Narcissism is a shame-based disorder. This may seem impossible, since narcissists (at least the grandiose type described in the DSM) seem so full of themselves and incapable of shame. But narcissists became this way because they were usually shamed for being their true selves during childhood in some way. They internalized this message and became so ashamed of their emerging self that they created a false self to take the true self’s place. Overt narcissists developed a grandiose, arrogant and entitled false self which is an overcompensation for the shame they felt for being so vulnerable as children because they were made to feel ashamed of being that way. In a covert narcissist, the mechanism is a little more complicated. They also have the attitude of grandiosity and entitlement, but it’s covered over with a shy and unassuming demeanor so their narcissism is less obvious. But when supply is abundant, they can act just as entitled and grandiose as an overt. They can still act quite entitled when injured or supply is lacking, but usually without the grandiosity and arrogance. People who have a “martyr complex” and wallow in self pity are usually covert narcissists.
Guilt and shame are frequently confused but are not the same thing. Shame is the belief you ARE a bad person, while guilt is an unsettled feeling arising from knowing you have done something wrong. Guilt is much healthier than shame, unless it’s excessive or you feel guilt over things that aren’t in your control or that are not your fault.
Embarrassment/humiliation is similar to shame, but without the moral aspect. It’s a feeling of being exposed as defective. I think all Ns struggle with all three of these emotions, covert Ns especially because we feel so defective anyway.
The irony is now that I’m self aware–although there’s a deep shame involved in knowing I’m on the spectrum–I’m actually happier with myself now because I can see what I do and therefore stop myself before any harm is done.
I’m one of those people who’s constantly feeling humiliated and ashamed. I also struggle with a lot of guilt on top of that. Sometimes I feel like I’ve spent my entire life apologizing for my existence. The tricky thing now is distinguishing what I should feel guilty about and what I shouldn’t. I also need to learn how to distinguish normal guilt feelings from shame for being who I am. And what I really am is not my false self.
I think the presence of shame and guilt separates us from people with Antisocial Personality Disorder, who feel no shame or guilt over what they do or who they are, at least not in any conscious way. I don’t think AsPDs get embarrassed easily either (I know my psychopathic ex doesn’t!) I don’t really understand too much about AsPD or what makes them tick, and I can’t relate to the way they their minds work. Narcissists are also less likely than people with AsPD to act on impulse, but impulsivity is something AsPDs share with Borderlines, a disorder that dogs me as well. I used to be much more impulsive when I was younger. The older I get, the easier it is to control my BPD symptoms. Age seems to have a calming effect on BPD. The narcissistic traits tend to stick around and are harder to see in yourself.