Secrets, Shyness and Self-Loathing: Identifying a Covert Narcissist

Secrets, Shyness and Self-Loathing: Identifying a Covert Narcissist

“Shyness has a strange element of narcissism, a belief that how we look, how we perform, is truly important to other people.” ~Andre Dubus III

Covert narcissists can be the most dangerous and destructive type of narcissists, partially due to their covert nature. They can be quite charming when they want to be and are often very likable in social situations. However, this is usually a façade and it masks their true nature – which is selfish, callous, manipulative, self-centered, lacking in empathy, and extremely envious of others.

In fact, covert narcissists tend to envy others and seek to tear them down in order to build themselves up. Covert narcissists are also very needy and require excessive admiration from others. As a result of their own low self-esteem, they tend to put others down in an effort to feel better about themselves. They are often extremely sensitive about criticism but will lash out aggressively at the slightest hint of it – even if it’s constructive criticism that is intended to help them improve (which makes it very confusing for the person offering the criticism).

identifying a covert narcissist

There are narcissists, and then there are people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). In both cases, it can be pretty simple to identify them – they all have pretty predictable and similar behaviors. 

That’s why online support groups for survivors of narcissistic relationships work so well. Because people can relate to one another so closely – they often comment that they feel like they’re reading their own stories when they support their fellow members.

Identifying a Covert Narcissist

So you know how to identify a narcissist, and you know what to expect from them, right? But what happens when a narcissist is sort of “incognito” or behaving as an introvert or a shy person? What does that look like?

Covert Narcissists can be hard to identify since they have learned at some point in their lives that overt displays of grandiosity and entitlement are not socially acceptable. Instead of wearing their heart on their sleeves, they wear a mask to hide their true nature.

Enter the Vulnerable Narcissist

She’s the damsel in eternal distress; or he’s the martyr of his oh-so-noble cause, quietly standing up for what he believes in and pretending he doesn’t want/need the praise that’s being heaped on him. If you are involved with one of these people, you might find yourself wondering if you’re imagining things. The covert narcissist is unlikely to provide you with any definitive proof that he or she has a personality disorder. As a result, you may feel embarrassed at the idea of saying anything at all – it may even cross your mind that it is all in your imagination and nothing is really wrong.

The shy or covert narcissist seems vulnerable and oversensitive. This can often manifest as hostility and defensiveness, and just like his overt/arrogant counterpart, the covert narcissist often:

  • feels a huge sense of (often unearned) entitlement
  • has grandiose fantasies about his or her life
  • will exploit others to get what they want
  • seeks power and control

What is a Covert Narcissist?

The term covert narcissist refers to someone who is highly narcissistic, but low on the overt narcissism scale. The covert narcissist will have many of the same traits as an overt narcissist, but with the added bonus of appearing normal and even nice.  They have narcissistic tendencies, but in some ways manage to keep these tendencies under wraps. They are not obvious in the way that an overt narcissist is, but their behavior can be just as destructive.

Covert narcissists are masters at putting on a show for others by hiding their true self behind a facade and have mastered the manipulation of others. They are often described as being “master manipulators” as they are able to charm and deceive others into believing that they are kind, caring, and compassionate.

The covert narcissist will often use emotional blackmail and intimidation, as well as a variety of other manipulation tactics to get what they want. They are very adept at making others feel sorry for them or that they are being treated unfairly.

The covert narcissist might derive their source of “narcissistic supply” from people who are in positions of authority or who hold power over them. For example, if a person has a boss that they absolutely adore and worship, it may be because the boss provides them with the attention and admiration that they seek from other people in their lives that may be less inclined to give it. They tend to be harder to suss out, and therefore get away with more underhanded emotional abuse than overt narcissists. This is due to the fact that they don’t show their true nature right away. Overt narcissists tend to be more easily identifiable while covert narcissists lure you in under false pretenses.

How does a covert narcissist differ from an overt or grandiose narcissist? 

Unlike the overt or grandiose narcissist, the covert narcissist will not necessarily display narcissistic behavior that is immediately recognizable.

