52 Ways to Identify a Covert Narcissist
52 Ways to Identify a Covert Narcissist
How to take a closer look.
Psychology Today/July 7, 2020
By Julie Hall, reviewed by Kaja Perina
- The covert narcissist fails to develop emotional empathy, self-awareness, or a stable sense of identity and self-esteem in childhood.
- Covert narcissists avoid the spotlight and prefer passive-aggressive means of controlling others due to their fear being exposed and humiliated.
- Tactics of a covert narcissist might include belittling, triangulation, and avoiding direct responsibility.
The flamboyance of overt narcissists can make them pretty easy to identify, but what about the covert narcissist in your life?
Recognizing covert personality traits requires looking beyond obvious appearances, past common assumptions and expectations. For this reason, covert narcissism is more difficult to spot, and it can take years to recognize it in someone you think you know well. But the good news is that once you become aware of the patterns and signs of covert narcissism, you aren’t likely to miss them again.
Covert Narcissism Checklist
The more covert form of pathological narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is not expressed the same way in every individual, but there are typical patterns that are very common. If you see many or most of these attitudes and behaviors in a person you know, you’re probably dealing with someone who suffers—and makes others suffer—with covert narcissism.Is passive-aggressiveCriticizes and judges from the sidelines
1. Is passive-aggressive
2. Criticizes and judges from the sidelines
3. Is condescending and superior
4. Is threatened by honesty and directness
5. Swings between idealizing and devaluing him-/herself and others
6. Denies and dismisses others’ feelings
7. Cultivates a public image sharply different from his/her private behavior
8. Identifies as a victim
9. Is cynical and sarcastic
10. Makes unreasonable demands
11. Turns your problems into his/her dramas
12. Belittles and blames
13. Exploits and/or attacks others’ vulnerability
14. Is reactive to questioning or criticism
15. Plays on sympathies
16. Fakes or exaggerates illness/injury for attention
17. Withholds and stonewalls
19. Avoids introspection and lacks self-awareness
20. Uses platitudes in place of genuine insight
21. Denies own anger
22. Focuses on unfairness
23. Is envious and vengeful
24. Prefers to remain behind the scenes
27. Holds a grudge
28. Needs reassurance
29. Is inattentive or annoyed when others talk
30. Has double standards
31. Hates to lose
32. Fixates on others’ problems and misfortunes
33. Flatters and fawns to win favor
34. Displays rage and contempt in private
35. Resists decision-making
36. Does not sincerely apologize
37. Avoids direct responsibility
38. Has an exaggerated sense of entitlement
39 Is impressed by the overt narcissist’s appearance of confidence
40. Lacks emotional empathy
41. Focuses on appearance over substance
42. Rushes to (false) intimacy
43. Is anxious and hypervigilant
44. Displays false humility and humblebrags
45. Is prone to paranoia and conspiracy theories
46. Crosses normative boundaries and codes of conduct
47. Pokes, prods, and pries
48. Feels special through association
49. Feels above the rules
50. Uses guilt and shame to control and punish
51. Expects caretaking
52. Conducts smear campaigns
The Overt Versus the Covert Narcissist
Like the overt narcissist, the covert narcissist fails to develop emotional empathy, self-awareness, or a stable sense of identity and self-esteem in childhood. Both feel defective and cope with underlying insecurity and shame by repressing those feelings and adopting a grandiose persona, a delusion of superiority and entitlement that they constantly assert at the expense of those around them.
Although covert narcissists avoid the spotlight and prefer passive-aggressive means of controlling others, this is not necessarily because they are introverted as is often stated. Rather, they lack the brash confidence of overt narcissists and fear being exposed and humiliated if they draw public attention to themselves. Often this is because they have been conditioned not to compete with a domineering overt narcissist parent.
Recognizing the covert narcissist in your life is the first step to overcoming your self-defeating cycles of confusion, guilt, anger, self-blame, and emotional and physical trauma.