Narcissists underestimate others because it makes them feel powerful and entitled. They often look down on people once they realize their inevitable humanness.
Because narcissists often see things from a black-or-white perspective, anything that’s less than perfect is perceived to be a failure. Once they start devaluing another person, the underestimating begins.
Although feeling underestimated can be frustrating and condescending, this can be an important time for you.
You can take advantage of this experience and use it for your own benefit. It’s important to remain calm and steady and focus on your own well-being.
Do Narcissists Underestimate Others?
Yes, narcissists often underestimate others as a way to maintain their own feelings of entitlement and self-importance.
People with narcissistic personality disorder inherently think they are superior to most people, so it’s hard for them to appreciate the nuanced personalities of others.
They often perceive any differences as negative and will look down on others for thinking or acting differently.
Narcissists also underestimate people as a way to gain control and power. This becomes especially true in romantic relationships or parent-child dynamics.
The narcissist doesn’t want to “lift” the other person up, especially if they disagree with something they’re doing. When that’s the case, they generally want to break people down as much as they can.
Why Do Narcissists Underestimate Others?
Narcissists have grandiose perceptions about themselves, leading them to believe they are superior to others.
Sometimes they are overt about this belief, and others are more covert. But in all cases, their rigid mindsets stem from assuming others are simply less competent or intelligent.
Here are some reasons narcissists underestimate others:
Desire for constant control: Narcissists want to feel dominant in their relationships. They don’t want anyone else holding that power, so underestimating others allows them to hold onto their control and keep others more submissive.
Projecting their own flaws: Narcissists are prone to projecting their own weaknesses, flaws, and insecurities onto others. This is a way to deflect looking inward and examining their shortcomings. This maintains their belief that everyone else is the problem.
Gaslighting: Narcissists sometimes underestimate others as a form of gaslighting.
They will comment, “Are you sure you can do that?” or, “That seems like a lot of work for you,” to make people second-guess themselves.
Although it may seem paradoxical, they prefer others to be insecure around them, as it gives them more power.
Limited empathy: Narcissists have problems empathizing with others, especially if empathy comes at the cost of their own needs or well-being.
So, instead of assuming that someone might be simply struggling to try to figure something out, they will automatically deem them as inferior or incapable.
Jealousy: Narcissists are known for getting extremely jealous when they feel entitled to something that they don’t have.
Many have a limited concept of delayed gratification or needing to work hard to achieve something.
Sometimes they will underestimate successful people as a way to project their jealous feelings.
Confirmation bias: Narcissists may hold negative, skewed perceptions toward others.
They will seek out information to “prove” their confirmation that someone is inferior, and when they find that information, it “confirms” their truth (even if it’s entirely distorted).
Narcissistic abuse: The devaluing stage of the narcissistic abuse cycle consists of criticizing and attacking someone else. This is a way to gain control, which narcissists rely on to feel important and valuable.
To get a reaction: Sometimes narcissists simply like inciting chaos. It gives them a sense of purpose and meaning, and they are skilled in manipulating others. Even though most people tend to avoid drama, narcissists love starting and interacting with drama.
10 Ways to Outsmart the Narcissist When They Underestimate You
It can be painful and even maddening to feel underestimated. If you struggle with low self-esteem or identify as an empath, you might believe that the narcissist is right.
You may disregard this form of abuse because you feel sorry for the narcissist or they have convinced you that they don’t really mean what they say.
Remember that narcissists want you to believe you’re inferior, incapable, or otherwise flawed. This gives them more power in the relationship, and that’s what they value most of all:
Here are some ways to outsmart the narcissist if you’re being undermined:
Label What’s Happening
It can be helpful to educate yourself on narcissistic traits and narcissistic abuse.
Remember that people with narcissistic personality disorder react and lash out when they feel threatened. Their patterns often have little to do with you and more to do with their own discomfort.
Be objective with what’s happening, and stick to the facts. Keeping your emotions out of the labeling process can help you plant yourself in the truth of narcissism. It can also help you stay rational in how you decide what to do next.
Remain Calm and Composed
Acting neutrally disarms a narcissist like nothing else. Because narcissists thrive in chaos, they prefer that you react badly rather than not react.
