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Traits of the White Knight Narcissist

    * I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.

    “White Knight Narcissist” is my term for someone with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder who likes to be seen as a good person. They get their narcissistic supplies by doing helpful things for other people.

    This is in direct contrast to malignant Narcissists, who I am calling “Black Knights”, who get their narcissistic supplies from sadistically setting out to demolish other people’s self-esteem and pleasure in life.

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    White Knights are still Narcissists, despite their desire to be seen as helpful, generous, and kind. This means that they still:

    • Have shaky self-esteem.
    • Lack whole object relations and object constancy— they cannot see themselves or other people in a stable, integrated, and realistic way as simultaneously having both liked and disliked traits.
    • Are extremely self-centerered.
    • Lack emotional empathy and cannot feel other people’s joy or sadness—or care deeply about anyone else’s feelings.
    • Are preoccupied with their place in whatever status hierarchy matters to them.
    • Want to be seen as special.
    • Devalue other people when it suits them.

    So what characteristics are specific to White Knight Narcissists?

    • They want you to think they are good people.
    • They will do favors for other people that make them look good.
    • If they are wealthy, they are likely to be philanthropists who give away large sums of money to causes that they support—as long as they get public recognition for doing so.
    • Some are “good neighbor narcissists.” By this I mean that they will offer to pick up groceries for sick neighbors or help someone to put up their window screens, or do some other chore.
    • Helping people makes them feel important and enhances their self-esteem.

    What is it like being their spouse?

    At first, people think that they have hit the jackpot and are with someone who is genuinely kind and caring. They may have met at a charity event or as volunteers in a homeless shelter. But over time, they see less and less of the person’s good side.

    They begin to notice that there is very little intimacy in their relationship. Now that they are wedded, the good deeds always seem to be done for someone else at their expense.

    In some cases, the person may take off the mask of “do-gooder” at home. After a while, their behavior may become just as devaluing and hurtful to their spouse as any other type of Narcissist.

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    Example: Barry and Sue

    When narcissistic Barry first met single mother Sue, he could not do enough for her and her three-year old son. He did all the little chores around her house without being asked. He replaced burnt out lightbulbs, cleaned out the garage, and helped Sue to repaint her son’s bedroom.

    After they were married, he gradually switched to doing less at home and more for strangers. It was like he had absorbed enough praise from Sue and now needed to please other people to feel good about himself.

    When Sue complained that Barry was never at home anymore, he devalued her instead of examining his own behavior. “When did you become so selfish and self-centered?”

    The reality was that Barry did not know how to actually be intimate with other human beings. He had no real interest in other people except for getting their validation that he was a good person. He substituted doing chores and being helpful for having meaningful conversations or paying attention to what Sue said her real needs were.

    As Sue put it, “I liked that Barry was so helpful, but I did not want to marry a handyman. I need a husband who cares more about my emotional needs and less about whatever chores need to be done.”

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    If you need a crisis hotline or want to learn more about therapy, please see below:

    For more information on mental health, please see:

    What is it like working for them?

    You might think that they would be loved by their staff, but that is not usually the case. I saw a man in therapy who worked for a well known charity. He was in therapy to find ways to handle his narcissistic boss. He described the man as a public hero and a private tyrant.

    As the face of the charity, the boss was portrayed in the media as a fighter for the rights of the downtrodden. Those who worked for him saw his other side. He devalued his colleagues and everyone who worked for him was afraid of incurring his wrath. He had a bad temper and thought nothing of publicly humiliating anyone who displeased him. In reality, he was more horror than hero, despite his public persona as a good guy.

    Punchline: White Knight Narcissists get their narcissistic supplies from doing good deeds and being seen as a great human being. The reality is that doing good deeds is just another way for them to seize the spotlight and shore up their shaky self-esteem. Having said that, I still recognize that many of us have benefited from White Knight Narcissists’ need to be seen as special and that this is preferable than them actively wanting to harm other people.

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    If You Need A Crisis Hotline Or Want To Learn More About Therapy, Please See Below:

    • RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) – 1-800-656-4673
    • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
    • National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233
    • NAMI Helpline (National Alliance on Mental Illness) – 1-800-950-6264

    For More Information On Mental Health, Please See:

    • SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) SAMHSA Facebook, SAMHSA Twitter, SAMHSA LinkedIn, SAMHSA Youtube
    • Mental Health America, MHA Twitter, MHA Facebook, MHA Instagram, MHA Pinterest, MHA Youtube
    • WebMD, WebMD Facebook, WebMD Twitter, WebMD Instagram, WebMD Pinterest
    • NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), NIMH Instagram, NIMH Facebook, NIMH Twitter, NIMH YouTube
    • APA (American Psychiatric Association), APA Twitter, APA Facebook, APA LinkedIN, APA Instagram

    9 thoughts on “Traits of the White Knight Narcissist”

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    2. Pray to Jesus for wisdom! Demand God shows you truth from the false . I left my narc many years ago , I’m a single woman homeowner now ! Best wishes Ruth!

