5 Signs That You May Be a Vulnerable Narcissist

Feeling overlooked, superior, and fragile? You may be a vulnerable narcissist.

Posted May 26, 2020

If you’ve heard the word “narcissist” in the past, and done some research into what it means, you may well feel it doesn’t apply to you. Are you the life and soul of the party? No. Would other people describe you as charming and outgoing? No. Do you leap into a room, speaking loudly to garner attention? Definitely not!

The problem is, the above checklist applies to what most of us think of when we picture a narcissist—the grandiose narcissist. Vulnerable narcissism is a sub-category of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and it’s far harder to spot in yourself or other people. 

If you’ve found yourself experiencing problems in relationships, including strong feelings of jealousy and hypersensitivity to criticism, preferring to protect yourself from people and situations who can make you feel bad, it’s possible that you may have some traits of vulnerable narcissism.

Some signs that you might be a vulnerable narcissist include:

1. Feeling superior to others

Do you have an underlying suspicion, a sense of knowing, that you’re somehow, well… better than other people? You may justify this feeling of superiority to yourself on the basis that you’re better educated than most people, or that you earn more money or people always comment on your attractiveness. But actually, being richer, more attractive or more educated than someone else doesn’t make you better—and someone without narcissistic tendencies will be highly aware of this.

2. Sense of entitlement

Do you have a feeling that the normal rules of life don’t apply to you? That you’re entitled to act in particular ways and receive certain rewards—such as financial gain—without putting the effort in that other people have to? One client of mine was lucky enough to have a house with a small mortgage and, on the death of her father, she received enough of an inheritance to comfortably pay off her mortgage and have some money left over. Instead of doing so, she moved to the most expensive part of the city she could find, rented a property, and bought an expensive car, computers, and furniture. All this was driven by a sense of entitlement—she deserved to live the life she was living. A few years later, not only was she no longer a house owner, she was bankrupt.

3. You need constant praise

If you are a vulnerable narcissist, you will seek approval from others in order to feel good about yourself. You need constant praise and recognition to shore up your sense of self-worth. Instead of seeking this out by doing cartwheels, you’ll make sure you come top of the class, get the employee-of-the-month award three times in a row, and spend hours getting ready for a party.

4. You’re crushed by criticism

If you don’t get the praise you’re seeking and, worse, you’re on the receiving end of criticism, you feel absolutely gutted. Nobody likes being criticised—no matter how well deserved the criticism is—but for you, the pain of criticism runs so deep you feel crushed. Your ego is fragile and it can take a considerable time for you to recover from being called out by someone. You might never talk to them again!

5. You feel unappreciated and unrecognised

Do you feel that your special skills and qualities go unrecognised and unappreciated by others? Having an inherent sense of your own specialness, combined with a difficulty in getting out there and getting noticed, can mean that you feel hurt and resentful because nobody else seems to be seeing what you see in yourself. Instead of being able to use your belief in your specialness to gain attention, you may find yourself constantly hoping that you’ll be discovered one day and getting very fed up in the process.

Life can be difficult when you’re a vulnerable narcissist. You can end up cutting yourself off from people, due to your feelings of superiority and feeling misunderstood and undervalued by others. You may find yourself experiencing extreme emotional swings, depending on whether your self-worth was validated or not that day. If you recognise these tendencies in yourself, therapy can help you overcome some of the issues which have been affecting you.