Are you in a relationship with someone who seems to be the shy and quiet type who does not brag about themselves, but who also treats you differently behind closed doors? Do they, at times, seem to hate themselves? Does this person appear to be an introvert, and despite their apparent lack of empathy, pretend to be overly sensitive and caring?
Are you starting to wonder if you’re crazy because they keep twisting everything you say and do to make it seem like you’re wrong, bad, or otherwise unsavory? Are you feeling confused, lost, or completely alone in the world?
Why do you feel so confused in your relationship?
It makes total sense that you’re confused here. After all, why would someone who seems so humble and kind be difficult to deal with? They seem so gentle and insecure on the outside, but they somehow make you feel completely miserable. You’re not sure why or how this is happening, but you know that spending time with them makes you feel bad about yourself and your life. Yet, you can’t seem to get away from them somehow. I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that you’re not crazy. But the bad news is that there is a good chance that you’re dealing with a covert narcissist.
What is a covert narcissist?
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A covert narcissist is also called an introverted narcissist or a vulnerable narcissist. They exhibit a very subtle, but equally toxic form of narcissism that presents with a more introverted personality. This kind of narcissism is referred to as “vulnerable narcissism,” which might be on the narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) spectrum (a cluster B disorder, according to the DSM). It is characterized by vulnerability and sensitivity, two characteristics that manifest with defensiveness and hostility. Like grandiose narcissism, covert narcissism will also involve grandiose fantasies and thoughts, an overinflated perception of entitlement, and a general sentiment of being better than others. But there are some subtle differences, in addition to the more obvious ones.
What’s different about the covert narcissist?
As explained above, the covert narcissist’s personality is characterized differently. They are also plagued by constant worry, and they deal with their own inability to function normally in relationships. In addition to ineffective functioning, the covert narcissist actively struggles with unfulfilled expectations (which lead to abuse of their sources of narcissistic supply – also known as the people closest to them). They are can also be extremely vulnerable to the effects of stress, depression, and anxiety.
What are some traits of a covert narcissist?
1. They Put Themselves Down
Unlike typical narcissists, covert narcissists put themselves down by telling people that they feel they’re not good enough or not smart enough. They may also tell you how terrible their lives are – and in many cases, they will be telling the truth about how terrible they are as a person. Of course, this is at least partially about getting narcissistic supply from you. See, you’ll be inclined to soothe their pain by telling them that they really are good enough and smart enough, and they don’t give themselves enough credit. This is what they want. This is how they manipulate you and reel you in so they can go after other things they want from you.
2. They Are Passive-Aggressive
If they don’t feel they are getting enough of your attention, they will become passive-aggressive in order to get it. For example, they may purposely leave a mess after you ask them kindly to clean up after themselves after dinner. And when you get upset, then they put themselves down because “it’s not their fault they’re a slob,” or whatever excuse they choose to make. This makes you feel sorry for them and backpedal, and maybe even go ahead and clean up the mess yourself. It’s easier than dealing with their drama, and you feel a little sorry for them. This is exactly what they want, of course. It’s all about attention and sympathy – and getting what they want from you.
3. They Are Highly Reserved
Standard, grandiose narcissists are happy to make it known how amazing they are, or how amazing they think they are, anyway. They will brag about anything and everything, no matter how ridiculous. But you will not see this from a covert narcissist. They aren’t known to brag and they never tell anyone that they think they are the greatest, at least not overtly. They act like they’re shy and reserved but if you look closely, they are smug and express their superiority in quiet ways.
4. They May Be Involved In Helping Non-Profits Or Charities
Covert narcissists are sometimes harder to identify because they seem like such good people. As such, they often want to appear to be heroes and they may seem totally altruistic. That is why they will be involved in charities or non-profits, and they’ll pretend to be very passionate and to care deeply about whatever cause they are focusing on. This allows them to seem important and often gives them feelings of superiority over others. Here’s one way they might not brag, but they’ll definitely make it known that they are doing so much for the “less fortunate,” and they never do anything without strings attached.
5. They Express Envy
While grandiose narcissists feel envy, they do not generally express it to others. They worry that it would make them seem week or vulnerable, and they do not want to be perceived this way. But the covert narcissist will make it known that they are jealous and envious of others, and they really are. This is not an act for a covert narcissist. Remember that they are narcissists who want to be better than everyone else. If they see that someone has more than they do, or that someone is “better” than they are in some way, they don’t take it well.
Guide to Identifying Covert Narcissism
So, how can you tell someone is a covert narcissist? In this video, I’m explaining exactly how to identify covert narcissism.
Get Support in Healing from Narcissistic Abuse
Do you know a covert narcissist? Take our free covert narcissism test and find out, right now. You’ll be directed to healing resources at the end of your test. If you’re already sure you’re dealing with a narcissist, you can start your narcissistic abuse recovery healing here for free.
- The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. Offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
- Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups – We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
- One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
- Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
- Where Are You in Recovery? You might not be sure exactly where you fit in and what level of recovery you’ve achieved. If that’s the case, you’ll want to check out this self-assessment to help you determine exactly where you fall in the stages of recovery from narcissistic abuse. Once you finish and submit the assessment, you will be given resources for your own situation, along with recommendations of which groups to join.
- Which Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program is Right for You? If you aren’t sure which program you want to utilize to facilitate your recovery from narcissistic abuse, this self-assessment will help you decide.
Helpful Videos for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors
- When You See the Narcissist After No Contact
- How to Catch a Narcissist in a Lie Every Time (No-Fail Method!)
- 20 Things Narcissists Hate & Don’t Want You to Know They Worry About
- Narcissists Use False Empathy to Fool You (When Narcissists Use False Empathy)
- Can A Narcissist Change For The Better?
- 7 Comments That Instantly Trigger a Narcissist’s Anger
- Why Narcissists Have To Hurt You
- Narcissist’s False Self (How does the narcissist’s false self develop?)
- Narcissists in Old Age (What No One Tells You About Aging Narcissists)