Communal Narcissist: Signs, Examples & How to Cope

Editorial Staff
Updated on
November 9, 2023
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Communal narcissism is a form of grandiose narcissism: they are extraverted, have an inflated self-view, and believe their abilities and characteristics to be superior, but in the communal domain.

Communal narcissists present themselves as altruistic, caring, and extremely community-minded.

The communal narcissist seeks admiration and validation through their perceived contributions to others, the community, or society.

A communal narcissist is a type of narcissist who wants to be perceived as virtuous, generous, and an important social or moral leader of society, but objectively, this is not necessarily the case.

When narcissists find something that satisfies their core self-motives (grandiosity, entitlement, power, esteem), they relentlessly pursue this.

  • The grandiose narcissist pursues egotistical goals of individual achievements and dominance, e.g., "I am smarter and more attractive than everybody else."
  • The communal narcissist does it via "communal" or moralistic means, e.g., "I am the most helpful, caring, trustworthy, and benevolent person there is."

Research has shown that communal narcissists may believe they are the most communal person. Still, others do not perceive them as such – in other words, they are not necessarily more helpful or compassionate than others.

It is about perception, not the truth. They want to be seen as benevolent and saintly, but that does not have to be based on reality. The truth does not matter to them if other people believe their façade.

Thus, a relationship with a communal narcissist can be confusing and distressing.

To the world, they portray an image of kindness, compassion, and honesty, but at their core, they are just like the grandiose narcissist: attention-seeking, entitled, antagonistic, and even cruel.

That means it has the potential to be an abusive relationship in which it is all about them, and you are merely their source of narcissistic supply.

Characteristics of Communal Narcissists

Communal narcissism has been termed a "superficial self-presentation style". This means their benevolent presentation is superficial and purely a chosen pathway for a narcissistic person to maintain their grandiose self-view.


But because they hide behind a façade of generosity and kindness, it can be more difficult to identify communal narcissists.

Nevertheless, your gut instinct might tell you they seem false, or you may have noticed that their actions and words do not quite add up. The more you get to know them, the more you may notice their addiction to attention and praise and their hypersensitivity to criticism.

To identify whether they might be communal narcissists, pay attention to the following signs:

Classic Narcissistic Features

When a person’s kindness and compassion do not seem genuine, it can be a sign of communal narcissism, but other narcissistic characteristics must also be present.

They have an air of grandiosity, acting as though they are the savior we have all been waiting for.

Because of their self-perceived grandiosity and superiority, they feel entitled to special treatment and other people’s constant praise and admiration.

Privately, especially when criticized or questioned, they are antagonistic, meaning they can be aggressive, hostile, manipulative, and callous.

The Selfless and Benevolent Façade

Narcissism is an extreme form of self-affirmation ("I am the most successful"), self-promotion ("I am extremely capable, successful, and skilled"), and self-enhancement ("I am way above average").


Communal narcissists use these same mechanisms, creating a façade of being a helpful, trustworthy, charitable, and kind person – and, importantly, more so than everyone else.

They consider themselves unique and special and want the world to believe they are the best listener, friend, mother, volunteer, etc.

This is the core of communal narcissism; they satisfy their narcissistic needs by being perceived as superior, grandiose, and powerful in the communal domain.

However, research has found that once communal narcissists have power, they become less benevolent and helpful and act more like the grandiose narcissist they are deep down.

This suggests that their façade only serves as a means to get power. So once they have it, they can drop the pretense and focus on themselves rather than acting as though they care about others.

Need for Recognition and Praise

When communal narcissists do something charitable, they want the world to know about it. To them, there is no use in doing something good unless others see it and praise them for being selfless and generous.

As with other forms of narcissism, communal narcissists need this recognition, validation, and praise to survive psychologically – their self-esteem is based on being perceived as better and more powerful than others.

Individuals with high levels of communal narcissism are extremely driven to be recognized and validated by others, including on social media.

Like grandiose narcissists, they use social media to have status and power, parade their (false) prosocial personality and behavior, and receive positive feedback.

They might share the good deeds they have done to receive other people’s praise e.g., being filmed giving a homeless person a meal or saving an injured animal.

Manipulative Behaviors

Narcissists are masters of manipulation. Communal narcissists also use manipulative tactics but are often hidden behind false modesty, kindness, and generosity. They often use kindness and generosity as a tool to manipulate others.

