Narcissists tend to hide their insecurities, often displaying extravagant and grandiose behaviors as a mask to hide their true feelings.
Due to influencer culture, social media, and other factors, the word narcissist gets thrown around a lot. Everyone seems to seek attention and admiration, displaying their narcissistic traits in full view.
While we all have narcissistic traits to varying degrees, it’s important to differentiate between healthy self-esteem and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). It’s normal for some people to be self-centered and need validation or attention.
NPD is more than that; it involves an extreme pattern of self-centeredness and other personality traits that cause harm to the narcissist and others. It even leads to narcissists developing a mask to shield themselves from narcissistic feelings.
In this article, we will discuss why narcissists must wear masks and what purposes their masks serve.
Why Do Narcissists Wear A Mask?
They wear a mask to disguise who they are. This false grandiose facade is used to hide what is going on underneath the surface, making it difficult for people to understand what type of person the narcissistic individual is. Narcissists will go to great lengths to protect themselves from any harm.
Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) have insecurities that run deep. The narcissist’s mask serves as a shield, projecting an image of superiority, and shielding them from feelings of invalidation, also referred to as narcissistic injury. In her article, the author discusses how the narcissist wears four different masks for different purposes.
The narcissist wears the following masks to make them seem superior while hiding their true feelings:
Narcissists are like bullies who target their spouses and children, causing emotional and physical trauma. They also abuse employees, friends, and people they encounter daily. Exploiting people allows them to feed their constant need for superiority, and their lack of empathy enables them to abuse others without remorse.
Narcissists fear showing how they feel and revealing their true feelings, making them cowardly. They can dish out criticism, but they can’t take it. They may use passive aggression, denial, or abuse to shield themselves from threatening emotions and maintain a sense of superiority, causing harm to others.
Narcissists are liars, continuously finding ways to manipulate how others perceive them. They often fail, causing emotional pain, making them want to retaliate. Although they may present themselves as moral individuals, they evade the truth by stonewalling, blaming, shaming, and refusing to take responsibility.
Narcissists can act fraudulently; they often exaggerate or completely make up stories to make themselves look good to others. They deceive others by lying about what they have accomplished or can do. This deception extends to all areas of their lives, including love, parenting, friendships, or any significant connection.
Understanding narcissists’ masks will give you a clearer idea of who they are underneath them. While serving as a defense mechanism, it allows the narcissist to hide what is happening outside of all the extravagant behaviors and grandiose displays. Let’s explore what happens when the mask of a narcissist is removed.
What Happens When The Narcissistic Mask Comes Off?
The narcissist experiences a narcissistic collapse. Narcissistic collapse happens when a narcissist’s exaggerated self-image is exposed, leading to a total breakdown. In response, they may react angrily, impulsively, or harm towards others to regain control. Though unintentional, this reaction serves as a means for the narcissist to restore their sense of power.
People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) frequently belittle others to uphold the positive image they have of themselves. When their behavior is confronted or questioned, their delicate self-esteem is harmed, leading to intense reactions and abusive behavior towards others.
At Choosing Therapy, they associate the following behaviors with a narcissistic collapse, resulting from the mask of a narcissist coming off:
- Impulsive behaviors
Impulsivity is a defining trait of narcissism. When narcissists are emotionally wounded, they may resort to impulsive actions to feel better. Unprotected sex, gambling, and excessive spending are hallmark signs of a wounded narcissist.
- Mental breakdowns
Narcissists may break down if they feel exposed, humiliated, or out of control. Rage and other impulsive behaviours are examples of narcissistic breakdown symptoms and different ways of displaying extreme mental suffering. Narcissists will use any means to lash at you or harm themselves to deal with the shame.
Rage outbursts are common during an episode of narcissistic collapse. The narcissist believes it is simpler to be angry than to experience uncomfortable feelings of rejection, shame, or embarrassment. Particularly with vindictive narcissists, rage is a common emotion.
- Tarnishing the reputations of others
After a narcissist ends a relationship, especially if they lose control over or access to supply, a smear campaign against them may begin. Smear campaigns aim to damage a person’s community, family, or workplace reputation. To do so, the narcissist may claim that the victim is crazy. A smear campaign ensures the narcissist controls the story and upholds their reputation.
When they feel slighted, covert narcissists may practice self-harming behaviours. During a narcissistic collapse, the narcissist can do this to keep control and regain attention or sympathy.
- Accusing others
A narcissist may level false accusations against another person to divert attention from their actions when experiencing a narcissistic collapse. If they can assign blame to their victim, they can avoid feeling ashamed or embarrassed.
Narcissists may become agitated, have more distressing thoughts, or engage in rituals when experiencing anxiety during a narcissistic collapse. Fear may set in if they worry about exposure, losing control, or not getting enough attention.
A narcissist will refuse to communicate with others to maintain control and make their victim feel guilty or stressed. They try to get a response from their victims to feel better about themselves. This is also known as the silent treatment.
- Sudden discard
If a relationship doesn’t satisfy a narcissist’s needs, they might end it. The narcissist moves on to their next victim whenever they feel the need for a new supply, but they continue to be involved in the victim’s life using manipulative tactics to keep tabs.
