Do you feel that you are superior to the people around you? Do people around you feel frustrated with you asking them to say that you are right and well-liked? You are probably going through ‘Vulnerable Narcissism.’ Although you feel that you are superior but deep down, it might be because of insecurity and shame. In this article, let me help you understand what exactly vulnerable narcissism is, its causes, and how you can work toward overcoming these thoughts.
“I don’t care what you think unless it is about me.” – Kurt Cobain 
What is Vulnerable Narcissism?
There are countless shows and movies based on lead characters showing traits of being egoistic, self-obsessed, and having a superiority complex. Remember the movie ‘The Devil Wears Prada?’ Miranda, the editor-in-chief of a high-end fashion magazine, thinks that the world revolves around her. She dictates her needs left, right, and center, and the people around her are obligated to work as per her, or else they will get fired. But, deep down, she knew she did all of that only to save her own job.
We all have weaknesses and weak days where we feel quite vulnerable. But, if you mask it behind ego, self-centeredness, and fake authority, then that’s what ‘Vulnerable Narcissism’ is all about.
If you are a vulnerable narcissist, you might have a strong desire for attention and that people should love you, but you would even try to hide from the spotlight. This is because, unlike grandiose narcissists, deep down, you might feel insecure and inadequate. To hide this and to protect your image in front of others, you might work toward self-enhancement strategies .
How to Spot the Signs of Vulnerable Narcissism?
While it is easy to notice a grandiose narcissist, you being a vulnerable narcissist, can hide the signs of you being one. Here’s how to spot the signs of vulnerable narcissism :
- You might have an unstable sense of your self-worth, a one-time feeling that can conquer the world and the other feeling like you are good for nothing.
- When someone criticizes you or rejects your ideas, you might react by being defensive, angry, or just simply withdrawing from everything.
- You might want people to compliment and reassure you constantly for even the smallest task you did. That is how you know how to keep your self-esteem high.
- You might not be able to control or manage your emotions. You might overreact even at the idea of rejection. And even the smallest issues can hurt you deeply.
- You might find it difficult to form and maintain relationships.
- You might not be able to empathize with people around you.
- You might interrupt people frequently and want attention to yourself, even if it hurts or harms another person.
What are the Causes of Vulnerable Narcissism?
Vulnerable narcissism has its roots in our genes, our upbringing, and how we cope with situations :
- Childhood Experiences: If you are a vulnerable narcissist, then it’s highly likely that you grew up in an insecure environment where your parents or caregivers did not show you love but rather always criticized you. Due to these experiences in your childhood, you might end up having a shakable sense of self-worth and the constant need to get approval from the outside world.
- Genetic and Biological Factors: It’s also possible that the traits of vulnerable narcissism could be going down generations. As these feelings can alter the very DNA of a person, you could be having these ups and downs because of your genes.
- Social and Cultural Influences: Our society values people who have a sense of individuality and those who have achieved certain good things in life. So, if you have been an overachiever all your life, specifically materialistic, then the appreciation from society could be the reason behind you asking for validation from the outside world. In fact, certain cultures promote competitiveness.
- Coping Mechanisms: You might have developed vulnerable narcissism just to hide your inferiority complex. It’s possible that you feel inadequate, shameful, or even emotional pain. So, just to hide these emotions from the world, you could be showing yourself as a self-obsessed and absolutely correct person.
What are the Consequences of Vulnerable Narcissism?
Vulnerable Narcissism can impact you and the people around you in a lot of ways :
- You might have multiple emotional highs and lows.
- You might find it difficult to control and manage these emotions.
- You might be more prone to anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, etc.
- You might not be able to handle criticism and rejection without taking it to heart.
- You might find it difficult to form and maintain healthy relationships, romantic or otherwise.
- You might put your needs above everyone else’s, leading to issues with emotional bonding.
- You might even struggle with your relationship at the workplace.
