Why the narcissist chose you: Pathological envy

8 minute read

Ever wondered why the narcissist chose you? Course, you have. It is a question most survivors wrestle with at some point. It is a natural part of sense making & trying to understand what you have endured.

At the outset of healing, because of the effects of narcissistic abuse, we tend to frame the question as a negative reflection of ourselves: “How did I end up with someone like this? What’s wrong with me? I thought I was a strong/intelligent person, but maybe they chose me because I’m actually a pushover/stupid?” etc…

My central purpose in this piece is to flip this way of thinking.

In your journey through research or therapy, you may have come across the view that targets are generally intelligent, attractive, accomplished and/or strong people.

But I know you gorgeous one. I know how quickly you’ll dismiss this perspective as a glib effort on behalf of well-wishers to raise the spirits of survivors when reeling from the psychological pounding suffered at the hands of the narc.

But what if these characteristics are actually closer descriptors of who you are, than those the narcissist would have you believe?

Not likely you think?

I put to you gorgeous one, that these qualities are not merely ‘nice-things-people-say-to-lift-your-spirits’. Academic research evidences that these and other highly valuable & positive qualities are actively sought out by pathological narcissists in intimate relationships. Indeed, some go so far as to state that the narcissist views themselves as superior/perfect, and that they are attracted to similar others (Campbell, 1999; Lange, Crusius & Hagmeyer, 2016)…ergo, you must be pretty damned fine.

Sure, you may not be perfect, but without doubt, the reason why the narcissist chose you, is because you have a lot going for you.

Let’s help you find your way to remembering that you DO have a lot going for you. In actual fact, you are gold baby.


gorgeous one

I recognise that accepting scientific findings that narcissists do seek out people with positive attributes, at the outset of healing, can be quite the challenge. After all, you’ve been programmed to believe the opposite through narcissistic abuse.

My plan therefore is to convince you in a circuitous way. I figure recognising the narcissist’s behaviour will be easier at this point than owning your beauty.

In answering ‘why the narcissist chose you’ and proving you are gold; we’re going to apply the lens of envy to their behaviours. Because if you ain’t got nothing going for you, there shouldn’t be anything to envy, right?

Let’s get cracking.

The narcissist’s divided self

First up, the basics.

Pathological narcissism can arise from developmental disruptions in early childhood, where a cohesive self-concept, or identity is never fully realised. Through ‘splitting’, a divided self is created comprised of the true-self & false-self (for more on splitting read From ‘soul mate’ to worthless: What’s behind the narcissist’s 180? and How the narcissist hooks you: Hoovering & baiting).

The true-self is rejected, and in its stead, the false-self is fabricated to protect the narcissist from what they are psychologically unable to allow: that they are flawed just like the rest of us.

This false-self encompasses those traits of superiority, omnipotence & entitlement. To the mind of the pathological narcissist, by assuming these attributes, the less desirable characteristics of humanity which inevitably reside in us all, are nullified since the good & the bad cannot coexist within their schema.

Aside from their perfection being patently ridiculous & contrary to the human condition, this false-self has one helluva job.

Want to know why?

Because the narcissist’s psychological survival is contingent on securing external validation through supply that their mythological perfection is reality. Clearly this is fraught with problems, being unattainable and all that. Hence, the host of behavioural patterns which form their disorder.

Making the madness ‘work’

To make the madness ‘work’, they endlessly chase substantiation that they are ‘more than’ all others (for the remainder of this piece we will refer to the bundle of narcissistic traits as the need to be ‘more than’ – for more on this concept read Proof the narcissist abuses you intentionally and will never change).

The thing with being ‘more than’, is that it requires a reference point. As without comparison to some other, being ‘more than’ cannot be assessed.

And this is why, the narcissist chose you. Integral to feeding the narc’s ego is social comparison. And you, gorgeous one, were chosen as the narcissist’s reference point.

Pathological envy was the magnet that drew them to you & kick-started idealisation. Equally though, envy inevitably also leads to devaluation & finally, discard.

