uploaded 2/9/2011, approx. 4 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

Why do some narcissists end up being overachievers, pillars of their communities, and accomplished professionals, while their brethren, other narcissists, fade into obscurity, having done little of note in their lives?

Well, there seems to be two types of narcissists, those who derive ample narcissistic supply from mere appearances, and those whose narcissistic supply consists of doing substantial deeds, of acting as change agents, of making a difference, and of creating and producing things of value.

The former type of narcissist, the narcissist that is content with appearances, make-believe, facades, and so on, they aim for celebrity, defined as being famous for being famous.

The latter type of narcissist, the substantial narcissist, the narcissist who is interested in doing real things and having real impact, they aim for careers in the limelight, but still careers.

The celebrity narcissist has a short attention span. He repeated his cycles between the idealization and devaluation of subjects, ideas, ventures, places, people, hobbies, professions, vocations, and avocations.

This rapid cycling renders the narcissist unfit for teamwork and for developing the long-term career path.

Though energetic and manic, this type of narcissist is indolent. He prefers the path of least resistance and adheres to shawty standards of production and shady deals.

His lack of work ethic can be partly attributed to his overpowering sense of entitlement and to his magical thinking. Both these give rise to unrealistic expectations of effortless outcomes.

The life of the celebrity narcissist, the narcissist who is interested in appearances, is very chaotic and characterized by inconsistency and by a dire lack of long-term planning and commitment.

This kind of narcissist is not really interested in people or immersed in their lives except in their roles as instruments of instant gratification, sources of narcissistic supply.

For him, people are two-dimensional cardboard cutouts fulfilling certain functions in his life.

His learning and affective erudition are designed solely to impress and are therefore shallow and anecdotal.

Such narcissists usually completely forget what they have learned a few years or months after their learning or knowledge has lost its appeal to others.

The celebrity narcissist's actions are not geared towards creating works of lusting value towards affecting change or making a difference. All he cares about is attention, provoking and garnering it in copious quantities.

The celebrity narcissist is therefore not above, confamulating, plagiarizing and otherwise using shortcuts to obtain his daily fix narcissistic supply.

Well, this is massively different to the other type of narcissist.

The other strain of narcissist, the career narcissist or substantial narcissist is very concerned with leaving his mark and stamp of the world with his legacy. He feels a calling often of cosmic significance. He is busy reforming his environment, transforming his milieu, making a difference and producing and creating an oeuvre of standing value.

This kind of narcissist has a grandiose idé fix, which he cathexes, invests with emotional energy. To scale these lofty, self-imputed peaks and to realize his goals, the career substantial narcissist acts with unswerving passion and commitment, he plans and inexorably and ruthlessly implements his schemes and strategies, a workaholic pursuit of glory and fame.

The career substantial narcissist does not recoil from cutting the odd corner, preferring the occasional confabulation or absconding with the fruits of someone else's labor.

But while these amount to the entire arsenal and the exclusive modus operandi of the celebrity narcissist, they are merely auxiliary as far as the career substantial narcissist is concerned.

The career narcissist's main weapon is hard toil. He is not indolent or lazy, on the contrary.

The career narcissist is a natural-born leader as well. When he is not a guru at the center of a cult, he operates as the first among equals in a team.

This is where the differences between the celebrity narcissist and the career narcissist are most pronounced.

The relationships maintained by the celebrity narcissist are ephemeral, manipulative, exploitative. The career narcissist, the substantial narcissist by comparison, is willing and able to negotiate, compromise. He is well aware and well accustomed to give and take.

He motivates others, he induces loyalty, he forges alliances and coalitions, and he benefits from these in the long term.

It is this capacity to network that guarantees the career substantial narcissist a place in common memory and an abiding reputation among his peers.

The celebrity narcissist, the ephemeral narcissist, simply vanishes off the stage, never to be remembered again.

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Covert narcissists are individuals who suffer from an in-depth sense of inferiority, have a marked propensity towards feeling ashamed, and are shy and fragile. They are unable to genuinely depend on others or trust them, suffer from chronic envy of others, and have a lack of regard for generational boundaries. Covert narcissists are not goal-orientated, have shallow vocational commitment, and are forgetful of details, especially names. Inverted narcissists are a subspecies of covert narcissism and are self-centered, sensitive, vulnerable, and defensive, sometimes hostile and paranoid.

