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What does Covert Narcissism mean? 10 characteristics of a Covert Narcissist.

Woman suffers from manipulation covert narcissist

You have probably encountered an overt narcissist before. They show themselves through shamelessly superior behavior and completely disregarding you as a person. The overt narcissist clearly shows that everything revolves around him/her and is completely focused on 'the self'. You can see clear character traits, this person is often arrogant, aggressive and has no empathy. This is much more difficult to recognize with a covert narcissist, as they are deviously fooling you. A common manipulation technique they use is gaslighting. This blog briefly describes what gaslighting exactly is, what a covert narcissist entails and describes the 10 most striking characteristics of the covert narcissist.

What I wrote in my other blog 'Narcissism, what exactly does this term mean?' It has already been described that narcissism is not innate, but learned. People with narcissistic traits have a large void within themselves, which they try to fill by putting others down. This can range from mild to extreme narcissism. I have a mother who shows many narcissistic traits, growing up with a narcissist is very difficult and very harmful for a child, unfortunately this is often underestimated.

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a common form of manipulation used by narcissists, especially covert narcissists, to trick the other person. Gaslighting involves distorting the truth in order to make someone else more insecure and doubt themselves. As a result, the person will have less and less of an identity of his own and will become a follower of the narcissist. The narcissist then has a position of power, because the person no longer poses a threat. The narcissist has a thin personality and therefore sees everything as a threat. So if you have your own opinion, this feels too dangerous for the narcissist, as his/her worldview can collapse. Everything happens so subtly that you often don't even notice that you are being fooled. For example, they flatly deny something that you know for sure took place and distort conversations. The result is that you become dependent on the narcissist, do not dare to give your own opinion and think of yourself as crazy. Sometimes it feels like you have to record everything so that you have proof that you are actually right.

Covert Narcissism

Covert narcissism is much more difficult to recognize than overt narcissism. Since covert narcissists want to remain secret, they use devious manipulation techniques such as gaslighting. The covert narcissist works much more subtly and presents himself as very friendly and generous to the outside world. By telling stories to others that make them look good, they get the attention and appreciation they are looking for in the short term. They cannot keep this mask on forever, which often makes them very unpleasant at home. The covert narcissist experiences a lot of emptiness within himself/herself, which can make him/her very unpredictable. Sometimes they think something you ask is okay, other times they can completely react irritated to the same question you ask. They often attack others on their person, for example they say: you are just too sensitive, unreasonable or because of you I feel like a failure and my life is a lot of misery. It is never the narcissist's fault, it is always the other person's fault. Since the narcissist needs 'feeding', he/she will contact you fairly often, as long as they get the attention they need whether this is positive or negative.

The 10 most striking characteristics of a covert narcissist

1. Has little to no empathy

A covert narcissist cannot and does not want to empathize with the other person, only his/her own interests count. Often when it comes to physical pain, they can sometimes pretend that they feel sorry for you. But anything that has to do with emotional pain or sadness, the covert narcissist cannot tolerate. They will then pretend that you are crazy and don't exist. According to them, this is another attack on their vulnerable self-image and must be avoided at all costs. After all, deep emotions have been suppressed by them for almost their entire lives and are never allowed to surface. After all, in a relationship with a narcissist there is never really room for you, the conversation quickly turns back to the narcissist.

2. Acts pathetically and as a victim

Covert narcissists always believe themselves to be innocent and always shift the blame to someone else. For example, if you drop something they get angry, but if they drop something themselves they act as if nothing happened or they blame someone else and say: 'This is all because of you, you distracted me!'. If it is impossible to get away with something they have done, they will immediately become victims. In this way they hope to respond to the empathy of others and to get away with it as pleasantly and quickly as possible.

3. The opinions of others are not allowed and do not count

The covert narcissist sees the opinions of others as an attack on their own vulnerable identity. That is why the narcissist will do everything he can to show that he/she is right, whether this is through manipulation or not, they go to great lengths in this. Gaslighting is often used as a final move, which plays on the other person's feelings, which is so devious that almost everyone falls for it. Ultimately, if you are exposed to this behavior for a long period of time and do not dare to leave the narcissist, you will become a follower of the narcissist who no longer dares to have an own opinion and identity.

4. Acts friendly to the outside world, but is very cunning at home

A covert narcissist tries to do everything he can to keep his identity hidden. The covert narcissist must be seen in a good light and above all must not be exposed. That's why they pretend to the outside world that their family is perfect and he/she is the perfect parent. Children can even start to believe this and no longer look at their parents realistically, but from the perspective of: 'my family is perfect, only I am sinful'. Children are taught that they are always to blame and that the narcissist can never do anything wrong. This is very harmful for children and they will suffer greatly from this in their adult lives, especially not knowing who they are and not daring to stand up for themselves.

5. Keeps repeating 'weaknesses' about you to make themselfs feel better

A covert narcissist will often repeat what went wrong with you. For example, if a narcissist knows that you failed an exam or forgot your phone on the train, you will continue to hear this for a long time. They feel better when others make mistakes. A narcissist has very low self-esteem and this is one of the ways to fill this void within themselves in the short term. As a result, if you do not become aware of it, you will begin to reject and despise your human side. This can have a great impact on your later life, perfectionism and fear of failure often develop, as something that deviates from the norm is labeled as bad and something to be ashamed of.