Here’s how it works.

Recognising envy during idealisation


The narcissist selected you because they were attracted to your qualities. As with any relationship, whatever it is about you that is special, is what drew them in.

And this is where the parallel with emotionally healthy relationships ends.

love bombing

For the pathological narcissist, relationships serve a functional purpose as it relates to being ‘more than’. They are a self-enhancement strategy, and “an opportunity to increase the positivity of the self-concept” (Campbell, 1999, p.1256).

By identifying with you and those gifts of yours that are special, they bolster the favoured view of themselves, successfully renouncing that ever present true-self (at first…).

The thing with the pathological narcissist is that beyond the complicated internal landscape of smoke & mirrors, there lies hollowness. By abandoning their true-selves, & adopting that false-self, at their core they experience emptiness.

As stated, the psychological survival of the narcissist hinges on validating the veracity of those traits that make up their false-self. Having denied their true-self, their identity beyond simply being ‘more than’ is at best, limited.

So, in addition to rejecting their true-selves causing emptiness, it means that through the obsessive need to prove themselves ‘more than’ others, their identity at any given time is significantly defined by those they surround themselves with.

Constructing identity

In choosing you, they are also selecting the next evolution of their ‘identity’, given relationships for pathological narcissist’s are in part about constructing their desired self (Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001).

Here’s the thing.

The void they experience & poor sense of identity, are not solely due to setting their true-selves aside. It is also about lacking depth & breadth of emotional range. And whether subconsciously or not, the pathological narcissist sniffs out targets who possess what is absent in them: empathy, compassion, strength, courage, kindness etc.

And you dear heart, I know down to the marrow in my bones, have these beautiful qualities in spades.

Sadly, as you no doubt well know, whilst drawn to these attributes in you, it was never for the sake of valuing them as part of your gorgeous self, and for this reason alone.

You were serving the purpose of mirroring for them what they so desperately needed to believe of themselves. By merging with you and mirroring your specialness, they bolstered their fragile belief system & created the identity they wish they had.

Not so sure?

Reflect on that frenzied torrent you once heard ‘we are twin flames…cut from the same wood…two peas in a pod…soul mates etc.’ (for more on love-bombing read The narcissist’s ‘soul mate’ effect: How & why they do it and Narcissists love boundaries: Exposing the truth).

From their very own lips to your ears. These were the narc’s attempts to convince not only you, but themselves, how very much alike the two of you are.

Relationships as a strategy for self-regulation

What we’ve just checked out through self-enhancement & self-construction, are why relationships are a strategy for the narcissist.

They are a way of regulating the chaos within. For as long as the relationship feeds them by feeling ‘more than’, they are psychologically OK.

Their internal rage is on hiatus. They have temporarily suppressed the beast of envy.

And this is why they went into overdrive in needing to ‘lock you in’. What we are referring to here is, of course, love bombing & idealisation.

Recognising envy in devaluation & discard

When the beast awakens

So, what happens through that process of social comparison with you as the reference point, when feeling ‘more than’ is compromised?

When whispers of what lies at the root of their polarised nature sneaks past their denial, the envy which during idealisation was less conscious, becomes more palpable…and the beast of envy wakes: “a painful emotion ensuing from the envier’s lack of another’s quality, achievement, or possession” (Lange, Delroy & Crusius, 2018 p.601).

At the outset, your special traits enhanced their self-image. Up until this point, through identification with you, they have managed to delude themselves into believing you are ‘same, same’. If you are superior, then so too, must they be.

Untenable inferiority leads to rivalry

But you are not. Never were. Never will be.

And your beauty is so lovely, that even the strength of the narcissist’s denial begins to crack.

why the narcissist chose you: pathological narcissism

Through that comparative process embedded in their DNA, and your gorgeousness, you begin triggering their inferiority.  Suddenly, feelings of being ‘less than’ are elicited, because the standard you set becomes a threat.

