As we know, narcissists are people who tend to inflate their own importance, lack empathy for others, and need constant validation (1). How is a somatic narcissist different?
‘Somatic’ means ‘related to the body’, so somatic narcissism involves being very preoccupied or obsessed with one’s physical appearance and sexual attractiveness (2).
A somatic narcissist uses their body and the physical space around them as a way to express their narcissism. Their superiority and sense of entitlement come from their perception of their physical self.
They believe they are more beautiful, stronger, or fitter than others (3). Flaunting their bodies, flex their muscles, and brag about the number of times people hit on them is typical behavior.
What is a Somatic Narcissist
They are obsessed with how they look and think you should be too. They specifically use their good looks for manipulation and think they entitle them to privilege above others (4).
A somatic narcissist will over-value and spend a lot of time and money on appearance. They may display arrogance and grandiosity about their appearance or sexual attractiveness but underneath their shiny exterior, they are actually very insecure about it.
They have a high need for attention and approval of these characteristics, so they’d be very sensitive to criticism of their bodies and sexuality. They could also be very jealous of other attractive people and competitive in regards to physical appearance and fitness. They are someone who prioritizes his or her looks above everything else to the point of worrying obsession.
Enough is never enough for them. They’ll never stop trying to maintain or improve their appearance. It’s about a deep insecurity around their physical appearance, which is synonymous with general narcissism.
How is the Somatic Narcissist Different?
Some experts have classified narcissists into three different groups:
- Cerebral narcissists – feel superior due to their intellect
- Sexual narcissists – gain their sense of entitlement from sexual situations
- Somatic narcissists – feel more worthy than others due to their physical appearance
These aren’t clinical terms, nor are they validated psychological concepts backed up by peer-reviewed research, and actually a narcissist doesn’t have to be just one of these types. Two or more types can be present in one person. However, there is usually a predominant type (5).
Somatic narcissists vs. sexual narcissists
Somatic narcissism can also contain sexual narcissism, but often there is much more to that. Both express narcissism through their physicality, but somatic narcissists don’t need that expression to be sexually charged.
Sexual narcissists gain pleasure from seducing people, sometimes as many as possible and demonstrating that others find them sexually attractive. Somatic narcissists may feel a sense of sexual entitlement and treat their partners like objects to stroke their egos but are not as obsessed as sexual narcissists.
Somatic narcissists vs. cerebral narcissists
Cerebral narcissists get their narcissistic supply from feeling smarter and more intelligent than others. They like to brag with important and difficult words, or mention books they have read. While cerebral narcissists gain their sense of importance from their minds, somatic narcissists rely on their physical bodies.
They aim to impress you with their body or the number of people who look at them and need approval in those areas.
10 Signs of a Somatic Narcissist
You won’t be able to keep a running list of all the signs and symptoms people show and a somatic narcissist may not show all of these, but if you’re not sure whether your dealing with a somatic narcissist, here are some signs to look out for:
They obsess over food, weight, and fitness – somatic narcissists may spend a lot of time engaging in and talking about activities such as going to the gym and dieting (6).
Plastic surgery is very popular among some somatic narcissists, as they will do whatever it takes to make sure that their appearance is impressive. He or she may also brag or fish for compliments about their physical appearance.
1. Showcasing extreme vanity
They may have issues overspending on things like high-end clothing, designer products, and gym equipment. They often drive expensive cars and live in well-to-do neighborhoods. Just like everybody else, they may not be able to afford it. However, they will get into debt if that’s what it takes to have the image they desire to project.
2. He or she uses their physical attractiveness and sexuality to exploit others
They will purposely flirt with people to get what they want or to get out of certain situations. They believe that everyone is attracted to them and use this for their own personal gain.
3. Using sex for self-esteem
Serial infidelity, compulsive sexual behavior, the pursuit of ‘trophy’ partners, and manipulation of sexual partners are all signs of somatic narcissism, as many somatic narcissists gain validation by feeling sexually desirable. Some somatic narcissists will use their sexuality as a tool to gain control in relationships and as proof of their desirability and status. They use sex for self-validation rather than an intimate experience between two people. Many somatic narcissists use sex as a means for narcissistic supply and could be classed as sex addicts. However, unlike a sexual narcissist, they may also get their narcissistic supply in other ways that do not involve the actual act of sex.
Somatic narcissists tend to triangulate their victims with their ex-partners or other romantic interests to elicit an emotional response from them. In this case, the narcissistic supply is not only attention from multiple people but also the emotional suffering of their ‘main’ victim.
Somatic Narcissist are very egocentric when it comes to what they want and need. They have a high sense of entitlement, and they expect things to go their way. Without efforts, they are expecting to receive friendship, love and support. In conversation, they tend to talk a lot about themselves, and if they listen at all, they listen to pounce on opportunities to turn the spotlight towards themselves.
