The Many Faces of a Narcissist
Narcissists project different images on different mirrors.
This is partly because any particular acting job may draw a favorable response from one mirror and an unfavorable response from another. For example, liberal-bashing produces a gratifying reflection in a right-wing mirror, while conservative-bashing produces a gratifying reflection in a left-wing mirror. A goody-two-shoes act looks holy in the eyes of religious hypocrites and the pharisaic, while it looks disgusting in the eyes of true believers and atheists.
Another reason why the narcissist projects different images on different mirrors is because he doesn't dare project the most gratifying image of all — the one his ego gets the biggest boost from — on most mirrors. Moreover, like any set of tools, the different people in his world are useful for different purposes.
A well-known narcissist, Sam Vaknin, explains it this way: he says that a narcissist assesses everyone in his world as a source of what he calls Narcissistic Supply (ego gratification, self-aggrandizement, psychic income — what a narcissistic woman I knew refers to as "sugar," as in "Gimme me some sugar."). It comes in different flavors. Like a bee in search of nectar, he has nothing to do with any "flower" he can't get any from. As for the rest, he determines the most profitable way to tap each one.
So, for example, he exploits a powerful, wealthy, sophisticated, or famous person as a source of Narcissistic Supply in a much different way than he exploits the poor or down-and-out. This is only partly because he doesn't dare treat the former as he treats the latter. It's also partly because the flavor of Narcissistic Supply he can extract from the former is the rare and precious "nectar of the gods." So, he drops their names; he brown-noses and sucks-up to them; he shamelessly, even obsequiously, flatters them and courts their favor; no matter what they do, he finds no fault with them, considering them infallible and above reproach. All to aggrandize himself by association with them.
And so, a narcissist doesn't have two faces, he has multiple faces. Faces he can change as suddenly as a mask. Faces so different they seem like multiple personalities. Each is but his way of exploiting a particular source of Narcissistic Supply.
So, for example, he projects a different image of himself in a church than in a bar. Again for example, the reflection he wants from his co-workers is radically different than the reflection he wants from his spouse and children.