How Do Narcissists Choose Their Victims?

Narcissists don't choose weak, naive, or easy to control victims. In fact, it's the opposite. They want smart, talented people so they can benefit from them while, at the same time, improving their own social image.
How Do Narcissists Choose Their Victims?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Narcissists are driven by a series of conscious and unconscious needs. In this sense, they’re no different from ordinary mortals. However, they seek validation to strengthen their self-image and self-esteem, and to obtain a series of social, emotional, and even economic benefits. They do this by behaving rather selfishly, in a way that the average person wouldn’t even consider.

In most cases, they need a specific type of figure or figures next to them. That’s how their hunt begins. It’s a search that becomes increasingly sophisticated as they work out who’ll be useful to them and who won’t.

When a predator of this type scans the social horizon in search of a young ‘gazelle’, it’s all too easy to mistakenly fall prey to them.

Indeed, the victims of narcissists aren’t fragile, naive, vulnerable men and women willing to fall into the net of any manipulator or emotional trickster. On the contrary, the goals of narcissists are lofty. They want smart, talented people.

Narcissists take delight in getting someone stubborn, independent, and talented under their control.

Couple talking about how a narcissist chooses his victims
Narcissists need to create dependencies for their victims to cling to.

How do narcissists choose their victims?

A relationship with a narcissist is like being on a roller coaster. At the start, you experience a terrific surge in emotions. Everything is spectacular and almost perfect, in fact. They take your breath away. They’re dazzling. They seem to know exactly what buttons they need to press to keep delighting you. Furthermore, they appear to be the person you need most at that specific moment. This makes you become dependent on them.

However, after that rise comes the precipitous fall. It might be the first disappointment or sign of emotional aggression when you begin to see what they’re really like. Nevertheless, it’s not easy for you to walk away or end the relationship. In fact, that agonizing journey of ups and downs will continue for a considerable while.

This kind of cycle of suffering causes many to wonder why it’s happened to them. So, how do narcissists choose their victims? Well, the first thing we need to make clear is that we can all fall into their traps. Indeed, we’re all capable of becoming ‘gazelles’.

Occasionally, narcissists are the way they are because of their families. In fact, sadly, narcissistic mothers and fathers are a common reality. Let’s take a look at the characteristics of the people who usually attract narcissists.

1. People with talent

Narcissists aren’t interested in dull people. They prefer the talented, those who stand out in some way, the virtuous. It’s worth remembering that narcissists exhibit low self- esteem, and want to appear competent and prestigious. Therefore, surrounding themselves with brilliant people put them in the same position.

2. Smart people

Research from the University of Warsaw claims that narcissists admire intelligence and consider it an essential tool for success and recognition. Thus, exceptionally smart figures are of great interest to them.

Indeed, having figures with high cognitive skills by their sides helps them reassert themselves. It offers the world a false illusion of them as possessing an intellectual dominance that, in reality, they often don’t have. Nevertheless, make no mistake, narcissists don’t admire their intelligent partners or friends, they’re merely a means to an end for them.

3. People with some trauma or emotional emptiness

A recurrent trait of narcissists is that they require the people they’re controlling to become dependent on them. One way they achieve this is by taking advantage of the past traumas or emotional emptiness in their lives. Because knowing their weak points gives them an almost constant advantage.

As an example, at the beginning of a relationship with a narcissist, they’ll be sympathetic to your wounds from yesterday. In fact, they’ll appear to understand you more than anyone else. They might even resort to deception and pretend they’ve been through a similar situation. Therefore, you start to believe that no one understands you with such intensity, or is so in tune with your life.

However, your emptinesses and past traumas are also their strategies to keep you tied to them. Because your fear of abandonment or loneliness are the realities on which your dependency is built.

Man symbolizing how narcissists choose their victims
A narcissist looks for ‘suppliers’, that is, people who give them social prestige and validate their low self-esteem.

4. Highly empathic with low self-esteem

One consequence that frequently comes to light is that empaths and narcissists are often attracted to each other.

Empaths are defined by showing high understanding, compassion, and a desire to connect. Narcissists get from them a constant supply of validation and attention. In fact, empathic people are emotional sponges, absorbing from others every feeling, need, and condition. This is ideal for a narcissistic personality. They have someone who’s able to meet their every need.

There’s also another variable that serves this painful link. That’s low self-esteem. As a matter of fact, when high empathy is combined with a mindset of  “I’m not enough,” “I’m afraid of being alone,” or “I’m not strong enough to handle this,” the narcissist will have unlimited power.

Finally, as we pointed out at the beginning, it’s really easy to get caught in the spider web of this type of personality. However, it’s not so simple to escape. You must take into account that recovering your dignity and well-being means making decisions and moving away from what’s not convenient for you. You should also bear in mind that, as a gazelle, you have the power to jump and run fast when you need to.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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