The Altruistic Narcissist: How to Spot an Altruistic Narcissist (Six Signs)

Dealing with narcissists is always painful. It’s especially difficult when they don’t even seem narcissistic.

Altruistic narcissists strive to give an impression that they’re generous and self-sacrificing.

But when you’re in a relationship with them, you find that their gifts and services come at a steep price.

The following are several signs of an altruistic narcissist.

1. Their public reputation is at odds with how they behave in private

Altruistic narcissists like to be perceived as benevolent. They may volunteer in their community, lead a charitable organization, or play an active role in a religious institution.

Parents may come across as involved and deeply caring, coaching their child’s sports team or helping a teacher as a class parent.

These public activities help narcissists develop a good reputation. Most people, including various relatives and friends, will have no reason to look beneath the surface.

The narcissist can’t maintain their performance constantly. A parent who patiently supervises their child’s field trip may treat their child with impatience and contempt at home.

A doctor charming and kind to patients may abuse their spouse behind closed doors.

If your narcissistic abuser develops a reputation for altruism, you may experience great confusion. You may not understand why they’re singling you out for poor treatment.

Maybe you come to assume that there’s something wrong with you and that you somehow deserve the narcissist’s cruelty.

Once you realize that you’re suffering abuse, you may find it difficult to talk to anyone about it. Because the narcissist has cultivated a public image of goodness, people often won’t want to believe that this sterling individual is capable of cruelty.

Under these circumstances, it’s easier for the narcissist to poison other people against you. They portray you as troubled or wicked while projecting an image of graciousness and long-suffering love.

2. They need an unusual amount of gratitude and praise

Wanting to be appreciated is a natural desire. When your efforts go unrecognized, you experience a sour or bitter feeling.

With narcissists, the need to be appreciated is excessive. Even when they don’t put much effort into something, they regularly expect demonstrations of gratitude and recognition.

A perceived lack of gratitude can provoke a malicious response from them. For example, if they buy you a present, they may expect you to show your pleasure and appreciation in specific ways.

If you don’t sound enthusiastic enough, or if you don’t give them the hug or kiss they’re expecting, they’ll find some way to hurt you.

During public activities, they want to be centered in photos, showered with awards, and held up as role models. Even when they’ve created a self-effacing image, they call attention to their apparent sacrifices and humble nature.

Bragging, exaggerations, and lies are all ways for them to puff up their altruistic achievements and feel superior.

Their thirst for recognition is competitive. If someone is outshining them, they experience bitterness and anger. They may try to downplay the other person’s accomplishments or subtly damage their reputation.

Family and friends aren’t safe from this kind of behavior.

3. They don’t think about what other people truly need

Because narcissists lack empathy, they often don’t try to understand another person’s feelings. They consistently prioritize their viewpoint and emotions.

Sometimes, what they want aligns with what another person wants. In those cases, their gifts and other generous acts can have a genuinely positive impact.

But what happens when there’s a conflict? Depending on how much power they have over the situation, a narcissist usually insists on doing things their way.

Let’s say a child needs to buy a gift for a birthday party. They tell their narcissistic parent that everyone agreed on a $20 maximum per gift.

The parent may disagree with this rule and insist on showing off their generosity by buying something much more expensive.

Or they may despise their child’s friend and decide to buy a used paperback novel in bad condition. If the child protests, the parent will insist that they’re simply following the rule.

In either case, they aren’t considering their child’s need to be on good terms with friends. Their personal feelings take precedence.

If they think they’ll suffer significant harm to their reputation, they may change their mind and reverse their decision.

When working for a nonprofit organization, a narcissist doesn’t necessarily consider the specific needs of each person they’re assisting.

Based on personal convenience and their ideas of what’s right, they force certain kinds of help or advice on people. When anyone objects, the narcissist perceives them as a difficult person and possibly an active threat.

Calling out the narcissist’s behavior isn’t easy, because they insist they’re just helping people. They’re giving their time and money, following certain guidelines, and trying to do what’s best. How can you fault them for that?

4. They set conditions to foster dependence

Offering help is an opportunity for narcissists to tighten their control over people. It gives them another way to manipulate people and punish them if they don’t comply.

A classic example involves narcissistic parents who spend lots of money on their kids. Growing up with such parents, you may never lack new clothes, games, books, or electronic devices.

Superficially, it seems like you have everything you want.

But there are conditions. In exchange for the gifts, your parents expect you to remain dependent on them in unhealthy ways.

As you become a young adult, your parents seek to control your finances, romantic relationships, friendships, and school and job choices.

If you voice objections, they respond with a violent temper or with threats to withhold any kind of support whatsoever. They offer you an all-or-nothing deal, insisting that you accept all of their interference or be left out in the cold.

They also respond with emotional blackmail. They may say, “I do so much for you.” Your objections are met with claims that you’re wicked and ungrateful.

They convince you to be ashamed of any justifiable feelings of anger or fear.

They’re the martyrs, the givers under wrongful attack.

Furthermore, they use their generosity as a free pass for their cruelty. Even as they treat you with contempt, they use gifts to keep you silent, confused, and ashamed.

Superficial transactions become a poor substitute for genuine love and care.

The altruism of a narcissist doesn’t further another person’s growth. It gives the narcissist the dependence, compliance, and appreciation they crave.

5. They use rules to torment you

While claiming to promote the greater good, narcissists like inflict punishment on people.

In parenting and across different professions, rules are necessary to maintain order and promote safety and well-being. Rules can help sustain friendly cooperation and prevent bullying.

When narcissists are responsible for applying the rules, they often relish the opportunity to hurt people. A teacher may single out a student and regularly accuse them of infractions.

A parent may torment their children by making frequent, unannounced changes to household rules.

Forget mercy and fairness. The rules get applied in arbitrary, inconsistent, or rigid ways.

The punishments that the narcissist inflicts may also be unreasonable. For example, they may respond to small mistakes with verbal abuse, physical violence, or destroying the victim’s property.

Narcissists may justify their actions by claiming that the target people are especially troublesome or dangerous. Any chafing against the rules is further evidence that the punishments are necessary.

6. They financially harm people to look good

An altruistic narcissist wants to appear generous and selfless. But what if they’re short on cash or don’t feel like spending their own money?

They may have no problem stealing from other people. Sometimes, they pilfer from a family member’s purse or wallet. Other times, they withdraw substantial amounts from a joint bank account.

They use the money to publicly make donations or buy food, drinks, and generous gifts for their friends and work colleagues.

They also back out of promises. For example, they may have told you they’ll contribute a certain portion of their salary to household expenses.

Instead, the money goes towards promoting their altruistic reputation. You may be left struggling to pay for groceries.

They may try to guilt you and make you feel morally inferior when confronted. They’ll tell you that they’re cheering up their friends or looking out for less fortunate people.

Once you look past the show of selflessness and benevolence, you’ll better understand that you can’t trust the narcissist. At times, their acts of giving may benefit you.

But the larger pattern of behavior reveals manipulation and degradation.

Can a gifted therapist help you too?

If you struggle with anxiety, depression, high-stress levels, relationship issues, or other specific challenges, one-on-one support from a therapist can help a lot.

You don’t need to go through this alone. There’s no shame in getting help!

Thousands of people get tailor-made support from a kind, empathetic, helpful therapist when faced with difficult life situations.

I recommend BetterHelp, which is a sponsor of Personality Unleashed.

It’s private, affordable, and takes place in the comfort of your own home.

Plus, you can talk to your therapist however you feel comfortable, whether through video, phone, or messaging.

Are you ready to break the negativity cycle?

Personality Unleashed readers get 10% off their first month. Click here to learn more.

Similar Posts