This is why narcissists don’t feel bad about their failures

It’s widely understood that narcissistic personality disorder is sometimes a defense mechanism against failure.

Research has also suggested that patterns of grandiosity and an unquenchable thirst for approval may stem from an intense fear of inadequacy.

Both interpretations identify vulnerability as a state narcissists tend to avoid. To do so reliably, those with the disorder wield power and influence like a shield.

When undesirable outcomes inevitably occur, those on the narcissistic spectrum may display varying degrees of social dysfunction.

One day, defeat may cause a narcissist to double-down on their grandiosity. However, in the very same week, the very same narcissist may feel helpless in response to the very same outcome.

“Theories of narcissism emphasize the dynamic processes within and between grandiosity and vulnerability. Research seeking to address this has either not studied grandiosity and vulnerability together or has used dispositional measures to assess what are considered to be momentary states,” the authors of a new paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology write. “The present study took an exploratory approach to studying fluctuations within and between grandiose and vulnerable states. Fluctuations—operationalized as gross variability, instability, and lagged effects—were examined across three samples (two undergraduate and a community sample oversampled for narcissistic features.”

Narcissism, as a mental illness, denotes many facets of perceptual sickness.

Fluctuations in grandiose and vulnerable narcissistic states: A momentary perspective

The new study was co-authored by Elizabeth Edershile and Aiden Wright of the University of Pittsburgh.

The two derived their data from two college student samples and one community sample comprised of 862 participants.

For 10 consecutive days assessments were collected from the study sample. These assessments assessed grandiosity, vulnerability, and self-esteem. The researchers gauged grandiosity via ratings on statements like I feel “glorious,” “prestigious,” “brilliant,” and “powerful.”

Adjectives were used to assess vulnerability: “underappreciated,” “misunderstood,” “ignored,” and “resentful.”

Self-esteem was measured after asking participants to rate themselves on items such as “Right now, I feel that I have a number of good qualities.”

Consistently, respondents who exhibited high grandiose narcissism at once exhibit both grandiosity and occasional bouts of vulnerability at different levels daily. The researchers are unsure why the variations occur but it would seem that grandiose narcissists experience some normal moments of vulnerability before their grandiosity goes into hyperdrive.

Broadly this means, when a narcissist experiences failure they try not to allow it to be an indictment of their actions or quality—even if their failure was of their own design. Of course, this process is in direct contrast with progressing and learning from one’s mistakes.

“Results suggest variability in narcissistic states from moment to moment is moderately associated with dispositional assessments of narcissism. Specifically, individuals who are dispositionally grandiose express both grandiosity and vulnerability, and vary in their overall levels of grandiosity and vulnerability over time. On the other hand, dispositionally vulnerable individuals tend to have high levels of vulnerability and low levels of grandiosity,” the authors continued.

Entitlement plays a key role in the processes that underlie narcissism and narcissistic processes appear unique to the construct and not reflective of broader psychological processes. Future research should consider using similar methods and statistical techniques on different timescales to study dynamics within narcissism”