By possessing traits & qualities that they do not have, you are directly jeopardising their self-concept, that false-self they cling to. And in turn, to combat this, and the possibility of narcissistic injury through feelings of untenable inferiority, the narcissist becomes your rival.

For the narc, this is the great levelling, the only way they know to re-establish their equilibrium. This is, of course, self-regulation in action once more. But this time, you are the victim.


To reclaim their balance through supremacy, you are devalued, invalidated, abused.

The sickness of the narcissist is that enhancing the self comes at the cost of the diminishment of others. To correct the discomfort elicited, they must level the differences (Lange et. al., 2016; Zlatan & Johar, 2012).

Enter schadenfreude: self-regulation through the malicious, intentional sabotage of the target of envy.

It is the pleasure derived from the pain of another. You know that smirk you catch on their faces every now & then when the mask slips, & they know they’ve hit the jackpot in hurting you?

That’s it. That’s schadenfreude.

Put differently, your misfortune, makes them feel better.

Combine rivalry & schadenfreude in a big old festering pot of poisonous narcissistic self-regulation, and what do you get? Hate bombs.

You get ALL the invalidation tactics you know so well. We’re talking dominance, derogation, intimidation, emotional blackmail, gaslighting, smear campaigns, lying, violence, manipulation, isolation, stonewalling, silent treatment, ghosting, projection etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum.


There’s not one bit that didn’t resonate, right? ALL this. You have lived it. You have SURVIVED it.

why the narcissist chose youWhy the narcissist chose you

By recognising the narcissist’s pathological envy at work during idealisation, devaluation & discard, you must also accept this.

You were not randomly chosen. Gorgeous one, they picked you because you ARE all that. All that they will never be. And all that not one person on this planet can take from you.

You are entirely gorgeous. From your generous, warm, kind, loving, heart & soul; to that beautiful mind of yours that wanted to believe in the essential goodness of all people.

Don’t you give the narcissist one more ounce of power in prolonging your disconnect from who you really are. Remember you. Reclaim you. Celebrate you.

You are gold baby.

For more tools & knowledge building pieces on the issues in this article read:

As always, please share your thoughts, experiences, and insights on the issues in this article in the comments below. The more we share, the more we teach & help others in reclaiming freedom.

With gratitude,

Maggie x


References & bibliography

Campbell, W. K. (1999). Narcissism and Romantic Attraction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(6), 1254-1270.

Campbell, W.K., & Foster, C.A. (2002). Narcissism and commitment in romantic relationships: An investment model analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 484-495.

Campbell, K.C., Reeder, G.D., Sedikides, S., & Elliot, A.J. (2000). Narcissism and comparative self-enhancement strategies. Journal of Research in Personality, 34, 329-347.

Cichocka, A. (2016). Understanding defensive and secure in-group positivity: The role of collectivism narcissism. European Review of Social Psychology, 27(1), 283-317.

Grijalva, E., & Zhang, L. (2016). Narcissism and self-insight: A review and meta-analysis of narcissists’ self-enhancement tendencies. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(1), 3-34.

Lange, J., Crusius, J. & Hagmeyer, B. (2016). The evil queen’s dilemma: Linking narcissistic admiration and rivalry to benign and malicious envy. European Journal of Personality, 30, 168-188.

Lange, J., Delroy, L.P., & Crusius, J. (2018). Elucidating the dark side of envy: Distinctive links of benign and malicious envy with dark personalities. Personality and Social Psychology Bulleting, 44(4), 601-614.

Morf, C.C., & Rhodewalt, F., (2001). Unravelling the paradoxes of narcissism: A dynamic self-regulatory processing model. Psychological Inquiry, 12(4), 177-196.

Neufeld, D.C. & Johnson, E.A. (2015). Burning with envy? Dispositional and situational influences on envy in grandiose and vulnerable narcissism. Journal of Personality. DOI: 10.1111/jopy.12192

Portr, S., Bhanwer, A., Woodworth, M., & Black, P.J. (2014). Soldiers of misfortune: An examination of the Dark Triad and he experience of schadenfreude. Personality and Individual Differences, 67, 64-68.