    3. Pingback: NARCISSIST TYPES (#1) | HEAL & GROW for ACoAs

    4. Is it possible for a white knight narcissist to recognize his desire to be seen as a good person, and make a conscious effort to only do things that are in line with that self image? For example, when faced with a choice in behavior, he would consider, “what would a good person do in this situation?” Is it possible for a white knight narcissist to realize that the most efficient way to be seen as a good person, is to strive to be a good person with every decision that he makes. To differentiate right from wrong from an intellectual standpoint, rather than an emotional one, but still capable of choosing to pursue the good? Because the lack of self esteem stems from the knowledge that your virtues are only surface-level, and the only way to defeat that lack of self esteem is by choosing the goodness in every situation, until which time you can remove the mask, because you have convinced yourself that you are a good person, and your behavior reflects that. You no longer have to ask “what would a good person do?” Because you have become that person, and its no longer an act, your desire to be a good person has driven you to break free of the narcissistic behaviors and actually invoke genuine, lasting changes in your personality. Not just how people view you, but how you view yourself. I’m asking this, because I’m quite certain I was a narcissist for a long time. I’ve hurt many people, I’ve lied, stolen, abused. I didn’t really care about others at all. But I did care that I was becoming a social pariah, my friends were sick of me, my parents had washed their hands of me, and it was becoming harder and harder to convince people that I was a good person, and eventually, it got to the point that I could no longer convince myself that I was a good person. And that really bothered me. So I decided that if I was to continue to present myself as a good person, the only way that it would hold up to any scrutiny, was if my actions were in keeping with that image. If I do everything in my power to BE a good person, then I can finally take off the mask and stop pretending. This didn’t happen overnight, either. I’m 32 years old, and these changes took place over the past 7 years or so. I am now in a loving relationship with my best friend, we’ve been together for 4 years now, we were both alcoholics and we both got sober together, we have a fantastic relationship, we never fight, rarely ever argue, and although I have to think logically about how my actions impact others, rather than knowing intuitively, I do feel like I’ve developed a capacity to genuinely care about people. Its still hard for me to accurately assess people’s emotions at times, but I certainly don’t want to cause any more pain. I tread lightly, think about what I say, and how I act, and any time I observe myself beginning to deviate from my desire to be a good person, I remind myself that that’s not who I am, and I course correct. Is it possible that a narcissist, with a strong enough desire to be a good person, could break free of the behaviors that define the disorder? I wonder if this could be helpful to other narcissists, or people who are struggling with the narcissists in their lives. I can say that my life, and my self esteem, and my personal relationships and my behavior has improved exponentially. I no longer leave a trail of broken relationships and people that I have hurt in my wake. I’d love to know your opinions on this.

      1. I left my husband few months ago. I didn’t know anything about his narcissism that time. I was very confused. He is very good to other people yet he is verbally abusing me at home. He possesed all the traits that a malignant narcissist has slowly revealed himself. (sorry for my english)

        1. Therese I have a spouse with the white knight syndrome. It has happened 4 times in our relationship. All those times I blamed me until the white knight syndrome came out. I finally accepted it wasn’t me but him. Most of all I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I thought he will finally love me. I was wrong. As I was going into bed he was worried about this other woman in distress. Just recently he wouldn’t get rid of this best friend. I knew then this will not workout. I am ceasing our couples therapy and he needs therapy.

    5. Therese I have a spouse with the white knight syndrome. It has happened 4 times in our relationship. All those times I blamed me until the white knight syndrome came out. I finally accepted it wasn’t me but him. Most of all I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I thought he will finally love me. I was wrong. As I was going into bed he was worried about this other woman in distress. Just recently he wouldn’t get rid of this best friend. I knew then this will not workout. I am ceasing our couples therapy and he needs therapy.

    6. I have researched narcissism for many years as have had many family members/ colleagues in my life with this horrible disorder. I have recently discovered that someone I work for is a ‘white knight narcissist’. He portrayed as someone very caring, extremely helpful and genuine, but after awhile I had the feeling that something was a bit off, I sensed that there was no real empathy, everything was all about him and such a general lack of consideration for my feelings/needs also. He now has a new partner in a different city, I don’t know her of course but I feel sorry for her, as I’m sure it will end badly in the future. Looking back I realised he was very selfish and exploitative with a good dose of brainwashing in between, I never let him get the better of me though, and I think he somehow knew that I had figured him out. Lots of love and hugs to everyone going through this

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