If you have a narcissist in your life, you’ve likely noticed that they always seem tired. You might mistake this for feigned disinterest, but the reality is more complicated. The fact is that they are, in fact, often very exhausted. But why are they always so tired?
Here are 7 reasons why you will find that narcissists are genuinely tired rather than simply disinterested:
- They are Constantly Struggling to Maintain Their Image;
- They are Always Vigilant for Possible Threats to Their Image;
- They Incessantly Plan to Maintain Control;
- They Live with Constant Fear of Being Exposed;
- They Must Maintain a Defensive Posture at All Times;
- They’re Hyper-focused on Protecting Their True Self;
- They Need to Anticipate All the Ways They Can Lose Control.
It’s vital to understand these reasons and the tactics narcissists must use and why if you want to identify their manipulation and prevent narcissistic abuse, and you’ll also see why they are so tired all the time.
1. They are constantly struggling to maintain their image
As therapist Jane Victoria Jewson Slaughter notes, “Life for a narcissist, especially one with the personality disorder is a constant struggle, a battle against all the odds to maintain the image they have of themselves.” The tactics narcissists use to maintain their image are quite simply exhausting.
Imagine for a moment you have a constant need for external validation, but you can’t just ask people to continually praise you and tell you how much they love you. Instead, you have to manipulate them into saying the things you need to hear.
This is the life of a narcissist. They have created this false self and infused it with grandiose ideas of their own worth and abilities, but the false self can’t maintain those beliefs without external validation from the people in the narcissist’s life.
The narcissist has done this because they really believe their true self is worthless and inept. They buried it deep inside long ago and must protect it from exposure. So, they use the false self to project the unrealistic image they have created to the world.
To prop up that image, they need people to almost constantly tell them that image is true — they are great, omnipotent, omniscient, and so on. Of course, that’s an impossible task, and the manipulative tactics they use to get people to praise them keep them constantly occupied. It’s hard to imagine anything more exhausting.
2. They are Always Vigilant for Possible Threats to Their Image
Aside from trying so hard to maintain their false image, narcissists must also guard against threats to that fragile image. They must always be watching for problems, and of course, because this is a false self-image, threats are everywhere.
The narcissist fears not only real threats that arise from mistakes they make or problems they create, but they are also constantly guarding against perceived threats. They become hypervigilant to anything and everything the people in their lives say.
They often misinterpret innocent remarks as something intended to offend or criticize. Your offer to help them with work so they won’t be so tired, for example, could easily be misconstrued as criticism that they can’t do the job.
Being on alert for the slightest evidence of criticism — whether real or imagined — is incredibly tiresome. Their misinterpretation of innocent remarks often leads to arguments which only compounds their exhaustion.
3. They Incessantly Plan to Maintain Control
People who are not narcissists can only imagine what it takes to try and maintain control over every person and every situation that arises in your life. Of course, everyone likes to feel as though they control things in their life, but not everyone works as hard as a narcissist does to do so.
The narcissist is terrified of being exposed as a fraud. They feel they must control everyone and every situation to prevent that. They use manipulation tactics to try to control the people in their life, and they often lie or distract from situations they have mismanaged.
Narcissists have to try to maintain control over all aspects of their life, both professional and personal. They are always scheming to make sure everyone is focused on them and seeing them in the light they want to project.
4. They Live with Constant Fear of Being Exposed
When you’re afraid, truly in fear of losing your life, your sympathetic nervous system gets stimulated to initiate the fight or flight response in your body. Your heart rate increases, your blood pressure rises, your eyes dilate, and your body releases a stream of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
When the threat passes, the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to reverse those effects and help you calm down. That’s when you realize how exhausted you are, and in fact, there are indigenous tribes of people who hunt by constantly stimulating the fear response in prey animals until they fall down from exhaustion.
The narcissist lives in a constant state of fear, and to them, it is something that threatens their existence because exposure would effectively kill their false self. That’s something that would create a genuine survival threat for them. With this level of constant fear, it’s a wonder the narcissist can get out of bed at all.
5. They Must Maintain a Defensive Posture at All Times
This is part of always being afraid, and that’s why the narcissist is always playing defense. This creates a state of hypervigilance for any threats, and to the narcissist, everything is a possible threat.
Being on defense all the time means you have to take action when you perceive a threat. That’s why the narcissist is triggered into a narcissistic rage so frequently. They genuinely believe they are being threatened, and they do what many animals do — they make themselves seem big and scary with an explosive rage.
Even if they don’t explode in rage, they have to formulate a response and that takes time and energy. Living with this level of vigilance and fear makes the association between narcissism and substance abuse more understanding.
6. They’re Hyper-focused on Protecting Their True Self
The true self of the narcissist is something they buried deep inside long ago. In their childhood, they came to believe their true self was flawed and unworthy of love, so they buried it and created the false self in its place.
The false self requires constant maintenance; however, and the narcissist lives in constant fear that someone will expose their true, flawed, and worthless nature. This self-loathing is something they can’t stand to face, and so, they must make sure it stays buried.
They are constantly working to protect that fragile true self because if it is exposed, it will create a genuine emotional crisis.
7. They Need to Anticipate All the Ways They Can Lose Control
In addition to fighting against real or perceived current threats, the narcissist also has to anticipate possible future threats to their false image and fragile true self. Imagine you’re preparing to give a presentation to a potentially hostile crowd.
Of course, you’re going to try to anticipate all the questions they might ask and all the ways they might try to invalidate what you’re saying. Now, imagine you must do that every waking minute for every part of your life, not just one presentation. Just thinking about it is exhausting.
When you consider that a narcissist is living in a constant state of fear, stress, and hypervigilance, it’s easier to understand why they are always tired. It also makes it easier to anticipate the many ways they might try to manipulate you or other loved ones as part of their effort to maintain a sense of control over their life.
This doesn’t excuse their behavior, but compassion begins with understanding, and when you can have compassion for the narcissist in your life, you can better determine the actions you will take to improve your interactions with them.
It’s critical to understand how the narcissist views themselves in order to better understand their behavior. This post about how a person can be a narcissist and still hate themselves provides important and valuable insights in this regard.
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