Why are Narcissists so Attractive?

If a person sounds, looks, and acts like a narcissist, trust your gut.

Posted Mar 12, 2018

Are there signs of a narcissist that you might notice in everyday conversations? Talking excessively about themselves is one giveaway. Talking about sexual exploits or other sexually themed topics are also common among narcissists. They are also more likely to be talking a lot and to more people due to their strong tendencies towards social, but superficial, engagement.

All of us tend to believe that people can change – although most of us believe that we are pretty fine as we are. Unfortunately, the narcissists among us are the type of person that really does need to change their behavior, but, unfortunately, are the ones most likely to loudly sing their own praises and be blind to any faults they have that might desperately be in need of major change. However, a recent research study by Holtzman, Vazire, and Mehi (2010) revealed that there are some tell-tale signs that give away a person’s narcissistic personality tendencies.

Do Narcissists have a Tell-Tale Look?

Researchers have found that narcissists do behave differently than those of us who don’t tend too much towards narcissism. Narcissists are more likely to be highly extraverted than introverted. They like being in the center of attention and go out of their way to draw people’s attention to themselves. They make overtures to others, they are eager to talk about themselves, and they like it when a crowd forms around them as they take center stage at parties, the bar, or wherever else they can “promote their brand.”

Narcissists also tend to display more disagreeable behavior than the rest of us. They find it easy to make complaints about poor service in restaurants, to be rude to others to advance their own desires, and to treat others less well than they would ever expect themselves to be treated. Narcissists take pleasure in annoying other people as this draws them even more attention and can garner them special treatments – something they are convinced that they deserve. Regardless of how poorly their behavior suggests they should actually be treated.

The Rules Simply Don’t Apply

Narcissists are maddeningly convinced that they are above the law, metaphorically and literally. Rules that are enforced on others, they believe, have no place in shaping their own behavior. Whether it’s the college-aged narcissist who ignores attendance policies or the narcissistic husband who does not believe that a vow of monogamy should control his extra-relational behaviors. Narcissists want to use rules to control and judge others while choosing to engage in willful disrespect of those same rules themselves.

This sense of entitlement can be extremely maladaptive if a narcissist is trying to maintain a job, advance in a career, or excel in classroom environments. To “game the system,” narcissists will try and exploit a colleague or classmate who is duped into covering for the narcissist or doing “grunt work” to ensure the narcissist escapes the judgmental eye of a superior or some other person in authority.

Exploiting others is second nature to narcissists. They are skillful at building themselves up in such a way that coming to their aid is the most sensible choice for their followers or proxies. They play on another’s sense of fair play and desire to be liked. Narcissists only want to be likable when it’s going to get them something they want. Once their goals are attained, they often dispense of the individuals who helped them get to where they were headed.

Narcissists see other people as “disposable” or “recyclable.” They don’t care about engendering loyalty from others once their aims are met. Dropping or “deleting” former acquaintances or friends isn’t something that narcissists would give a second thought. People are viewed as “tools” of their trade and narcissists are easily able to trade on others’ good will or efforts. The only relationship that many narcissists will ever be loyal to is their relationship with themselves. They value the story they create about themselves and their progress towards reaching the top of whatever imagined ladder they are climbing. They never look down on the rungs they’ve topped – they only look up at the next rung and to the side to see who’s positioned to help them climb higher.

Narcissists care about achievements, but it’s not the heart of the achievement that they value – it’s what they believe an achievement will earn them or give them. Impressing others with a list of accomplishments matters more than what the accomplishment means. They tick off boxes, they don’t invest themselves in the meaning of the deeds they do. It’s like an Eagle Scout who has no heart – or a trophy collector who cares nothing for the animal carcasses he leaves behind.

Why are we attracted to Narcissists?

If you’ve ever wondered why you’re attracted to a narcissist, the answer is ridiculously simple. Narcissists engage in behaviors that are designed to attract us! They know how to draw in others and before we have time to take a breath and recognize the narcissist for what she is, we might already be under her spell.

Perhaps it is not surprising, but researchers found that narcissists tend be more physically attractive than average. This trait was also tied into the tendency for narcissists to be more sexually active and to be sexually coercive with potential partners. In terms of evolution, it does make sense that narcissists would be more attractive as that is one quality that is helpful in seducing others; thus, it is a trait that is more likely to be passed down through subsequent generations of narcissistic coupling.

Female narcissists have been found to be extremely enchanting when first met. They are excellent at socializing with others, they know what to talk about to earn positive attention, and know how to behave to get others to notice them. Unfortunately for them – but fortunately for their prey – their unpleasant and disagreeable behaviors show up not too long into the game. This allows time for potential romantic partners or “tools” to recognize the narcissistic behaviors for what they are. Other less sophisticated people may remain entranced by the magnetic narcissist and allow themselves to be convinced that the ugly behaviors are due to the unfair treatment of the narcissist by others. Thus, the unsuspecting victim actually believes that their role is to defend, protect, and meet the needs of the narcissistic individual who has captivated their attention.

Codependency with a narcissistic can develop if the narcissist is able to captivate a person with low enough self-esteem that the faint praise earned by meeting the needs of the narcissist lifts their self-esteem just enough to make the symbiotic situation palatable.

Narcissists will Always Blame Others for their Faults and Failures

While narcissists have unbridled egos and immeasurable pride, they are incapable of taking ownership for any of their failings. There is always, always, always someone to blame for their downfalls. If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, beware. The blame game often begins at home. No one can ever be “enough” for a narcissist and no narcissist will ever be “enough” of a healthy individual to sustain an authentic relationship.

Exiting the relationship may be difficult to do as narcissists will use every possible angle to try and keep a potential tool at their side. To preserve your own emotional well-being, you will need to allow them to blame you for the failure of the relationship, every negative event that occurred during the relationship, and a host of other imagined wrongs. Narcissists cannot own their own blame or failure, so it is seldom satisfying to attempt to have a logical, adult analysis of things with one. Maintain your own dignity by behaving in a manner that reflects maturity and integrity. Narcissists don’t regret the harm they bring others, but this should not encourage you to behave in a way that drags you down to their level.

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Holtzman, N. S., Vazire, S., & Mehi, M. R. (2010). Sounds like a narcissist: Behavioral manifestations of narcissism in everyday life. Journal of Research in Personality, 44, 478-484.

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