For example, they might give you gifts and compliments to win your favor and get you to do what they want. They might make you feel guilty for not showing them enough appreciation for all the generous and kind things they do for you.

Or, they might gaslight you if you question them in any way.

They might say something like:

"How could you say such a thing when I do so much for the community" or "All I’ve ever done is be kind to you, so why would you question me like that?" or "I understand that villainizing me is easier for you, but once you reach my level of spirituality, you won’t feel so angry anymore."


Covert vs. Communal Narcissist

Covert or vulnerable narcissists share the same antagonistic, superior, and entitled core as grandiose narcissists, but they present as shy, anxious, and vulnerable.

Their abusive and manipulative behaviors are hidden behind a modest yet defensive façade, and they often pretend to have concern for others – similar to the communal narcissist.

However, communal narcissism is more aligned with grandiose narcissism as they are usually extroverted, domineering, and overtly attention-seeking.

Both communal and grandiose narcissism is associated with subjective well-being. Covert narcissists use more subtle tactics to meet their core needs and tend to have a more fragile sense of self-worth and esteem.

Playing the Martyr

A communal narcissist often makes a point of sharing how much they sacrifice to help a good cause.

They might say:

"I always put my own needs aside to help others," or "I’m a very humble person, I never ask for much," or "The work I do is so important, I don’t care that I never have time to eat or sleep." These comments are made to elicit sympathy and admiration from others.

Seeing Through the Façade

Research has shown that although communal narcissists rate themselves highly on traits such as benevolence and altruism, they are not necessarily perceived in this way by others.

For example, in a study with an adolescent sample, communal narcissist peers were rated as having higher levels of aggression.

Their hypocritical (i.e., portraying themselves as kind and generous while being aggressive and cruel) and attention-seeking (e.g., showing off how prosocial they are) behaviors were viewed negatively by peers.

Thus, although the communal narcissist may want others to believe they are saintly, others do not necessarily view them in this way and can see through their façade.

How Communal Narcissists Behave in Relationships

Communal narcissists have a better-than-average perception of themselves, including how happy and healthy their relationships are.

This makes studying how communal narcissists behave in relationships more difficult because they present themselves as the "perfect partner."

However, considering this type of narcissism is most similar to grandiose narcissism, the reality of being in a relationship with them is likely different from how they would like others to perceive it.

Grandiose narcissists report being less satisfied in relationships, snubbing commitment, and always looking for alternatives and new "conquests."


They also report holding the power in relationships, like making more decisions and getting their way when there is a disagreement in the relationship.

In a study, communal narcissists reported being committed in their relationships, not paying attention to alternatives, and being emotionally close to their partners.

However, the study found that when they had more perceived power, they were more likely to engage in destructive behaviors, such as yelling or stonewalling.

This is in line with other research that has found that communal narcissists become less communal once they have reached their goal of feeling powerful.

Communal narcissists will likely subject you to manipulative and abusive behaviors in a similar way to other types of narcissists.

They might be charming and loving initially or whenever they need narcissistic supply, but they are often cruel, cold, and hostile.

You may feel like you are walking on eggshells because their mood can change quickly and drastically. Your confidence and perception of reality may have been affected badly by constantly being gaslit, lied to, and otherwise abused.

The bottom line is that communal narcissist are grandiose narcissists in disguise, so being in a relationship with them will be difficult and potentially damaging.

Examples of Communal Narcissism

At Work

A colleague might portray themselves as a prosocial and generous person, but gossip behind your back or aggressively dominate every meeting and conversation.

Your manager may act supportive and declare they have the company’s best interest at heart but their actions do not match up with their words.

Indeed research has found that narcissists and communal narcissists are more likely than non-narcissists to engage in counterproductive work behaviors such as bullying, conflict, theft, withdrawal, and taking longer breaks at work.


Your friend may be involved in charitable causes or volunteering and promote their altruism and generosity on social media. However, in private, they are unkind, selfish, and/ or exploitative.

You might know the public image they are portraying is false and that in reality they only care about themselves. But you know they would react badly if you questioned or criticized them.


One of your parents might present themselves to the world as the most supportive and caring parent in the world but at home, it is a different story.


When you are in public or have guests over, they are fun and cheerful, but when you are alone, they are cruel, judgemental, and demanding.

