When you think of a narcissist you probably picture this attention and power-loving person. You see them as someone who has to be the center of attention — someone who has no empathy for others. They are a person who manipulates people like they are on a chessboard. Sound like someone you know?
That’s why so many of us are not prepared for the covert narcissist. They will quietly reel you in with their good looks and subtle sense of humor. Their woeful tales will tug at your heartstrings. They aren’t loud, they’re not in your face. Yet they still share many of the same traits as the grandiose narcissist.
And even though only one in 200 people have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), it seems like they’re everywhere.
They feel superior, yet misunderstood
Like your average narcissist, covert narcissists are smug and feel superior to others, although they’re quieter about it. They feel self-important like they’re the special one, but no one knows about it yet. They often feel misunderstood by others. No one knows how talented and intelligent they are in comparison to average people. This bothers them a lot.
They often have strong fantasies of being famous and having everyone they know admire them.
These types are drawn like a magnet to empathetic people who recognize their talent and abilities and make them feel special. They will keep as many empathetic people around them as possible.
They lack empathy for others
Like typical narcissists, they don’t have empathy for others. Yet the difference is that covert ones like to pretend they have empathy — even if they don’t feel it.
Sadly, it’s a false empathy. They only pretend to care, to make themselves look good to others. They’ll also fake caring to manipulate people into doing what they want them to do.
Some of them will be actively involved in volunteering for a cause. Yet they will make sure everyone knows the good deeds they’re doing. These are people who do not give in secret.
Like the grandiose narcissist, they are completely self-absorbed. Nothing matters to them more than themselves. They will turn every conversation back to themselves. It’s their way or the highway.
They have problems being flexible with others and experience intense anxiety when their plan goes off-script. They must keep this facade of perfection going to their public. They need to control everything and everyone around them.
Like other narcissists, they feel deeply inadequate inside, underneath that mask they wear to the public. But covert narcissists take it a step further. They are extremely self-critical. Even if they are criticizing others, they criticize themselves the most. Deep inside, they are filled with self-hatred and loathing.
About 15% of narcissists are depressed, and about 13.5% have anxiety disorders.
Because they are so hard on themselves, they can’t tolerate being criticized by other people. It makes them feel deeply inadequate inside and wounds them to the core.
They’re extremely sensitive
Covert narcissists are highly sensitive. They will fly into a rage if you say something that rubs them the wrong way. They walk around feeling like a victim in their relationships. They’ll blame everything that goes wrong on you.
If they feel like you’ve wronged them, they’ll hold a grudge against you forever. If you let them reel you back in, they will never let you forget it. They will cruelly tease you and mock you, and say they were just kidding. They’ll act passive-aggressive and give you the silent treatment — sometimes for days or weeks.
Relationships are difficult for them because they have a hard time getting close emotionally to anyone. They behave in mysterious and impersonal ways, and it appears to everyone present that their partner means nothing to them. After a while, this cold behavior will drive their partner away. Then they’ll twist the entire story and act like it was their partner’s fault.
Covert narcissists are experts at gaslighting people and making their partner feel crazy. They’ll deny saying and doing hurtful things.
They will hurt you deeply
If you enter a relationship with a covert narcissist you are in for a world of hurt. They will make you feel sorry for them and you’ll want to help them. They’ll tell you a sad victim story about all the others that left them. They’ll inform you that you’re not like the others — you’re different. You’ll believe with all your heart that you can heal them from all their pain. You’ll believe that you are special to them.
They will keep you on a string, bringing you closer, then pushing you away. You’ll never know where you stand with them. This uncertainty will drive you crazy and cause you to be constantly focused on pleasing them.
Your connection with them will always be on their terms. Many times the relationship will be one-sided. You will be frustrated and feel like you’re the only one that was ever in love. They will call the shots, and you’ll go along with it to keep the peace.
Then the devaluing will start. This will happen when they find another source of supply. They’ll turn their critical eye upon you, and start pointing out all your shortcomings. You’ll realize that you weren’t different from the others at all. In the narcissist’s mind, you were just like the rest, and you are easily replaceable.
Soon they will be telling their sad victim story to their newest love interest. You will be long forgotten. They will only return when they get tired of their new person. They will break your heart over and over again if you let them.
You can’t save them
No matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to save them from themselves. They were wounded to the core by someone a long time ago, and unless they get help, they will spend the rest of their lives taking it out on those who love them the most.
You will spend wasted hours of your life trying to be everything to them — only to realize you meant nothing to them all along.
This post was previously published on Hello, Love.
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