Why do narcissists appear happy? Are they?

People often take a keen interest in the inner workings of the narcissistic brain. Individuals with narcissistic personalities are complex and perplexing, so it’s only natural to wonder how they operate.

One thing that might catch your attention is the fact that narcissists often seem to be happy. You may even wonder why they appear so cheerful all the time. 

So, why do narcissists appear so happy? And are they actually happy with their lives? The answer isn’t exactly simple, but we’ll unpack it below. 

Why narcissists appear to be happy

It’s not unusual for narcissists to project an outward image of constant happiness and confidence. To the outside world, narcissists appear self-assured, successful, and content with their lives.

They also exude a charisma that is extremely captivating to others. All of these traits make it seem that the narcissist is nothing but joyful.

There are several reasons behind the narcissist’s outward appearance of happiness.

#1 Impression management

Narcissists are very concerned with their public image, because they cannot let anyone find out who they truly are on the inside. To manage their public image, they create an appearance of being happy and successful.

This appearance allows them to maintain their desired social status and obtain admiration and respect from others. Ultimately, appearing happy has a positive effect on how others perceive the narcissist, allowing them to be perceived as superior and respectable. 

#2 Grandiose behavior

Narcissists are grandiose people who overestimate their own importance. They genuinely believe they are exceptional and superior to others, making them appear overly happy and confident.

Honestly, how can the narcissist not be happy if they think they’re literally on top of the world? Since they perceive themselves as being highly accomplished and better than others, the narcissist may truly feel quite content. 

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#3 They’re getting external validation

Narcissists rely on external validation to maintain their self-esteem. This means they constantly seek out praise and admiration from others to feed their egos.

Narcissists feel a strong sense of joy when they get the validation they’re seeking. If the narcissist appears overly happy, it’s probably because someone has just told them how wonderful they are.

#4 Use of defense mechanisms

Narcissists tend to use various defense mechanisms to avoid facing their own shortcomings and insecurities. One defense mechanism they may employ is denial.

When narcissists use denial, they fail to acknowledge their own negative emotional states. So, they may put on an outward show of happiness, because they are in denial of their own emotional pain.

#5 Shallow relationships

Narcissists tend to have superficial relationships, characterized by shallow interactions without much emotional investment. Most of their interactions with others are focused on obtaining validation, attention, or some sort of benefit from the relationship.

These shallow interactions provide the narcissist with external validation that reinforces their self-image. This can ultimately lead to an outwardly happy demeanor. 

#6 Are they actually happy? 

Narcissists may appear outwardly happy, but there’s a different story beneath the surface. In many cases, narcissists aren’t actually happy; they’re just putting on a show. 

Consider the complexities associated with narcissism and happiness below.

#7 Underlying insecurities

Despite their outward confidence and grandiosity, narcissists have extreme insecurities. Their self-esteem is fragile and ever-changing, and they rely entirely on external validation to feel any sense of happiness.

Because they are so insecure and dependent on external praise, a narcissist’s happiness is quickly disrupted by any form of criticism or rejection. Since their happiness depends upon external feedback, it is unstable and subject to change. 

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#8 Cognitive dissonance 

Narcissists are prone to cognitive dissonance, discomfort arising from contradictory beliefs and actions. On the one hand, narcissists have a grandiose, charming exterior.

On the other hand, they are plagued by underlying insecurities and a fragile sense of self. This discrepancy can create psychological tension, leaving the narcissist feeling rather unhappy. 

#9 The emotional void

Inside, most narcissists have an extreme emotional void, because they suffer from chronic feelings of emptiness. They never really experience genuine fulfillment from life.

Because of this, most narcissists are internally suffering, plagued by emotional issues from their pasts. This can include experiences of trauma or childhood neglect, which undermine their happiness. 

#10 Temporary satisfaction only 

The happiness narcissists gain from external validation is always fleeting. They may be momentarily happy when someone compliments them or recognizes their worth, but the moment of happiness will pass.

Narcissists need constant external validation to remain happy, which is just not possible for them. They also constantly fear rejection or criticism, which further impedes their happiness.

#11 Lack of real connections

Remember, bonds that narcissists have with other people are not deep or meaningful. They are based on the usefulness that other people have for the narcissist, rather than on genuine emotional connection.

While narcissists may get what they want out of people, their relationships are not authentic, and narcissists do not ever truly connect with others. This lack of meaningful, fulfilling relationships is a barrier to happiness. 

The verdict: Their happiness is temporary and faked

To answer the question, narcissists appear happy because they are good at putting on a show, but any feelings of happiness they experience are temporary and easily subject to change for these reasons:

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Narcissists derive happiness from external validation, rather from within.

Narcissists’ happiness is contingent upon praise from others, and their moods can rapidly shift toward the negative when faced with any criticism.

Narcissists do not experience true emotional connections with others.

Narcissists struggle with underlying insecurities, and they use outward displays of grandiosity to mask these insecurities. 

Narcissists live with constant cognitive dissonance, as they present as grandiose on the outside but are deeply insecure on the inside. 

Narcissists experience a deep emotional void, arising from experiences like childhood trauma and neglect.

The bottom line: They aren’t truly happy

Narcissists are quite dissatisfied. They may appear confident and self-assured to the rest of the world, but their charm and grandiosity are masks for underlying insecurities. 

Narcissists struggle to ever find true happiness, because they are busy trying to manage superficial relationships, maintain a perfect public image, and avoid facing their insecurities. 

Beneath their charming facade, narcissists struggle with fragile self-esteem, emotional turmoil, and total dependence on external validation. All of this interferes with happiness.

Narcissists may temporarily feel happy when they accomplish something or receive praise and admiration. Still, their happiness is unstable and totally contingent upon whether they are receiving positive attention at any given time. 

Most narcissists aren’t truly happy people. Realizing this fact can help you understand their behavior better, and perhaps you’ll feel empathy for them. After all, hurting people hurt people. 

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