While he’ll have the standard grandiose fantasies for his life – all of which are sure to be unrealistic and self-centered, not to mention grandiose and inflated, he will believe that his dreams are unrealistic and unattainable.

He will even feel guilty for wanting what he wants, and somehow this inner conflict leads him to suppress his feelings as a whole. This leads to the next inevitable step in which he turns his inner conflict into outer behavior, such as:

  • exhibitionist-type behavior
  • being overly competitive
  • being unacceptably aggressive when it comes to getting what he wants

Then, he’ll play the “poor me” game like a pro, and he often feels sorry for himself.

Why does the “vulnerable narcissist” play the “poor me” game so well? 

It all comes down to one thing: the covert narcissist hates himself. He thinks it’s going to be possible to hate himself BETTER, somehow.

Though he continues to demonstrate the behavior that he loathes, the covert narcissist is powerless to control his thoughts – and his deep inner conscience is NOT okay with the person he is or has become.

He judges HIMSELF more harshly than he judges anyone else, and usually, more harshly than he judges anyone else – but he certainly has what he considers a high standard for his life.

He quietly sticks to this unreasonable standard to the best of his abilities, happy to secretly look down his nose at the people he deems “lesser” than he.

Of course, when he falls off of his proverbial “standards” and behaves in any way that his inner critic deems bad or not desirable, he’s back to square one.

Covert Narcissism: Self-Hate Due to Distorted Self-Awareness

It all boils down to one thing: a covert narcissist understands on some level that his self-inflating ideas are, in fact, bullshit – at least on some level.

Read more: are you a narcissist? Find out for sure. 

So, though he continues to have his narcissistic thoughts and occasional external behavior, he’s holding himself to a very high standard and spends his life competing with the one person he can never beat (himself or some version of it).

At the same time, he is incapable of openly accepting blame or responsibility for anything that isn’t positive, and in fact he relates any such admission to weakness and “badness” of other people – which, most likely, is because of the angry kind of envy that psychologists say is involved in the creation of any narcissistic behavior.

The covert narcissist is often mistaken for an introvert or a shy person because to the untrained eye, they appear to be a pushover who is generally unassertive. They see themselves (and others see them) as victims or as people who aren’t able to obtain what they should have or deserve. People who don’t really know him may say things like, “oh, he’s just a big teddy bear!”

A covert narcissist will also:

  • call themselves a perfectionist and/or claim to be “a little OCD”
  • have outrageously adolescent daydreams about being a big famous something-or-other
  • have a somewhat questionable grip on reality, leading to personal guilt and self-hate.
  • have feelings of being worthless, countered by feelings of being different, separate, or “better” than other people

Get some additional insight into covert narcissism here.

How can you tell the difference between a covert narcissist and an introvert?

The easiest way to tell the difference between a narcissist and an introvert is to put them in a social setting. An introvert will feel drained after being around lots of people for a long period of time, while a narcissist will thrive on attention. A true narcissist loves being the center of attention and basks in other peoples’ admiration. Other signs that you may be dealing with a covert narcissist include:

  • They love talking about themselves.
  • They have little interest in what others have to say until they can find some way to turn the conversation back to themselves.
  • They are always “one-upping” you, trying to make themselves appear more important or talented than you are.
  • They often refer back to past accomplishments or try to one-up you by telling you about their future plans, as if to prove how much better they are than you currently think that they are.
  • They typically have an exaggerated sense of entitlement and are often envious of others’ success and popularity, even when it appears that they’re happy for them (narcissists are often masters at faking emotions).
  • They tend not to be interested in friendships unless there’s something in it for them.

What do you think? Have you ever met a covert narcissist? How could you tell? What characteristics do you think most clearly identify the covert narcissist? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section, below this video.

Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today

Online help is readily available for survivors of narcissistic abuse. Here are some options to begin healing from narcissistic abuse right away.

Read more: Take Back Your Life: 103 Highly-Effective Strategies to Snuff Out a Narcissist’s Gaslighting and Enjoy the Happy Life You Really Deserve

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Is your anger eating you alive?

Is your anger eating you alive?

