Somatic narcissism: When physical appearance overshadows personality

All of us probably know people who are obsessed over their looks and how others perceive them.

While they might seem confident in their appearance, a few red flags will tell on their somatic narcissism. 

If you’re worried that someone you love is a somatic narcissist, keep reading this article. We’ll tell you how to spot them and, most importantly, manage their narcissistic behavior without getting hurt. 

We’re here to talk about somatic narcissism: when physical appearance overshadows personality.

The basics: what’s a somatic narcissist?

Somatic narcissists are people who need to get the attention of others on their appearance. They are very attentive to their looks, and it’s because they place all their worth in their physical appearance. 

Gaston, an arrogant hunter who’s in love with Belle from Beauty and the Beast, might be one of the best examples of a somatic narcissist in literature.

He believes he’s stronger, fitter, and better than everyone else based on looks alone. He isn’t happy unless he’s bringing others down, and he despises the people he considers “inferior.” 

The medical definition of somatic narcissists puts the term as one variety of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Even if we don’t have many subdivisions for this disorder, several patterns of behavior manifest in people with narcissistic traits. 

Because of this, narcissist can fit into one or more categories of their disorder. For example, a somatic narcissist can look like a vulnerable narcissist if they feel like they need to. In any case, paying attention to the red flags as soon as we spot them is a must. 

A somatic narcissist often shows the following traits:

  • Being obsessed with their physical appearance and exercise;
  • Control issues with food and weight;
  • Lack of empathy for others;
  • Obsession with plastic surgery, cosmetics, and other beauty treatments;
  • Problems with sex or using sex as a manipulation tool;
  • A strong need to be admired for their appearance.

Spotting a somatic narcissist

More often than not, narcissists are selfish. They prioritize their need over other people’s, and they disregard everyone else’s feelings as much as possible. 

Their sense of self-worth is completely wrapped around one aspect: in this case, their looks. 

Here’s how to identify them. 

1) They criticize other people’s appearance

They might be critical of you directly or with others when they’re with you. 

They might even enjoy pointing out all the things that are “wrong” with how you look, even if you’ve told them it hurts you.

This is how they can feel superior to you and undermine your self-esteem.  

Remember: you’re perfect the way you are. Others can’t dictate if you’re good-looking or not. 

It’s all about finding comfort in your own body and being loved for who you are. 

All narcissists are secretly insecure people, and the only way for them to feel good is by making others feel bad. It’s sad, and it has nothing to do with you. 

2) They don’t care about what you need

In the eyes of a narcissist, they will always be better than others. It means they will prioritize their own needs, and they won’t care if this affects others negatively. They don’t have the emotional capacity to do so. 

The result is inevitable: their hyperfixation on themselves prevents them from forming true, healthy connections with others. 

If you feel uncertain about how a person feels about you because their comments are always negative or undermining… you might be dealing with a somatic narcissist. 

3) Sex is fused with their self-esteem

Somatic narcissists are fixed on their attractiveness. Their self-worth is wrapped in how sexually active they are, how many people find them attractive, and how much they praise their looks. 

Sexual encounters aren’t about connection; they are about boosting their ego. 

Usually, this means that they don’t do romance pretty well. They go straight for physical contact, and they use this to manipulate you emotionally. It gives them a sense of control. 

4) They can’t take criticism

woman and man wearing brown jackets standing near tree 984954 Somatic narcissism: When physical appearance overshadows personality

As a general rule, narcissists are super sensitive to criticism. Even if you try to give constructive criticism, they just can’t take it well. 

They will try to hurt you verbally, and they will lash out and be explosive just to get you to stop criticizing them. 

In the psychology field, this is known as a narcissistic injury. It ends up in the narcissist feeling targeted irrationally, even if you just pointed out something minor. 

Oftentimes, they will try to get back at you by pointing out your insecurities. Somatic narcissists will explode if you say anything mildly negative about their looks, even if you didn’t mean it to be hurtful. 

5) They steal other people’s contributions

Because somatic narcissists need others to feel successful, they will try to make themselves look better than you by stealing your credit. 

For example, they might say they were the protagonists of a story you told them, or they will highlight their contributions to a project and undermine yours. 

These are all the ways they find for others to see them as better than they are. Their big ego means that they won’t care about the consequences. 

