Why are narcissists mean for no reason?

If you’ve interacted with a narcissist for any length of time, you know that these folks can be quite mean. Sometimes, it seems as if they are nasty for no clear reason.

It turns out that narcissists have several reasons for being mean. These reasons may not seem clear to those of us who aren’t narcissists, but we can learn to make sense of them a bit better.

In the narcissist’s world, they are not being mean for no reason. In fact, they have quite a few reasons they use to justify their cruel behavior. 

Common reasons for narcissistic cruelty 

When the narcissist lashes out and treats you in an unkind fashion, you may feel as if you’ve done nothing wrong. Their mean behavior can even be a shock, because there doesn’t seem to be a clear precipitating factor. 

In reality, several factors trigger mean behavior from narcissists. Sometimes, the things that trigger anger are so subtle that the rest of us may not understand them without further explanation.

So, we’ll dive into the details below, covering common triggers for the narcissist’s cruel below. 

Strong sense of entitlement

Narcissists are extremely entitled, meaning they should receive favorable treatment. When they don’t get exactly what they want, this shocks their egos.

Rather than accept that perhaps their demands are unreasonable, the narcissist will lash out toward others, in response to what they believe is unfair treatment. You might think they’re being mean for no reason, but they feel they’ve suffered an injustice. 

Need to control and dominate

Narcissists need to control their environment and the people in it to feel safe and secure. If they feel they are losing control, they will engage in mean-spirited behavior to regain their power.

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People will generally give in to the narcissist when they are lashing out in anger or being overly nasty, because they want the mean behavior to stop. 

They lack empathy 

Throughout their day, the narcissist will likely be mean to others, with little awareness of the effect they’re having on the people around them. One of the key reasons for this behavior is that the narcissist lacks empathy. 

They don’t consider the emotional impact on others and truly don’t care. In their mind, they’re just getting their needs met and don’t see any reason for you to have a problem with them.

They’re projecting insecurities onto others

Narcissists are outwardly confident, but internally, they are incredibly insecure. Rather than accepting their own insecurities, they project them onto others.

So, if the narcissist is insecure about their own intelligence, they might accuse others of being incompetent. When the narcissist projects, it can result in harsh criticism toward others, which understandably feels quite unkind. 

Tendency to manipulate

Narcissists may use mean behavior to manipulate others, because they know it works. Being nasty to someone can prompt them to change their behavior.

For instance, if a narcissist is repeatedly mean to a significant other, the significant other may begin to believe that they’re to blame for problems in the relationship. 

This will motivate the significant other to be on their best behavior, doing whatever they can to cater to the narcissist’s needs. This is exactly what the narcissist wants.

They aren’t getting the attention they want

Narcissists thrive when they’re receiving constant attention, praise, and admiration. When they lack attention or feel ignored, they are likely to act out in rage.

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Episodes of anger are not only mean; they also attract attention back to the narcissist. 

Furthermore, if the narcissist is nasty to you when you’re not focusing on them, you’ll quickly learn to give them more attention, so you aren’t subjected to their anger in the future. 

Testing boundaries

Narcissists aren’t a fan of boundaries, because they feel entitled to treat you however they like. They don’t care about your respect, space, or personal time needs.

So, they will behave meanly to test your boundaries and see how far they can push you. This allows them to assert dominance and get what they want from you despite your boundaries.

They couldn’t test these boundaries by being kind, so they resort to meanness. 

Anger and impulsivity

Narcissism is associated with emotion regulation difficulties. Many narcissists have a difficult time staying regulated when they’re upset.

This results in impulsive behavior and angry outbursts. During these episodes of impulsivity, narcissists may make cutting remarks, never stopping to think about how this affects other people. 

This sort of nasty, impulsive behavior can result from feelings of frustration, anger, or perceived insults, even if these feelings seem irrational to others. 

Need to be superior 

Narcissists need to be superior to everyone around them to make up for their underlying feelings of inferiority. 

The problem is that making themselves superior means sometimes they have to make other people feel small. Narcissists may be cruel and condescending to reinforce their belief that they are above others. 

Fear of rejection

Despite presenting as outwardly confident, narcissists are secretly terrified of rejection. They worry everyone they meet and enter a relationship with will eventually reject and abandon them.

If the narcissist gets the feeling that you’re about to reject them, or they perceive that you’ve somehow slighted them, they may be overly cruel to push you away.

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This allows them to reject you before you reject them. 

They’re blame-shifting

Narcissists cannot admit to their own faults and mistakes, because it’s too threatening to their fragile egos. They need to maintain their distorted view that they are perfect.

If you confront them about a wrongdoing, they will immediately engage in a defense mechanism, like blame-shifting, to take the focus off of their mistake. With blame-shifting, they conveniently make you the one who is in the wrong. 

Narcissists can be quite mean when blame-shifting because they may accuse you of things you didn’t do or belittle you to make you feel as if you made a horrible mistake. 

Are they really being mean for no reason?

To the rest of us, it can look like narcissists are mean for no reason, but you have to remember that the narcissist lives in their own distorted world. 

According to the narcissist, they are entitled to have all of their demands met and to receive a consistent supply of praise, admiration, and attention. They also believe they can do no wrong, and you should recognize them as superior.

Now, all of this is illogical. Life never works like this, but the narcissist believes it should.

When things inevitably do not go their way, they are likely to lash out in anger and may say the meanest words you’ve ever heard. 

This behavior looks nonsensical to most of us, but narcissists feel quite justified in acting this way. Trust me, they have their reasons for being mean. 

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