The Narcissist’s Paradox—Why Narcissists Label Others as Narcissists


THE TERM “NARCISSIST” has become a buzzword in popular culture, often used to describe someone who is excessively self-centred or self-absorbed. However, a peculiar phenomenon exists within the realm of narcissism: narcissists themselves often accuse others of being narcissists. This paradoxical behaviour raises intriguing questions about the psychological intricacies of narcissism and the motivations behind such accusations. This article explores the reasons why narcissists tend to label their targets as narcissists.

Understanding Narcissism

Before delving into the motivations behind this behaviour, it is essential to understand narcissism. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a psychological condition characterised by a grandiose sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy, and a constant need for admiration. Individuals with NPD often have fragile self-esteem, and their self-worth is contingent upon the approval and validation of others.

Projection: A Defense Mechanism

One of the key psychological mechanisms at play when narcissists label others as narcissists is projection. Projection is a defence mechanism wherein individuals attribute their undesirable traits, impulses, or emotions on to others. In the case of narcissists, their deep-seated insecurities and fear of being perceived as weak or flawed lead them to project their own narcissistic tendencies onto their targets.

Gaslighting: Manipulation and Control

Accusing someone of being a narcissist can serve as a form of gaslighting—a manipulative tactic employed by narcissists to undermine their target’s perception of reality. By constantly labelling their victims as narcissists, the narcissist confuses and destabilises their target, making them doubt their own thoughts and emotions. Gaslighting reinforces the narcissist’s control and dominance over their victim, further reinforcing their own superiority.

Maintaining a Facade

Narcissists often project an image of superiority and perfection to the outside world. When their façade is threatened, such as when their flaws are exposed or their ego is bruised, they may resort to projecting their insecurities onto others. Accusing their targets of narcissism helps them deflect attention away from their own imperfections, allowing them to preserve their self-image as faultless and all-powerful.

Seeking Validation and Empowerment

Labelling others as narcissists can provide narcissists with a sense of validation and empowerment. By convincing themselves and others that they are dealing with a narcissist, they can justify their manipulative behaviour and feel morally superior. This validation helps them maintain their delusion of being faultless, reinforcing their distorted self-perception.


The paradox of narcissists labelling their targets as narcissists reveals the intricate interplay of psychological defence mechanisms, manipulation tactics, and the narcissistic ego. Understanding this behaviour sheds light on the complexities of narcissistic personality disorder and the profound impact it can have on interpersonal relationships. It also emphasises the importance of recognising manipulative tactics and setting boundaries when dealing with individuals who exhibit narcissistic traits.