A typical narcissist would do anything possible to be the centre of attention. Whether it means lying, creating drama, or striving for recognition it doesn’t matter. We all need attention to some extent in the company of others, because we are social beings. But for narcissists, minimum attention is never enough. They have deeper hunger for it that they can only feel satisfied as long as they remain the centre of attention. But what is different in their psyche that makes them crave attention that much?
In psychology, whenever someone exaggerates certain behaviour, know that they are doing it to cover or to make up for an existing shortcoming. This applies to all people and mostly those with odd personalities like narcissists. A lying person will try to look as innocent as possible. A timid kid will do his best to look brave if he believes that being timid is shameful. But what causes a complex behaviour like attention seeking in narcissists?
1. They Believe that they Deserve it.
Narcissists consider themselves above average, in the middle of average and below average people. This makes them believe that they are the ones who should get all the attention.
Once this belief is fixed, they must fiercely work hard to maintain the clues that support it. If they find themselves in a situation where they are not the centre of attention, this would suggest that they are not that special. This can badly hurt their fragile ego. In other words they need so much attention because they are afraid to be considered average.
However, the belief they hold about attention seeking can play a big role. If a particular narcissist believes that attention seeking is a silly behaviour, they will try to be as indirect as possible in their game. Giving up attention is not an option. (See: why narcissists gaslight)
2. It is a Source of Narcissistic Supply.
Narcissistic supply involves, projecting larger-than-life qualities to the public or selected individuals and fetch the feedback. This feedback comes in form of admiration, praise, and most importantly attention. Note that negative attention is also appreciated to some extent. They would rather get negative attention that zero attention.
This narcissistic supply is the oxygen they breathe. Without it, they would sink into depression.
3. To cover up inferiority feelings.
The popular definition of narcissism says that, “behind the mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem (inferiority).” And that is completely true. An individual with inferiority feelings believes that he or she has some defects that differentiate them from others. These defects can be real or imagined.
Narcissists fight to be the centre of attention because in that situation, people would only focus on a particular positive quality that they are trying to project, (being funny for example). This way, nobody would dare to explore the flaws they have worked very hard to hide.
Even if they get a negative attention through inappropriate behaviour, the goal is still the same. If they arouse anger in their victims for example, their victims will only focus on revenging or defending themselves, therefore there will be no room left to think about the narcissist’s defects. A good example is an incompetent teacher in his profession who mistreats his students.
4. They Feel Ignored.
Feeling invisible is one of their worst fears. For example, if a particular narcissist is getting a considerable amount of attention at home, at work, and other areas they value, there would be no need for investing much effort in getting extra attention from any of those areas.
The problems happens when they feel ignored by the people in from important areas (at work for example). To compensate for the unpleasant feeling of being ignored, they may put extra effort to get satisfactory attention from the remaining source. The fear of feeling invisible can sometimes push them to go lengths to attract attention. (See also: Why are some narcissists so Jealous)