5 Ways you can spot a Covert Narcissist Hiding In Your Life


Do you know how to identify a covert narcissist?  Here's an example.

YOU: “I need your help, I’m desperate. I wouldn’t normally ask but I really need your help.”

THEM: “No sorry, I have a hair appointment.”

Covert narcissists are harder to spot in your life than overt, simply because they’re really not nearly as obvious. They’re very hard to spot if you are most used to overt narcissists. Overt narcissists are obvious attention-seeking nightmares; covert narcissists are seemingly the opposite.

The person judging your parenting skills from the side-lines or criticizing your latest way to get fit, rather than supporting it, may well be a covert narcissist. If you’re honest or direct, they twitch, huff, and march off.

Do these sound familiar? 

1. A sweet public persona, but totally different in private

They’re sweetness and light in public but privately they’re cutting and casually cruel. They like to play on sympathy; they can do a wonderful job at it.

One person I know is known for being extremely gluten intolerant, she touches no dairy and can’t eat sugar, restaurants have to be checked on, menus found, yet in secret, she’s scoffing Cadbury Crème Eggs and a bottle of wine.

They are annoyed if you’re talking. They accuse you of stealing the show, but it is not done in an outright manner.

It will be a little comment slipped in that cuts deep into you, followed by “Anyway…” and the focus is, once again, back on them and their needs.  You slope off feeling bemused and uncertain as to what you did wrong.

A covert narcissist will avoid responsibility and hide from the limelight

Never normally out front, they’ll hide behind others, preferring to remain behind the scenes. Why? It’s so nothing has to be directly their responsibility or fault. If you mention it, they’ll be cynical or sarcastic. If they’re genuinely wronged, they won’t confront, they’ll snipe behind your back, or anyone else’s with whom they hold a grudge.

They are much happier to watch you fight their battles for them.


2. This person doesn't know themselves deeply

Avoiding introspection, there is a lack of self-awareness in a covert narcissist. If you open up around them, you feel suddenly very unsure.  Still uncertain, you’ll carry on in the hope more information will bring forth some kind of deep connection, but you’re fobbed off with platitudes in place of genuine insight.

Again, you’re left shaking your head wondering what happened.

There will be overt displays of humility and caring from a covert narcissist!

This type of narcissist will display a lot of humility, but it always has an ulterior motive and is not genuine.  For example, ‘Oh I only baked this little cake; it’s a bit dry' when it’s moist and tastes delicious.


3.  Creating division is a covert technique

Their children squabble their way into adulthood.  An atmosphere of division between siblings is encouraged through inaction when difficulties arise, and triangulation tactics are used.

The covert narcissist will prefer to keep siblings away from each other, favouring one sibling over another.  There will be complaints from them about your difficulties in relating to your fellow siblings - “I wish you two would get on” yet when you do try, the other sibling is unavailable.

Seeming to be kind and caring, the covert narcissist regularly moves the goalposts

They ‘wish’ you would talk to each other but will then say: “Oh I don’t like to interfere” even when you need support in the process.  They paint themselves as the kind and all-knowing parent - all the while keeping the division alive.

A covert narcissist has the same desire as an overt narcissist – to be number one.

To be the centre of attention, however, their technique is to operate behind the scenes. Never overt, their superiority is achieved through negativity, denial, and the constant creation of unreasonable demands.  The goalposts are always moved so you can never keep up.


4. Overly friendly, but unreliable

The covert narcissist will be the immediately friendly and overly helpful friend at your most vulnerable time, only to find this friend disappears on you when things go really well and you want someone to celebrate with.

They may also be the needy elderly parent who can be so nice sometimes but swaps you out the moment you’re not running to be their caretaker.

This type of narcissist may also be the partner who quietly turned your situation into their drama - or the work colleague who is casually late on the most important day of your career.


5.  It will seem impossible to get ahead with a covert narcissist

Somehow, you never seem to get ahead. They’ll never cheer your success or allow it to happen because it’s not within their interest. They’ll want things to remain the same, in their control, and outside of any opportunities of growth for you. 

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