6. Taking credit for your accomplishments
Somatic narcissists exhibit the more general traits of narcissism, and this is one of them. Narcissists exhibit a lack of empathy for others and often devalue their contributions while inflating their own sense of contribution or accomplishment.
7. Ignore your needs
Narcissists tend to focus solely and excessively on their own needs, problems, and thoughts and have great difficulty recognizing the feelings and needs of others. In a relationship, this means you always come second, especially when your narcissistic partner’s self-esteem is at stake.
8. They can’t stand criticism
Narcs have trouble taking criticism and often respond defensively, sometimes in abusive ways. The term ‘narcissistic injury’ describes this phenomenon. This is when criticism hurts a narcissist’s ego so they lash out. Don’t criticize a somatic narcissist on their looks because that can be extremely painful for them.
9. They criticise people based on appearance
In order to solidify their sense of superiority, somatic narcissists will put down those they consider physically inferior or unattractive. This may include making jokes about ‘fat’ people, older people, or anyone they deem less physically ideal. They may also judge and obsessively monitor others’ appearances, which may include telling them what to eat, how to exercise, and what to wear.
The female somatic narcissist
Somatic female narcissists love to use their looks to gain material things. They are often on a mission to find a partner that will be able to fund their vain lifestyle. Somatic women are very good at spotting potential partners with big incomes, so they can keep up a superficial lifestyle to keep them feeling attractive and superior. She is entitled, and wants the best of everything but doesn’t want to work for it.
She may overcompensate for her deep insecurities by trying to lord her superiority over others. Female somatic narcissists may also particularly enjoy the idea of being ‘the other woman’, even in the presence of loving and committed partners.
The male somatic narcissist
Traditionally, women are more concerned with appearances than men, but there are absolutely male somatic narcissists who are self-obsessed. The male somatic narcissist will brag about sexual encounters and flaunt his strength and muscular physique.
He believes that all people who show him attention wish to have sex with him. The stereotypical male somatic narcissist is obsessed with his body. His diet and exercise regime is strict and produces the body, which gains him masses of attention.
The male somatic narcissist may not be as preoccupied with securing a partner to fund their lifestyle as a somatic female. Even though he wants women for supply, he is terrified by being in a committed relationship.
He prefers to reel people in, using them and then pushing them away. He will tend to be unfaithful, chasing the next high of a sexual conquest rather than settle down with one partner.
Somatic narcissists and relationships
Somatic narcissists may not actually be that easy to spot at first, as like all narcissists they are master manipulators which makes them experts at staying hidden. Like all narcissists, somatic narcissists idealize their victims in the beginning by flattering and complimenting them.
Once the victim is hooked, the narcissist will subject them to covert abuse and backhanded compliments, and the idealize-devalue-discard-hoover cycle will follow.
Reading tip: Why The Hoovering Narcissist Won’t Leave You Alone
Eventually, somatic narcissists age and their beauty, strength and sexual appeal start to suffer – this is the problem with focusing so much on the human exterior. Because they aren’t able to form healthy relationships with other people, they can often end up alone.
They may try to hold on to their old victims to avoid this, but their hold on the victim can weaken considerably when they start to lose their looks. In terms of narcissistic supply, this kind of relationship is much less satisfying for the somatic narcissist (7).
As they age, somatic narcissists may try to ‘stay young’ by wearing age-inappropriate clothing. They could develop a taste for plastic surgery and expensive beauty regimes in order to try and reverse aging.
How to deal with a somatic narcissist you are dating
Somatic narcissists are just like any other narcissist in that they have a profound lack of empathy for others (8). If you’re in a relationship with a somatic narcissist, try to avoid displaying emotional responses to their behaviour, as they feed off drama and will continue targeting you if their manipulation tactics are having the desired reaction.
While it’s normal to care about your appearance, you should be wary of anyone whose life seems to revolve around theirs, who judges others based on their own or who shows other signs of somatic narcissism.
Don’t blame yourself for getting close to a somatic narcissist – a key aspect of the disorder is being charming and charismatic. If you provide them with attention and approval they will ‘love’ you and treat you like a king or queen so it can feel great being around them at first.
They may even ‘love bomb’ you which is hard to resist. They know how to manipulate others to get what they want and how to attract attention with charm and humour.
The best protective mechanism is setting boundaries with the somatic narcissist. This may mean having no contact at all and having realistic expectations of what they are capable of.
If there’s anything that research has shown us, it’s that narcissists of any kind are unlikely to change their ways (9), so if you suspect someone in your life could be a somatic narcissist, it’s probably time to leave. Get out as soon as possible and seek therapy for yourself.
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