The 4 “A-Words”
Four “A-Words” are major red flags for narcissism. They are: attention, affirmation, adulation, and adoration. However, which of these a-words matters most to a narcissist depends where they lie on the narcissism spectrum. (See also: Character Disturbance, pp. 29-30.) Some narcissists primarily want attention. Others just want to be right, justified – affirmed. More pathological narcissists seek adulation. And the most pathological narcissists want to be adored. Legends in their own minds, they consider themselves worthy of worship.
Any of the 4 “A-words” is a red flag for possible narcissism. But, as mentioned above, how each ranks in importance matters. How these characteristics cluster matters, too. But it always pays to pay attention to them. That’s because they give you such valuable information about the kind of narcissist you might be dealing with.
Vain, vulnerable narcissists crave and seek attention. Now, as narcissists go, such folks aren’t generally very pathological or toxic. Still, they can bring significant problems to a relationship. They might flirt incessantly. Or they could be the archetypal drama creators. Because they feed attention, they constantly solicit it. When they get it, they’re satisfied or a minute. But attention alone can never satisfy. That’s why they seek it over and over again.
Inveterate attention seekers are necessarily shallow in character. Accordingly, they can’t appreciate genuine love when comes their way. So, they settle for attention. And they’re always ready to put on a show. They might seek the spotlight. But they certainly don’t want light shining on the emptiness they have inside.
Affirmation and Narcissism
Affirmation is one of the red flags for narcissism. However, not everyone needing or craving affirmation is a narcissist. Insecure, ego-deficient folks seek affirmation. But they do so to feel good about themselves. Narcissists always want to be “right” or justified. And they want you to affirm that, whether or not they merit it. Narcissists also hate admitting mistakes. To do so would indicate weakness or inadequacy. So, when caught in error, they’ll twist reality or even re-invent history to make it seem like they were right all along. Naturally, these tactics create the “gaslighting” effect. (See also: In Sheep’s Clothing, pp. 133-137.)
Adulation-Seeking: A Major Red Flag
Some narcissistic characters care only that you hold them in high esteem. But they don’t just want your admiration. Rather, they want you to be enamored of them. They want you to see them as “special” and important. They might imagine themselves as superstars, always basking in thunderous applause. It doesn’t really matter that they’ve done anything special or merit-worthy. It only matters that you look up to them. That confers upon them the all-important “position” they crave. That’s why adulation is one of the major red flags for narcissism. It’s also an indicator of a more pathological type of narcissism.
Some admiration-seekers a more subtle than others. But their core pathology is the same. Narcissists either innately feel or want to be seen as “superior.” Some cloak this desire in various ways. Others are not hesitant to openly solicit. You have to be much more wary of the more shameless solicitors.
Adoration-Seeking: A More Serious Warning Flag
Some narcissists want to be worshipped – adored. And, they feel they deserve it. They don’t really need you to see them as “special.” They’re already sincerely convinced of their special status. Accordingly, you are nobody in their eyes if you don’t appreciate what they see as their obvious greatness. And they expect you to worship at their feet.
Seeking adoration is not just one of the red flags for narcissism. It’s an indication of the most pathological type of narcissism.
There’s a new edition of Character Matters available on YouTube. It continues a discussion on the nature of genuine love. And it focuses primarily on what love isn’t. It also speaks to the principles I talk about at lenth in my new book Essentials for the Journey.