Do you spend a lot of time feeling angry, resentful, or irritable? Do you think it’s related to the people in your life, or does it come from inside yourself? How do you handle it? 

How and Why You Need to Stop Being So Pissed Off All the Time

Related: Are you a narcissist? 

Managing Anger in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

If you feel angry more often than you’d like, you’re probably looking for a good way to manage it. As with most everything, your ability to manage your anger has to begin with understanding it. So let’s start with this one. 

Anger doesn’t make you bad. 

The first thing you need to know is that you’re not weird or horrible – anger is a normal human reaction to things like injustice, poor treatment of yourself and others, and a whole host of other issues and situations. 

“The emotion of anger is neither good nor bad,” according to “It’s perfectly healthy and normal to feel angry when you’ve been mistreated or wronged. The feeling isn’t the problem—it’s what you do with it that makes a difference. Anger becomes a problem when it harms you or others.”

Feel like your anger is unhealthy? Maybe you’re dealing with narcissistic rage

You’ve got to let out your anger. 

Oftentimes, and especially when we’re in a difficult relationship with someone, we hold our tongues when we have anger. Sometimes we do this because we realize we aren’t being logical, but other times we do it because we are trying to avoid confrontation or upset in a relationship. 

Sometimes, people want to make you feel crazy. If you think you might be dealing with someone who intentionally creates chaos for you, you might be dealing with a narcissist. Find out the top ten warning signs of narcissism in a relationship. 

But when it comes to anger, it can almost literally eat you alive if you push it down for too long – eventually, you need a way to express it. If you don’t have a trusted friend or family member you can turn to, there are plenty of “safe” ways you can release your anger – such as joining a support group, finding a therapist or even journaling or blogging about your issues. 

One thing to avoid: don’t post your drama publicly on your social media accounts. This will only lead to trouble and additional drama in your life. 

Look outside your own head and gain a new perspective. 

While expressing your anger is important, it’s equally important to do so in a healthy and productive way. If you scream at your child for an hour, does it really do anything to benefit the relationship? 

If arguing with your spouse brings out your inner “mean girl,” causing you to say the most hurtful things you can think of, maybe you need to come up with a better way to cope with your anger. See, even when you “get over it,” your spouse won’t be able to forget the things you said. This is another way to damage your relationships. 

Need-to-Know Anger Facts from 

  • Out-of-control anger hurts your physical health. Constantly operating at high levels of stress and tension is bad for your health. Chronic anger makes you more susceptible to heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, a weakened immune system, insomnia, and high blood pressure.
  • Out-of-control anger hurts your mental health. Chronic anger consumes huge amounts of mental energy and clouds your thinking, making it harder to concentrate, see the bigger picture, and enjoy life. It can also lead to stress, depression, and other mental health problems.
  • Out-of-control anger hurts your career. Constructive criticism, creative differences, and heated debate can be healthy. But lashing out only alienates your colleagues, supervisors, or clients and erodes their respect. What’s more, a bad reputation can follow you wherever you go, making it harder and harder to get ahead.
  • Out-of-control anger hurts your relationships with others. It causes lasting scars in the people you love most and gets in the way of your friendships and work relationships. Chronic, intense anger makes it hard for others to trust you, speak honestly, or feel comfortable—they never know what is going to set you off or what you will do. Explosive anger is especially damaging to children.

What makes us feel angry? 

Do you feel angry a lot? Maybe it manifests as a feeling of just being irritated and annoyed by everything that surrounds you?

Related: Are you being gaslighted? 10 things you need to know if you love a narcissist

Anger and irritability can be a serious challenge, but understanding its causes can help you find a solution that brings you relief. You’ve got to love yourself enough to want to feel better and to improve your relationships. 

Some dynamics of anger

  • We become more angry when we are stressed and body resources are down.
  • We are rarely ever angry for the reasons we think.
  • We are often angry when we didn’t get what we needed as a child.
  • We often become angry when we see a trait in others we can’t stand in ourselves.
  • Underneath many current angers are old disappointments, traumas, and triggers.
  • Sometimes we get angry because we were hurt as a child.
  • We get angry when a current event brings up an old unresolved situation from the past.
  • We often feel strong emotion when a situation has a similar content, words or energy that we have felt before.

