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Who do narcissists go after?

Narcissists tend to pursue and target empathetic, conscientious individuals as sources of narcissistic supply. Here are some of the key reasons why narcissists go after certain people:

People Pleasers

Narcissists are attracted to people pleasers – those who are eager to accommodate the needs of others. People pleasers often have low self-esteem and lack boundaries, making them vulnerable to manipulation by narcissists. They strive to maintain harmony and avoid conflict at all costs. This allows the narcissist to easily exploit them for attention, praise, and favors.


Empaths are compassionate, sensitive people who aim to understand others and help them however they can. Their altruism and emotional availability appeal to narcissists, who feed off the constant validation, care, and attention from empaths. Empaths try to heal wounds in the narcissist which the narcissist takes advantage of for their own gain.

High Achievers

Narcissists gravitate towards high achievers and those with talents or status they can exploit for the purposes of narcissistic supply. Taking credit for the achievements of their target allows the narcissist to boost their own self-worth and ego. They bask in the glory of their target’s accomplishments through association.


Codependents tend to have low self-worth and derive their identity and validation from relationships with others. They have porous boundaries and sacrifice their own needs for the sake of gaining love, approval and being needed by the narcissist. The narcissist capitalizes on this to secure the codependent’s dependence on them.


Loners or socially isolated individuals may crave the attention and validation the narcissist initially lavishes on them. Narcissists are skilled at faking intimacy, interest, and passion to manufacture an emotional bond. Loners reciprocate this attention as they lack other sources of connection or praise in their lives.

What Makes These Targets Attractive to Narcissists?

There are some common traits that make these people vulnerable targets for narcissistic abuse:

  • Low self-esteem
  • People pleasing tendencies
  • Over-empathy and caretaking
  • Desire for connection or fear of abandonment
  • Willingness to tolerate mistreatment
  • Weak personal boundaries

Narcissists are adept at identifying and leveraging these traits for their own gain. They exploit the empathy, compassion, and compromising nature of their targets to meet their needs for validation, attention, status, and control.

Defense Mechanisms Targets May Use

Here are some defense mechanisms targets of narcissists often unconsciously adopt to survive the abuse:

  • Denial – Refusing to acknowledge the extent of abuse or making excuses for the narcissist’s behavior.
  • Projection – Attributing unpleasant impulses or feelings to the narcissist instead of admitting one’s own flaws or needs.
  • Regression – Adopting childlike behaviors to elicit caretaking from the narcissist and avoid adult responsibility.
  • Rationalization – Justifying maladaptive decisions, choices and tolerating mistreatment from the narcissist.
  • Stockholm Syndrome – Bonding with and protecting the abuser as a survival mechanism.

Signs You May Be Targeted by a Narcissist

Here are some telltale signs that you may be the target of manipulation and abuse by a narcissistic partner, friend or family member:

  • You are constantly criticized, blamed, and made to feel inadequate.
  • Your needs and opinions are dismissed or trivialized.
  • You feel intense pressure to meet their expectations.
  • They take credit for your work and achievements.
  • You doubt and second-guess your own perceptions and reality.
  • You make endless excuses for their behavior.
  • You feel drained and exhausted from the relationship.
  • You isolate yourself from friends and family.
  • You defer your goals and priorities to cater to theirs.

Ways Targets Can Protect Themselves

If you suspect you may be the victim of a narcissist’s exploitation, here are some ways to protect yourself:

  • Educate yourself about narcissistic abuse tactics to recognize them.
  • Strengthen your self-worth and set firm boundaries.
  • Limit contact and refrain from providing the narcissist with praise, advice or data they could use against you.
  • Document interactions or record conversations to validate your experiences.
  • Connect with friends, family and support networks.
  • Seek professional counseling or therapy to process trauma.
  • Make a safety plan if you decide to exit the relationship.

In Summary

Narcissists target empaths, people pleasers, codependents, high achievers and lonely or isolated individuals as sources of validation, status, control, and sensations of power. These targets show excessive compassion, compromise personal needs and boundaries, crave recognition, or fear abandonment. Narcissists exploit these traits mercilessly. Targets should educate themselves, strengthen self-worth, set firm boundaries and limit contact to protect themselves from further abuse.