This week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions is about inverted narcissism. This is where we make everything about us, only it’s that we have an overinflated sense of our inferiority. Narcissists and the narcissistically-inclined, on the other hand, have an overinflated sense of superiority. Exaggerating our flaws and power keeps us locked in a vicious cycle of feelings of low self-worth and blame. I delve into what inverted narcissism is, why we do it, why all humans are narcissistic at times, and how to start breaking the habit.

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5 key topics in this episode

  • Inverted narcissism is delusions of inferiority. We exaggerate how unworthy we are and how much influence we have over other people’s feelings and behaviour. And we secretly feel better about this. In fact, sometimes we use feeling bad, not good enough, as proof that we are a ‘good’ person.
  • Being in unfulfilling and unhealthy relationships with emotionally unavailable and shady people is our attempt at elevating our status and meeting our emotional needs. The idea is that if we can make them change (or we can ‘level up’), then we are finally ‘good enough’.
  • Narcisissts exploit others to advance their self-interests and meet their goals. With inverted narcissism, we exploit ourselves (and allow others to use us) to meet ours. And it’s easy to rationalise that it’s not as problematic. Because we’re willing to exploit ourselves to advance our goals we feel as if it’s compensation for our ‘giving’ with a hidden agenda.
  • Acknowledging that we all have a narcissistic aspect and narcissistic moments 1) doesn’t make us all narcissists and 2) doesn’t erase very real and painful experiences with an actual narcissist or someone who’s narcissistically inclined. Between boundaries, including empathy and allowing ourselves to gain perspective, we gradually realise that something is off and heal, grow and learn. An actual narcissist (or the narcissistically inclined) doesn’t have the empathy levels to do this.
  • Inverted narcissism is another way of confining us to playing roles in our relationships like The Good Girl/Guy, The Scapegoat, The Listener, The Giver, The Rescuer/Fixer/Helper, The Odd One Out. We may have built these stories to keep our love intact for a parent or caregiver or as a way of making ourselves important in the narrative of our childhood in a way that a parent or caregiver failed to. 
Examples of inverted narcissism

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Are you ready to stop silencing and hiding yourself in an attempt to ‘please’ or protect yourself from others? My book, The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (Harper Horizon), is out now.

The Joy of Saying No by Natalie Lue book cover. Subtitle: A simple plan to stop people pleasing, reclaim boundaries, and say yes to the life you want.
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