Source: Get Your Angries Out

Here are some of the most common causes of anger. 

1. Low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar, can make adults and children irritable. Low blood sugar levels can be caused by diabetes, medications, or stress. In addition, forgetting to eat or not eating enough food can trigger the issue.

Tip: You can raise your blood sugar level back up by eating carbohydrates or taking medications.

2. Dehydration. Dehydration can change your mood quickly and make you frustrated. Not drinking enough water can affect your body and your mind. Even cases of mild dehydration can lead to mood swings and irritability. This issue can be solved by staying hydrated throughout the day.

3. Stress. Stress can make you feel angry, frustrated, and upset. Practice regular stress-relieving activities like yoga or meditation to help keep stress from building up inside you.

4. Anxiety disorders. Irritability can be a sign of an anxiety disorder. Talk to your doctor if you suspect this is the cause and seek treatment. Anxiety disorders have multiple symptoms, but feelings of frustration and anger are common.

5. PTSD and CPTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder is another common issue that has irritability as a symptom. Often, victims of narcissists in toxic relationships experience PTSD or CPTSD. Learn more. 

6. Alzheimer’s disease. Patients who have Alzheimer’s disease often feel irritated and angry. Personality changes are a large component of the disorder, so patients frequently have mood swings. Irritability is a common issue that presents itself throughout the disease. It’s important to discuss your concerns about Alzheimer’s disease with a doctor.

7. Hormonal changes. As bodies age, hormones can shift and change. Both men and women can experience hormonal changes. However, this issue is more frequently seen in women. In women, menopause and premenopause can create mood swings and feelings of frustration. Premenstrual syndrome is another culprit that can cause irritability.

Tip: Don’t just accept your fate – find out what options are available to you for hormone management. You might be surprised when you consult with your doctor about various treatments for hormonal changes, which might include natural remedies, supplements, medications, and lifestyle changes.

8. Hyperthyroidism. Thyroid issues can create feelings of irritability among other symptoms. A thyroid that is not working properly can make you feel angry, frustrated, nervous, and anxious. Thyroid disease has a large impact on mood and can affect your mind.

9. Caffeine withdrawal. If you decide to stop drinking coffee or eliminate other sources of caffeine, then be prepared for the symptoms of withdrawal. One of the most common symptoms is irritability. 

Tip: Caffeine addiction is real – trust me! To avoid feelings of irritation and frustration, you may want to gradually reduce your caffeine intake over time. Instead of going cold turkey, eliminate it slowly.

10. Depression. Although it’s not a symptom that is often associated with this disorder, irritability and unexpected anger can be a sign of depression. Other symptoms such as sadness and withdrawal are more common, but irritability shouldn’t be ignored.

Did you know?

Irritability is more frequently seen as a symptom of depression in teenagers and young children. They may have trouble expressing themselves, so frustration is high.

Researchers have documented cases in children and teenagers that reveal they may not have sadness as a symptom. Instead, they try to express their depression through anger and irritability. It’s important to discuss all of these symptoms with your doctor and seek help.

Knowledge is power, and you deserve to be powerful.

Anger and irritability are optional, I promise, and they certainly do not have to control your life.

You get to make the choices in your life. You can’t change others, but you can change your perspective. And that, my friend, means you can change you whole life.

Now that you’ve got a clearer understanding of anger, the causes of anger and how you can manage it, you can make the choices you want to make to improve your health and your life.  

Next time you feel anger, I want you to ask yourself: is this anger justified? And if so, is it helping me to improve my life or anyone else’s? 

My litmus test is simple – either it’s helping to improve the situation, or it’s not. Even if it’s justified, it’s not always productive – so why bring any additional negative energy to yourself? 

Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today

Online help is readily available for survivors of narcissistic abuse. Here are some options to begin healing from narcissistic abuse right away.