6. They consider power important and believe they are better than others

Just like overt narcissists, covert narcissists are also constantly looking for power. They will do everything they can to secure their position of power and deviously manipulate you. Without power they feel extremely vulnerable, they prefer to be able to control everything, even the future, so that nothing can happen that could hurt them. Because of this drive for power, they place themselves above others, there is no room for equality. Because of this you will never be able to build a bond with the narcissist, as only the narcissist is worthy enough in his/her own worldview.

7. Passive aggressive responses

Since covert narcissists have difficulty expressing emotions, you won't notice it when they are angry. Yet they often exhibit passive aggressive behavior, which gives you the sense that they are angry deep inside. Passive aggressive behavior is a setback, such as attacking and bullying others, deliberately ignoring others (silent treatment) and especially the sarcastic side of the narcissist comes to the fore enormously.

The silent treatment often occurs when someone triggers the narcissist so much that he immediately renounces. The narcissist then stops talking to you and pretends you don't exist, because he/she thinks you have done something terrible. This can happen if you give an opinion, if it comes just a little too close to his true self or if, according to the narcissist, it poses a threat. He/she then shuts down and blames you for his pain because, after all, you stir it up.

8. Takes everything personally and constantly looks for confirmation

A hidden narcissist is very insecure deep down, so the smallest criticism is seen as an attack. Even if you say something about his hair, for example that it looks a bit messy, he will immediately interpret it as: she doesn't like me and I'm not good enough according to her. Narcissists often experienced severe emotional neglect in their youth, which is why they adopted this mechanism. A hidden narcissist will not immediately ask for a compliment, but will elicit this by continuously talking about what good things he/she has done or how good others think he/she is.

9. Will never say sorry, NEVER

What will never happen is a narcissist saying sorry on his own. With a narcissist you have to get an apology out of him/her, only when the narcissist really has nowhere to go or wants to get rid of 'your bullshit' will the narcissist say sorry. This apology is completely unsincere, because next time the narcissist will do exactly the same thing again or hurt you in the same way. Saying sorry is being vulnerable and as you know, narcissists don't do that. They have built a whole wall around themselves so showing empathetic compassion will never happen. It may seem like the narcissist is feeling too good to say sorry, but they are actually terrified to say it. The point is that a narcissist hates himself deep down and doesn't love himself at all, so you can never build a relationship with a narcissist. Only when someone loves themselves can they love someone else and therefore sincerely say sorry and get out of difficult situations with someone else.

10. Does not take responsibility and shifts the blame to others

The narcissist can never do anything wrong, no matter if it is in black and white, they will always deny it flatly. Being to blame for something is of course negative, the hidden narcissist does everything he can to appear perfect and good, thus also shifting the blame to someone else. When they realize that they themselves have done something wrong, their whole world collapses. Narcissists have often been through a lot in the past, bullied and were blamed for everything. This has made them so afraid of appearing 'bad' that they maintain a world in which they can never do anything wrong. Covert narcissists also use gaslighting techniques to make others believe that they themselves are guilty. If the other person believes this, the narcissist feels even better, as his worldview is confirmed again.

How can you deal with hidden narcissism?

First of all, it is important to become aware and dare to look at signals that the hidden narcissist sends. If you have the feeling that one of your parents is this, dare to look at the situation realistically. This can be very scary, because it feels like you are betraying them, but believe me it is extremely important for yourself, otherwise you will have a hard time ahead.

Above all, follow your intuition, because it is almost always right. If it feels like something is not quite right, try to ask yourself why you feel that way and give yourself love. It is difficult to find out after years that you have been/are being mentally abused, but don't punish yourself for this when you find out. This only makes things worse and after all you have already suffered all these years. Try to love yourself so that you dare to set boundaries. Without boundaries you will forever be in the power of a narcissist and never be able to rebuild your life.

When you start setting boundaries, the narcissist will not like this as he/she no longer has any power over you. Be prepared for arguments and conflicts and try to protect yourself from them. You can do this by not going along with the narcissist's hatred and continuing to observe. By observing I mean identifying what is happening within yourself, so that you can look at the situation from a third perspective without getting carried away. You can also choose to walk away, since the narcissist won't listen anyway.

What the narcissist can also do is that he/she will act sweetly to win you back for him/her. Don't fall for this, because as soon as the narcissist feels that you are under his power again, he/she will start doing exactly the same as before. This will only destroy you even more as you trust the narcissist a second time and open yourself up.

Above all, don't believe that a narcissist will change. They sometimes talk big things, but they are really not going to change, they are already too far gone for that. In fact, you have to continuously play the adult role in a relationship with the narcissist, even if you are the child. It is very difficult, but try to show as little emotion as possible and above all do not go against the narcissist, if you do this you will only cause more misery for yourself. For narcissists it doesn't matter what kind of attention they receive, negative is also good, as long as it provides nourishment. If possible, always end the relationship with a narcissist, as you can never build a bond with him/her and it mainly destroys you. This can be very difficult and scary, but you can do it!


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