Skip to content

Why a Narcissist Does Not Seem Like a Narcissist at First

Narcissist Not Seem Like Narcissist at First

Did you know that a narcissist does not always seem like a narcissist initially, and sometimes you see their true colors much later?

Publicly, most narcissists maintain a favorable image by advertising their good deeds. Privately, it is equally as misleading. Often when narcissists set their eyes on a “prize,” they stop at nothing to convince the person that they are selfless and loyal.

However, when the narcissist steps in and insists on saving the day, they usually have an ulterior motive. Although their gesture may seem altruistic, narcissists often use the opportunity as collateral.

For example, say Sara works for a boss who is unfair and frequently takes advantage of his or her employees. Lisa may leap to Sara’s side, join her in dislike for the boss, and offer Sarah an esteemed position at her place of employment. Incredibly grateful, Sara feels as if Lisa “saved” her.

Yet, months later, Lisa begins to criticize Sara’s work. She routinely makes backhanded comments about Sara at meetings, and subtly sabotages Sara’s professional reputation. When Sara confronts Lisa, she denies it, and angrily turns on Sara, demanding Sara be grateful for her position. After the interaction, Lisa distorts the discussion and paints Sara as the ‘bad guy” to fellow co-workers.

In addition, immediately after Lisa assisted Sara with the new position, Sara was grateful and included Lisa in social gatherings with her friends. As the months progressed, Sara felt her friends pull away. When she asked a friend about it, the friend confessed that Lisa told unflattering stories about Sara when Sara was not present. Unfortunately, because Lisa had spent a great deal of time with the friend group, Sara felt awkward asking her friends to sever their bond with Lisa.

Want to know more about how a narcissist does not always seem like a narcissist? Read 8 Tricks Narcissists Play To Manipulate Their Victims

At first, a narcissist seems confident and kind. The realization that he or she is unscrupulous and controlling often arrives too late. The question many clients ask is “Why?’ Why does a person feel the need to control and destroy another person? The answer may be more evident than people realize.

Initially, a truly kind and open-hearted person is appealing to a narcissist. Yet, as the person and the narcissist get closer, instinctively the narcissist senses that he or she is not as good-natured as the person. Instantly, this threatens the narcissist. In order to combat feelings of insecurity, robust and unconscious defense mechanisms automatically kick in. Extreme and unconscious deflection and projection allow the narcissist to relieve himself or herself of insecurities by seeing “bad” in the other person. This allows the narcissist to feel entitled to control and dominate the “problem.”

Alternatively, an emotionally healthy person is aware of insecurities and has no need to bully in order to feel better about who he or she is. It is a narcissist who is unrealistic about his or her insecurities and unconsciously projects them onto another. In part, an emotionally healthy individual is a prime target for a narcissist because he or she is less rigidly defended.

A person who has a flexible and malleable defensive structure has access to deep and sometimes uncomfortable emotions, such as insight, self-awareness, remorse, accountability, empathy, and conscientiousness. Unfortunately, a narcissist often ruthlessly exploits these deeper capacities and uses them to his or her advantage.

Yet, a kind-hearted person should never change who he or she is. A strong conscience, remorse, empathy, and insight are sophisticated emotional capacities that allow a person to be accountable and evolve. These capacities also help an individual maintain closeness with others.

There are four things a person can do to help himself or herself when ensnared with a narcissist.

First, do not succumb to the guilt a narcissist wields.

Second, diplomatically communicate to the narcissist that the treatment is unfair and needs to stop. Warning, this may not go well because a narcissist typically deflects responsibility and gaslights. If this occurs, a person may politely end the interaction by stating, “This conversation seems unproductive. Let’s revisit it later,” and excuse himself or herself from the conversation.

Third, a person may need to get some space from the narcissist. In Sara’s case, she may ask for a temporary transfer, establish plans with an alternate friend group, and spend some time in nature. The three “Rs” help; regroup, reflect, and recover. The dynamic is real, painful, and takes a toll on a person’s mental health, so recovering is critical.

Fourth, resurrect healthy boundaries in relation to the narcissist. These barriers may protect a person from incurring further abuse.

Using the example, Sara decides to refrain from accepting any favors from Lisa in the future. Professionally, she calmly alerts a trusted superior about Lisa’s unprofessional tendencies and identifies herself as Lisa’s target. She asks for support. Socially, Sara spends one on one time with close friends but avoids the larger activities that Lisa attends. After time passes, Sara may feel ready to participate in the social gatherings that Lisa attends, but prepares to ignore Lisa’s attempts at gaslighting.

Looking to know more about how you can protect yourself from a narcissist? Read 5 Ways You Can Ignore A Narcissist Who Is Trying To Hurt You

The situation is additionally complicated when a person discovers a romantic partner embodies narcissistic tendencies. Yet, applying the four strategies may help. If the partner responds in a healthy manner and respects the person’s new boundaries, the partner may be able to evolve and salvage the union. Assessing the narcissistic partner’s motivation to address his or her profound defensiveness is an equally critical factor. A highly motivated partner may seek the professional help necessary to soften narcissistic defense mechanisms.

No human being is required to endure emotional abuse. Remember the four tips; do not surrender to guilt inflictors, calmly take a stand, get emotional space, and resurrect strong boundaries. Having a golden heart is a gift. Protect it.