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Narcissism, Exposed: An Example of Gaslighting in Relationships

Narcissism, Exposed: An Example of Gaslighting in Relationships

Gaslighting is such a devastating and overwhelming form of psychological abuse in part because it’s so pervasive and underhanded – and therefore, easy for even the most enlightened person to miss. That’s why I am sharing this example of gaslighting to help you get an idea of what it looks like.
gaslighting quote

An Example of Gaslighting in a Friendship

Imagine this: You’re having a discussion with a friend. Let’s call him Ben. You’re upset with Ben because he invited you to spend the weekend at his condo on the beach, but while you were en route from three states away, he met a new friend and invited him to stay at the condo too.

This bothers you because Ben gave the new friend your room. And now you’ve either got to bunk on the couch or pay for a hotel – and neither is a good option.

When you arrive and hear the news, Ben tells you that he did it because he did not want to make his new friend think he didn’t care about the friend’s comfort.

You feel upset by this because, as Ben’s oldest friend, you feel that his concern and loyalty should lie with you first – especially given that you had a pre-existing invitation to use the room.

When you express your feelings to Ben, he acts shocked and recoils, telling you to stop acting so crazy – and to settle down, quit overreacting. Before you know it, you’re apologizing and begging to sleep on Ben’s lumpy couch – and he’s too angry to even look at you because you “just totally went off on him” for “no reason” and he was “just trying to help you out, man.”

Later, you find out that he’s been telling everyone how “crazy” and “out of control” you got. You’re dumbfounded, crushed. Hurt. Confused.

The next day, you question yourself. Maybe you DID overreact. Maybe Ben had a point…maybe you were a little out of control. Does this situation sound familiar?

How Gaslighting Works, Explained by Example

This story is a concrete example of how gaslighting works. Let’s break down this conversation a little bit and make some points.

  1. Ben makes a promise to you – that you can stay in his guest room on the beach for a weekend.
  2. After you commit and are on your way to visit, Ben invites a perfect stranger to take the room and puts you in an uncomfortable position by not even asking if it would bother you.
  3. When you “confront” him with your feelings, no matter how carefully, he twists your words and gets upset.
  4. You, naturally, find yourself getting emotional – first because you’re shocked that he’s being so rude and disrespectful, and second, because you’re hurt and angry that he can’t see why he’s wrong.
  5. Ben turns it around on you and brushes aside his disrespect and blatant disregard for you, and he focuses on the fact that “you yelled at him” when you responded to his abusive treatment. In reality, you started feeling (righteously) offended and you started talking faster than usual.
  6. You end up apologizing and feeling guilty somehow, even though you know that he is the one who caused the problem.
  7. Ben spreads lies about you in order to reinforce his attempt to control and manipulate you. Other people start giving you funny looks and whispering.
  8. You begin to doubt yourself, and start to think maybe you’re the crazy one.

You have just been successfully gaslighted by a very toxic narcissist.

Sharing her own example of being gaslighted through the silent treatment, Caroline Abbott writes, “…when I told my husband that when I was in junior high, my friends decided one day to stop speaking to me.”

She added, “This went on for an entire month. At the time, he pretended to be so sympathetic towards me. Yet, later when his abuse escalated, he would stop speaking to me, sometimes for up to a month at a time! He used the knowledge of one of the most painful times of my life to abuse me.”

Have you had conversations like this with someone in your life? If so, you might be involved with a malignant narcissist.

What does it feel like to deal with a narcissist’s gaslighting?

Living, working, or otherwise engaging with a narcissist can leave you feeling drained, overwhelmed, and a little bit crazy. If you have already figured out that he’s a narcissist, you’re shocked that you fell for his crap – you’re a smart cookie, and you feel like you should’ve known better. Over time, you might find yourself isolating yourself in order to avoid dealing with anyone you don’t have to – and the symptoms will get worse from there.

This video goes into more detail on what gaslighting feels like and how to deal with it.

Do you recognize anyone in the conversation above? Have you been the victim of gaslighting? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments, below this video.Still not sure? Take our gaslighting self-assessment to find out if you’ve been the victim of a narcissist’s gaslighting and manipulation.

Resources for Healing Yourself After Narcissistic Abuse

If you’re in one of these situations, there are things you can do RIGHT NOW to make your life better.


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