When you don’t respond, you’re sending a clear message that you don’t even care about what they’re doing.
Instead of trying to argue or prove a point, try to remain calm and composed. Practice emotional detachment if you must. Remind yourself that losing your cool only reinforces the narcissist’s behavior.
Avoid Getting Competitive or Proving Them Wrong
Although it may be tempting, try to avoid getting into a power struggle about your capabilities.
You probably won’t change the narcissist’s mind. If anything, your efforts might even confirm their truth. They will look at your effort as a sign of you trying to compensate.
This strategy is important, even though it can be difficult. It never feels good to be undermined. But don’t take the narcissist’s bait- whether you realize it or not, they want you to get upset and react.
Let Go of Needing Their Validation
This is one of the most important steps you can take when a narcissist underestimates you. The less you care about their opinion, the freer you will feel.
External validation can feel uplifting but also become its own vicious cycle. When you rely on others to acknowledge your worth, you become dependent on outside praise and recognition.
It’s much better to focus on validating yourself and building a strong sense of worth that exists regardless of what others think.
A narcissist doesn’t have a right to define your self-worth. Remind yourself of your strengths and positive qualities as much as possible.
Ask other friends or family members if you struggle to identify anything good about yourself.
Keep in mind that narcissists love to exploit other people’s weaknesses. If you told the narcissist something vulnerable in confidence, they will likely use that against you to hurt you.
They want to hit you where it matters. Affirming yourself can help lessen this intense impact.
Set Strict Boundaries
You have the right to tell a narcissist what you will and won’t tolerate from them. This includes emotional abuse, and underestimating you can be a form of that.
The most important part of boundaries is implementing them. Your word has no merit if you don’t intend to follow through with what you say. So, if you tell someone you will leave the room if they criticize you, that means you absolutely must do so.
Most narcissists won’t automatically respect boundaries. They feel insulted by other people’s limits because they think they are entitled to whatever they want whenever they want it. That’s why it’s your job to define and uphold them, regardless of how they react.
Practice More Self-Care
The more you look after yourself, the better relationship you will have with yourself. If you really want to outsmart a narcissist, this is one of the best ways to do it. The greatest revenge is loving yourself enough to stop tolerating abuse.
Narcissists don’t want other people practicing self-care. They don’t want people feeling good about themselves or valuing their needs.
They want what suits them, which often comes from excessive validation and adherence to their every need and call.
Self-care won’t stop a narcissist from underestimating you. But it may improve your self-esteem enough that their thoughts about you no longer matter. It may also give you the courage you need to truly walk away from the relationship.
Focus On Building Your Own Meaningful Life
No matter how insecure or underestimated you feel, you deserve to have a fulfilling life. Nobody should ever take that power away from you.
Start by thinking about what brings you happiness. What activities do you enjoy? Which people make you feel safe and valued? What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
Baby steps matter here. Maybe you decide to take a class in a hobby that you’ve always been interested in.
Perhaps you decide to spend more time with a friend that you’ve distanced yourself from. But the more you can surround yourself with hope and meaning, the less control the narcissist will have over your well-being.
Seek More Support
Even though they won’t admit it, narcissists thrive on isolating people from their support systems.
They want to have the ultimate say in the relationship because they feel threatened by outside perspectives or opinions.
Although they won’t outwardly acknowledge feeling threatened, they will comment like, “Your mom has never cared about your feelings,” or, “She doesn’t sound like a good friend. You deserve better friendships!”
One of the best ways to empower yourself is to surround yourself with positive influence.
Seek out friends and family who will validate your worth. If you don’t have anyone to offer you this, consider meeting with a therapist. You can benefit from having a nonjudgmental space to process your feelings.
Avoid Trying to Overcompensate
Trying to strengthen your skills in an area where the narcissist underestimates you can be tempting. For example, if they make fun of your cooking, you might double down and try to be the best you can in the kitchen.
Building competence is never bad, but you should only do it if you’re doing it for yourself. If you’re trying to please the narcissist, your strategy won’t work.
They will either find another way to put you down or mock you for even making an effort. It’s truly a lose-lose situation.
The narcissist isn’t interested in logic or reasoning but in proving themselves right.