Have you ever observed the obsessive look in someone’s eyes as they stare at you intently? If that gaze makes you feel uncomfortable, you may have been subjected to the narcissistic stare.
This phenomenon is noted by many, the ways in which a narcissist will look at you as if they are studying your every move in order to calculate their every response. If you’ve ever dealt with narcissists in your personal or professional life, as I have, you will notice that they do spend a great deal of time thoroughly checking you out.
As soon as you become aware of that unnerving stare, the narcissist will quickly look away, not wanting to be found out.
If you’ve been subjected to the narcissist stare and been disturbed or confused by its intensity, read on for an explanation of what it is and why they do it. You can also check out this post to see how to disarm a narcissist who has targeted you.
Look into My Eyes
Why do narcissists stare at you so intensely? There are various reasons as to why they do this, from wanting to study your actions and reactions to needing to see their own idealized self reflected back to them. Because narcissists struggle with a clear sense of self, they look to others for cues and for their narcissistic supply of attention and affirmation.
Narcissists aren’t very self-assured, deep down, and they rely on others to provide them with cues as to how to behave in certain circumstances. Now, this doesn’t always mean that they will behave according to social norms—indeed, often they will behave in defiantly oppositional ways—but they will use their assessment of another’s behavior to gage the temperature of the room, as it were.
A narcissist may stare at you because they want you to notice them or to be attracted to them—their intensity stands in for a true interest in you. They are looking for your response, not for who you are. They might also be intent on making someone else jealous—their superiority tells them that you’d choose them over anyone else—or it might simply be to intimidate you. When charm fails, the narcissist often reverts to domination.
External Value, Internal Emptiness
Because narcissists lack an internal compass, they often rely on and place value in the external façade. This includes both physical attractiveness and behaviors they find acceptable. So, they will study others in order to figure out how to mimic the person they want to be. They might pick up your communication style or mirror your displays of compassion.
Really, what they are doing is practicing or playing at being a “regular” person. Internally, they are still the same insecure person reliant on the attention of others and the inflated ego or exaggerated accomplishments for their self-confidence. In this way, they are similar to an alcoholic or other type of addict. But externally, they have learned to mimic behaviors that appear to generate positive reactions from others.
They are also intent on receiving as much attention as possible, so studying your style and mirroring it helps them to reel you in. If you are already involved in a relationship with the narcissist, then they may stare at you to gage how much you are still invested in them. They don’t want your attention to wander elsewhere, because they cannot rely on their internal sense of self for stability.
Reflection and Self-Reflection
Just as Narcissus, in the ancient Greek myth, fell in love with his own reflection, so too does the modern-day narcissist need to be enamored of their own reflection—as refracted in your eyes. Thus, a narcissist also stares in order to see their ideal selves reflected back to them. They crave validation from you, because they cannot depend on their diminished internal worth.
Because the narcissist is painfully aware that the image they project might not be appropriate or socially acceptable, they are reliant on your assessment of them. They seek out your unconditional support and need to know that you believe them, believe in them, so they can construct a sense of self-esteem. They lack a stable foundation, and your admiration is crucial to their shaky self-confidence.
If you disrupt their vision of who they pretend to be or discontinue your validation, then the narcissist will erupt in anger, either belittling you or railing against you. Remember that you are their mirror. If that mirror no longer shows them an admirable, idealized image, then they are hurt and confused which manifests itself as rage. Any crack in the mirror is a fissure in their foundation.
Intimidation and Control
Thus, narcissists also stare to regain the upper hand. If their mirror no longer shows them what they want, then they will stare and stare with as much intensity as they can muster in order to intimidate. It is as if their gaze is willing you back into submission.
If the power of their words and their charm fails to coax you back into validating their egos, then their aggressive gaze might do the trick. Their purpose is to make you feel scrutinized, judged, and inferior to them. Once you look away from that penetrating stare, the narcissist feels that they have won a victory, that they have scared you into submission.
This is also about threatening you. They stare at you as if to say “I’m always watching and waiting for you to make a misstep.” This kind of intimidation keeps you under the thrall of the narcissist. It keeps you obediently providing the narcissistic supply because you fear suffering the consequences of the narcissist’s wrath.
The narcissist stare is an uncomfortable and even intimidating tactic to ensure that the narcissist receives enough attention and validation to maintain a wobbly sense of self-confidence. They might stare at you for cues as to how to behave in a way that guarantees that attention and validation. Or they might stare at you to see their ideal self reflected back at them.
The power of the gaze is unmatched by much else in terms of sheer intensity, and narcissists employ it both furtively and obviously to get what they want. Whether it’s attention or intimidation, the narcissist’s stare is an unnerving glare when directed at you. Their powerful gaze is also often combined with love-bombing, and you can learn more about that in this blog post.
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