Van Dijk, W.W., & van Koningsbruggen, G. M., (2011). Self-esteem, self-affirmation, and schadenfreude. Emotion, 11(6), 1445-1449.

Wurst, S. N., Gerlach, T.M., Dufner, M., Rauthmann, J.F., Grosz, M.P., Kufner, A. C. P., Denissen, J. J. A., & Back, M.D. Narcissism and romantic relationships: The differential impact of narcissistic admiration and rivalry. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000113

Zlatan, K., & Johar, O. (2012). Envy divides the two faces of narcissism. Journal of Personality, 80(5), 1415-1451.

Hungry for more?

As with most topics I write on that expose the ugliness of true NPD (at the malignant end of the spectrum), I recommend the following key works on malignant narcissism/ Antisocial Personality Disorder’d (APD) individuals: The Sociopath Next Door by Dr, Martha Stout, and Psychopath Free by Jackson Mackenzie. Check them out, they are eye openers on spotting those to stay away from, and how to protect yourself. Mackenzie’s work also explores the path to healing.
More recommended wisdom can be found here:

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18 thoughts

  1. I used to wonder why he chose me.

    The woman he replaced me with is supposed to be younger than me. She doesn’t have children. She makes 7 figures and is tall.

    Well, that is what he tells everyone on his social media. I don’t look at his social media anymore. I blocked him and I am two months No Contact.

    I am the opposite of his description of her. I am short, I work, but I don’t make anywhere near 7 figures. I am closer to his age and I have children.

    Which made me wonder if he was just playing a game with me the whole time.

    I sent him an email and asked him if it was a game.

    And he said it wasn’t a game. He was considering me as an option and then someone better came along. He compared me to buying a house. He said he started to invest in me and then he was able to afford the home he really wanted; the other woman.

    That hurt.

    Thank you for this post.

    1. Dear Forever Serene, (apologies it took me waaaaaay longer than I had planned to get to this!), reading this I can’t help wondering whether this person is real? Not that ANY investigations should be done. The words you’ve been hit with are a little bit indicative of APD. Cold, in fact, completely devoid of any emotion; and cruel. Thank all the stars in the sky you are now free from this poison in your life. I have no doubt it hurt. Would have carved like a knife. But you will heal now that they are gone. Light & love to you dear Forever Serene. Maggie x

  2. I left a comment on here the other day but it never appeared. I shared my experience. Whenever my comments disappear like that I always think I did something wrong. Anyways, great post!

    1. Dear Forever Serene, my apologies. Not you at all, entirely me. I need to catch up! I will endeavour to do this over the next couple of days. I appreciate getting your feedback about the delay. I do review comments as unfortunately, there are indeed some that don’t get published when authored by trolls etc. You are certainly not one of those gorgeous one! Maggie x

  3. Narcs will Infiltrate everything, your phone, fake websites, their version of reality is completely different and flawed, I had to think what kind of life would I have that someone would be vindictive jealous and envious of me in everything I do and at 1st I was like I don’t have anything for anyone to be jealous over, then I realized I am free, I have freedom, I don’t care what others think about me, it actually has boosted my self esteem that people think my life is that important, truly, ultimately you will have to have them arrested and that’s not something some of us want, but like any addiction and yes narcs are addicted to you, sometimes jail is the best detox

  4. This is a great article, narcs don’t realize that in a relationship with anyone they perceive worthy of being in one with the people become jealous of the narc, so in normal relationship that would be keep them happy, I discovered narcissism long after the relationship ended I saw him in court today and I just wanted to chat, I’m moving, we had some great times, narcs are nars and they are people too

  5. I read this daily and have it on my mirrors, what the other personalities don’t realize is we are also researching and learning about them, sometimes it takes months other times it takes year’s, I have found for the love narcissist, they also re-sent the fact you have some control over then as in when they start to love you, they don’t realize that’s not something you can control and for other personalities, it’s different for them, it’s a shame I’m finding out everything that went wrong and why going on almost 3 years now, but we all learn, I never want to look back at those times, if how you felt meant something to you then that’s all that matters, I’m about to disappear online and move, life is moving fast but something is pushing me and I need to listen, take care of each other

