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Overcoming Toxic People

Hero Complex in Narcissist

Why Narcissists Always Have to Be the Hero

Is someone you know pretending they have military service, public service, or a medical career that you know is false? Does someone create disasters only to come and sweep them up. You may have a narcissist with a hero complex on you hands.

Hero complex manifests itself in narcissists when they try to create situations where they can act as a savior. Narcissists avoid the perception of failure at all costs, and will resort to deception to cast themselves as the hero in their story they make up about themselves.

Identifying a narcissist with a hero complex from standard hero complex is critical to handling the situation correctly. Here is how you tell the difference.

What is Hero Complex in Narcissists

The hero complex is a psychological observation that some people will cause harm in order to get the enjoyment of saving you from it. The classic example is the firefighter that starts fires just so they get the pleasure of putting it out.

With the classic hero complex, this drive to cause problems is linked to both boredom and the desire to be seen as a good guy. However, in narcissists this trait links up with their need for validation, and is predominately caused by a need to be praised.

In the mind of a narcissist, they are constantly looking for ways to validate themselves in the eyes of others. They constantly, subconsciously, feel that they are not good enough. And, they numb this feeling by putting up a front of confidence and success.

For more detailed information on the internal traits that make a narcissist, see my previous post —

Because of this need, when a narcissist feels they haven’t had enough opportunity to shine, they make opportunities for themselves. This can take the form of —

The Narcissist Hero and Stolen Valor

Another common form of narcissistic hero complex is the “stolen valor” phenomena. Stolen valor refers to people who claim they are a military veteran, fire fighter, paramedic, doctor, nurse, or other respected position when they haven’t actually served in that way.

The allure of stolen valor to the narcissist is that all they have to do is put on a uniform and they get respect for doing nothing. Narcissists thrive on praise, and will do almost anything to get it, even lie, cheat, or steal.

Inventing a fake backstory, one that may involve heroic tales of their past (and completely made up) military service is a common sign of a classical narcissist. See my previous article for other sign you have a narcissist on your hands.

How to Handle a Narcissist with a Hero Complex

Do not directly confront a narcissist with evidence of their hero complex. While it may make them stop temporarily, it always inflames tensions and may make you the target of there narcissistic abuse and attacks.

The first thing to do is document what you can of their behavior. Report what you can to people who are in a position to help prevent the narcissists from causing father problems. But, try to do so without exposing yourself and in a way that the person you report to will also not confront the narcissist in an accusatory way, if they can help it.

The best thing you can do, once you notice you have a narcissist on you hands is to —

  1. Develop safe boundaries
  2. Distance yourself as much as practical

Dealing with narcissist with hero complex can be very complex. I provide further detailed resources and one on one coaching through the links below —

What is a hero complex?

A hero complex is a desire in some people to cause problems so they can swoop in and save the day. One example is a firefighter who sets fires so they can experience the excitement and pleasure of putting it out and being the hero. This behavior stems more from a desire for the hero experience, rather than from a desire to cause problems.