My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
The narcissist often strikes people as being laid back, or less charitably as being lazy, parasitic, spoiled and self-indulgent.
But as usual with narcissists, appearances sometimes deceive.
Narcissists are either compulsively driven overachievers or chronic underachieving wastrels.
Most of them fail to make full and productive use of their potential and capacities.
Many narcissists avoid even the now-standard path of academic degree, a career, a family life.
The disparity between the accomplishments of the narcissist and his grandiose fantasies and inflated self-image is what I call the grandiosity gap. It is a staggering abyss and in the long run it is insupportable and unsustainable. It imposes onerous exigencies of the narcissist's grasp of reality and on his social skills. It pushes the narcissist either to seclusion or to a frenzy of acquisitions, cars, women, wealth, power, anything to sustain his self-image.
Yet no matter how successful the narcissist is, many of them end up being object failures, but many of them end up being great successes and pillars of their community.
But never mind how successful they are, how high up the ladder, the grandiosity gap can never be breached.
The narcissist's false self is so unrealistic and his expectations of himself are so way out there, his superego is so sadistic, these inner voices that criticize him, that there is nothing the narcissist can do to extricate himself from the Kafkaesque trial that is his life.
The narcissist is a slave to his own inertia.
Some narcissists are forever exhilarating on the way to ever higher peaks and ever greener pastures, never obtainable, always on the horizon.
Other narcissists succumb to numbing routines, to the expenditure of minimal energy, the path of last released resistance, to prey on the vulnerable.
But either way, the narcissist's life is out of control and the mercy of merciless inner voices and internal forces emerges.
These are one-state machines programmed to extract narcissistic supply from other people.
To do that, they develop early on a set of immutable routines.
This propensity for repetition, this inability to change and rigidity, confine the narcissist's horizons, stunt the narcissist's development and limit his horizons.
Add to this toxic admixture the narcissist's overpowering sense of entitlement, his visceral fear of failure and his invariable lead to both feel unique and to be perceived as unique.
One often ends up with a recipe for inaction and the narcissist starts really paralyzed by these conflicting forces.
Underachieving narcissist dodges challenges, eludes, tests, shirks, competition and responsibility, sidesteps expectations, ducks all kinds of duties, evades authority.
And this kind of narcissist does all this because he is afraid to fail and because doing something everyone else does endangers his sense of uniqueness.
Hence, the narcissist's apparent laziness and parasitism. His sense of entitlement with no commensurate accomplishments or investments aggravates his milieu.
People tend to regard such narcissist as spoiled brats.
In specious contrast, overachieving narcissist seeks challenges. He seeks risks, provokes competition, embellishes expectations, aggressively beats for responsibilities and authority and seems to be possessed with an eerie self-confidence.
People tend to regard such specimen of narcissist as entrepreneurial, daring, visionary or tyrannical. Yet these narcissist too are modified by potential failure and they are driven by a strong conviction of entitlement, strive to be unique and be perceived as such.
They have an identical psychodynamic landscape to the underachieving narcissist, only they choose a different solution.
The overachiever-narcissist hyperactivity is merely the flip side of the underachiever's inactivity. It is as fallacious and as empty and as doomed to miscarriage and disgrace and failure. It is often sterile or illusory, all smoke and mirrors rather than substance.
The precarious achievements of such narcissist invariably unravel with time. Such narcissist often act outside the loop or outside social norms and in contravention of social ethics and mores.
Their industriousness, walk-onism, ambition and commitment are intended merely to disguise their essential inability to produce and to really build something.
These narcissists are in the dark, where life is a pretension, a fortemkin life.
All make believe in thunder without little essence.