3. False Image Projection
“My husband always wants people to see him as successful, powerful, and envy-worthy, no matter how shaky his real life actually is.” —Anonymous partner of narcissist
Both narcissists and gaslighters tend to project false, idealized images of themselves to the world, in order to hide their inner insecurities. Many narcissists like to impress others by making themselves look good externally. This “trophy complex” can exhibit itself physically, romantically, sexually, socially, religiously, financially, materially, professionally, academically, or culturally. The underlying message of this display is: “I’m better than you!” or “Look at how special I am — I’m worthy of everyone’s love, admiration, and acceptance!”
Gaslighters, on the other hand, often create an idealized self-image of being the dominant, suppressive alpha male or female in personal relationships, at the workplace, or in high-profile positions of society (such as politics and media). Many gaslighters like to view themselves falsely as all-powerful and strong, capable of dishing out judgments and penalties at will. Pathological gaslighters often take pride and boost themselves up by marginalizing those whom they perceive as weaker, believing that the meek deserve their downtrodden fate. They attack their victims with direct or subtle cruelty and contempt, gaining sadistic pleasure from these offenses, and betraying a lack of empathy and humanity.
In essence, narcissists want others to worship them, while gaslighters want others to submit to them. In a big way, these external facades become pivotal parts of their false identities, replacing the real and insecure self.