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Why would a narcissist say they have no or low self esteem?

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the general consensus amongst psychologists seems to be that the disorder is compensatory. while the narcissist may truly believe him/herself to be good-looking and intelligent, they clearly do not feel these attributes are enough to make them a truly superior being, hence the need they feel for the aggrandizing lies about themselves and reinforcing their superiority to others in each and every relationship and interaction in their (fantasy) lives, big or small.
my ex N would try to be falsely self depracating, but could never keep the act up for long. she was obviously hoping I would effusively contradict her seemingly modest statements, but it was a tactic i recognised so i rarely indulged her. i guess she just got tired of waiting for me to start gushing over her and her eventual statements in which her formidable ego reared its head once again, seemed to be a result of her internal voice protesting 'BUT I *AM* GORGEOUS/MENSA MATERIAL/A LOVELY PERSON!' a good example of this is when i told her she was pretty, and she said 'I'm not,' and then some thirty seconds later: 'my friends tell me i have a natural beauty.' her eventual conclusion would be either someone someone else (supposedly) said, or a half-hearted admission that she actually was quite something.
she also once claimed that she looked in the mirror and inspected herself as often as she did 'because i hate myself. most people do it 'cause they love themselves, but i do it cause i hate myself.' and i quite believed her: it probaly was due to some sort of insecurity that she felt the need to change her look all the time and reassure herself that she looked good.  When I first read the question I was confused. A pathological NNN admitting to low self esteem was an eye opener. Then I found out it came from the mouth of a 16 year old.
Young people with such a diagnosis who can admit to having a problem can be salvaged. Teenagers are notorious for age appropriate N-ism. Usually diagnosis for N-ism is reserved for adults.
There is hope your daughter will be able to get on top of her personality problems and learn to manage them for her and everyone's benefit.
It is vitally important that all people involved with this girl's upbringing look hard at themselves as to their contribution to her personality. Almost always the carers are the parent(s).  A narcissist may say they have low self esteem, or, most likely, act like they have low self esteem, to control the feelings of others. The narcissist may be trying to manipulate more people into liking him/her.  Answer:Narcissists invalidate those who care about them in order to camouflage their fragile psyches.
Invalidating behavior can be mild, 'I like your hair the way you used to wear it," to malicious, having an affair and rationalizing it as ok, long as his wife doesn't find out--arrogantly bragging, "she never has before!"
Wherever he goes, others are appalled by his pernicious declarations.
Invalidation allows an imaginary wall to be erected between the narcissist's low opinion of himself and those who care deeply about the cancerous torment and pain of which he cannot rid himself. That wall eventually will come crashing down.
The question is will anyone be on the other side to rescue him and save him from himself? a shakesperean tragedy....
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