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Covert Narcissism is Introverted Narcissism: Here’s Why

© Narc Free 2023

Let’s start by unraveling the concept of covert narcissism. Covert narcissism is essentially the introverted cousin of the more flamboyant and overt narcissist. While the overt narcissist craves the spotlight and adoration, the covert narcissist prefers to operate in the shadows, almost undetectable to the untrained eye.

Covert narcissists are masters of disguise. They often come across as introverted, shy, and even humble. They may appear as the self-sacrificing martyr, always willing to help others. But beneath this facade lies a different truth.

The key characteristic of covert narcissism is a profound sense of entitlement. They believe they are unique, special, and deserving of admiration, just like their overt counterparts. However, they achieve this sense of superiority through subtler means.

They play the victim card exceptionally well. They love to garner sympathy and appear vulnerable, which, in turn, makes others feel compelled to care for them. It’s a manipulation tactic that keeps their fragile ego intact while they receive attention and validation.

Covert narcissists are also highly sensitive to criticism. They can’t handle any form of disapproval or negative feedback. This hypersensitivity often leads them to avoid situations where they might be confronted or challenged. It’s their way of protecting their fragile self-esteem.

Now, you might be wondering, “Why is it essential to identify covert narcissism?” Well, my friend, knowledge is power. When you can recognize the covert narcissist in your life, you can better protect yourself from their manipulative tactics and maintain your mental and emotional well-being.


Identifying covert narcissists can be a challenging task, given their adeptness at concealing their true nature. They employ subtle tactics and maintain a facade that can make them elusive to detect. However, by closely examining their behaviors and traits, you can become more adept at recognizing them:

1. Passive-Aggressive Behavior: Covert narcissists often employ passive-aggressive tactics. They express their hostility and resentment indirectly, utilizing sarcasm, backhanded compliments, or veiled insults. These behaviors leave you feeling hurt or confused, all while the narcissist maintains plausible deniability. It’s their way of undermining your self-esteem while avoiding direct confrontation.

2. Constant Need for Validation: While covert narcissists may appear modest or self-effacing, they possess an insatiable appetite for validation and admiration. They downplay their achievements or present themselves as humble, all the while fishing for compliments and reassurance. Their need for validation serves as a means to feed their fragile ego.

3. Selective Favoritism: Covert narcissists tend to have a select few individuals they consider their biggest supporters. They cultivate these relationships intensely, often portraying themselves as helpless victims who rely on the unwavering loyalty of their chosen few. This manipulation tactic ensures a steady flow of admiration and devotion from their inner circle.

4. Avoidance of Responsibility: Masters of evading responsibility, covert narcissists go to great lengths to shift blame away from themselves when they make mistakes or cause harm. They paint themselves as innocent victims in every situation, leaving you to bear the burden of guilt or accountability.

5. Chronic Hypersensitivity: These individuals are exceptionally sensitive to criticism, even constructive feedback. Any form of disapproval or negative feedback poses a direct threat to their self-esteem. To protect themselves, they may avoid situations where they could face challenge or criticism, ensuring they always receive positive feedback.

6. Emotional Manipulation: Covert narcissists excel in emotional manipulation. They can guilt-trip you into complying with their wishes or make you feel responsible for their emotional well-being. This tactic keeps you in a state of emotional turmoil, making it difficult to prioritize your own needs and boundaries.

7. Inconsistent Behavior: Covert narcissists can be unpredictable in their actions and emotions. One moment, they may be affectionate and loving, and the next, they might withdraw and become distant. This emotional rollercoaster keeps you constantly on edge, eager to regain their affection.

8. Martyr Complex: They frequently play the role of the self-sacrificing martyr, going to great lengths to help others. However, they later use these sacrifices as a weapon to guilt-trip and manipulate. Their acts of selflessness are not genuine; instead, they expect praise and admiration in return.

9. Projection: Projection is another manipulation tactic they employ regularly. If they possess a particular character flaw or negative trait, they’ll accuse you of having that very same quality. This tactic not only shifts the blame away from them but also keeps you on the defensive, constantly explaining and justifying yourself.

