Anyone who starts looking into the subject of narcissists and narcissism sooner or later comes across the concept of “narcissistic supply” – the “food” or “fuel” which props up a narcissist’s fragile ego and identity.
It’s a crucial cornerstone concept for understanding narcissists, but if we want to be more intentional and strategic, how can we actually deliberately feed “supply” to a narcissist? How can we supply them with what they need to feed and prop up their ego?
The best way to feed supply to a narcissist and inflate their ego is to get them talking about either a) how awesome, special and unique they are; or b) how stupid and inferior a target person or group is. A narcissist most often draws supply from either being seen as superior and special, or talking about some “pet hate” or disparaging someone else as being inferior.
In other words, you need to find out what their ego is wrapped up in, and get them talking about this topic in a way that “feeds” them, provides them with the supply they need to stay buoyed psychologically, and inflates their grandiose ego. The good news is that’s it’s usually very easy to figure out how to do this, since narcissists are pretty easy to “suss out” and manipulate. They’re among the most transparent and superficial characters you’ll ever meet.
Let’s look in more detail at the different types of narcissist and narcissistic supply, plus how to feed this “supply” to them on cue and play on their very fragile ego.
Narcissistic Supply Briefly Explained
We assume most readers who are searching this phrase already have a general understanding of what narcissistic supply is, but let’s give a brief definition anyway, as it’s still important to be able to pin down where exactly each narcissist draws their supply from.
Narcissistic supply can be defined as anything which reinforces a narcissist’s false, grandiose sense of self. It is the “food” or “fuel” by which a narcissist props up their very fragile identity, and can often revolve around some confirmation from their environment about how great, special or unique they are.
It’s any kind of psychological reinforcement which confirms one of two things:
- How they’re so beautiful, clever, bright, funny, exceptional and special. Some kind of admiration/adoration/attention.
- How other people (or one target scapegoat individual or group in particular) is stupid and dumb, which makes them feel superior and “full” by comparison
This can take many different forms; here are just some of them (list is not exhaustive):
- Love (but they never really love you back)
- Being feared
- Control or power over others.
- Constantly being validated and affirmed in their twisted worldview 100% of the time.
- Fame (and the “VIP/celebrity status” that often comes with it)
- Social proof
- Sexual attention.
- A sense of special-ness, uniqueness and perfection.
- A sense of being the best/number 1/top dog in some field or environment
- A sense of being the smart, enlightened one, while everyone around them is a stupid, inferior servant.
- Constant silly-ness and back and forth humor, jokes, memes, and being fed constant entertainment, as long as they’re the center of attention.
- A back and forth implicit arrangement where you’ll always agree on stuff and never disagree or challenge any of his/her obvious character deficits.
And the other side of this is when they denigrate or insult a target person or group of people, which makes them feel superior by comparison. We’ll cover this aspect of narcissistic supply further below.
See our article on narcissistic supply for more on this.
Understanding Where A Narcissist Draws Their Supply From
To drill down into this even more precisely, it’s important to define and distinguish two different types of narcissists, taken from Sam Vaknin’s work on the topic – Cerebral and Somatic narcissists:
- Cerebral narcissists generate their supply by applying their minds (intellect, wit, humor etc). Examples could be narcissist academics and intellects, math geniuses (like Vaknin), or just narcissists who draw their supply from being seen as funny, sharp, witted, quick, entertaining etc.
- Somatic narcissists generate their supply by applying their bodies (beauty, fitness, sports, sex etc). Examples could be physically attractive narcissists (including models, celebrities etc), exceptional sports athletes (Tiger Woods as an example), sexually promiscuous narcissists, etc.
- I would also add that STATUS is a really important source of supply for narcissists, whether they’ve achieved this through cerebral or somatic skills. Narcissists often have their sense of self really wrapped up in their status in a particular environment or profession.
This is important because if you want to feed supply to a narcissist, you need to be able to identify where they draw most of their supply from.
What are they most vain about? What is their (very fragile) ego wrapped up in the most? What is their own fantasy about themselves?
Sometimes there might be an element of truth to their self image (sometimes they might actually BE very good in some area). Other times, there’s no reality to their self image, and it’s all just a grandiose fantasy they have of themselves.
But all narcissists have their ego wrapped up in something about how awesome/special/unique they are. Find out whether this is more to do with their appearance or body (somatic narcissism) or to do with their mind/intellect/personality (cerebral narcissism).
Once you identify this, you’re in a better position to be able to feed their ego, inflate them, feed them supply, and manipulate them.
Method #1 – Talk About How Amazing/Awesome/Unique/Special They Are
Once you’ve found where a narcissist draws most of their supply from, all you need to do is get them talking about this thing, and you’re inflating their ego and “feeding” them.
Just find out what their “thing” is, and start them off talking about it:
“Every NPD person has a little rant, emotion fueled speech, thing to say. Sort of like a branding campaign policy, about themselves and about how awesome they are. About how much of a misunderstood genius they are. About how the world is too full of too many stupid people to realize that they’re the one, they’re the messiah, they’re the next big thing, they’re the savior. Whatever their fantasy self image is. And you need to listen and learn what that is.
Whether it’s a cerebral or a somatic narcissist, overt or covert, they all have this. So when the narcissist reaches out to you, if you want to plug them back into themselves, you get them talking about that thing that is about them and how awesome they are. Find the subtle way to plug them back into themselves”
Here’s some general ways and examples of doing this for different types of narcissists:
- With cerebral narcissists – get them talking about how amazingly and uniquely “clever” they are, how funny/witty/sharp they are etc etc. Stroke their ego regarding their mind/intellect/IQ.
