The Covert Narcissist

By Tatiana Michelet 

Have you known and trusted someone for years only to finally and painfully wake up to the fact that you’ve been the victim of their extreme narcissistic tendencies?

Are you ashamed to have been fooled by a person who looks so perfect and innocent on the outside, that it’s hard to accept the truth – that you have been used to fuel their narcissistic supply?

For your own sanity, accept what has happened and move on because the person you thought you knew doesn’t exist, all there ever was, was a monster behind a mask.

What is Narcissism

Narcissism is more common than we think and to some extent, we all have a narcissistic streak in us, in fact, in moderate doses it can actually be healthy, contributing to self respect, providing a little ego boost when we need it and a little gratification here and there, but for most part, most of us are stable. By contrast, too little can result in low self love and low self esteem.

Too much narcissism is not healthy though. It is destructive, to narcissists themselves and those who are close to them. Extreme narcissistic individuals think that the whole world revolves around them, hiding their egoistic self and self hatred with confidence and skill.

Unfortunately our ignorance about extreme narcissism makes it difficult to spot the extreme male and female narcissists who sneak into our lives! So, do you think you know an extreme narcissist and what are the signs that indicate you may be dealing with one?

There are two types of extreme narcissists – overt and covert and some are easier to spot than others.

Overt narcissists are more common and much easier to spot, they externalise their arrogance, are outwardly demanding and display extreme character traits and their confrontational communication style does not go unnoticed!

Covert narcissists by contrast, are wolves in sheep’s clothing and are the most tricky and perhaps most dangerous sort so let’s focus on them. Covert narcissists are underhanded, deceptive and act behind the scenes. They pretend to be lovers, givers, altruistic, loyal and kind. These individuals are projecting to the outside world a calm and patient mirror but on the inside, they are as deeply selfish and narcissistic as overt narcissists.

Both overt and covert narcissists have grandiose fantasies, feel entitled and exploit and abuse people but the main difference between overt and covert narcissists is that unlike overt narcissists, covert narcissists know that showing or displaying their true self will get in the way of achieving the power, recognition and the self centered success they crave.

They worry a lot about their lies being found out and are very vulnerable to stress but unlike overt narcissists, they don’t believe themselves, what they want others to believe about them. Covert narcissists don’t possess the confidence levels of overt narcissists and are prone to feeling guilty about thinking they could ever be something they know they can’t. They put up emotional barriers and try their best to suppress these feelings and not expose them to the outside world. They don’t feel guilty, however, about hurting others so in that sense they are the same as overt narcissists. They are still very competitive, conscious of their actions and calculated in their actions.

So how do you recognize a covert narcissist? The only sure fire way is to be close to that person from a personal angle, to have a personal relationship with them, because covert narcissists can’t hide forever from those who are personally involved with them but despite that it can take a long time before their cover is blown.

The tell tale signs to help you recognize a covert narcissist:

  • Emptiness, seems to have something missing that you can’t quite put your finger on

  • Stubborn, rarely apologizing unless they want something from you (see narcissistic supply)

  • Ability to make you feel guilty, even when something is not your fault

  • Entirely self centered; they are the center of their own universe

  • Expert liars; charming, hypnotic, a master of manipulation

  • Projecting their insecurities and defects onto you

  • Very sensitive to constructive criticism

  • Inability to form intimate relationships

  • Inability to feel genuine remorse

  • Blaming others for their problems

  • Low emotional intelligence

  • Highly materialistic

  • Extreme lack of empathy

  • Superficially charming

  • A victim mentality.

Denial: Narcissism often stems from childhood issues which I won’t go into here but a narcissist will often paint their childhood as near to perfect and if they seek help and deal with the root cause of their behaviors, then good for them but move on anyway, don’t continue to make yourself vulnerable.

Narcissistic supply

Narcissists want somebody to mirror them, they need people to reflect the false image that they have of themselves, not wanting to face the fact of who they are, what they do and how cruel they are. They don’t want to acknowledge the anger and rage that exist inside of themselves.

They see people as objects; if you can make them successful, if you can make them enter a certain group of people, if you blindly and naively love them, if you have anything that can be useful to them emotionally, socially or financially in the present or the future, then you qualify as a source of supply.

This can go on for a long time, until you are not useful to them anymore or you challenge them about who they truly are, worst still you expose them to the world! At this point they will discard you like an old rag, without remorse or regret; as if you never existed. They will also discredit you so that no one will ever believe that you have been their victim, if anything they will play the victim and point the finger back at you!

Narcissistic supply is the thing they need to bolster their weak sense of self and they take without giving anything back. Don’t count on a narcissist to be a shoulder to cry on, unless you are providing them with a good source of narcissistic supply; it is like a drug for a them.

Someone who can hurt you has power over you and attention whether positive or negative will feed a narcissistic ego. Being aggressive or angry at a narcissist won’t change anything, the best thing to do is cease all contact with them.

