How The Narcissist Sees You: Narcissistic Supply Explained

Written by Angela Atkinson

If you’ve ever met a malignant narcissist or someone who has the traits consistent with narcissistic personality disorder, chances are that you know someone who is addicted to narcissistic supply. Most malignant narcissists are addicted to admiration, at least on some level, and nearly all of them are addicted to having people “give themselves” to them!

If you are among the people the narcissist considers to be part of their inner circle, or if you’re the spouse, child, or another family member, you are most likely being used for narcissistic supply, or you were in the past. They demand your respect even though they don’t earn it. They demand your support, but they never return the favor, unless it benefits them to do so. They love being told that they are amazing – and they love it when you freak out and scream and act crazy. That’s especially true when they drive you to it. They want attention whether it is positive or negative. That also means they demand compliments, money, sex, and anything else that helps them keep their false self alive.

The continuous attention and admiration that the narcissist gets from you help to feed their over-blown, bloated, secretly non-existent sense of self-worth and esteem – that false self they project to the outside world. In many cases, narcissists are able to summon up a powerful kind of charm and charisma that seems to help them keep getting more and more attention, assuring a constant stream of narcissistic supply coming their way.

What is Narcissistic Supply?

Narcissistic supply means attention, admiration, emotional energy, and other kinds of “services” the narcissist requires in order to function and to maintain their ego. It can involve smile attention, or sex, money, caregiving (and caretaking), and more. The narcissist’s need for your emotional energy can be likened to the mythical vampire’s need for blood. They require it to survive. It nourishes them and keeps them feeling comfortable with their lives. They get their narcissistic supply from people, but in some cases, they might even get it from a pet or group of people.

What does it mean when you call someone “a narcissistic supply?”

In the narcissistic abuse recovery community, we often refer to the victim of the abusive narcissist as “the narcissistic supply.” What we really mean is the “source of narcissistic supply,” and this is sometimes misunderstood. People might think by calling ourselves “supply” we are minimizing ourselves. But what we are doing is acknowledging that the abusers in our lives only saw us for what we could provide to them – not for what and who we actually are. In other words, we are reminding ourselves that, as a “narcissistic supply,” we are used by the narcissist to get attention, validation, admiration – all the “supply” they need to feed their ego.

What qualities do narcissists look for in a source of narcissistic supply?

There are certain qualities that make someone feel more likely to be used as a source of narcissistic supply. These include the following.

  • Empathetic (especially when it means you react quickly to their extreme emotions).
  • Kind and compassionate (but they’ll call you abusive for setting a healthy boundary).
  • Willing to put others first (though they’ll always accuse you of being selfish).
  • Modest about your good qualities (so your ego won’t require much of them – they never validate you).
  • Attractive (even though they will tell you otherwise to hurt you).
  • Intelligent (even though they will constantly make you doubt it).
  • Independent and able to entertain yourself (so they can ignore you when they want to).
  • Willing to drop everything for them and do whatever they want, when they want, without question (because they need your attention when they need it, but they want you to leave them alone when they want that).
  • Flexible and willing to change for them (though they’ll literally never return the favor).
  • Loyal (because, obviously, they deserve loyalty, despite the fact that you don’t, according to them).
  • Low or reduced self-esteem (often due to having grown up in a toxic family or having previously have endured an abusive relationship of any kind (because it makes you more likely to accept abuse again and/or to have lower standards, along with a higher threshold for abuse, making you more tolerant and accepting of their abuse).
  • Socially brag-worthy (In other words, they’ll be proud to show you off and claim you as their property – even though they’ll do everything in your power to make you feel completely worthless behind closed doors. They do this because it keeps you from believing you can do any better. This, along with all of their other manipulations, is designed to keep you around if and when they want you).

What kind of people typically attract narcissists? 

Let’s talk about the types of people who attract narcissists. In this video, I’ll fill you in on exactly who narcissists are seeking out for supply and why.

 

How does the narcissist see you?

Whether you are a child of a narcissistic parent, a co-worker to a narcissist, or someone who has or had a narcissistic partner, you could be a source of narcissistic supply for them. Many have a whole circle of supply, which we sometimes call a narcissistic harem.

As a source of narcissistic supply, the narcissist sees you as someone who gives them something they need. This could be simply attention and admiration, or much more. In most cases, they may also get supply out of scaring you or making you cry, or out of making you chase them or worry about them.

While they may say otherwise, the narcissist sees you as a product and/or a service – or, in many cases, as an extension of themselves. And while they may claim to love you, what they really love is what you can do for them. They love that you are among the people who provide them what they “need,” and yet, sadly they can never love or feel any compassionate empathy for you.

What happens if you refuse to keep providing narcissistic supply? 

The fact that they see you as a source of narcissistic supply leads the narcissist to, on so many levels, literally NEED you. And that is exactly why you’re likely to see a fit of narcissistic rage if they start doubting your devotion. FOr example, you might suddenly decide you’re going to start taking care of yourself because you’ve recognized that you have recently slipped in that area. As you do this, you might even start setting a few boundaries and feeling even better.

How does the narcissist feel when you cut off their source of narcissistic supply?

This will lead you to start questioning them and demanding the respect you’re due. They might notice that you’re not bending to their wishes anymore. And of course, being as self-focused as they are, they won’t be interested in your personal growth. All they see is that their source of narcissistic supply might suddenly be cut off. That scares them.

Just for reference, close your eyes for a second and imagine how you feel when you are facing a power outage. If you’re anything like me, you might get a little irritated (or more than a little), especially if you are busy on a particular day and need the power to work on your computer. The longer it is out, the angrier you become.

Or, imagine how you’d feel if you were suddenly forced to fast for 48 hours and you’re not prepared. You’re going to stay hungry (and if we’re being honest, maybe a little hangry, at the very least). And you’re going to be pretty cranky.

Both of these examples offer a bit of insight into how the narcissist feels when they are deprived of narcissistic supply.

A narcissist will always look for a source of supply even if you are no longer that source if you go no contact. And if they find a source of supply before you leave them, then they will discard you and will end up hoovering if their new source of supply ‘dries up’.

How Narcissists Test You: 10 Ways They Know You’ll Make a Good Narcissistic Supply 

How do narcissists test someone to find out if they’ll be a good long-term source of narcissistic supply? This is how narcissists test you to see if you will be a good source of narcissistic supply.

More Resources on Narcissistic Supply

Resources for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support

Helpful Reading for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors

 

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