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9 Signs You or Someone You Know Is a Covert Narcissist

Updated on August 15, 2017
Echo And Narcissus, John William Waterhouse
Echo And Narcissus, John William Waterhouse | Source

Not all Narcissists are bombastic and in-your-face.

When it comes to narcissists, it is believed they come in 2 flavors: the grandiose and the covert. Narcissists of the grandiose variety are much easier to spot as they exhibit the overtly vane, exploitative, self-entitled, and aggressive behavior commonly associated with narcissism. The covert or vulnerable narcissist on the other hand, is less conspicuous. They are outwardly self-inhibited and modest, and may appear empathetic but inside harbor much of the same grandiose and over-inflated self-image found in their grandiose counterpart.

Covert narcissists are more likely to report themselves as introverted and sensitive. The defensiveness, anxiety and vulnerability of the covert narcissist are traits standardly associated with introversion. While the grandiose narcissist will assert their sense of superiority in blunt and intrusive ways, the closet narcissist will merely hint at it. Here are a list of signs to look for to determine if you or someone you know know is an introverted narcissist.

1. The Superior Snowflake

Introverts are often aloof and reserved. To some this can be interpreted as a sign of conceit or high-mindedness when in most cases this simply is not true - unless they are a narcissist. In which case such an interpretation would be spot on. The introverted narcissist does indeed put others at a distance, viewing themselves in a very different light and it is something like a limelight. These types will self indulge in their own sense of individuality, overestimating themselves in the service of bolstering their delusional self-image. They will harp about how special they are or imply it through their proud antinomian attitude and contempt for the mainstream. They may take many opportunities to humble brag about their achievements and often describe themselves in terms of being "gifted" or "genius".

2. Lack Of Empathy

Grandiose and vulnerable narcissists alike share an ego-centric attitude that devalues and marginalizes the significance of others. With the introverted narcissist, this will manifest in poor listening and an apparent disinterest in anyone or anything outside of what directly affects them. They are often inattentive of other's needs although they may put on the appearance of being otherwise. In truth, they resent others who try to burden them with their problems.

3. Social Avoidance

Vulnerable narcissists experience interpersonal anxiety and may avoid relationships in order to protect themselves from the disappointment and shame over unmet expectations of others. Social avoidance may be a primary method that these individuals use to protect their self-esteem. Vulnerable narcissistic personalities are aware of their hypersensitivity within relationships, expecting others to meet their needs yet fearing others will fail to respond to them. When the latter occurs, these individuals often become ashamed for needing anything from others in the first place.

4. Passive-Aggression

Rather than engage in direct confrontation, the covert narcissist may use subtle manipulative methods to get under the skin of others. They may give back-handed compliments or make insensitive remarks in a casual and off-handed manner. They may also gaslight others and deflect blame, while denying all responsibility on their part. This may also manifest in acts of sabotage and shirking their responsibilities to undermine other's expectations of them.

5. Persecution Complex

Introverted narcissists exhibit pronounced hypersensitivity to criticism and perceived slights. They are prone to being "injustice collectors" who internalize any affront or offense done to them, much of which is likely to be grossly distorted from reality and blown out of proportion. The vulnerable narcissist is easily threatened when challenged by others or when having their flaws and errors pointed out. These individuals lack the healthy coping mechanisms necessary for handling psychological distress and over time may cultivate very skewed beliefs that ultimately casts all blame onto others. They may stew over such grievances undetected by others until they finally lash out in sometimes violent outbursts.

6. Depends On The Admiration Of Others

The self-esteem of vulnerable narcissists often requires outside validation to sustain itself. Compliments and accolades feed this need and they will be compelled to show-off and showboat to satisfy it. Their unrealistic sense of entitlement leads them to expect this admiration no matter what they do. When they feel unappreciated by others, and cannot obtain the recognition they believe they deserve, covert narcissists may slip into depression, and become bossy and demanding. They may exhibit cruel behavior and try to belittle and degrade others in an attempt to inflict onto them the inferiority they feel.

7. Difficulty In Relationships

Covert narcissists experience much greater anxiety in developing relationships with others because of the frailty of their self-esteem. They may avoid them altogether for fear that the potential of rejection may be too intolerable for them to bare. Spouses of both grandiose and vulnerable narcissists cite them as being bossy, cruel, arrogant,
argumentative, and demanding. In contrast, spouses of vulnerable narcissists alone rated them as dissatisfied, anxious, and bitter. Part of the narcissist's aloof hubris acts as a defensive mechanism for keeping people away, so as to avoid being exposed for her or his interpersonal inadequacies.

8. Misunderstood Genius

Feeling at odds with most people, the covert narcissist is apt to claim it is others, not them who are to blame. They reassure themselves that they are "exceptional" and "ahead of their time" to justify their failure to gain acceptance or agreement with others. Regular people are just too stupid and swag-less to get them and appreciate their brilliance. It will hardly occur to the narcissist that they are in denial about their own ineptitude and short-comings.

9. They Want All The Credit

Both grandiose and covert narcissists enjoy taking all the credit - whether deserved or not. There is simply not enough room to share the stage with them and so it is either all or nothing. They seek personal glory and external validation to support their notions of self-importance and the idea of fragmenting that glory to include others is an unappealing proposition for them. They will either try to grab an inordinate amount of credit or disavow their involvement altogether.

© 2016 J Etta


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