- Your productivity can go down because of a lack of appreciation, validation, and attention at work.
- You might easily get distracted at work, harming any projects that require teamwork.
- You might feel inadequate, shameful, and distressed in general.
- You might try to evaluate yourself every now and then and have a consistent fear of rejection.
- You might start feeling lonely.
How to Overcome Vulnerable Narcissism?
As complex and challenging vulnerable narcissism might seem, you can overcome these deep-rooted emotions  :
- Psychotherapy: If you visit a psychologist, they may use cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or psychodynamic therapy to help you with your signs of vulnerable narcissism. Since this therapy helps you to identify and challenge your thoughts and beliefs, you can actually get rid of all your worries and fears in an effective way. That way, you can build a stronger and healthier sense of self-worth. In fact, you would be able to become more empathetic toward people around you.
- Mindfulness and Self-Reflection: Just sit with yourself and try to sort your thoughts and understand why you’re feeling inferior and why you’re trying to hide it behind the mask of being superior. You can even use journaling and mindfulness techniques and learn to be in the present rather than in the past or in the future. That way, you can address all your insecurities and move toward personal growth.
- Building Supportive Relationships: Just try talking to people without judging them or cutting their words and thoughts. Try to maintain a healthy relationship with them. That way, you can be more empathetic and respectful. These relationships around you can help you fight the urge to have all the attention to ourself.
- Challenging Cognitive Distortions: So, because your thought patterns are what bother you the most as a vulnerable narcissist, keep a check n these thoughts and see what you can do to counter them. When you challenge these thoughts, you can reduce the need for validation for the people around you.
- Developing Self-Compassion: Last but not least, you need to be kind to yourself. You need to understand and accept yourself for who you are. You are complete in your own way. That way, you can stop feeling inadequate and shameful.
It is essential to consult with a mental health professional for personalized guidance and support tailored to one’s specific needs and circumstances .
Vulnerable narcissism is a psychological construct characterized by fragile self-esteem, an intense need for validation, and a mix of self-centeredness and insecurity. It can result from genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Individuals with vulnerable narcissism often experience emotional instability, impaired relationships, and work difficulties. Overcoming this trait may involve psychotherapy, mindfulness, building supportive relationships, challenging cognitive distortions, and developing self-compassion. Seeking professional help is crucial in addressing vulnerable narcissism and promoting psychological well-being.
If you face vulnerable narcissism, connect with our expert counselors or explore more content at United We Care! At United We Care, a team of wellness and mental health experts will guide you with the best methods for your well-being.
“A quote by Kurt Cobain,” Quote by Kurt Cobain: “I don’t care what you think unless it is about me.” https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/338969-i-don-t-care-what-you-think-unless-it-is-about
 M. Travers, “A New Study Explores The Fragile Reality Of A ‘Vulnerable Narcissist,’” Forbes, Mar. 29, 2022. https://www.forbes.com/sites/traversmark/2022/03/29/a-new-study-explores-the-fragile-reality-of-a-vulnerable-narcissist/
 S. Casale, “Psychological Distress Profiles of Young Adults With Vulnerable Narcissism Traits,” Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease, vol. 210, no. 6, pp. 426–431, Nov. 2021, doi: 10.1097/nmd.0000000000001455.
 N. Wirtz and T. Rigotti, “When grandiose meets vulnerable: narcissism and well-being in the organizational context,” European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, vol. 29, no. 4, pp. 556–569, Feb. 2020, doi: 10.1080/1359432x.2020.1731474.
 A. Golec de Zavala and D. Lantos, “Collective Narcissism and Its Social Consequences: The Bad and the Ugly,” Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 273–278, Jun. 2020, doi: 10.1177/0963721420917703.
 D.- Life Coach, “Overcoming Vulnerable Narcissism,” Donovan – Johannesburg Life Coach, Feb. 24, 2023. https://www.donovanlifecoach.co.za/blog/overcoming-vulnerable-narcissism/