If you’ve ever had the misfortune of encountering a narcissist, you know that a constant need for admiration and an “me me me attitude” are among their standout traits.
But while all types of narcissists overestimate themselves, the somatic narcissist takes it to the extreme.
Unlike other narcissists who seek attention through intellectual achievement or social status, somatic narcissists use their bodies to gain admiration.
And this isn’t a healthy dose of “showing off what you got” I’m talking about.
If you think you’re dealing with this type of appearance-obsessed narcissist, read on. You’ll probably notice these eight common but subtle body language signals.
What is a somatic narcissist?
Before we get into the body language signals, let’s first distinguish what makes a somatic narcissist different from any narcissist.
A somatic narcissist is a type of narcissist whose feelings of self-worth come from their body.
They are overly fixated on how they look to others and are constantly obsessed with their appearance.
According to psychotherapist Katherine Schafler, a somatic narcissist uses his physical body to express his superiority and sense of entitlement. So they communicate mainly through body language, showing their physical characteristics in a striking way.
But like all narcissists, they react reactively to signals from the environment. Somatic narcissists can control their impulses and shape their body language in different situations, making it difficult to recognize their narcissistic traits.
Yet these eight subtle body language signals are quite common among somatic narcissists…
1) Invading your personal space
Invading someone’s personal space is a power move.
By getting close to someone’s face when talking to him or her, you show the other person that you are superior to him or her. It’s a nonverbal way of saying, “I own your space.”
So when a somatic narcissist tries to manipulate or intimidate you, they will invade your personal space and try to make you feel threatened and uncomfortable.
To understand this better, think about stray cats.
Cats, who are highly territorial by nature, claim other cats’ territory by invading their space, both environmentally and personally.
They start by leaving their scent around the other cat’s territory (invading their environment). Then when they are ready to take over, it’s time for confrontation (invading their personal space).
If you’ve ever seen cats fight, you’ve probably noticed how they get right into each other’s faces. They shout at each other face to face until:
- One of them withdraws and leaves
- They get into a physical fight
Although narcissists love to invade your personal space, they feel very threatened if someone invades theirs, even if it is in a friendly way.
So if you’ve ever tried to comfort a narcissist by touching their shoulder or hugging them, you’ve probably noticed this…
2) Recoiling from attempts at physical contact
For a somatic narcissist, invading personal space is a power move. So if you initiate physical contact with them in any way, they will see it as you trying to gain control over them.
If you try to hug or touch a narcissist, he will flinch, recoil, or withdraw. They will seem disturbed, disgusted and uncomfortable.
They purposefully use movements and body language to establish themselves as the dominant person in the room.
So when you initiate a touch, they don’t see it as a friendly gesture, but as an attempt to assert dominance.
3) Changing the appearance of their eyes
When describing their experience with a somatic narcissist, many people report a change in the person’s eyes.
In particular, they use expressions such as ‘their eyes were empty’ or ‘their eyes went dark’.
According to psychology professor Sam Vakinthis is because the narcissist’s pupil changes size in certain situations:
- When they dissociate
- When they are provoked or angry
In these situations, the narcissist withdraws inward, making his gaze appear absent.
Here’s another body language sign that relates to their eyes…
4) Maintain prolonged eye contact
Intense eye contact can be a way for somatic narcissists to assert dominance over you.
They may maintain eye contact for extended periods of time to gain a sense of power, control, or superiority.
It can also be used as a manipulative tactic, creating a false sense of intimacy.
In this case, they are trying to get your attention, which will make you fall for them.
Because they can then receive admiration or compliments about their appearance.
It’s also a smart way to gain the trust of someone you want to manipulate.
Studies have found that people judge strangers who looked directly at them as more like themselves. This shows that this specific act of body language can influence the emotions and perceptions of others.
5) Scan the room hyper-vigilantly
Somatic narcissists are incredibly strategic in their manipulative tactics.
Although they lack empathy, they are adept at identifying the vulnerabilities of others.
In groups you often see that narcissists search the room and keep a close eye on everyone.
They look for those they think they can admire, as well as individuals who could threaten their fragile self-image.
Hypervigilance also helps narcissists gain control over their environment, especially at large social events. By scanning the room, they can avoid social contact with people who will notice and point out their shortcomings.
This is extremely important for a somatic narcissist.
For them, they must always maintain the idealized version of themselves that they have created.
But the more people there are around, the more likely someone will see them for what they really are and expose them.
Somatic narcissists have a constant need for attention. So they will show impatience and restlessness when attention is not focused on them.
In these situations, they become visibly bored or irritated when others talk about topics that do not concern them.
They will withdraw from the conversation and you will probably notice some of the following body language:
- Tapping their feet
- Playing with their hands
- Rolling their eyes
- Constantly checking the time
Researchers from Wellesley College, Massachusetts, have found a link between narcissism and boredom. In addition, they observed restlessness behavior as described above in overt narcissistic types (including somatic narcissists).
7) Exaggerated gestures
Somatic narcissists use grand and exaggerated gestures to draw attention to themselves.
These may include:
- Extensive arm movements
- Dramatic facial expressions
- Loud laughter
- Theatrical movements
Why are they doing this?
Somatic narcissists believe that they are more attractive and desirable than others. Therefore, they use exaggerated gestures to convey their perceived superiority, as if to say, “Look at me; I am extraordinary.”
Exaggerated gestures can also help them create a memorable image in the minds of others, ensuring that people remember them.
8) Constantly checking their reflection
As mentioned, somatic narcissists worry about their appearance.
This is often evident from constantly checking their reflection in the mirror. You may notice that they do the following:
- Stopping to look in every mirror they pass
- They admire their reflection in the shop windows
- Check their appearance in their phone’s camera
Other body language signals that reveal an obsession with appearance include frequently adjusting their clothes or fixing their hair.
They do this to draw attention to specific physical characteristics that they are proud of.
Therefore, they use their body language to emphasize their physical features, hoping that you will notice and give them the compliments they desire.
Somatic narcissists are those selfish individuals who soak up all the attention at a party as if it were their personal spotlight.
In one-on-one interactions, they try to assert dominance through prolonged eye contact, standing a little too close for your liking, and using exaggerated gestures.
Like all narcissists, somatic narcissists have a STRONG need for control. However, an important aspect of what they want from others is admiration.
These body language signals not only give you a checklist of what to look for, but also give you insight into the complex mind of a somatic narcissist.
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