It’s a constructive exercise to encourage discussion on this, and to allay misconceptions due to NPD apparently being social media’s darling disorder, but I somewhat disagree with this interpretation from author and clinical psychologist, Dr. Seth Meyers. As he establishes early on, the narcissistic personality certainly doesn’t stem from a sense of superiority; that’s just how this maladaptive behaviour presents itself.
To me, it’s not quite vulnerability that is at the core of NPD, but maybe more of an “inadequacy hypercompensation disorder”. Overcompensating for vulnerability implies to me a desire to project an image of oneself of virtual imperviousness to potentially overwhelming events or interactions, which could just as well present as someone “above it all”, and not particularly engaged with other people.
People with NPD, on the other hand, necessarily engage with others (whom they see as “narcissistic supply”), manipulating and denigrating left, right, and centre, all the better to make people look bad so as to attract either adulation or pity (grandiose narcissism and fragile narcissism, respectively) and are likely to become envious, passive-aggressive, or throw tantrums when they don’t get it. In addition to the two sub-types of narcissistic personality disorder mentioned just before, a study in 2008 by Shedler, Westen, et al, of Emory University, identifies a third sub-type – the high-functioning/exhibitionistic – which, on the face of it, would appear at least as people-dependent as the other two, if not more so.
I would qualify my comment by specifying that I don’t think people with NPD necessarily literally see others as “narcissistic supply”, in the same way that you or I might see a box
of Oreos as a tasty treat. Perhaps especially within the subset of “fragile narcissism”, manipulative behaviour may be intuitive and almost automatic, as the instinct to avoid the pain or discomfort of a crippling and pathological sense of inadequacy simply overrides any consideration of the effects on others of their maladaptive behaviours.
It’s sad, in the sense that avoidance of pain and fear underlie so much of human behaviour. What makes it dysfunctional in the case of NPD-ers is the effect their pain/fear avoidance mechanisms have on people around them.