Spiritual Narcissism

Spiritual narcissism falls under the umbrella of communal narcissism as it describes a narcissistic individual choosing the moralistic domain to feed their narcissistic needs.

Spiritual narcissists believe they are more spiritual than others ("spiritual superiority").

They feel the need to share and "show off" their spiritual growth with other people, for example, on social media. In typically narcissistic style, they need constant praise and admiration for being "spiritually advanced" or being able to do a particularly difficult yoga pose.

Despite their spiritual façade, however, they are entitled and arrogant with a tendency to become hostile and aggressive when faced with criticism.

Ways to Deal With a Communal Narcissist

Dealing with any type of narcissist, including communal narcissists, can be difficult. Therefore, you should focus on yourself and your well-being instead of worrying about them.

The following is some advice on dealing with a communal narcissist:

Set Boundaries

One of the most important things you must do when dealing with a narcissist is set boundaries. They often pursue people with weak boundaries and, using their manipulative tactics, can break down other people’s boundaries with ease.

This allows them to feel superior and in control, so you are taking power away from them (and giving it back to yourself) by setting boundaries.

One type of boundary is limiting the contact you have with them. If you work with a communal narcissist, try to avoid them as much as possible or only communicate via email – find a way to limit your interactions.

If you are in a personal relationship with them, consider whether they need to be in your life.

Is the relationship toxic, and are they having a negative impact on your life? If so, consider whether continuing the relationship is worth your well-being.

Another boundary is creating an emotional distance from them. For example, if you have a narcissistic mother or father, try to distance yourself from them emotionally so their words and actions have less of an impact on you.

Advice on Setting Boundaries

Boundaries are lines that separate you from others. They describe what you want, what you do not want, where your responsibilities lie, and where they end.

Having boundaries makes you feel in control, gives you a sense of self-worth, and protects you from manipulation and abuse.

Here is some advice on how to establish your boundaries:

  • Identify what your values are/ what is important to you in your life
  • Putting everyone else’s opinions and needs aside, what do YOU need from a relationship?
  • Examine your relationship – what are the unhealthy aspects of your relationship with them?
  • In your view, what does it mean to be a healthy, independent adult?
  • Focus on your strengths and the things you do well
  • Identify and utilize your protective factors (things that make it easier to deal with stress), such as certain relationships, social support, work, school/ university, values, problem-solving skills, etc.
  • Now, think about establishing boundaries with the narcissist e.g., do you want a relationship with them? What do you want to share and not share with them? Where are the limits?

Don’t Be Fooled By Their Façade

Remember that their words and actions are a performance when dealing with them.

They need to feel superior to others to feed their self-esteem, so do not take it personally if they are putting you down because you are "not on their level". Try to ignore their parade and focus on your own values and actions.

Practice Self Care

Dealing with any narcissist can be exhausting. That’s why it’s important to avoid getting caught up in their drama and focus on yourself.

Do not waste energy trying to change them or the relationship you have, as they are very unlikely to change. Self-care means prioritizing your health, setting firm boundaries (especially with toxic people), and doing things that make you feel good.

Foster Self-Awareness

Do interactions with certain people leave you feeling exhausted or stressed? What is it about them that makes you feel worse?

Find out what your emotional and psychological triggers and vulnerabilities are by cultivating self-awareness. Pay attention when you notice a shift in your mood and body – what was it caused by?

Next, find ways to manage your triggers and emotions, which might include limiting or cutting contact with the communal narcissist and being more assertive e.g., learning to say no.

Consider Professional Help

Depending on your level of interaction with the communal narcissist, they may have caused you some or a lot of distress and even trauma.


If you are experiencing low confidence, your mental health has been downturn, or you just need someone to talk to, consider contacting a therapist or support group. They can help you to process and move forward with your life in a healthy way.


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Kristinsdottir K.H., Gylfason H.F. & Sigurvinsdottir R. (2021). Narcissism and Social Media: The Role of Communal Narcissism. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18 (19),10106.

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Zemojtel-Piotrowska, M.A., Piotrowski, J., Pers, P., Tomiałowicz, E. & Clinton, A. (2018) Narcissism and its relationship with counterproductive work behavior: Mediational effects of psychological entitlement and subjective well-being. Polish Psychological Bulletin, 49, 442–448.

Saul Mcleod, PhD

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Educator, Researcher

Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years experience of working in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.