Narcissists and Jealousy
Jealousy is a pretty common thing. It is a natural reaction to low self-esteem or problems with the way a person views themselves. In narcissistic people, this is no different. The difference is in the way the narcissist feels about themselves. If you have slightly low self-esteem, you might be a little jealous in some situations. If you have none at all, you would be extremely jealous in every situation. This is the problem for the pathologically narcissistic person.
Most of us have been jealous at some point or another. Maybe someone had something that you wished you had, or perhaps your significant other was unfaithful. It's usually pretty specific for most people and it often relates to the normal competitiveness that people feel in different situations or relationships. Narcissists, though, are jealous of everybody over everything. Most seem to believe that everyone else has everything they don't and they are extremely envious and resentful of that. It reminds them of how inadequate they and their circumstances are.
For example, a narcissistic mother may be jealous of her daughter because she believes the daughter is prettier, more successful, gets more attention, has better relationships or any number of other things that the mother is insecure about. However, whereas most people simply mull over this type of jealousy internally because they are embarrassed of it, the narcissistic mother may actually attempt to sabotage the daughter so that she is no longer perceived as more successful in these areas. To a narcissist, every situation is a competition with other people that they need to win - even when that person is their own child.
Narcissistic people believe that it is unfair for others to have things they don't. There was a fairly recent case where a woman killed her upstairs neighbors by setting their apartment on fire, killing both them and the 3 children in there with them. She was jealous because they had a happy relationship and she did not. Rather than improve her own life, this undoubtedly narcissistic person chose instead to destroy the happiness and even the very lives of those who she felt had it better.
This is often a common theme for narcissistic people. Why should others be happy while they suffer? These people were killed simply to make this obviously narcissistic person feel better about herself. Their lives meant absolutely nothing to her; they had no value except how they made her feel. For most people, jealousy means "to envy." For pathologically narcissistic people, jealousy often means "to destroy."
Just like any other person, jealousy happens because pathologically narcissistic people feel inadequate. The problem is that they feel inadequate in every way about every thing, and that they believe they are entitled to destroy things or people because of it. Because narcissists cannot create or sustain self-worth, every bit of it has to come from other people, either directly through attention or indirectly through "contests" where they compare themselves to others and come out the winner. This is a reflexive coping mechanism designed to combat the feelings of pathological self-hatred and shame that narcissists have internalized and often deny. Anytime they are not the "winner" of these constant "contests" they create with other people, that self-hatred and shame shows its face and the narcissist has to take action to avoid, deny or silence it. This is usually when they attempt to neutralize the object they believe is creating the problem for them: the thing they are jealous of.
For example, narcissists that are jealous of attention, support or sympathy others get may engage in smear campaigns designed to ruin the person's good reputation in order to destroy that support, sympathy or attention. Narcissists jealous of co-workers may set them up to fail, tell lies about them or endeavor to get them fired. Narcissists that are jealous of another person's possessions may steal these possessions or ruin them. A narcissistic person that is insecure in a relationship may appear jealous by continuously accusing the other person of infidelity and of having interest in other people; they may also attempt to destroy their partner's confidence or control them in an effort to prevent the partner from finding someone else and leaving.
As with anyone else, a narcissist's jealousy is an expression of problems with self-worth. It's extreme jealousy compared to most people because their lack of self-worth is extreme compared to most people. Their attempts to destroy, control or sabotage situations, things and people they are jealous of, while harmful and even dangerous, are really nothing more than the narcissist saying, "I am not good enough. I cannot compete in this situation because I am no good."
Jealousy in pathologically narcissistic people can result in projection of these feelings, where in order to cope with their feelings of jealousy they accuse others of being jealous of them. A narcissist that is jealous of your success may accuse you of being jealous of their efforts, or of trying to sabotage them. This happens because they are envious of you and not only do they believe you would do something like that because they would, but because feeling jealous of others stems from not feeling good enough, which triggers shame and rage. The only way they have to combat that is to create a defensive scenario where they can try to believe others are jealous of them: "I'm not jealous. I'm not weak. I'm not inadequate. You are! You are jealous of how great I am, or am going to be!" This is pitiful to some and maddening to others, but as with everything about narcissistic people, you can't take it personally. In the end, it's really not even about you. It's about them and their never-ending quest to validate themselves at the expense of other people.
It's important not to get caught in the cycle of trying to "help" narcissists with their self-worth problems by attempting to prove to them that they are wrong. It makes sense to do that and with non-narcissistic people it may work, but with pathologically narcissistic people, it's often a waste of time. Regardless of what they say or who they blame, these feelings of self-hatred, shame and their lack of self-worth are probably not the result of anything anyone is doing to them now. They have been part of the narcissist's internal makeup for years and years. This is not a situation that can be fixed with reassurance, and you will only exhaust yourself trying. People who have been involved with narcissists for extended periods of time already know that there is nothing you can say or do to convince a narcissist of anything. It just doesn't matter. Everything you do will be twisted into proof that validates what they already feel and already believe, even if it makes no sense at all. State your truth by all means, but don't exhaust yourself by repeatedly explaining and defending yourself against things that didn't happen, motives you don't have or emotions you don't feel. There is just no way to prove something to someone who is unable or unwilling to believe it.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 The Little Shaman