Understanding the Ego’s Role in the Life of the Narcissist

The following terms have been used interchangeably in our culture for years: real self, true self, inner child, higher self. These terms refer to the same core part in humans. It is who we are when we feel most authentic or genuine. Our true self is loving, giving, expressive, creative, and spontaneous. Overall, we feel whole and alive when we are in touch with our true self. This feeling of wholeness and happiness can only come to us when we are open, honest and real with ourselves. We refer to this as the “Real-Self.” Essentially, our Real-Self is who we are when we feel most in touch with ourselves.

In contrast, what has been called the false self, unauthentic self, or public self describes how we feel when we are uncomfortable or strained. Alienated from the true self, our false self is egocentric, selfish, withholding, envious, and critical. This is what we call the “Ego-Self.” The Ego-Self is concerned with how we are perceived by others. It identifies with external things – material possessions, social status, physical appearance and image. The ego’s needs are endless. It always feels threatened and always lives in a state of fear and want. The Ego-Self prohibits us from being in touch with our true inner self, which is required in order to attain any level of spirituality, in my opinion.

The Ego-Self is often used by individuals as a way to cover up their true feelings. The Ego-Self is inhibited and fearful. Once formed and functioning, the Ego-Self stifles the growth of the Real-Self. The more developed one’s Ego-Self becomes, the more nonexistent the Real-Self becomes.

Healthy well-adjusted people engage their Real-Self the majority of the time. The Ego-Self is reserved only for situations in which one feels threatened or uneasy. The Ego-Self is often used as a defense mechanism. The Ego-Self often feels the need to impress others. All of us are guilty of engaging the Ego-Self from time to time. It typically happens when we’re in a stressful situation, nervous or distracted. We just can’t seem to be ourselves. We may find ourselves saying something silly to impress someone else without even realizing how ridiculous we sound. It can happen to anyone depending on what is going on in their lives at the time. If we’re distracted and not able to focus on the moment, we may try to fill space by saying something without thinking. Bottom line is when we engage our Ego-Self, we are not being authentic. We are not being our Real-Self.

The Real-Self has more compassion for others and encourages an authentic interaction where we can truly connect with people. We are comfortable being ourselves and can drop all defenses. It is important to understand that the Real-Self plays no role (active or passive) in the conscious life of a Narcissist. This is because a Narcissist’s Ego-Self has completely killed off their Real-Self. Their true self is dead inside and will always rely on others to validate their existence.

The Ego-Self serves many functions to a Narcissist, the most important being that it acts as a shield or barrier to anyone who could potentially hurt, upset, or disappoint them. It can absorb any amount of pain. A Narcissist typically invents their Ego-Self as a child. By doing so, they develop immunity to any abuse, indifference, smothering, or exploitation they may fall victim to as a child. They do not want to feel the feelings this mistreatment causes. Therefore, they invent an Ego-Self to protect themselves from the pain.

By projecting an Ego-Self to others, a Narcissist is able to live in a fantasy world of their own creation. Their Ego-Self acts as a defense shield to ensure their Real-Self (buried deep within) can never be hurt again. It essentially protects them from the pain of their reality. Unfortunately, it also kills their spirit, disconnects them, deadens them inside and prohibits them from attaching to any other human in a healthy way.

A Narcissist will NEVER allow themselves to connect with another person under any circumstance.

Narcissists live in a world of fear. They are afraid of being exposed, afraid of being abandoned and afraid of losing control. Living in a state of fear like this causes them to always be in a fight or flight mode. They are always on the defense and unable to let their guard down. As a result, they do not attach to others in a healthy way and inevitably destroy any trust that once existed in a relationship. The demise of a healthy relationship with a Narcissist is unavoidable.

Unlike the Narcissist, engaging the ego is an OPTION for most of us. We must remember to let go of our ego and discipline ourselves not to escape reality. The ego always feels threatened and always lives in a state of fear and want. Once you understand this, you must step out of it so you can get real, wake up and heal. Face your fear. Being pre-occupied with our self-image is like being deaf and blind. Surrender your ego! When we do not run, we discover our innermost essence. Whatever arises, we do not judge. Give up the idea that pain can be avoided and have the courage to relax with the reality of your situation.

The trick is to keep exploring and not bail out, even when we learn something we don't want to accept. Nothing is what we thought. Accepting truth puts you on the spot. At times, accepting truth may cause us to initially suffer. However, this is where we have a choice. We must realize we are on the verge of something. We can choose to shut down and feel resentful or we can hone in on the throbbing quality of truth. It's a testing of sorts…a testing of our ability to awaken our hearts and find our true self.

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark: the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light”
~ Plato

Feb 2 - 5AM
Scotchy71's picture


I would much rather live with my real self and feel what I feel KNOWING it's real and truth. What a great post and really gets to the point of it all - it explains really well the imbalance of the life that is narcdom....just because it looks human, doesn't mean it is....x
Jan 30 - 12PM
KellyAnn's picture

Ego vs Real Self

What a spot-on posting, Lisa E. It was so well and logically expressed, I really GOT it this time. I can picture a Narcissist as the fearful creatures they are, and also as people never able to let anyone in to their real selves. Makes it easier to just accept, lessens the anger, and allows me to move on. Thanks so much.
Jan 27 - 7PM
onwithmylife's picture


that is a beautiful and wonderful blog you wrote about the false self and true self and describes my EXnarc to a T, so fearful of losing control, scared of abandonment, that he usually caused it first with us, jealousy, rage, anger, it was odd because there were a few times he let himself slip out of the ego driven mask,with some kind words, almost like a glimpse of the good man buried deep within his soul, like a prisoner searching for a ray of sunlight in a dark,damp prison cell..............
Jan 29 - 2PM (Reply to #1)
Lisa E. Scott
Lisa E. Scott's picture


Yes, I absolutely hear what you're saying! At times, they may show us a glimpse of their Real-Self, but it is only brief and it is most certainly fleeting. You describe it perfectly: "there were a few times he let himself slip out of the ego driven mask,with some kind words, almost like a glimpse of the good man buried deep within his soul, like a prisoner searching for a ray of sunlight in a dark,damp prison cell.............."