Identifying Covert and Grandiose Narcissists In Your Life

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Covert Narcissists

Covert narcissists are also referred to as vulnerable narcissists. Like grandiose narcissists, coverts have low self-esteem; however, this is where the similarity ends. Grandiose narcissists hide their fragility with bombastic exteriors and arrogance while coverts embrace it and use it as their exploitative tool to elicit sympathy and attention.

This less obvious type of narcissism is hidden behind shyness. Coverts are highly sensitive to criticism, prone to depression and anxiety, and love to share their woe-is-me tales with anyone who will listen.

Coverts are very possessive of their friends, family, children, and partners. A covert narcissist may not want to remain married to their spouse and even move out and date other people but will be furious if the partner files for divorce or if he himself begins dating (“How dare that woman go out with my husband!”). The mentality of “do as I say, not as I do” is particularly strong with covert narcissists because of their possessiveness and high emotional needs. They will manipulate their children, friends, and family members in order to keep them loyal to only themselves.

These individuals harbor expectations of grandiosity and desirableness and will adjust the narrative to fit these expectations. For example, society considers adultery to be wrong and immoral. If a covert narcissist is called out on their affair, the blame is placed on the ex-partner for allegedly driving them to cheat and is therefore admissible. Alternately, the covert may accuse their partner of cheating if the partner mentions a female coworker after a day at the office and bring sympathy upon themselves.

Related: What Is A Covert Narcissist?

Covert narcissists are incredibly hypersensitive and passive-aggressive. They believe they deserve something — power, attention, forgiveness — but they are being unjustly denied or do not want to do the necessary work in order to achieve the end goal. These individuals believe they are better than other people but are being unfairly held back and will respond with resentment and grudges. It is far easier to blame other people than to point the finger at oneself.

In the end, it is impossible to fulfill a narcissist. This is not a reflection on the partner, but rather the grandiose narcissist themselves. There is no love or genuine affection; nothing is ever good enough, and when something is pleasing to the narcissist it doesn’t last very long. The feelings of inadequacy and incompetence deeply hurt the victim by eroding their self-esteem.

If they truly love the narcissist, they will do anything within their power to please with no reward. It is a painful and abusive cycle that has the potential to shatter one’s self-worth. Children and spouses of narcissists all say the same thing: I was never good enough. Counseling, self-reflection, and stopping contact are all ways to reclaim yourself and heal.

Abuse can disguise itself as love, but love is never abusive.


Written By Kristy Lee Hochenberger
Originally Appeared In Psychology Today
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Identifying Covert and Grandiose Narcissists In Your Life
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Identifying Covert and Grandiose Narcissists In Your Life
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Kristy Lee Hochenberger

Kristy Lee Hochenberger is a doctoral student of psychology at Capella University and a member of Psi Chi, the international honor society in psychology. A graduate of prestigious Wells College, Kristy Lee is also a licensed funeral director and co-founder of Salt City Legacy Scholars, Inc, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that awards scholarships and financial assistance to young women across New York State. In addition to her Bachelor's degree, Kristy Lee has an Associate's Degree in Occupational Services as well as a Master of Business Administration. A native of Queens, NY, she currently resides in upstate New York where she is an adjunct faculty member at Syracuse University School of Information Studies (iSchool) and University of the People.View Author posts