Last Updated on December 13, 2021 by Alexander Burgemeester
On the surface, it may seem like narcissists are universally happy. After all, they appear entirely confident and self-assured. They seem to have no remorse when it comes to manipulating others or twisting reality. And their self-esteem is to the moon…or is it?
But are narcissists happy? Do they love themselves and the life they live? Or is it all an obnoxious facade?
As it turns out, the relationship between narcissism and happiness is incredibly complex. While they can undoubtedly feel joy, their fragile self-esteem often makes them feel hollow and depressed. Additionally, their overinflated complex of self-importance makes it challenging to enjoy the things that generally make other people happy.
Are Narcissists Happier Than “Normal People?”
Do narcissists have the upper hand when it comes to experiencing happiness? Do they get all the pleasure without any of the pain? Are their lives easier than everyone else’s?
These are all complicated questions without overly straightforward answers. While more studies are examining the impact of narcissism on mental health, there is still a lot that we don’t know. And because narcissists inherently downplay, lie, and omit information, even the best research may be skewed.
They May Be Less Depressed
Some preliminary research suggests that people with narcissistic personality disorder may have lower rates of depression than others. For example, in a recent CNBC interview, researcher Kostas Papageorgiou, shared that narcissists fundamentally believe they deserve the best in life.
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Due to this belief, they often work extremely hard to overcome adversities. Overcoming such obstacles can build mental toughness, which may offset depression and low self-esteem. It can also build self-esteem, a factor closely associated with happiness.
However, this research doesn’t inherently suggest that narcissists are happier than other people. Instead, they may simply have higher levels of self-esteem and self-worth.
But They’re Probably More Insecure
In contrast, another recent study cited insecurity fuels narcissistic behavior. This research suggests that narcissists use various ‘flexing behaviors’ (bragging, gaslighting, disregarding others, and showing off) to compensate for their deeply-rooted feelings of inferiority.
Narcissism, in a sense, is an entire defense mechanism. At a core level, they know their behavior is destructive. They may even be entirely aware of their narcissistic patterns. But they feel compelled to continue seeking attention, reinforcing why they keep doing it.
5 Reasons Why Narcissists Are Happy With Themselves
Can a narcissist be happy despite their selfish or conniving behavior? Do they genuinely like themselves, or is it just a massive cover-up?
5 Reasons why narcissists are happy with themselves:
- They don’t feel empathy
- They tend to go after what they want
- They prioritize their Narcissistic Supply
- They don’t need someones approval
- They shield themselves from pain
#1 They Don’t Feel Feel Drained By Empathy
It’s a misconception that narcissists don’t feel any empathy for others. Many of them do. They can care about other people and things. However, their own needs will usually trump anything (or anyone) else. Empathy is on their terms, and it’s a relatively finite resource. In some ways, their empathy only stretches as far as their own emotional limits.
Empathy isn’t a choice. Many self-described empaths report feeling exhausted by how much they listen and give to others. Even people who don’t identify as empaths often feel burnt-out or anxious after heavy interactions with others.
But empathy doesn’t work that way for narcissists. They may feel sorry for someone else, and they can certainly feel sadness, anger, or fear, but empathy tends to be more cognitive than emotional. Often, they will “attune” to what they think other people need rather than respond genuinely and organically.
This explains why narcissists can seemingly present as great listeners. They may seem deeply concerned about the welfare of others. They can appear to be closely paying attention to whatever you say.
In reality? They’re probably listening because they’re collecting information about you, your life, and your weaknesses. They will likely use those details to benefit their best interests later.
#2 They Tend to Go After What They Want
Have you ever seen a narcissist apply for a job they were grossly unfit for just because? Or have you ever watched a narcissist mercilessly pursue a specific talent without any prior experience?
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When narcissists set their minds on achieving something, they don’t let backlash or fear get in their way. Instead, they go after what they want, and they can be ruthless in their endeavors.
This mindset likely triggers some happiness. Research shows that regularly taking risks is good for your mental health. It can benefit your self-esteem and boost your confidence.
#3 They Always Prioritize Their Narcissistic Supply
Have you ever noticed how a narcissist always has someone or something to validate them? This phenomenon isn’t random- it’s highly prioritized and intentional.
Narcissists rely on their narcissistic supply for self-worth and confidence. Even though this supply doesn’t provide an authentic form of happiness, it can (temporarily) make them feel whole.
A supply can be anything that makes them feel valid, approved, and important. This supply can come from relationships, money, careers, and status. In many contexts, even negative attention can fuel their supply because it still focuses on them.