10. Resistance to Change: Covert narcissists resist personal growth and change. They view self-improvement as a threat to their carefully constructed self-image. Consequently, they remain stagnant in their behaviors and refuse to acknowledge any need for personal development.

So, recognizing covert narcissists requires a keen understanding of these traits and behaviors. Once you can identify these signs, you’ll be better equipped to protect yourself from their manipulation and maintain your emotional well-being.


Now that we’ve unmasked the covert narcissist, let’s delve into the manipulative tactics they use to maintain control and dominance in their relationships.

  1. Gaslighting: Covert narcissists are skilled gaslighters. They manipulate your perception of reality by denying facts, making you doubt your memory, or making you feel like you’re overreacting. This tactic keeps you second-guessing yourself and dependent on their version of the truth.
  2. Silent Treatment: They excel at using the silent treatment as a weapon. When you’ve upset them or challenged their ego, they withdraw affection and communication, leaving you in a state of confusion and anxiety. This tactic is a way of punishing you for not conforming to their desires.
  3. Triangulation: Covert narcissists often introduce a third party into their relationships to create jealousy or competition. They’ll speak highly of another person to make you feel inadequate or insecure. This manipulation tactic is meant to keep you on your toes and seeking their approval.
  4. Pity Play: As mentioned earlier, covert narcissists are masters of playing the victim. They’ll recount their life’s woes and struggles, making you feel obligated to rescue them. This emotional manipulation keeps you hooked into their drama and unable to focus on your needs.
  5. Projection: They are experts at projecting their flaws onto others. If they have a character flaw or a negative trait, they’ll accuse you of possessing that very same quality. This tactic shifts the blame away from them and onto you.
  6. Love Bombing: Covert narcissists can be incredibly charming and affectionate when it suits their agenda. They’ll shower you with love and attention, only to withdraw it when they feel you are no longer under their control. This push-pull dynamic keeps you emotionally invested.

These manipulative tactics may not always be obvious, but once you recognize them, you can protect yourself from falling into the covert narcissist’s web of manipulation.


So, now that we understand covert narcissism and their manipulative tactics, how do we heal and protect ourselves from their influence? Here are some essential steps:

  1. Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries and stick to them. Covert narcissists will often push your limits to see how far they can go. Be firm in asserting your boundaries and don’t allow them to violate them.
  2. Practice Self-Care: Prioritize your own well-being. Engage in self-care activities that nurture your mental and emotional health. This will strengthen your resilience and help you resist the covert narcissist’s manipulations.
  3. Seek Support: Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist about your experiences with the covert narcissist. Having a support system in place can provide validation and perspective.
  4. Educate Yourself: Continue learning about narcissism and manipulative tactics. The more you know, the better equipped you are to identify and respond to covert narcissism effectively.
  5. Limit Contact: If possible, reduce or eliminate contact with the covert narcissist. This may not always be feasible, especially in family or workplace settings, but minimizing interaction can protect your mental and emotional health.
  6. Practice Self-Validation: Instead of seeking validation from the covert narcissist, learn to validate yourself. Recognize your worth and value independently of their opinions.
  7. Detach Emotionally: Detaching emotionally from the covert narcissist’s manipulation is crucial. Remind yourself that their behavior is a reflection of their issues, not your shortcomings.

In conclusion, covert narcissism is indeed introverted narcissism. These individuals may appear modest and self-effacing but beneath the surface lies a deep sense of entitlement and a willingness to manipulate others for their gain.

Understanding covert narcissism, unmasking their tactics, and taking steps to protect yourself is essential for your mental and emotional well-being. If you found this article helpful, don’t forget to give it a follow, subscribe and hit that clap button, so you never miss our in-depth explorations of narcissism.

Thank you for joining me on this journey through the world of covert narcissism. Stay strong, stay informed, and take care of yourselves. Until next time, my friends.

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