How A Narcissist Erodes Self-Esteem and Trust

The erosion of trust, especially in the context of narcissistic abuse, involves a range of manipulative tactics employed by the abuser. Here are some ways trust can be eroded:


The erosion of trust and self-esteem often goes hand in hand. When trust is broken, whether through betrayal or manipulation, it can contribute to a decline in self-esteem. Conversely, low self-esteem can make individuals more vulnerable to manipulation and less likely to trust their own judgment. First, let’s look at how our trust is eroded.

Trust is broken down by the use of various means by the narcissist, which creates a sense of feeling lost and not knowing if what you are experiencing is in your imagination or real. We might begin to think we might be a little (or a lot) crazy due to the gaslighting and back door emotional abuse.

  1. Gaslighting:
    • Gaslighting is a tactic where the abuser denies or distorts the truth to make the victim doubt their own perception, memory, or sanity.
    • Over time, constant gaslighting can lead the victim to question their ability to trust their own judgment.
  2. Invalidation:
    • Narcissistic abusers often invalidate the feelings and experiences of their victims. They may dismiss emotions, belittle concerns, or mock vulnerabilities.
    • This constant invalidation can erode the victim’s confidence in their own emotions and instincts.
  3. Projection:
    • Narcissists may project their own negative qualities onto their victims, making the victim believe they possess undesirable traits.
    • This can lead to self-doubt and a distorted self-image, further undermining the victim’s trust in their own identity.
  4. Blame-Shifting:
    • Abusers frequently shift blame for their actions onto the victim. They may avoid responsibility by accusing the victim of causing the abuse or deserving mistreatment.
    • Over time, victims may internalize this blame, leading to self-blame and a breakdown of self-trust.
  5. Isolation:
    • Narcissists often isolate their victims from friends and family, creating dependency on the abuser.
    • With a reduced support system, victims may rely solely on the abuser’s perspective, further diminishing their ability to trust their own judgment.
  6. Manipulative Affection:
    • Narcissists may use intermittent reinforcement, alternating between affection and cruelty. This creates confusion and makes the victim uncertain about the abuser’s intentions.
    • The unpredictability can erode the victim’s ability to trust their own perceptions of love and safety.
  7. Undermining Autonomy:
    • Abusers may control various aspects of the victim’s life, such as finances, decision-making, and personal choices.
    • This constant control can lead to a sense of learned helplessness, where the victim doubts their ability to make independent decisions.
  8. Triangulation:
    • Narcissists often introduce third parties into the relationship to create jealousy or competition.
    • This tactic can lead the victim to question their worth and desirability, eroding self-esteem and trust in their value.
  9. Exploitation of Vulnerabilities:
    • Abusers may exploit the vulnerabilities and insecurities of their victims, using them as leverage for manipulation.
    • This exploitation can create a heightened sense of vulnerability and a decreased trust in one’s ability to protect oneself.


Trust is the reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing. In the context of narcissistic abuse, trust is often eroded through manipulative tactics like gaslighting, betrayal, and a consistent pattern of broken promises. Victims may find it challenging to trust others, including themselves, due to past experiences of deception and emotional manipulation.


Self-esteem refers to our overall opinion of ourselves and our sense of self-worth. Narcissistic abuse can significantly damage self-esteem through constant criticism, invalidation, and comparison. Victims may internalize negative messages, leading to a diminished sense of self-worth, self-doubt, lack of personal trust, and feelings of inadequacy.

Making Sense of It All

Understanding these tactics can empower survivors to recognize the manipulation and begin the process of rebuilding trust in themselves. It’s essential to seek support from friends, family, or professionals during this healing journey. You don’t have to do this on your own. It took me over thirty years to restore my sense of self and happiness. Since I have already done the work and know the ropes, I teach the same tools to my clients that allowed me to overcome feeling lost, broken, insecure, codependent, and inadequate.

Book your transformation call now!

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