The more “full” their supply feels, the happier they are. The cost, of course, is steep. Because a supply can ebb and flow, they often feel constant pressure to maintain their goods at all costs.
#4 They Don’t Need Anyone Else’s Approval
How often do you care about what others think? If you’re like most people, you want approval. You may question yourself or avoid taking certain risks because you worry about what others will think.
Many people avoid living authentic, meaningful lives because they fear the fallout associated with potential rejection. This is part of human psychology- we value a sense of belonging and want to fit in with others.
It’s no secret that narcissists don’t generally operate on this same fear. They do what they want- they usually want approval for it, but it isn’t an essential requirement.
If something is that important to them, they don’t let anything get in their way. In fact, they will often do things to spite other people. Attention is often more important than approval, so if they get attention for something, that keeps them motivated.
#5 They Always Shield Themselves From Pain
Narcissists don’t let other people hurt them. Instead, they engage in narcissistic abuse to protect themselves. While these harmful tactics undoubtedly hurt others, they don’t really affect their well-being.
Narcissists have no concept of sitting or tolerating their emotions. They attack or run from them altogether.
At the first sight of trouble, a narcissist may gaslight, blame, smear, or cut out someone entirely. They don’t necessarily try to work it out. They don’t engage in introspection or compromise. Instead, they protect themselves and their egos- in a shallow, childish way, this strategy can safeguard their own happiness.
7 Reasons Why Narcissists Are Unhappy With Themselves
So, are narcissists unhappy? Does their version of happiness always come at the expense of concealing their feelings, hurting others, and playing other mind games?
As you can see, genuine happiness is challenging to measure when it comes to narcissism. Even if they appear to feel happy, it’s likely that their emotions are completely distorted. It’s also quite likely that they are lying to themselves and others. Here are some reasons indicating why narcissists are profoundly unhappy.
7 Reasons why narcissists are unhappy with themselves:
- They can’t be vulnerable with others
- They can’t be happy for others
- They struggle with jealousy
- They can never let their guard down
- They have unresolved trauma
- They never feel good enough
- They struggle with other mental health issues
#1 They Can’t Be Vulnerable With Others
Vulnerability is the glue of emotional intimacy. When we are vulnerable with someone else, we remove our defense mechanisms and let the other person truly see us.
Narcissists struggle immensely with vulnerability. It terrifies them. They often perceive it as a sign of weakness, and they tend to avoid it all costs.
Instead, they are entangled with their false selves. They may, at times, appear to be vulnerable, but it’s often calculated and scripted. They know what to do and say to make other people feel appreciated. In addition, they recognize how “faking” vulnerability often elicits empathy.
That said, the narcissist often feels profoundly lonely. They don’t know how to connect with others. They don’t know how to be an authentic, flawed person. And so, they spend their lives in a land of make-believe, hoping that nobody else will see the truth.
#2 They Can’t Be Happy for Others
If your loved one has good news, how does it make you feel? Typically, happy people can celebrate other successes and joys. Even if they feel somewhat jealous, they can separate that feeling from the other positive ones.
Narcissists, however, tend to get enraged by someone else’s good fortune. Because they often feel entitled, another person’s success triggers immense rage and envy.
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This explains why narcissists often try to sabotage other people. For example, if you landed an exciting promotion at work, they may suddenly start badmouthing your boss or complaining that you still aren’t earning enough money. Or, they might turn the situation inside out and vent about how they never feel acknowledged in their career.
In summary? They don’t know how to feel happy for other people because they don’t feel happy with themselves.
#3 They Struggle With Immense Jealousy
It may seem paradoxical that such elevated egos coincide with such uncontrollable jealousy. But that is, in many ways, the crux of narcissism.
As mentioned, narcissists experience immense entitlement. They believe the world owes them whatever they want. When things don’t go their way, they can’t comprehend why. Everything suddenly feels entirely unfair.
Jealousy is the backbone of narcissism. They will get jealous of everything- someone else’s success, their relationship, their house, the way another person talks to them. They will get jealous of people they love, and they will get jealous of people they hate.
The narcissist wants everything, and they especially want completely unattainable things. As a result, they often feel miserable and trapped within themselves.
And so, they can’t be very happy because they’re always comparing themselves to others. If they feel they’ve fallen short, they feel angry and ashamed. They often must cut other people down to feel better about themselves.
#4 They Can Never Really Let Their Guard Down
As you have probably noticed, narcissists can’t enjoy authentic relationships with other people. They must constantly evaluate the situation and try to meet their needs. Likewise, they tend to be suspicious and doubt other people’s motives.
