We will all meet a narcissist at some point in our life, it’ll be handy if we can spot one quickly before they abuse us. The articles you have seen on narcissists body language give you a caricature version of a narcissist, as if they were writing a villain in a movie. A narcissist is not psychopath (which is how most people see him and and is much easier to write about). Written by someone who grew up with a narcissist, this article we will look at specifically the narcissist body language to look for by giving you an overview how narcissist is formed and their motives. If you are unsure if someone is narcissist or want to be forewarned, read on.
Narcissist Body Language At a Glance
Here is summary of what to look for in a persons body language to see if the are a narcissist. Reading body language is a not a straight forward matter, read the article fully for context and what these behaviors mean.
The narcissist body language tells to look for:
Arrogant, superior posture.
Looking people up and down in disgust or pity.
Talking an open soft posture when engaging in conversation.
Holding Direct Eye Contact A Little too Long
Exaggerating infant like characteristics
In a gathering Standing Aloof
Grand Gestures with hands.
Not making eye contact when talking.
A Narcissists Motivation
Someone with narcissistic personalty disorder (NPD) has developed narcissistic traits as a response to childhood abuse.
The grandiosity, manipulation and all the other behaviors a narcissist uses are a reaction to low self esteem, to avoid anxiety and impaired reality testing. He does this by siphoning reactions and behaviors from other people. The narcissist lives in mentally constructed world.
This is important to understand otherwise you will fall into the trap of believing a narcissist is a pure predator who just wants to feast on you. They can be predators but you need to understand the root of their behavior to make sense of their body language.
If you do not understand the internal mechanisms of a person with NPD then you will make the mistake labeling anyone who has a confident walk or an arrogant attitude as a narcissist.
Narcissist Body Language
Body language is a reflection of the whole person AND the environment, so you cannot look at body language with 100% accuracy. However, it can serve as a warning sign, ie “be careful”, then look further if you need to. But do not use it to make a diagnosis, first impressions are not always accurate.
These behaviours will have stronger impact on you if you are a codependent personality.
Arrogant, Superior Posture.
This type of narcissist body language is a reflection of how the false self wants to be seen. Subconsciously a narcissist is hiding his insecurities, on the conscious level there is genuine feeling of superiority. He feels better than people with their petty emotions and concerns. It may look like he has a very strong sense of confidence but it is a reaction to low self esteem.
Narcissist Body Language: The Arrogant Walk.
Walking with chest out and chin up looking down at people, all as a show of self importance.
Looking People Up and Down in Disgust or Pity.
A person with NPD carries a lot of shame, the false self protects him against seeing or feeling this. When he looks people up and down with a facial expression of disgust or pity it is from the false self perspective, in essence it is saying “you are shameful not I”.
Much of the narcissists behaviour is projecting out what he subconsciously feels about himself. Projection is when we are in denial of things in ourselves so imagine they are not about us but about others.
This might seem contradictory. When a narcissist is getting good supply he is grandiose and arrogant. When the supply is weak or non existent (eg when he is old) his body language will change. He will have hunched shoulders and a self pitying attitude and walk. His eyes will show anger and bitterness. He is saying “A great,amazing man that I am, and no one appreciates me, what was it all for?”. This vulnerable posture is used as a weapon to control people by triggering their empathy. He feels like victim.
The Narcissist Body Language and Taking an Open Soft Posture.
Narcissists tend to take this posture when talking to someone new or to someone they have discarded and now want to have back as a source of supply. They are signalling to the person “You are awesome, now look at me I am really awesome”.
Holding Direct Eye Contact Longer
When he wants to engage someone he will look at them in an idolised way. This is very alluring to an individual who rarely has this kind of attention. Again he is looking to hook the person for reciprocal treatment.
Exaggerating Infant Like Characteristics
Looking at someone like a child would look at their mother. Triggering in the person a parental response. Now making them a source of supply.
The Narcissist Body Language In a Social Gathering
When at a gathering you may see the narcissist standing alone and acting aloof. He is too good to mingle and make an effort. “These inferior people, can come to me to enjoy my amazing presence”.
Grand Hand Gestures.
These gestures are not only to be the center of attention but to show people his superiority over them.
Not Making Eye Contact When Talking.
A narcissist does not see you or interact with you. He interacts with his idea of who you are. The reality he creates in his head is what he is conversing with, easier to do when he does not look at you or even better when he closes his eyes.
Anyone can have these gestures not just a person with NPD. They are signs only when displayed regularly and combined with other behaviors and language. They can give you an indication you are potentially dealing with a narcissist.
The Narcissist Needs Others To Reflect Back Who He Is
To understand his body language, we must look at the false self and what is known as narcissistic supply because they are the core of what it is to be a narcissist. As a narcissist is looking to validate his false self when in a relationship, a relationship of any form with him is never reciprocal.
The False Self and Origins Narcissistic Personality Disorder
The person with NPD has a false self that was created in childhood. It was done so in a reaction to being abused and told by the parent that were not good enough, ugly or dumb.
Even positive feedback like telling the child how good looking they are or or how smart they are can like the negative feedback create a false self. As both objectify the child and do not see the child as an individual. The child is not allowed to express his emotions and desires and is punished if he does. So he creates a false self.
The child does not develop a healthy self because it is never treated as individual with his own inner world, wants and needs. The critical phase of separating from the mother does not happen. He spends the rest of his life trying to emotionally separate from his mother, so creates and mother child dynamic in adult relationships in order play out the separation he never experienced.
The parents negative voices stay in his head (interjects). These run in the back ground while is grandiose positive false self is in the foreground as a response to these voices. A narcissist may have had narcissistic parents but not necessarily.
His Body Language is a Means to Get Narcissistic Supply
Narcissistic supply is attention that validates the false self. So a grandiose false self will want to people and situations to reflect that back, this includes family members. If they do not they will devalued and discarded. Supply can be positive and negative, as long as it fits the narrative of the false self.
He prefers positive but when it is not available negative supply will do. If he can get an emotional reaction out of that his source of supply, that is good. HE has gotten you to react.
The source of the supply does matter though. All sources are welcome but some are low grade. Supply from high status people mean more than others. For example and an unattractive person telling him he is good looking does not hold much weight because he cannot idolize such a person. A Beautiful woman saying it is high grade supply, he can idolise her.
Remember, supply is not about being liked but about attention that validates the narcissists false self.
The body language of a narcissist is a way to garner supply and manipulate a person. The posture he takes will depend on what stage of the relationship he is in. Is he trying to idolise and love bomb to make you a supply or source? or discard you when you know longer giving him supply? They also depend on his stage of life, whether he is getting supply or not and the grade of the supply.
Understand the underlying motives of the narcissist to understand his body language and facial expressions. Also understand the narcissist will be drawn to your behaviour traits. People who have developed a fawn trauma response attract people with NPD for instance.
A narcissist will take advantage of your in built cognitive biases. He will use a persons bias to make quick decisions based on what they perceive and act in a way that he knows will get a certain response from you.
If you have a narcissist in your life you will find this article helpful: Do Narcissists Like receiving Gifts. And if you had a narcissistic parent you will also be drawn to narcissists in adulthood and most likely developed unhealthy trauma response. For more go here: The 4Fs Trauma Model: Fight, Flight, Freeze, Fawn – Which One are You?