Narcissism and Shame

Narcissism and shame go hand in hand in so many ways. Narcissists carry a LOT of shame. From mistakes made in the past, fear of not being enough, to fear of criticism in the present and future. For many narcissists their lives are rather shame-based but, they will never admit it. Facing shame is something incredible uncomfortable and difficult for most narcissistic individuals. To admit to shame means to become vulnerable, to let go of control, and to face the fear head on. These 3 tasks are not in a narcissist’s skill set. Shame is an essential emotion, we all have it, and it is often misunderstood. Facing one’s shame is necessary in creating meaningful and intimate relationships. Narcissist’s issues with shame is a major reason narcissists struggle to maintain friendships, experience true intimacy, and struggle with self-esteem.

Narcissists fear and despise facing their shame so much so, that their way to survive is to project their own shame on to those around them. As they continue to blame, shame, and criticize those around him/her, they are able to distance from their own shame as well as feel better about themselves now that they can view those around him/her as flawed.


Shame is a hidden emotion

Shame is often a misunderstood emotion. And just as often its’s mistaken with guilt. Guilt means you’re aware your actions were wrong and someone else may have been hurt in the process. Healthier functioning individuals who experience shame use the emotion and experience to correct their actions in the future, grow and move forward. In a narcissist’s world, even if they haven't done anything wrong, they feel as though they did something wrong. Its about regret, not feeling like you made a mistake, but feeling like you ARE a mistake. Common thoughts associated with shame include: “I am worthless.” “I am a failure.” “Why would anyone want to love a failure?” The shame for narcissists is carried deep within, and often impacts one’s feeling of worth, that they cant bring themselves to share with anyone.

Avoid and Blame

How do narcissists typically cope with shame? By avoiding and blaming. As previously mentioned, trying to get a narcissist to face and talk about the shame he/she is carrying is an incredibly tall order. Narcissists are so uncomfortable with deeper emotions, especially shame that they would rather put off facing this hidden, negative emotion at all costs. They will criticize and blame others in order to avoid feeling like a failure. Whether they blame others for their own mistakes made, or they take something completely new and separate from their own mistakes criticizing the flaws they believe they see in others.

Consequences of avoiding shame

Avoiding shame negatively impacts relationships; most likely intimacy is difficult to attain in the relationship. Narcissists are worried about losing control and becoming too vulnerable, because if they becoming vulnerable, they are susceptible to feeling their shame. It is nearly impossible to achieve true closeness with a controlling and distance person. In addition it is difficult to want to be close with someone who is constantly blaming, criticizing, and questioning every action you take. It’s also difficult to feel close to someone who instead of trying to understand you, wants you to say and do things differently from how you naturally behave. This kind of criticizing can send the message that “you are not enough.” As one continues to avoid, and as the shame continues to build, it’s understandable if one’s self-esteem becomes damaged in the process. Someone who avoids shame is someone who is so fearful of criticism from others and eventually, rejection.


Whether you are dealing with narcissistic traits and shame yourself, or you are on the receiving end of someone avoiding shame, it is imperative to address the shame you experience. To face all possible factors and layers of shame means to be vulnerable and therefore ready for intimacy. As for the type of intimacy, that is up to you. Avoiding shame negatively impacts relationships, because narcissists are blaming others and probably avoiding certain aspects of intimacy in order to avoid shame.