Who they target and how they catch their victims?

Narcissists can target anyone including strong and independent people but their favorite source of supply is most often highly sensitive, empathetic and caring, people with low self esteem, an inability to set healthy boundaries, and with issues they too are carrying over from childhood.

Narcissists are full of charm, they will charm you to death and tell you everything you want to hear, they study you, analyse you and know all the things that you want to experience in life. They’ll tell you that you are soulmates, they’ll promise you the moon so if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

We all want to be appreciated, loved, held, thanked, praised and valued and a narcissist knows that, so to catch you, the narcissist will say the things to make you feel appreciated and appeal to your deepest desires and cravings. Narcissists are very intelligent, they have studied human behaviour their whole lives and they know how to manipulate people by stirring emotions deep inside of you. When you start falling for a narcissist watch out because they can lie and at the same time look at you so sincerely; narcissists are able to fool us because they pretend to be the person we want them to be.

Narcissists have envy and resentment that causes them to attribute power and goodness to themselves, and negativity and weakness to others. They seek out friends who are worse off than them because they fear being exposed for who they really are and they want to be seen as rescuers or as deeply caring for others. Covert narcissist always seems to admire people who are as successful as they would like to be but at the same time, they envy and hate those people for being successful. They claim that they want to see you succeed but then when you do, they envy you and hate you for succeeding.

The covert narcissist dwells on how much people do not appreciate them.

Narcissist’ s controlling and manipulation techniques

Gaslighting is a subtle, underground maltreatment, that can go unnoticed by the victim until it is too late. It penetrates you but it’s difficult to identify. Gaslighting is ambiguous, diffused, it is a dangerous kind of abuse. It leave no trace and you can’t prove it. Ambient abuse is perpetrated by dropping certain hints, by disorienting, its aim is to make you doubt your own sanity so that you are always left wondering what the narcissist is thinking and feeling. Don’t waste time trying to find out their motives or try to understand why they feel or think the way they do because it leads nowhere. Just accept you are a source of supply and move on. Gaslighting over a prolonged period of time can damage the victim sense of self and self esteem for a long time.

Silent treatment is used by narcissists who withdraw when confronted and is also a form of punishment they employ when you refuse to accommodate their needs. They ignore you out of the blue for as long as it takes, until you give up your own needs and agree to do whatever the narcissist wants you to do. Until you end up apologizing even, if they were in the wrong.

Divide and conquer is an approach used to isolate their victim. They’ll find out everything about you, your past, your secrets and use them against you, making you look bad while they are seen by everyone else as a perfect, loving and caring individual.

Dealing with a narcissist

Don’t waste your time and sanity trying to understand and help a narcissist. Don’t criticise them or confront them, they will twist things around and reflect all their flaws on you, leaving you looking like you are the abuser when in fact you just had your emotional buttons pushed and your mind played with, so you acted in self defense.

So don’t play mind games or seek revenge with narcissists because they’ll win, you can’t match their cruelty. Set boundaries and don’t tell them too much about yourself so they can’t use it against you.

They also fear being found out so they’ll go to any length to shut you up and unfortunately people believe them, they are so talented at faking emotions that most remain completely undetected.

No contact at all is the best way to deal with a narcissist. This information is from my research and years of personal experience dealing with and trying to understand a covert narcissist. It’s painful to accept at first and it doesn’t matter if the term “narcissist” is correct or not, all that matters is that people who behave in the ways described in this article exist and it’s in your own interest to acknowledge it, to protect your well being and your sanity.

47 thoughts on “The Covert Narcissist

  1. gentlekindness says:

    Reblogged this on Gentle Kindness and commented:
    Really excellent article. This is one of the best descriptions of the details about covert narcissists I have seen yet.
    My ex was a covert narcissist and I was completely blinded for almost a year.
    He was very money oriented but initially made me think he was spiritual and looking for self improvement and growth.

    Just because someone tells you that they are romantic, spiritual or compassionate does not mean that they are. In fact if they are using those words to describe themselves but there are never any actions to back them up, then it should be a red flag to you.

    He told me that he was selfless and believed in the welfare of others and that he had compassion for me. But those words were never followed by actions.

    He bought books about spirituality during the first couple of weeks we were together. He bought a copy for each of us….at least that is what he said.

    He said we would read them together and I thought it was a sweet partner activity to do. But every time I mentioned the books and asked him if he wanted to read together, he blew me off.

    We never read even one word from the books. It was just an act during the idealization phase to mirror me and seem like he cared about spirituality.

    He was self centered and after about three weeks he began to get angry if I wanted to talk about anything over the phone. He had to dominate the entirety of the conversations.

    At the beginning he used to say that I was fun to listen to and he loved my funny stories from the nursing home I worked in.

    All of a sudden one day, he was like “I listened to you for hours the other night!! ” So it was his turn and then his turn never ended.

