11 Ways Narcissists Use Shame To Control You

Narcissists are unable to deal with their shame, so they project it onto you.

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A weakness of a narcissist is their extreme hatred of being embarrassed. There is nothing worse for them than having someone point out even the slightest fault. Ironically, they have no problem openly doing this to others.

Narcissists often have a complex relationship with shame, as they strive to maintain a grandiose and perfect image of themselves. They are highly sensitive to criticism or any perceived threat to their self-esteem, which triggers deep feelings of shame.


However, instead of confronting and processing their shame, they tend to project it onto others by belittling or shaming them, in an attempt to protect their fragile ego. Paradoxically, this avoidance of shame can further isolate narcissists and perpetuate a cycle of unhealthy behaviors and relationships.

In fact, one study found that this method of casting shame allows them to feel superior while minimizing any impact the other person might have. It also serves as a way of discounting any future comments the other person uses to embarrass the narcissist.

Basically, narcissists are beating the other person to the first punch. In order to avoid being a victim of narcissistic shame, a person needs to understand what it looks like.


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Here are 11 ways narcissists use shame to control you.

1. They claim they're trying to 'keep you humble,' but really, they're humiliating you.

A narcissist will retell another person's story adding their own flare of additional shame. This can be done in front of others or privately. It usually happens after the other person has achieved some level of accomplishment.

The narcissist will state that they are only trying to keep the other person humble, but in reality, they are trying to humiliate them.


2. They gather information about you, then use it against you.

Narcissists love to gather information about a person and store it away for later abuse. They use their charm to entice a person to share confidential details, especially ones that caused the other person embarrassment.

Once gathered, the narcissist uses the story to keep the other person in check and constantly worried about when the information will come out.

3. They exaggerate your faults.

No one is perfect... except for the narcissist. The narcissist is very good at identifying the faults of others and even better at passive-aggressively commenting on them. This is a way of putting the other person "in their place."

When confronted, they often say, "I was only joking," or that person "can't take a joke."


4. They play the victim.

Narcissists are talented at exasperating others and then using their reactions as justification for becoming the real victim. Regardless of how hard the narcissist incited the other person, the angry reaction to the provocation is viewed as shameful.

The other person who usually feels bad for their reaction allows the narcissist to play the victim card, and thereby surrenders control to the narcissist.

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5. They shift blame.

Whenever something goes wrong, the narcissist shifts all of the blame to the other person. The other person who may have done one thing wrong allows the narcissist to dump more than their fair share of the responsibility.


6. They belittle you.

In any narcissistic relationship, the narcissist wants to be seen as the adult and the other person as the child. This belittlement is done in several condescending ways such as literally talking down, calling the other person immature, and saying the other person needs to grow up.

The implication is that the narcissist is more mature and has developed beyond the level of the other person.

7. They religiously guilt you.​

It doesn't matter what the religion of the narcissist or the other person is. In every religion, there are a set of standards and expectations. The narcissist will use the other person's religious beliefs to guilt them into acting a certain way. They might even go as far to say, "God told me you need to..."

8. They claim you're 'too defensive.'

The narcissist will use personal attacks to put the other person on the defense. The other person will get so caught up in defending their name or character that they will miss the next attack.


"Look how defensive you are, you must have done something wrong," the narcissist will say. This is a checkmate position because the other person has nowhere to go.

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9. They talk above you.

Instead of talking down (baby talk), the narcissist will talk over the other person's knowledge level. Even if the other person is more intelligent, the narcissist will talk in circles with an air of authority to force the other person into an inferior position.

They will use sophisticated vocabulary, physical posturing (such as looking down at the other person), and embellishment of details to disguise the real point of shaming the other person.


10. They constantly try to outperform you.

It doesn't matter what the other person has accomplished; the narcissist did it first, better, and more efficiently.

By outperforming the other person, the narcissist minimizes the other person's accomplishments in comparison to their own. This produces an "I can never be good enough" feeling in the other person.

11. Their first impressions are impeccable.

A narcissist is very aware of how they look and appear to others. Frequently, they are dressed in designer clothing with immaculate grooming. Not a hair is ever out of place.


This is not just for the narcissist; rather, their perfectionistic appearance is used to demean others. Comments like, "They don't take care of themselves," or "It doesn't take a lot of effort to look better" are typical.

When a person can see a punch coming, it is easier to dodge. Resist the temptation to attack first with a narcissist, which will only intensify their reaction. Instead, deflect and distract to avoid becoming a target.

If you or someone you know is the victim of abuse, help is available. Visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). If you’re unable to speak safely, text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474.

RELATED: What Happens To Narcissists When Other People Realize They're Narcissists


Christine Hammond, LMHC, NCC is a leading mental health influencer, author, and guest speaker. She is the award-winning author of "The Exhausted Woman's Handbook". Her work has been featured in Psych Central and Midland Daily News.