Exposing the mask of a narcissistic individual can result in impulsive actions, gaslighting, mental breakdowns, rage, reputation tarnishing, self-harm, false accusations, anxiety, stonewalling, and sudden discards. These behaviors serve to protect their fragile self-esteem and maintain control. It is important to be aware of these patterns for self-protection.
How Do You Unmask A Narcissist?
You do this by learning about narcissism and how to recognize its associated behaviours. Identifying narcissists can be challenging due to their charm, manipulation skills, and lack of self-awareness. They are surprisingly adept at presenting a false public image.
By learning about the behaviors of a narcissist and the causes of these behaviors, you can come up with a plan to expose their true nature, the self they are hiding underneath the mask. Once you know about the typical behaviors associated with narcissism, you can begin exposing them.
One way to expose a narcissist is by highlighting their lies and providing evidence when they slip up. Narcissists often have a history of deceit and struggle to keep track of their lies. When you confront them about a specific lie they told you, they may initially stonewall or become defensive.
They might offer outrageous explanations or shift the blame onto you instead of having a rational discussion. It’s important to be cautious because triggering a narcissistic rage can be dangerous. If you choose to confront them, ensure you have a safe exit strategy.
Additionally, you can lay a trap for the narcissist. Gather solid evidence of their lies and confront them before others who know the situation. Ensure the evidence is indisputable, leaving the narcissist with no escape route other than accepting the truth. It’s important to have witnesses around for your safety during the confrontation.
Over time, narcissists inevitably reveal their true selves. Keeping up the facade becomes exhausting, leading them to expose their true nature carelessly. The truth has a way of surfacing, and as time passes, the narcissist starts feeling a sense of control over you, allowing them to drop their mask.
What Should You Expect From A Narcissist Collapse?
You can expect a range of negative behaviors. When narcissists’ deep-rooted insecurities venture into the light, they reach a breaking point, causing a narcissistic collapse. The unravelling of a narcissist may manifest an inability to function, provoking conflicts and resorting to substance abuse.
The aftermath of a narcissistic collapse frequently leads to intense and harmful projection. Narcissistic projection serves as a defensive strategy for these individuals, allowing them to shield their ego and self-image by projecting their negative qualities onto others. As a result, they may redirect their self-loathing and anger toward unsuspecting individuals.
Occasionally, stressful situations between a parent and child can lead the parent to have a narcissistic collapse. Generally, the parent becomes angry before sinking into depression or withdrawal. In some cases, the narcissistic parent may even threaten to cut off or estrange themselves from their children, and they may manipulate the situation to make it appear as if the child initiated the end of the relationship.
In romantic relationships, narcissistic collapse can manifest as an abrupt and unexpected breakup, leaving the partner confused and abandoned. Although the relationship has seemingly ended, the narcissist may resort to stalking or make persistent attempts to get back together with their ex-partner, especially if they were not the ones to end the relationship.
Even when still in the relationship, the narcissist may shower their partner with affection and gifts followed by withholding affection and love, as a way to manipulate, control, and exert their dominance over you.
A narcissistic collapse can also occur in the workplace. For example, a narcissistic boss may display impulsive behavior, such as abruptly terminating employees, engaging in workplace bullying, or issuing vindictive threats of severe consequences. Furthermore, if an employee resigns, the narcissistic boss might attempt to tarnish their reputation or get them to stay through coercion.
If you are negatively affected by the collapse of a narcissist at work, home, or anywhere else, please reach out for support. Help is available through therapy, support groups, and self-help. Please refer to this article to learn more about protecting yourself from a narcissist’s harmful behaviors.
In conclusion, navigating the world of narcissism can be challenging, as individuals with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) often wear masks to hide their true selves. These masks come in various forms, such as the bully, the coward, the liar, and the fraud, which protect the narcissist’s fragile self-esteem and maintain a sense of control.
However, when the mask is removed, a narcissistic collapse can occur, leading to impulsive behaviors, gaslighting, mental breakdowns, rage, reputation tarnishing, self-harm, false accusations, anxiety, stonewalling, and sudden discards.
Unmasking narcissists requires knowledge and understanding of their behaviors and a cautious approach to ensure personal safety. The truth about a narcissist can emerge by exposing their lies and providing evidence, confronting them in front of witnesses, or allowing their true nature to be revealed over time. However, it’s important to be prepared for the negative behaviors that may follow a narcissistic collapse.
Whether dealing with a narcissistic parent, a romantic partner, or a narcissistic boss in the workplace, seeking support is essential. Therapy, support groups, and self-help resources can guide and assist in protecting oneself from the harmful effects of narcissistic behaviors. Remember, you don’t have to face this alone, and resources are available to help you navigate the complexities of narcissism and safeguard your well-being.
A resilient writer who has emerged from addiction, depression, and anxiety with a renewed sense of purpose and a powerful voice. His journey has shaped his writing, allowing him to explore the complexities of the human condition intimately. Also blogging about mental health at www.medium.com/@Patrickmeowler