As a result, they are always testing other people’s loyalty. You’ve probably noticed this in your own relationship. The narcissist wants constant reassurance. They may accuse you of doing things you’ve never thought about doing. And even though they might not be committed to you, they expect utmost compliance and respect on your end.
All this mental energy is exhausting. They can’t just sit back and relax. They can’t just accept that other people may, at times, disappoint them. Therefore, they feel tormented by their own psychological gymnastics.
#5 They Have Unresolved Trauma
Research shows that trauma is a key risk factor in personality disorders, including narcissism. Trauma can affect all areas of one’s functioning and significantly impair one’s development.
Childhood trauma, in particular, can be especially damaging. Many narcissists grow up in situations where physical or emotional abuse is prevalent. In addition, many experience neglect and constant feelings of unlovability.
Narcissists don’t usually recognize the impact of their past traumas. For example, they may portray their childhoods as perfect. Or, they might identify that “bad things happened,” but they don’t acknowledge them beyond that basic sentiment.
Unresolved trauma can lead to profound feelings of insecurity and inferiority. Because this is the core struggle most narcissists face, it’s reasonable to assume happiness is more of an illusion.
#6 They Never Feel Good Enough
Narcissists measure their worth by their external achievements. A new car, an impressive job title, a massive net worth, a child’s stellar report card, a number on the scale. Checking off these achievements make them feel confident and happy.
Of course, we all love the feeling of success, but narcissists rely on it to feel whole. That’s why they never seem to “stop.” They’re always on a mission to obtain more, do more, or feel more. It’s never enough because they’re never enough.
And so, while they might feel happiness, it’s always a product of what they have earned. It’s never internal or intrinsic.
#7 They Struggle With Other Mental Health Issues
Most narcissists also have other mental health conditions. For example, they may face anxiety or depression. There is also a high rate of eating disorders and substance use disorders.
Narcissism can exacerbate other psychiatric symptoms. At the same time, those other symptoms often make narcissism worse. It can be a vicious cycle for the narcissist and their loved ones.
That said, most narcissists won’t seek help for their emotional well-being. They often dismiss therapy or medication because they are skeptical of professional support. Furthermore, they won’t open up about their struggles because they don’t want others to judge them negatively.
As a result, they must work extra hard to maintain the image they hold about themselves. Even if they feel like everything is falling apart, they aren’t necessarily willing to do anything about it.
Are Narcissists Happy in a Relationship?
I think my partner is a narcissist. No matter what I do, it’s never good enough. They always have to point out something wrong or put me down.
But there is no actual accountability for their mistakes. They’re always right! Am I the problem?
Because I’m starting to think it might be me. I love my partner, but are narcissists ever happy in a relationship? And can a narcissist be a good person?
If that script felt eerily familiar, you probably know the first-hand effects of loving a narcissist. The relationship can feel chaotic, unnerving, and emotionally exhaustive.
Narcissists can certainly be happy in relationships, but this happiness tends to be situational and short-lived. Subsequently, their happiness is also conditional- you must meet specific needs to ensure that the narcissist feels content.
They Always Want Things Done Their Way
Narcissists value power and control above anything else. They tend to be happy in relationships with submissive people who follow their commands.
In other words, as long as you do what they say and respond appropriately every single time, they should be happy. Easy enough, right?
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Even when it seems like they appreciate your values and individual thoughts, they will discard them as soon as they jeopardize their desires. And so, the relationship is never fully equal. They can’t respect your autonomy because it might infringe on their needs.
They’re Never Fully Content
A narcissist wants the best of the best at all times. Even if their standard is entirely unrealistic, they won’t settle until they reach it. Therefore, they are always chasing the next best thing.
Many narcissists start their relationships by love-bombing their partners. They meet someone, and that person seems perfect. For a brief time, it appears as if all their problems will be solved. That’s why they put other people on temporary pedestals. They feel amazed that someone else can fit their needs so perfectly!
But eventually, they start recognizing that the other person has flaws. And these flaws, no matter how slight, feel tremendous and unacceptable. It all feels like a slap in the face. As a result, narcissists begin discarding their partners.
This progression can happen quickly. One day, it may seem like everything is magical. The next day, it can feel like your partner hates you!
You probably haven’t done anything wrong. Narcissists just don’t know how to accept people for who they are. They want things on their terms. If a person can’t wholeheartedly meet their every need, they often feel disrespected and even confused.
