Grandiose and Vulnerable Narcissism

Psychologists who study narcissism often describe two different types: grandiose and vulnerable. All narcissists are grandiose, in that they feel superior to other people. Yet some narcissists seem secure in their grandiosity, while others seem vulnerable. Some psychologists feel that these are actually two separate subtypes of narcissism. Some psychologists believe that the vulnerable narcissists are secretly suffering from low self‐esteem, deep down. I disagree. It makes no sense to claim that a narcissist of any kind is suffering from low self‐esteem, any more than you can say that someone with a fever is secretly suffering from low body temperature. Narcissism and low self‐esteem are mutually contradictory concepts. By definition, you cannot have both problems at the same time. Also, I think that the difference between the narcissists that are perceived as grandiose and those that are perceived as vulnerable is largely their social context, or sometimes their level of social skills. Grandiose narcissists can go from grandiose to vulnerable to downright malignant in a heartbeat, if they feel that they are being challenged for dominance. Vulnerable narcissists do seem insecure, but the problem is not low self-esteem—it is low social rank. They are struggling for a feeling of social dominance that seems to elude them.

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