  6. Every time I read “gorgeous” and references to gold or beauty, I instantly feel a wave of positivity through those words. I see the light and love in your work, and I appreciate you.
    These articles are just the motivation I need to stay grounded. Thank you! I may be living under the cloud of narcissistic abuse right now, but I know the sun is there on the other side, and I will feel its warmth again soon. Keep thriving survivors. If I can do this, you can do this!

  7. Thank you for these posts… i have no words how powerful they are for someone who can’t see the truth and the light at the end of the tunnel. Right now i just feel so motivated in healing myself, and your words of wisdom are just the perfect cure for me and for everyone who puts up with this terror every. single. day. Sometimes I feel like my soul is so crushed.. i’m afraid i’ll turn out just like him…one day. But i’ll keep fighting with all i have, thank you again and stay awesome!

  8. I told him i was pregnant. Ten days later he was declaring undying love for another woman and posting on social media about his new relationship. I’m wealthy, educated and not ugly. He just could not bear it if i got more attention than him. He had to ruin every success or take my ideas , belongings and achievements from me like a spoiled child. I’ve gone no contact because my child does not need that kind of person in his life.

    1. And neither do you need someone like this in your life, dear anon. Kudos for the courage & strength you are unafraid of seizing in claiming the life you deserve. I’m excited that this decision will surely make way for what has otherwise been pushed aside for this person, to come sit alongside you, and bring you joy. Take care of you & your babe, have no doubt you will, as clearly, you very much already are. Maggie xo

  9. Thank you so much for this article. I left on Dec 31, 2017 and searching, reading, researching… why? Why? Why?!
    …And I have learned so much… With all my research, (praying, crying and trying to find a definite answer, almost not surviving- *this was a remarriage to the same man who used many abuses [and none physical] but mostly Spiritual abuse- from the bible- to control and lure me back because of ‘reconciliation’ verses, I married him twice to the near death of me, my mind- another story*…) …and the time that has gone by to today (Oct 22, 2020) this article compliments it all, it may even complete it, so I can move forward. I’m so tired… So appreciate this!!!! Thank you.

  10. Earlier this spring I had worked with an energy healer to help me with low energy and an accumulation of past baggage. Little did I realise she was a narcissist who had me in her sights. When I rejected further treatment because of her completely violating my boundaries she went on an abusive rampage. It was then I discovered what narcissistic rage was. This website has helped me immensely. I went no contact and grey rock since March. I blocked all social media, but she still manages to stalk me on Instagram. Last week when I commented on a co-workers post it set off smear campaign 2.0. I was all ready to fight back, but took the advice from you. No contact ever. Thank you and happy new year.

  11. I enjoyed, as painful as the truth is, reading and absorbing the detailed info on these Narc creeps..I find myself reading a lot and learning more each time an article or blog crosses my path about these heartless non humans..It gives us victims a sense of hope that it’s Not us, it’s not our fault that we didn’t realize one could disperse so much pain and vindictiveness with so much pleasure..it’s mind boggling and truly sad.

  12. This is one of the best articles I’ve read and describes my relationship with my narc to a T! Spot on!

  13. My favourite piece I’ve come across! Something precious to hold onto. Hello self respect! I missed you!! I ended up picturing the narc peering down at me from behind this huge paper backdrop of a castle with the words ‘fortress denial’ on it… the illusions are so violently defended because it’s not going to take much of a brush with reality to bring their fire wall down! Maggie this is so well written, so clear and strong. You make the truth come to light so undeniably and that is so nourishing for anyone so starved on validation and reality. Maggie you always expose their blatant predictability which they are so ridiculously unaware of. And their brazen evil. Honestly they are all cartoon villains monologing and laughing. Ridiculous

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