They Can’t Resolve Conflicts Effectively
Narcissists may seem to love arguing, but they don’t know how to actually manage conflict. When something goes wrong in the relationship, it will always be the other person’s fault. There is no personal accountability.
Happy couples recognize that some conflict is inevitable. They aim to compromise with one another and be respectful during challenging times.
But a narcissist wants power more than connection. They don’t want to sacrifice their needs for someone else. They also don’t really know how to regulate their emotions when they become upset- instead, they will usually yell, criticize, blame, or withdraw from the conversation altogether.
Therefore, the same problems often continue resurfacing. You might always feel like you’re walking on eggshells. The narcissist might always feel like you’re intentionally trying to hurt them. This standstill makes it hard for anyone to feel happy.
They Can’t Tolerate Any Negative Feedback
What happened the last time you gave the narcissist a suggestion about doing something differently? Did they become downright hostile? Did they accuse you of overreacting or being difficult? Did they lie about what happened to make themselves look better?
Chances are, the situation didn’t go very well. Narcissists can’t tolerate anything that resembles criticism. They will usually lash out at even the most benign requests. Anything that threatens their ego- no matter how slight- makes them feel emotionally paralyzed.
Of course, the dynamic feels completely unfair. Although they can’t handle constructive advice, they have no problem constantly criticizing others.
They Always Fear Abandonment
Why don’t narcissists stay loyal to their partners? Why do they sometimes present as callous and aloof in their relationships?
Although it may seem strange, most narcissists feel terrified by the idea of abandonment. That’s why they struggle with vulnerability and refuse to let their guards down. They don’t want people to see them for their true selves and reject them.
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Narcissism is a grandiose facade. Their superior attitude keeps them at a safe distance from others. But this distance results in them feeling perpetually lonely. Even if they want to connect with others, they don’t really know how. They fear abandonment, but they continuously engage in harmful actions that make others want to abandon them.
It becomes a vicious cycle. They will blame other people for hurting or leaving them without recognizing how their behaviors trigger that response.
How to Keep a Narcissist Happy in a Relationship?
Is being a narcissist bad? Are they completely evil people that you must avoid at all costs? Or can a narcissist be a good person?
You might be asking yourself these questions after reflecting on your relationship with a narcissist. First, it’s important to remember that there are no black-or-white, absolute answers. Narcissism, like all mental health disorders, is complex. Furthermore, it lies on a spectrum, with some cases being far more severe than others.
Why Is Narcissism Bad for Relationships?
Narcissism often creates unequal playing fields. The narcissist may be demanding and tyrannical. The other person tends to want to keep the peace and avoid conflict. If you stand up for yourself, you usually risk stirring more chaos.
Narcissists struggle with empathy, respect, and compassion for others. They also find it difficult to trust people, even their loved ones. These issues make happiness challenging in a relationship.
So, if you love a narcissist, how can you actually keep them happy?
Accept Them for Who They Are
Sure, you might long for a different dynamic or hope that they will change. They might even give into this narrative and promise to act better.
But your own happiness requires a level of acceptance. If you want to stay in the relationship, you must accept your partner for who they are. Not who they say they will be. Not who you want them to be.
Having unrealistic expectations will only make you feel resentful. If you can’t accept your partner, you need to reevaluate your motives for staying in the relationship.
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Avoid Taking Things Personally
Narcissists project their feelings and insecurities onto other people. This tends to happen most often in relationships. If they’re upset with themselves, they will take it on you.
Try not to give in, fight back, or take it personally. Doing so only makes the situation worse. It also makes you feel bad about yourself, even if nothing was your fault!
This won’t make the narcissist happy, but it will keep you happy. It will also make the relationship healthier because you won’t enable problematic behavior.
You deserve respect. Narcissists don’t have the right to treat you poorly. But it’s your job to stand up for yourself and set nonnegotiable boundaries within your relationship.
The narcissist might pout, complain, or try to break your limits. Try to prepare for these outcomes. And when the negative reaction occurs, stand firm. Remember that any happy and worthwhile relationship starts with your own self-respect.
Instead of asking yourself, are narcissists happy with themselves, it may be helpful for you to reflect on if you’re happy with your current situation. Do you feel like your needs are getting met? Do you receive the respect you deserve?
After all, your feelings matter, and you must take care of them!
In mild cases, dealing with a narcissist can be draining and frustrating. In more serious cases, the relationship may be downright toxic and abusive. Regardless of your circumstances, it’s important that you focus on your well-being and prioritize your happiness.
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