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6 Reasons Why Narcissists Try to Appear Caring and Helpful

It’s no secret that a core narcissistic trait is the lack of empathy and care for others. However, people with strong narcissistic tendencies and other dark personality traits (hereafter narcissists) do sometimes act in a caring manner, or try to appear this way. In this article, we will explore the common reasons behind this behaviour.

1. Adulation

Regular people with healthy levels of empathy are generally helpful and thoughtful people. They genuinely care about and like helping others. Narcissists, on the other hand, don’t have that motivation since they severely lack empathy. Yet, by being or appearing to be helping and caring, a narcissist can get others to thank them and cheer them on for being such a nice person. This is what motivates them: validation that they are wonderful.

Whether they actually help others or how these people really feel is irrelevant to the narcissist. What matters is getting narcissistic supply, and getting it sometimes involves acting in a helping and caring manner. The problem is, since they don’t actually care about others or the real problem, their help and care is often not very good—or can even be harmful.

2. Fame

Being a good person, or rather appearing as one publicly, can generate fame and boost a narcissist’s public image. Since narcissists are very interested in social status and influence, they use acts of generosity to appear noble and kind.

Some examples of this are narcissists who donate their money, goods, or time. A regular person receiving public acknowledgment for their good acts is secondary, but for a narcissist it’s the main goal. Participating in a public photoshoot or making an article or announcement in regard to their generous deed go viral is what they are actually interested in.

3. Connections

Another reason why narcissists may try to be helpful and generous is to build up their social influence and the number of their social connections. Remember, narcissists see others as objects, not as human beings, so everyone in their social sphere is seen as something to use.

By giving something to others, they get opportunities to forge new social connections and, by extent, meet even more, new people—which means even more potential sources of narcissistic supply and other resources.

4. Sense of Superiority

Narcissists may appear confident, but their actual sense of worth and self-esteem is fake. It’s only conditional: “I feel good about myself… if I feel superior than others… if others admire me… if others agree with me.” And so on. One of the common ways narcissists manage their shaky sense of self-esteem is by comparing themselves to others and convincing themselves that they are better. So, by being or appearing as giving and helpful, they can feel superior to others.

5. Keeping Others in Debt

Narcissists sometimes help others and do favors because it gives them power over those whom they help. If someone helps you, you feel grateful and willing to help them in the future. This is normal and a good thing.

However, one thing you don’t want in your life is to feel in debt to a narcissist because they will abuse this power dynamic, without exception. They will string you along either by using it as leverage or by demanding more than their initial favor was worth. They will remind you forever about how much they helped you when you were in need, and so on. This induces feelings of guilt in their target.

A narcissistic parent, for example, will use this dynamic with their children, even about things that are normal and expected for a parent to provide.

6. Professional Power over Others

Narcissists seek positions where they have power over people in need. That’s why you can find many of them in fields like teaching, self-help, religion, politics, law, mental health, medical care, and so on. They prey on people who are in need. They abuse and perpetuate systemic and institutional issues to do that, too.

By being in a position of authority, legitimately or not, they can be perceived as moral, noble, caring, giving, competent—and feel better than others. But it doesn’t matter to them that they hurt other people, because, after all, others are just objects to serve their needs.

Bottom Line

Narcissists can sometimes be helpful and caring. However, more often than not, they only pretend to have these qualities. Moreover, even when they act giving and helping, they are not motivated by empathy because they severely lack it, and as a result, their help is often not very productive.

Narcissists are motivated by feeling superior and expanding their power, and so the only things that matter when helping others are receiving adulation, fame, influence, opportunities, notoriety, and other resources.

They don’t actually care about others because to them other people are just things to use.

Refuse to be treated as a thing.

Resources and Recommendations

6 Reasons Why Narcissists Try to Appear Caring and Helpful

Darius Cikanavicius, Author, Certified Coach

Darius Cikanavicius is an author, educator, mental health advocate, and traveler. Darius has worked professionally with people from all over the world as a psychological consultant and a certified mental health coach. His main areas of expertise and interest are childhood trauma, self-esteem, self-care, perfectionism, emotional well-being, narcissism, belief systems, and relationships.

For more information about Darius, his work, and his contact information please visit, like his Facebook page, and subscribe to his YouTube channel. Also please check out the author’s books: Human Development and Trauma: How Childhood Shapes Us into Who We Are as Adults and Self-Work Starter Kit.

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APA Reference
Cikanavicius, D. (2020). 6 Reasons Why Narcissists Try to Appear Caring and Helpful. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 19, 2020, from


Last updated: 4 May 2020
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