You can read Dr. Erin Leonard’s book “Emotional Terrorism, Breaking The Chains of A Toxic Relationship” to know more about this, and you can get it here. She has several other books to her credit, and you can check them out here. 


Written By Erin Leonard

Originally Appeared In Psychology Today

Narcissists behave with you in such a way that it is not always possible to identify them in the first glance. They have a way of sucking you in, and getting in your good books. Once they are successful in doing that, they start playing their games. So, the next time you feel that you are being manipulated by a narcissist, keep these pointers in mind and protect yourself.

If you want to know more about why a narcissist does not always seem like a narcissist initially, then check this video out below:



Narcissist Not Seem Like Narcissist at First Pin

Dr. Erin Leonard, Ph.D.

Dr. Erin Leonard, Ph.D. is an award-winning researcher, author, and psychotherapist. For more than 20 years, she has helped her clients recover their well-being and improve their mental health. With years of training and a clear understanding of what goes into providing a compassionate approach to psychotherapy, Dr. Leonard provides unique counseling and therapeutic services in the Michiana area. Her extensive training and wealth of experience ensure her clients experience improvement quickly Dr. Leonard specializes in individual, couples, and family therapy. However, her practice is a safe and open space for anyone with the need to be heard, understood, and treated.View Author posts

1 thought on “Why a Narcissist Does Not Seem Like a Narcissist at First”

  1. Avatar of Mike Boggs

    mikeboggs18@gmail.com Yes,I was involved with a female narcissist. She showed very strong characteristics of every thing you described. I don’t have the time to give you all the details. Basically she pretended to be my advocate in a bad situation. She made things 10 times worse and told me she couldn’t be held accountable. I feel lucky that I’m not dead. She got another person involved..He hurt me pretty bad. Spinel cord injury, there is no way I can get them to be accountable
    .So she ended up being right that she couldn’t be held accountable.. The whole was very complex. I didn’t see it coming at all. I thought she wsd there to help me. If they would have killed me
    They some how would have made it look like an accident that was entirely my fault..253-248-3655 for all the details and pictures and texts.

Comments are closed.

Up Next

When Relationship Becomes Business: 5 Signs Of A Transactional Relationship

Signs Transactional Relationship

Are you in a transactional relationship? Transactional love is a form of romantic interest that results in a relationship of convenience. It can be considered like a business transaction where the focus is not on strengthening emotional connection, but on what one has to give and can receive from their partner. 

Let’s explore the meaning of transactional relationship to see if you are in one.

What is transactional relationship? 

To be honest, a transactional relationship sounds more like a business deal than a real relationship. It can be considered as a “business transaction” where two people enter a romantic relationship where one partner offers certain services or “gifts” and the other partner provides services in return. The

Up Next

Decoding The Narc Speak: Found In Translation

Decoding The Narc Speak

A narcissist tends to communicate differently than other people. Take a careful look at what narcissists say and what they mean. Understand Narc speak, as it often disguises their true intentions.

The way that our kind speaks is a language all of its own. Narcspeak appears at first to be a normal way of speaking, with the inferences, interpretations and connotations that one would ordinarily expect when hearing phrases such as ‘I love you’ and ‘I am sorry’.

You will not grasp that there is a different meaning to much of what we say to you, at least not until it is too late. Once you have mastered Narcspeak however it becomes readily apparent what is actually being conveyed to you. Understand this form of doublespeak from us is a useful skill to achieve.

Not only will it bring clarity to

Up Next

What Is Dark Psychology: 10 Most Common Techniques and Tactics of Manipulation

Dark Psychology Manipulation

All of us have a dark side, which most of us try to control, suppress and hide from others. We all have a unique relationship with our dark side which can define the type of person we are. Dark psychology enables us to understand this relationship with the dark side of our consciousness. 

What is dark psychology? 

Dark psychology refers to the dark side of the human psyche and is primarily used to manipulate others. It is typically regarded as the psychological study and application of thought control and manipulation. Generally, psychology focuses on human thoughts, behaviors, emotions and actions. However, dark psychology focuses on strategies, tactics and techniques of manipulation, persuasion, coercion and motivation that can help a person to gain what they wish for.

Up Next

Can Abusers Change? 11 Signs Your Abusive Partner Is Changing For Good

Signs abusive partner changing for good

“I promise. This time I will change. Please don’t leave me. Give me one more chance. A last one. I WILL change. You’ll see.” 

If you have ever been in an abusive relationship, you have probably heard this many times before. While abusers usually don’t really change, what if they actually change this time around? Are there any genuine signs your abusive partner is changing?

Can abusers change?

The quick answer is yes. But just like everything else in life, it is a lot more complicated than it sounds. A narcissistic, toxic, abusive individual may genuinely want to change due to certain life experiences. They may

Up Next

8 Lies Narcissists Tell

Lies Narcissists Tell

If you have ever been with a narcissist, you know that narcissists lie about everything. But how narcissists lie, and do narcissists lie often? Most importantly what do narcissists lie about? This post is all about the lies narcissists tell in order to manipulate and trap their victims.

Narcissists and the truth go together like oil and water, and nothing is really off-limits. If you’ve been with a narcissist, you know this. But there are some common lies that all narcissists tell, and we are going to cover those in today’s post. Let’s get to it.

Today’s topic is the lies that all narcissists tell in some form or another. So, if you’ve ever been around a narcissist, you’ve probably heard some variation of one of these lies, if not all of them.

So, talking through the lies