Contrasting with the Exhibitionist Narcissist

Despite sharing core traits, in a sense, behaviorally the covert narcissist is the mirror image of the exhibitionist narcissist. While the latter demands to be the center of attention, the former feels slighted that they’re not, or gets attention by playing the victim. Instead of working the room, the covert narcissist is self-absorbed. Normal introverts are generally good listeners, but not this narcissist. They consider others boring or ignorant. Rather than ordering others around, the covert narcissist can get their way indirectly through passive-aggressive behavior. They may agree to things, but not follow through, be late, forget, or pretend there was no agreement. All narcissists are manipulative. Covert narcissists may add self-pity to their toolkit to control others. Rather than put down others directly, they are more likely to express envy.

Due to their introversion, instead of bragging openly, covert narcissists display reserved smugness and judge everyone as inferior. They might act aloof and disinterested or make dismissive or discounting gestures, like looking away, sighing, yawning impolitely, or acting bored. While all narcissists react poorly to criticism, the introvert may have the thinnest skin of all, because they believe they’re uniquely sensitive. Instead of the aggressive and exploitative nature of extroverted narcissist, coverts have feelings of neglect or belittlement, hypersensitivity, anxiety, and delusions of persecution.

The Covert Narcissist in Relationships

The danger is in not seeing through the facade of a covert narcissist, because they’re more passive. But covert narcissists can be just as destructive to relationships as the extroverted types. The emotional abuse might be more silent and subtle, but can wear you down and demoralize you. Your needs and pleas for attention will be discounted or ignored. You can get sucked into trying to console and help this manipulative martyr to no avail. There’s no way you can fill their emptiness or change their victim mentality. You’re left feeling resentful and angry. Meanwhile, your self-esteem is gradually undermined. The narcissist lacks empathy for you, won’t see you as a separate individual, and will do what’s necessary to maintain power and control. Their pain and needs will always take precedence, so you’re left feeling alone and neglected.

Extroverted narcissists sometimes also act covertly, pout, and play the victim in order to manipulate. Don’t get caught up in definitions. If your needs and feelings are being discounted, if you feel manipulated or abused, see a therapist and learn how to confront this behavior. Get Dealing with a Narcissist.
© Darlene Lancer 2018

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