What Is Narcissistic Supply?

Narcissistic supply basically refers to a narcissist’s constant need to have his or her ego needs met. Unfortunately, if you are a marriage partner or child of a narcissist, this will be at the expense of your own need for positive ego strokes, which everyone has.
What Is Narcissistic Supply?

What Does Narcissistic Supply Look Like?

In healthy relationships, partners, friends or adult family members engage in a give-and-take with regard to emotional needs. There will be times when you may have to stifle your own emotional needs in order to assist someone whose current needs exceed yours. At other times, though, it will be expected that your emotional support of another will be reciprocated. It’s this reciprocity that makes grown-up relationships so satisfying.

A narcissistic individual will do everything in his or her power, however subtle, to fill the gaping hole of their underdeveloped psyche. Truly, the narcissist feels empty inside, owing to a lack of something essential that he or she failed to receive over the course of their psychological development in childhood. The sad truth is that a narcissist will be unable to give back in order to satisfy a partner or child’s ego needs. This creates an imbalance in the relationship, and it becomes dysfunctional and unhealthy as a result.

A narcissistic individual needs a constant stream of ego-stroking–attention, affirmations, and admiration from a constant supply of givers. Narcissists are rarely satisfied with only one source of attention. They seek it from spouses, friends, co-workers, family, or anyone they can tap into, which is also why narcissists often cheat—all this attention-seeking leads to more focused admiration via sexual contact.

A narcissist will go to seemingly great lengths to keep their “narcissistic supply” flowing in. If your personality type is typically that of a people-pleaser, then to be sure you’re the target of the nearest narcissist. Please be aware that narcissists are likely not purposely doing this, as everyone is inclined to think of them.


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It’s no more helpful or accurate to profile your favorite narc as an “evildoer” than it is for the narcissist themselves to vilify their husband or wife. This in itself would be splitting, and it’s something that healthy people avoid because they know better than not to flatten a person into a one-dimensional version of themselves.

What a narcissist really is, is scared, insecure, and empty inside. They seem to be emotionally crippled. On a good day, you could end up playing the helpful role of codependent while the narcissist leans back to luxuriate in his anticipated ego strokes. All seems peaceful and well, despite the fact that you yourself are denied attention and care.

On a bad day, you may not feel like being the supplier for the narcissist, and in that case, you may rebel by “calling out” the narcissist’s rude and selfish behavior. Unfortunately, this will result in the narcissist intensifying their antics, causing even more pain and suffering for you. So now, not only have your ego needs not been acknowledged, but you are being abused in the process. Seems easier, if you choose to stay, to take the role of acquiescer.

Either scenario feeds the attention-starved, intimacy-devoid narcissist. So if you’re yoked to such a person by way of being in the same family or having married them, there is little you can do to stop the cycle. BUT, you certainly can take measures to preserve your own sanity, and that’s what we’re going to tackle in Part 2 of this series.

How to Cut off Narcissistic Supply

One of the most frequently sought pieces of advice for dealing with narcissists is how to cut off narcissistic supply. The narc is an emotional vampire, sucking the life out of you each and every day. If you were a plant in a garden, the narcissist would be the invasive weed that’s choking out the vegetables who were just trying to grow.

Again, if you’re a giver by nature or by way of necessity then it’s going to be extremely difficult for you to be anything other than accommodating. This is the power that the narcissist has over you – that you care.

So the best way to emotionally alienate a narcissist and cut off narcissistic supply is to stop caring about what he or she thinks. In other words, you must detach. This is probably not going to be easy, as narcissists typically end up with codependent types, which means that these accommodating individuals bank their own happiness on the personal satisfaction of others – which by the way, is the exact opposite of narcissism.

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