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The four faces of narcissism: The Exhibitionist Narcissist

The four faces of narcissism: The Exhibitionist Narcissist

If your loved one has an inflated sense of self, indulges in high risk behaviours, or is controlling, then you may be dealing with an exhibitionist narcissist

Although narcissistic behaviours are predictable, people with narcissistic personality disorder are tricky to identify because they present themselves outwardly in one of four very different ways.

Expert Dr Supriya McKenna demystifies the types, starting with the Exhibitionist Narcissist. 

Exhibitionist Narcissist behaviours at work and home

Exhibitionist narcissist being image conscious at workAn exhibitionist narcissist is extremely image conscious, and will go out of their way to let you know how successful they are

At 46, James still turns heads. When he strides into a restaurant there’s a palpable change in energy and a momentary hush, as women peer at him from behind menus.

He carries himself with a confidence bordering on arrogance and appears far more handsome than he really is. James’s clever wit and charisma draw people to him, like moths to a flame. 

James is a master of impression management—image is everything, and even his thick hair is a result of expensive lotion he’s been using for decades. A regular gym-goer, James boasts (to his third wife, Tori) that he pumps much heavier weights than all the younger men there.

Finance director James worked with incredible focus to rise through the ranks, but only his admiring subordinates really appreciate just how good he is at his job. He’ll talk for hours about the multimillions that he’s responsible for, but he won’t ask you about yourself or remember your children’s names. 

"James is a master of impression management—image is everything"

Money is only ever spent by James on things that bring in other people’s admiration, attention or envy, such as swanky holidays and conspicuous consumption, but he won’t reduce the mortgage capital or save for the children’s education.

He’s also a man of high risk, extravagant hobbies—climbing mountains in Nepal, sailing his own yacht and even flying helicopters. He ignores Tori’s worries about these extreme activities, instead scoffing at how boring other people are. 

At home James’s sole contribution to the housework is to iron his own shirts, which he "jokingly" blames on Tori’s domestic ineptitude.

He’s far too lazy to clean his obscenely expensive car, which he litters with snack wrappers, paper cups and drinks cans. Tori hates travelling in it, but if she comments she’ll be accused of "having OCD" (though James is sure to have the car valeted if he’s giving anyone else a lift).

To add insult to injury, he drives like he is invincible, terrifying his passengers. Speed limits and rules definitely don’t apply to him. 

The Exhibitionist Narcissist in relationships

Exhibitionist narcissist controlling partner in relationshipExhibitionist narcissists can exhibit controlling behaviours and jealousy

Tori feels completely uncherished, but no longer expresses her dissatisfaction. After all, she doesn’t have to work, as James frequently and petulantly reminds her.

Outsiders think she’s the luckiest woman in the world, with her nice house, financial security and charismatic husband—she has no right to be unhappy. 

When they first met, Tori was a professional chef and James proudly supported her aspirations to own a restaurant. At last, she’d found her wickedly adorable soulmate, with whom there was no power struggle. He was a dream come true; her perfect match. 

But little by little, Tori lost faith in her abilities. It started with James not wanting her to cook for him at weekends, preferring to eat out with her instead—a treat. But eventually he stopped eating at home completely, having late dinners at work instead.

After years of him pointing out every failed local eatery, Tori gave up her dream and reluctantly became a "lady of leisure" instead.

Once they had the twins, James’s working hours increased. He’d sleep with earplugs, leaving exhausted Tori to do all the night feeds.

He still only plays with the children when they are on good form or in front of company—never when fractious. He tosses them, giggling, into the air and kicks and throws balls for them inside the house, as Tori runs to protect ornaments and pictures.

"If she even smiles at a waiter or chats to the postman he flies off the handle, accusing her of flirting or cheating"

She knows better than to spoil his "quality time" with them by commenting. It feels like having three children, not two.

James boasts about the twins endlessly, and has adorable family pictures on his office desk. His secretaries are jealous of Tori, with her perfect life and husband, who (from what James says) she doesn’t even appreciate.

They’ve not noticed the discrepancy between James’s claims that she’s a terrible cook and the incredible cakes she bakes for their birthdays (dates that James invariably forgets).

Is Tori being oversuspicious when James takes his young PA, Milly, out for drinks to "thank her for hard work"? James often accuses Tori of being insanely jealous and controlling—but if she even smiles at a waiter or chats to the postman he flies off the handle, accusing her of flirting or cheating.

And when her sister got breast cancer, Tori was distraught—but James dismissed her worrying as "pointless" because "no one dies from cancer anymore". She almost believed him, he sounded so sure. 

At first, James had wanted it to be "just the two of them" and couldn’t bear for them to be apart. She was consumed by his attentiveness and slowly her friends dropped away, leaving just a handful. 

But James has never had any real friends—just sycophants like Milly, who has put her life on hold for him, and is waiting for him to leave Tori. 

Typical characteristics of Exhibitionist Narcissistic Personality Disorder

James is a typical exhibitionist narcissist. He’s grandiose, with a haughty air of superiority, and he inflates his abilities and achievements. He has magnetic allure and devastating charisma, and is vain and image-conscious. 

But underneath the façade, he can’t relate to (or care about) others’ feelings. He blatantly disregards rules and sees menial or boring jobs as beneath him, so exploits others to do them.

"He’s grandiose, with a haughty air of superiority, and he inflates his abilities and achievements"

He plays the victim, flying off the handle at any perceived slight, and devalues others until they lose their self-confidence.

He socially isolates his partner, projects his own poor behaviour on to her, and gaslights her so she questions her reality and the validity of her feelings. He badmouths her to others and "triangulates" her with his PA, making her feel insecure, whilst leading other women on with false promises.

His children are mere accessories, and his love for them is purely conditional. 

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