- With academic narcissists specifically (a common type of cerebral narcissist) – talk about how amazing and unappreciated they are in their field, who XYZ papers they published weren’t properly appreciated or recognized in the field, how they’ve not been given the credit they deserve etc etc.
- With somatic narcissists – get them talking about their beauty, strength, grace, athleticism, sporting talent. Whatever it is they are grandiose and vain about regarding their body/physicality, get them onto it and stroking themselves psychologically.
The misunderstood/unrecognized genius trope is a very common one you’ll find with narcissists, whose views of themselves is often at odds with reality. The number 1/best/top dog in in their field trope is also a very common way to feed a narcissist’s grandiose ego. But whatever it is, it’s never too hard to find and play on a narcissist’s vanities and ego-investments.
Method #2 – Get Them Talking About Their Pet Hate(s)
This is the second main way of inflating a narcissist’s ego and feeding them supply – by finding out what their go-to pet hates are and get them all revved up talking about it. This can actually be the most humorous way of feeding supply to a narcissist, because once you understand how they think, you actually see how easy they are to manipulate and control.
Finding a narcissist’s pet hates or favorite talking points is not too hard. Again, here’s a great quote from Richard Grannon on this, continuing on from his earlier quote:
“Every NPD has a rant about something they hate in the world that permits them to draw narcissistic supply from, because it makes other people wrong and them right. And it affirms their view of themself as special, unique, a genius, misunderstood etc. Find out what that is and get them talking about it.”
In other words, find that SCAPEGOAT person/thing/group they love to disparage, and get them talking about it.
I’ve personally had a lot of fun doing this, especially in workplaces – once you find out a narcissist’s pet hates, it’s like winding up one of those wind-up dolls and just letting it go off uncontrollably. Again you see how fragile and easily manipulated they are, and the mystique and aura around them vanishes.
Here are some generic examples of these “pet hates” a narcissist can have:
- May hate a certain celebrity or sportsperson.
- May hate a certain TV show or music or type of music.
- Narcissistic lower level bosses often hate higher level managers, who’re they often either often in conflict with, or envious of. You can also play into their mentality of how they’re always the one wrongly done by, and always the victim at the hands of upper management.
- In situations where fellow narcissists are competitors and rivals in a certain sphere, any of them can be fed supply by hearing anything disparaging about their rival (especially ultra-competitive male narcissists, but female narcissists as well, especially attractive ones). Sports and academia are two places you’ll find this often.
- You’ll often get narcissistic flop actors/musicians/celeb wannabes who still think they “should” have been a star and deserved to be, but were just wrongly done by and a victim (as always).
- Narcissists will often be racists and xenophobes, constantly having a “pet hate” they keep going on about regarding a particular race or type of immigrant into a country.
Here are some more specific examples I’ve seen of this myself, especially in the workplace:
- I’ve had a narcissistic boss who would never shut up about “those Eastern European immigrants”, coming over here, committing all this crime, blah blah blah. All I had to do was make up a story about how a shop in the area got robbed by a group of these people (not even a true story), and he’d go off on one for 15 minutes on his usual rant, while I just sat there and let him feed himself.
- The same boss also hated another fellow shop manager in the area, considering himself superior when he was actually inferior in just about every way. All I had to do was open up any discussion which got him talking about how he took over a shop from this manager and supposedly in his mind “turned it around” (he actually had little to do with this and just got lucky), and that made him feel superior by comparing himself favorably to this other manager,
- I remember another psychopath/narc boss who hated one of his direct superiors, who was constantly pushing his buttons and winding him up, but was also not the most competent in her understanding of the basics of the job itself (she was a mid level retail manager who have not done the lower level job herself, but had just moved across from another company). I just had to make up something about how she “got something else wrong today checking the tills etc”, and that set my direct boss off on his favorite rant about how she didn’t know what she was doing, how he’d be so much better in that position blah blah blah.
- I’ve also had a couple of narcissistic ego-maniac bosses who loved to send long, rambling emails to their superiors about how awesome they actually are, and how unfairly treated they are because of staff conflicts, or their shop wasn’t hitting it’s usual targets etc. At first, I stopped one of them, but then I thought “nah, let him make an idiot of himself”, and I just sat back, got him even more revved up in his victim mindset and encouraged them, thinking to myself internally “yeh, send that 2 page tirade through to the area manager, make an idiot of yourself”. You can have fun watching them embarrass themselves.
Remember, whatever story or narrative you feed to the narcissist to get them going doesn’t even need to be true. Sometimes it might be, but you can also just make something up, since a narcissist will rarely, if ever, question you on facts or details if it’s “that thing” that gets them going and feeds them supply. They’ll just go off on their rant. Context is always more important that content with narcissists. Being fed supply is more important than the truth or reality of what’s being said.
Be cunning when dealing with these people. By using a decoy (getting them focused on something or someone else), you avoid being the target of their vitriol yourself. It’s about protecting your own state by feeding them the supply they’re addicted to, without being attacked or victimized yourself.
Don’t worry so much about making stories up – they never follow up on what you say and have likely forgotten about it the next day. They just need feeding their supply in the moment – the facts or reality of what’s said don’t matter to them. Of course, use discretion and don’t make something up that would drop someone in trouble, especially in workplaces, but getting them talking about someone or something more distant and detached who you know the narcissist does not like is a clever way of inflating their ego, feeding them supply and protecting yourself.