6) They’re obsessed with their bodies

I would say somatic narcissists are pretty easy to identify, especially if you pay attention. They’re completely focused on their appearance, and they need you to be impressed by them. 

They might have had plastic surgery or injections, be fit, and spend a lot of money on clothes or makeup. Everything they do to keep themselves as young as possible is because, deep down, they lack self-confidence

Unfortunately, doing all this doesn’t solve their problems. Somatic narcissists are hurtful and toxic to be around

7) They don’t have deep relationships

Narcissists, but especially somatic narcissists, cannot form deep and meaningful relationships with others. 

Why?

Simply put, they don’t care. They want to fulfill their desires and reach their goals, using others to do it. They don’t have friends they like or romantic partners. 

They often fake emotional intimacy because they can’t really feel it. 

So, while a somatic narcissist can appear, at first, as charming and attentive, their interest in others is conditional: they will like you if they have something to gain from you. 

8) They treat their partners like objects

Narcissists objectify their partners, and that’s something that happens to everyone in a relationship with them. 

Somatic narcissists tend to view their romantic partners as accessories. 

They are there to make the narcissist look better, nothing more. They’re not dating someone with goals, dreams, and a personality.

How to deal with a somatic narcissist

Take care of yourself Somatic narcissism: When physical appearance overshadows personality

Let’s start with this: your needs have to be met in any relationship. But it’s especially true if you’re dealing with a narcissist on a daily basis. 

If you’re constantly being criticized for your appearance and not taken into account, it’s time to make yourself a priority until you can leave the narcissist and build a new life away from them. 

If you take care of yourself, you will overcome the negative self-perception they have tried so hard to encourage over time. 

1) Don’t stay in the relationship

When your boundaries are constantly violated, you must start considering the end of the relationship. 

Somatic narcissists don’t want to change or become better; they believe they are already better than everyone else. 

I won’t lie and say it’s easy to end a relationship with a narcissist, but if you have a support net, you can do it. Seek help from friends and family or contact a professional therapist.

2) Consider therapy

Narcissists tend to build emotionally addictive relationships. You’ll be going through ups and downs with them daily, and keeping your wellbeing balanced will be complicated. 

Somatic narcissists are often sweet, loving, and warm just at the start of your relationship but then the other shoe drops, and they reveal their true personality. They will be critical and demand everything from you while giving you nothing. 

You can find therapists online and in person, but it’s important to get help if you feel like you can’t take it enough. 

A professional therapist will help you identify the narcissistic behaviors in your partner or someone you have to encounter frequently, and they will teach you how to minimize the damage from such an interaction. 

3) Prioritize self-care

This is crucial: what you need matters, especially if you’ve been in a relationship with a narcissist for a long time. 

Don’t believe everything they’ve been telling you: you’re lovable, and you will definitely find a partner who will value all your beautiful traits. Practicing self-care is important if you want to start building yourself back up. 

Doing it will challenge the harsh words they say and will help you start trusting yourself more. 

4) Focus on things you like

Find enjoyment in everything you can. Immerse yourself in new and fun activities and find passion in them. 

Whether it’s exercise, art, sports, or something completely new for you, focus on your personal pleasure. 

Don’t let the emotionally demanding relationship with a narcissist take over your life and diminish you constantly. They’re not telling you the truth; they just want to feel better about themselves by putting you down. 

To sum up

It’s normal to care for our appearance, but it’s not normal to try and bring others down. 

If you know someone who is overly concerned over their looks, is always critical of others, and is focused on appearance alone, be careful.

Keep them at a distance, and don’t let them hurt you. 

Find people who will bring you joy and highlight your achievements. Get involved in new activities, and get a professional to help you through it. 

Narcissists don’t have to dictate your life forever. 

Picture of Anna Dovbysh

Anna Dovbysh

With 8 years of writing experience and a deep interest in psychology, relationship advice, and spirituality, Anna’s here to shine a light on the most interesting self-development topics and share some life advice. She's got a Master's Degree in International Information and is a life-long learner of writing and storytelling. In the past, she worked on a radio station and a TV channel as a journalist and even tought English in Cambodia to local kids. Currently, she's freelancing and traveling around the globe, exploring new places, and getting inspired by the people she meets and the stories they tell. Subscribe to her posts and get in touch with her on her social media: Facebook & LinkedIn

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