Narcissist: Drama Queen in Pathological Narcissistic Space

Narcissists have a deep-seated need for excitement and drama to alleviate their boredom and melancholy. They create an imaginary environment called the pathological narcissistic space, where they seek admiration, adoration, approval, applause, or attention. Narcissistic supply substitutes for having a real vocation or avocation and actual achievements. The narcissist's two mechanisms of establishing a morphological narcissistic space and the urge to move continuously are completely incompatible, leading to the narcissistic condition.

Potemkin Narcissists: Fake It Till You Make It!

There are two types of narcissists: Potemkin narcissists who derive ample narcissistic supply from mere appearances and narcissists of substance who strive for meaningful careers and creating things of value. Potemkin narcissists cultivate a following by emphasizing their alleged distinct character traits and create an empty brand. They are not interested in people except as instruments of instant gratification and sources of narcissistic supply. Narcissists of substance are concerned with leaving their mark on the world and creating a body of work of lasting value. They are workaholics and in relentless pursuit of fame, celebrity, and glory.

Misinformation: Covert vs. Classic Narcissist

Covert narcissists are not cunning or manipulative, but rather suppress their true nature due to a lack of confidence. They are their own worst critics and often feel guilty and ashamed of their aggressive urges. Covert narcissists team up with classic narcissists but secretly resent and envy them. Inverted narcissists are a type of covert narcissist who are self-centered, sensitive, vulnerable, and defensive, and crave relationships with narcissists despite any abuse inflicted on them.

Narcissist's Cycles of Ups and Downs

Narcissists go through cycles of mania and depression, which are caused by external events or circumstances known as triggers. The cycles are different from manic depressive cycles in bipolar disorder, which are endogenous. The narcissist is addicted to narcissistic supply and seeks admiration, adoration, approval, attention, and so on. The narcissist goes through ups and downs, including a depressive phase, a hibernation phase, and a manic phase, which are all part of the process of obtaining and securing narcissistic supply.

Two Narcissists in a Couple

Two narcissists of the same type cannot maintain a stable, long-term, full-fledged and functional relationship. Two narcissists of different types or opposing types can, often do, maintain long-term, stable and rather happy relationships. There are two main types of narcissists, somatic and cerebral. The somatic type of narcissist relies on his body and sexuality to generate attention, adulation and admiration, while the cerebral narcissist leverages his intellect, his intelligence and his professional achievements to obtain the same. Stable and enduring relationships can and often do develop between dissimilar narcissists.

Negative, Fake, Low-grade Narcissistic Supply

Narcissists crave attention, both positive and negative, and use it to regulate their sense of self-worth. They construct a false self and project it onto others to elicit admiration, adulation, and fear. Negative supply can become narcissistic supply when positive supply is scarce. Narcissists also crave punishment, which confirms their view of themselves as worthless and relieves them of the inner conflict they endure when they are successful.

Inverted Narcissist (Narcissist Codependent)

Inverted narcissists are a type of codependent who exclusively depend on a narcissist. They are self-effacing, sensitive, emotionally fragile, and sometimes socially phobic. They derive all their self-esteem and sense of self-worth from the outside and are pathologically envious. Inverted narcissists are narcissists, and it is possible to compose a set of criteria for them by translating the criteria available in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for the classical narcissist.

Narcissist Hates Happy People and Holidays

Holidays and birthdays are a difficult time for narcissists, as they provoke a stream of pathological envy. The narcissist is jealous of others for having a family, being able to celebrate lavishly, or being in the right mood. They hate humans because they are unable to be one and want to spoil it for those who can enjoy. Holidays remind the narcissist of their childhood, the supportive and loving family they never had, and what could have been.

Narcissist's Family

Narcissists perceive new family members, including siblings, children, and even pets, as threats to their narcissistic supply. They may belittle, hurt, or humiliate them, or retreat into an imaginary world of omnipotence. Some narcissists seek to manipulate new family members to monopolize attention and vicariously obtain narcissistic supply. As siblings or offspring grow older and become critical, the narcissist devalues and discards them, feeling stifled and trapped. The family disintegrates, and the cycle begins anew with the arrival of new family members.

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