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Narcissist's False Modesty

Uploaded 9/19/2010, approx. 4 minute read

I am Sam Vakninand I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.


The modesty displayed by narcissists is false. It is mostly and merely verbal. It is couched in flourishing phrases, emphasized to absurdity, repeated unnecessarily, usually to the point of causing gross inconvenience and embarrassment to the listener.

The real aim of such behavior, such ostentatious modestyand its subtext are exactly the opposite of common modesty to which we are accustomed.

False modesty is intended to either aggrandize the narcissist or to protect the narcissist's grandiosity from scrutiny and possible erosion.

Such modest outbursts precede inflated grandiosity-laden statements made by the narcissist and pertaining to fields of human knowledge and activity in which he is solely lacking.

Devoid of systematic and methodical education, the narcissist tries to make do with pompous or aggressive mannerisms, bombastic announcements, and the unnecessary and wrong usage of professional jargon.

The narcissist attempts to dazzle his surroundings with apparent brilliance and to put possible critics on the defense.

Beneath all this, the narcissist is shallow, ignorant, improvising, and fearful of being exposed as deceitful.

The narcissist is a conjurer of verbosity usinga slate of mouth rather than a slate of hand. He is ever possessed by the fear that he is really a petty crook and about to be unearthed and reviled by society.

This is a horrible feeling to endure and it's a taxing, honourous way to live.

The narcissist has to protect himself from his own premonitions, from his internal, semi-terminal trial, from his guilt, shame and anxiety.

One of the more efficacious defense mechanisms at the disposal of a narcissist is what I call false modesty.


How does it go?

Well, the narcissist publicly chastises himself for being unfit, unworthy, lacking, not trained, and not formally schooled, not objective, not cognizant of his own shortcomings and of being vain.

This way, if or rather when the narcissist is exposed, he can always say, but I told you so in the first place, haven't I?

False modesty is thus a kind of insurance policy.

The narcissist hedges his bets by placing a side bet on his own fallibility, weakness, deficiencies, and proneness to error.

Yet another function of false modesty is to extract narcissistic supply from the listener.

By contrasting his own self-deprecation with a brilliant, dazzling display of ingenuity with intellect, knowledge or beauty, the narcissist aims to secure an adoring, admiring, approving or applauding protestation from the listener.

The person to whom the falsely modest statement is addressed is expected to vehemently deny the narcissist's claims.

The listener, the source of narcissistic supply, is supposed to react to the narcissist's false modesty by saying, but really you are more of an expert than you admit. Or why did you tell me that you are unable to do this and that? You are actually very gifted. Or don't put yourself down so much. You're a generous man, etc.

The listener is supposed to contradict the content of the false modesty statement, thereby enhancing the narcissist's sense of self-worth, his self-esteem and self-confidence, and providing the narcissist with a narcissistic supply.

False modesty is therefore a bet.

Having received the narcissistic supply, the narcissist shrugs, smirks, blushes, and moves uncomfortably from side to side.

This was not his intention. He assures his interlocutor. He protests. He did not mean to fish for compliments, which is exactly what he did mean to do.

The narcissist says, I don't really deserve the praise, but the aim has been achieved. The narcissistic supply has been doled out and avidly consumed by the narcissist.

Despite the narcissist's protestations, he feels much better now. The narcissist is a dilettante, a charlatan. He glosses over complicated subjects and situations in life. He says true, they're powered by shallow acquaintance with rapidly acquired verbal and behavioral vocabularies.

He then promptly forgets everything he has learned when it's no longer needed.

False modesty is only one of a series of feigned behaviors. The narcissist is a pathological liar, either implicitly or explicitly.

His whole existence is a derivative of a false self, his deceitful invention, and its reflections.

With false modesty, the narcissist seeks to involve others in his mind games, to co-opt them, to force them to collaborate while making ultimate use of social conventions and conduct.

The narcissist above all is a shrewd manipulator, well acquainted with human nature and its fault lines. No narcissist will ever admit to it.

In this sense, narcissists are really modest.

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Old-age Narcissist

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Narcissist's Constant Midlife Crisis

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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.


Narcissist's Shame and Guilt

The grandiosity gap is the difference between self-image and reality, causing feelings of guilt and shame in narcissists. Narcissistic shame is the pervasive feeling of worthlessness experienced by the narcissist due to the absence or deficiency of narcissistic supply. The narcissist adopts primitive psychological defense mechanisms to counter this shame, such as addictive or impulsive behaviors. Guilt is an objectively determinable philosophical entity, while shame is the outcome of avoidable outcomes.

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