Giving back to others is not something that narcissists do for the intrinsic pleasure of being altruistic, or from simple kindness. Recently published findings indicate that narcissists give “gifts” that represent an investment in their own desires—not from the desire to please others. When Hyun, Park, and Park (2016) measured the gift-giving motivations of individuals with high self-esteem compared to those with high levels of narcissism, they found that narcissists give gifts that ideally keep the recipient’s devotion or allegiance to them going strong. Specifically, narcissists give gifts with an eye to maintaining a relationship with the giver and to maintaining control in that relationship.
You don’t get expensive gifts from a narcissist because they think you are awesome; you get valuable gifts because they want you to continue to think that they are awesome.
It’s normal to want to show affection for significant others with nice gifts, or to splurge on holidays or nice meals, but we don’t offer these gifts to engender obligation or foster obedience from our partners. But narcissists give out of fear and out of their need to continue the game.
Philanthropists are encouraged to “give until it hurts,” but narcissists give because it hurts. The potential pain of losing their audience drives them to do what they feel will keep the admiration flowing.