How to Spot a Covert Narcissist

Photo by Julian Paul on Unsplash

Unfortunately, many people do not realize that they have been under the sway of a covert narcissist until it is too late. By the time they recognize it, they have lost their job, their spouse, their self-worth, and their trust in humanity, to name a few possible effects after the Great Discard. The following are a few ways to identify covert narcissism before it is too late:

Procrastination: A CN will show up late or not at all to an event that is important to you. They show you time and again that you are not important to them. When you ask about it, they make excuses or place the blame on you.

-Pretend to be virtuous: A CN will go out of his or her way to look virtuous, often engaging in what look like saintly acts, but are done only for self-gain. They will donate to charity, be amazingly sweet with vulnerable people, and tip when people are looking. When there is no one to admire them, they will snub and ignore those same people and charities.

Fish for compliments: A CN will put themselves down, and then pause so that others can prop up their fragile egos by complimenting them.

-History of failed relationships: CNs often leave behind a string of failed marriages, abandoned friendships, and relationship chaos seems to follow them wherever they go.

-Feeling of being special: CNs ooze out that feeling in a room that they are gifted with intuition, understanding, healing power, knowledge, academic intelligence, compassion, etc. and other people “just don’t understand.” Their emotions become their truth and won’t let logic and facts get in the way of their false narrative.

Lack of attention: When a CN does not feel that something is to their advantage they show their boredom and lack of concern in a myriad of ways. They may yawn during a heartfelt talk, have a glazed over look when you present an important concern, appear distracted, and even start looking at their screen when you try to engage them.

-Manipulation of information and triangulation: If you start to notice that the facts just don’t add up, or that you are told one version of a story by the CN and another person is told a completely opposite version of the story, chances are good that you and the other person have been played by the CN. A CN likes to feel special by sharing “secret information” with other people, telling them the version they think that person wants to hear. When the two victims finally talk to each other (and the CN will do a lot to prevent this!) there is a lot of misunderstanding, confusion, and a strong feeling of betrayal and lack of trust.

-Perpetual victimhood: CNs always have great, believable sob stories. Like the Joker in the Batman move, they change their story based upon who is hearing it and what they believe is most likely to move the listener. If one were to do more research into the story (which the CN will do everything possible to keep you from doing!), one would find a significant amount of embellishing, outright lies, and shaming of others who don’t deserve it. That is one reason why CNs are so adamant on controlling the narrative, and keeping the facts from others. They are not above lying to control others’ perception of themselves as the heroes and significant others as villains.

If you think that you might be in a toxic relationship with a CN, don’t despair. The hardest part is identifying the problem. Once you have identified that you are dealing with a CN in your life, you can take action to heal yourself, arrive at the truth, get support, and set good boundaries. Because you are worth it.