    I never was able to talk about anything again. Not only did he have to talk but I was not even allowed to interject anything like “oh that must be frustrating for you” …or “I can see how that might make you feel bad”…

    No. I had to be silent for hours and just listen to him ramble on and on and on,,,,and on…..

    I had to wait for permission to speak and even then the focus would always turn back towards him.

    If you are noticing any of these things, then consider them warning signs. The abuse comes after these early stages.

    It changes and they become very cruel. The discard is something that you do not want to experience. The covert narcissist will tell you they love you and you are their light in a dark world. Then they will hang up and never talk to you again.


    • emmagc75 says:

      Yup my ex has stayed with his covert narcissist for 20 years! He is just now trying to detach and get an apartment. Only a matter of time before she tries to manipulate him into staying. He knows he’s addicted and is dumping the marriage counselor to find a therapist experienced with narcissistic abuse.


      • secretangel says:

        Thank you so much. Too many of us have become victims of these narcissistic abusers because they are master liars and manipulators… and also so many of us are so trusting… until it is too late. Thanks are helping victims by bringing awareness.

        Liked by 1 person

        • emmagc75 says:

          I agree, it’s so very sad. You trust people to love and respect you. But narcissists are incapable of empathy and intimacy. They just don’t change and too many have wasted their lives trapped and miserable. The more people know, the more they can help themselves.

          It’s unfathomable to me as I feel everything! I’m very sensitive and extremely empathetic. It’s a blessing and a curse lol. I hope u are well. Hugs xo

          Liked by 1 person

  2. sweetcardomom says:

    Yet another great post …. keep them coming! People need to know that they are not alone, and it’s not them, they are NOT crazy, and this is what you do when you find yourself with a narcissist. Education is key to healing and we all have a responsibility to get that information out to those in need. You are doing an amazing job I’m so happy to have discovered this blog. A big hug for you. And hugs to everyone ever effected by a narcissist be it a lover, a parent, a sibling, a teacher, boss or anyone. Hugs for all 🙂 lol

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Barbara Schutt says:

    My goodness this is a great post, Emma! Thank you, for all this information to help others who may be dealing with narcissists in their lives. Actually, I know of a couple of covert narcissists who are no longer in our lives because of the destructive behavior. My husband’s family, sadly…we just can’t have them around us anymore. Blessings to you, dear!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Andrew says:

    Interesting post 🙂 Wikipedia is very good on phsychosis and in the past I’ve researched narcissist because my boss virtually has EVERY tell tale sign, bloody nightmare to work for but fascinating to watch

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Tessa says:

    I just recently found out that I had been married to a narcissist. He threatened me to give up my virginity before I wanted to. I just forgave him (40 years ago) for that and now I find out all the shit he put me through was because of narcissism. He cried suicide when I tried to leave him for someone else. He used that during our marriage because he thought I was going to leave. He used my mental health to tell people how embarrassed he was where as he was full of rage and certainly not right in his own head. He blamed me for everything that ever happened. Every girl envied me my marriage to him, He told me what to do and kept me under his wing to watch me. There was more, just say I am still flabbergasted at what I lived with and the lies that I found out about and then he left for someone else. Who I think is narcissistic too and I think she is stronger than him. You know he didn’t want to give me anything as the marriage ended and told me it was my fault for not getting a career when he told me to. He acted obsessed with me and all this time he was playing a freaking game.

    Liked by 3 people

      • Whoresnotwelcome says:

        My husband didn’t realise that’s for sure. I once asked him why he did things that I could never imagine him doing. He said it was like these people who are hypnotised on stage and start hopping at the click of a finger. He said that if she called him he just had to go. If you knew him you would realise what power she had over him. He is very much his own man and he will never do anything just because someone asked him to. It terrified me to think of what she was capable of.

        Liked by 3 people

        • emmagc75 says:

          Now think of the power she would have over a man she was married to for 19 years and that’s what I had no clue I was dealing with. It took that long for his own family to see the truth! Now that they have, they cannot stand her. His Italian Catholic Mom wants him to leave her!! That’s why I had to say goodbye.

          Liked by 3 people

            • emmagc75 says:

              No and he won’t leave the kids. Wants her to leave. It’s crazy but like a wise woman said NOT my circus…NOT my monkeys. But she has gone from a gorgeous woman to an Arnold Schwarzenegger looking huge muscled body. I think now that friends n family now know the truth about who she truly is, she’s lost it. But it’s still all out her n always will be. He’s weak n sad, not at all the person I loved.

              Liked by 1 person

                • emmagc75 says:

                  Yes that’s what matters most. Son is 17 n good smart kid. 13 year-old Daughter is in school mandated therapy for months. P goes with her every week. Finally therapist got fed up said never has a mother shown no interest in meeting or calling her! He could’ve done better by getting out n being stable at least, not miserable. Kids must think it’s them but narcissists don’t have empathy. They just aren’t capable. Sad but no longer has anything to do with me. For that I’m grateful xo

                  Liked by 1 person

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