Narcissism is a word that is very lightly used in our generation. It’s a word that has seen more popularity with the rise of Instagram but what does it really mean?
When we think of narcissism, we think of someone who is overly confident, pompous and vain. Somebody who is visibly arrogant and announces their achievements through a loudspeaker but what about the covert narcissist? The wolf that hides in sheeps’ clothing? We’re going to explore that topic today.
Something we may not know about narcissism is that this is a personality trait; not a mental disorder. The coverts are as pompous, selfish and arrogant as the overts; they are just the sophisticated version because they engage in tactics so subtle, they leave you confused, unsure and even insecure when you never used to be. Maybe you ARE overthinking it? Maybe you ARE overly sensitive as they say?
Covert narcissists are made and have been conditioned since childhood by a parent who could have been narcissistic. This parent could have exhibited such a sense of entitlement that the child grew up believing that he/she should receive special treatment all the time. I personally believe that the culprit is usually the overprotective mother who smothers their child. When you put a child on such a pedestal, under such a spotlight, they grow up believing they are unique and special; destined for greatness.
When this doesn’t happen – and it usually doesn’t, because despite the tiny quirks that make us who we are, we are actually pretty much the same at the end of the day – the child who is now an adult and hasn’t achieved anything he/she considers to be BRILLIANT and EXCEPTIONAL now feels empty. At first we might mistake this for depression but it isn’t.
DATING A COVERT NARCISSIST…
…is emotionally exhausting especially if you are empathetic which may be the reason why you attract narcissists. You are constantly doubting yourself. Maybe YOU are the problem because apparently it’s ALWAYS your fault, never theirs. Unlike overt narcissists, coverts are able to apologise for their mistakes but their apologies often start with, “I’m sorry IF…”.
“I’m sorry IF I hurt your feelings but YOU made me so angry.”
That good, old classic.
However, before reaching this stage, there is often a long bout of passive aggressive silence that drives you crazy because you care. They pull away because they know it hurts you. Like those subtle digs specifically designed to get a reaction out of you (we’ll touch on that more in the following paragraph).
The drama eventually subsides and you both agree to change in order to improve your relationship. And they do change. For a while. Before they revert back to their old ways except with each fight, they get nastier and display more overtly narcissistic behaviour like treating you with contempt and calling you names.
“You’re so annoying. Can you just stop following me around like a little dog?”
So why do they go through the motions if they have no intention of changing?
1. Maybe they really wanted to in that moment but narcissists rarely can change. It is psychologically ingrained into their minds to be selfish and egoistic which usually make them successful in their careers and their finances. You might hear a successful narcissist say,
“If I have to choose between you and a job somewhere in another country, I’d go for the job. Just letting you know.”
2. These charming individuals do it to give you false hope because they want to keep you interested. The truth is: THEY NEED YOU. They need someone to control and manipulate in order to boost their own ego and you keep falling for it!
What else do you fall for? Those little digs they subtly weave into their conversation because they know exactly what you’re insecure about.
“Let me show you this girl on Instagram with this BANGING body!”
For example, they might give you their ex’s shirt and will call you crazy for reacting negatively but might quietly say afterwards, “I just wanted to see your reaction.”
And that’s exactly what they’re doing. They’re looking to see if you care because that’s a huge ego booster. The more you care, the more powerful they feel.
They compare a lot, too.
“Why can’t you just be chill like her?”
“Well, she just arrived in the city and she has everything organised.”
They’re so good at this that they don’t even have to raise their voice and that is what makes them significantly more threatening than your garden variety overt narcissist.
But wait! They’re not all that bad! You’ve often heard them praise you in front of others! Well, surprise, surprise, it’s more about how they look. They care how others view them so in public, your relationship is deceivingly picture perfect.
What you need to understand is that their possessions are an extension of themselves and these possessions need to look good…INCLUDING YOU!
If you tend to have a rather self-deprecating sense of humour, they’ll call you out on that because it’s weak and God forbid that word is ever associated with them.
Since they actually care about what others think – remember, narcissists are narcissists because they actually have very low self-esteem, making them possessive and jealous – they tend to come across humble and caring to those who don’t know them well.
You end up thinking, “If only they could see that other side of you I have seen…” that’s when you know you’ve gotten yourself in deep shit.
Moreover, unlike overts, coverts tend to have longer relationships and maybe they DO love the person they’re with but they are so lacking in empathy that it is literally impossible for them to put themselves in your shoes. They cannot feel what you feel and sadly, that will never change.
Just run for the exit.