Have you heard about grandiose narcissism and vulnerable narcissism? This distinction is not known by many.

We are all familiar with the personality type of the narcissist, but now researchers have defined the narcissism into two very distinct categories: the grandiose narcissism and the vulnerable narcissism.

Whilst we might recognise that all narcissists have some form of grandiose tendencies, how can they also be defined as vulnerable?

All narcissists have a grandiose sense of self, as they feel superior to everyone else and show a lack of empathy and increased arrogance towards others.

But look closely and you will find differences that are not so subtle.

Characteristics of Grandiose Narcissism

Grandiose narcissists are supremely confident, show no signs of vulnerability and enjoy an extremely high sense of self-esteem. They believe, from an early age, that they are entitled and demand respect and adoration, otherwise, they leave.

People with grandiose narcissism were probably treated like royalty when they were children, which has left them with an over-exaggerated sense of entitlement.

They will have numerous affairs if they are in a relationship and be open about them to their partner and the outside world. They are extremely cold individuals who appear to have a barrier around them which protects them. But should someone question their achievements, then they quickly become aggressive and dominant.

Those with grandiose narcissism judge others very quickly and never show their emotions. Even if they are anxious or worried, you will never see this side of them.

Grandiose narcissists tend to be the top earning managers and CEOs, successful celebrities or politicians who are at the top of their career. They are ruthless at getting what they want: success, admiration and recognition. They will stop at nothing to achieve these goals and do not care who they destroy on the way.

Characteristics of Vulnerable Narcissism

Vulnerable narcissists, on the other hand, have very low self-esteem and extremely fragile egos, as from an early age they are compensating for the neglect shown to them by their parents. As such they use certain behaviours as a coping mechanism for deep-seated fears of inadequacy.

It is generally accepted that people with vulnerable narcissism are much more likely to have been abused during childhood, which has left them with an overwhelming desire for attention and recognition.

If they are in a relationship, it will matter to them how they are perceived by their partner. Despite this, they will still have affairs, but will not broadcast them as the grandiose narcissist does. In fact, they will accuse their partners of cheating and need constant reassurance from them that they are being faithful.

Although vulnerable narcissists require the same admiration that grandiose ones do, if they do not receive it, instead of becoming aggressive and violent, the vulnerable narcissist will feel emotionally unstable. They will feel anxious and be paranoid that they are being victimised.

Those with vulnerable narcissism fear rejection first and foremost but seem to take great pleasure in playing hard done by in life and relationships. They crave pity and use childish behaviours such as whining, crying, playing the drama queen, to get what they need. They are hypersensitive to criticism as they cannot stand looking inferior in front of an audience.

Out of the two types of narcissist, the vulnerable one is the easiest to get on with, at first, until their constant demands wear you out. They require constant validation, without giving anything back into the relationship.

Dealing with a grandiose or vulnerable narcissist

Having a narcissist in your life is difficult, to say the least, but knowing what type you are dealing with can be immensely helpful. Understanding whether the narcissist in your life is grandiose or vulnerable gives you the power to decide what the best way forward is when you interact with them.

Knowledge is empowering yourself to determine what the narcissist is capable of doing and how you can protect yourself against any such attack.

It is important to recognise that if a partner, work colleague or friend is not capable of acknowledging how you are feeling and celebrating in your achievements in life, they are probably a grandiose or vulnerable narcissist, and neither is a good choice for you in the long run.


  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com
  2. https://scholarcommons.sc.edu

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