Unlike overt narcissists, covert narcissists tend to appear innocent, shy, patient, humble and altruistic at first. But when you start interacting with them you realize that they are not what you believed them to be at all. Here are things covert narcissists say that show they are deceptive, harmful and well, narcissistic.
What is covert narcissism?
Covert narcissists, also known as vulnerable narcissists, display fewer visible signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Although they may still possess narcissistic traits, they also appear to be humble, emotionally fragile and shy.
They are often sensitive to opinions and criticism from others and tend to be worried and stressed. Often, covert narcissists say self-deprecating phrases and constantly compare themselves to others.
Related reading: What Is A Covert Narcissist?
“Vulnerable narcissism entails pronounced self-absorbedness, low self‐esteem, hypervigilance, shyness, social withdrawal and emotional hypersensitivity,” explains one 2021 study. Regardless of how they may appear to be, covert narcissists possess major narcissistic traits such as –
- Being self-involved
- Hypersensitive to criticism
They lack empathy and tend to have low self-esteem & self-confidence. They are also highly self-conscious, have social insecurity, and are defensive.
Covert narcissists desperately crave attention, importance, and admiration from others. However, covert narcissists are experts at hiding their subtle narcissistic traits, which makes them harder to identify.
7 Things covert narcissists say very often
So what do covert narcissists say that can help you identify one? Here are the things covert narcissists say that can reveal their reality and help you spot one regardless of how hard they try to hide their true nature –
1. “I never said anything like that, you seem confused.”
This is one of the most common things covert narcissists say. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that narcissists use to manipulate and control their victims.
The covert narcissist lies, denies, or misleads the victim into believing a false narrative that can make the victim question their own sanity. This is one of the most commonly used narcissistic tactics as it makes the victim confused and full of self-doubt, making them easier to control.
Related reading: 8 Signs You Are Dealing With A Vulnerable Narcissist
2. “No one wants me to succeed, but I will.”
Studies show that pathological narcissism is associated with paranoia. Researchers have observed that automatic negative thought patterns and hypersensitivity towards perceived insults from others can lead to “persistently paranoid ideation” in narcissists. They believe that “even subtle changes within the dynamics of existing interpersonal relationships were indicative of negative underlying motivations on the part of others.”
Hence, statements like “Nobody wants to see me happy,” or “I will show all of you what I am capable of,” are some common things covert narcissists say. They believe that everyone is lucky except them or that others are conspiring against them so that they fail at everything.
Due to their external locus of control, they are never able to control their life nor feel motivated to try. They believe that everyone hates them and tries to take advantage of them, even when it is not true in any way.
3. “You don’t know how much I have suffered.”
Covert narcissists have a strong sense of inadequacy and entitlement, which results in resentment and victimhood. As they lack self-confidence and have poor self-esteem, they feel good about themselves by pretending to be the victim.
They want others to believe that the narcissist has suffered a lot in life and hence, they deserve your sympathy, empathy, love and admiration.
Related reading: The Covert Narcissist: 12 Identifying Traits
4. “Oh, that was no big deal.”
This is one the things covert narcissists say as compliments are hard to accept for them. Covert narcissists are highly insecure individuals with a poor sense of self.
Whenever they are complimented for their accomplishments of performance, they will either downplay their effort or say self-deprecatory phrases to counter your compliments.
They may say something like – “Oh, that was so easy, you could have done it better than me if you were there.” Such statements often bring further compliments, validation and reassurance from others, which the narcissist desperately seeks.
5. “Everyone disappoints me, I’d rather be alone.”
As they lack empathy, covert narcissists are unable to understand feelings. As they are incapable of connecting with others, they become emotionally and socially needy. Their relationships are often empty and superficial as they are highly self-involved and don’t have anything to contribute to the relationship.
As a result, their partner eventually realizes how empty narcissists are inside and the relationship ends sooner than expected. Hence, “I am better off alone,” are some of the things covert narcissists say.
Related reading: 7 Signs of A Female Narcissist
6. “I am so busy right now.”
If you interact with a narcissist on a daily basis then you know it’s just one of those things covert narcissists say all the time to appear important before you.
Appearing busy is a simple and subtle way for them to increase their value in front of their friends and family. By pretending to be busy all the time, they will make you feel like they are doing something very important, whenever you try to contact them.
Although you may believe their lies and think they are actually working hard to meet deadlines, the covert narcissist is bored out of their wits in reality. Not only they don’t have much work on their hands, they actually want you to beg them to meet you and boost their ego.
7. “Some people are so lucky. I can never have anything I want no matter how hard I try.”
It’s just one of the things covert narcissists say when you compliment them. Why? Because they love to play the victim. They love to play the victim card at every opportunity, especially to hide their failures. They will always find someone or something else to blame for their failures, whether it’s their parents, education, finances, life experiences or even their luck.
They always find something or the other to put the blame on, except themselves. In fact, covert narcissists are even jealous of people who achieve success and greatness despite facing obstacles. But they know how to hide their jealousy by acting like the victim in any scenario.
Related reading: How To Disarm A Narcissist
Other common phrases & things covert narcissists say
Here are few other things covert narcissists say while using different narcissistic tactics –
1. Love bombing:
When love bombing you, a covert narcissist may say things that sound like these –
- “I love you so much.”
- “I have never met anyone like you before.”
- “How can someone as amazing as you be single?”
- “I know we have just met, but I think I am falling for you.”
- “You can do no wrong. You are always perfect to me.”
Here are a few of the things covert narcissists say when devaluing or insulting you –
- “There is a reason why everyone says you’re a difficult person.”
- “I can never make you happy. Can I? You always want more.”
- “Is that what you’re wearing to the party?”
- “Stop being so overly sensitive all the time.”
- “Instead of blaming me, look at yourself first.”
Narcissists love to gaslight and they have an array of subtle phrases to make you doubt yourself –
- “You are making things up in your head again.”
- “Nothing like that has ever happened in reality.”
- “It was just a joke. Relax.”
- “I know you love to exaggerate, but that’s not how I remember it.”
- “Stop overreacting, it was not as bad as you’re saying.”
Related reading: 6 Covert Tactics Manipulators Use To Control And Confuse You
Some of the things covert narcissists say while blame-shifting may sound like –
- “I don’t want to say it, but that was your fault.”
- “You force me to hide things from you.”
- “No wonder nobody likes you. You’re so selfish.”
- “Why do you always ruin everything?”
- “You need to see a therapist ASAP.”
5. Emotional abuse:
Abuse, although subtle, can still be damaging. Here are the things covert narcissists say in an argument and while abusing you subtly –
- “I forgot, okay? Don’t make a big deal out of this.”
- “For crying out loud, just let it go. You’re so annoying.”
- “You’re so manipulative and controlling.”
- “You are such a liar. I can never trust you.”
- “Just admit it, you never loved me.”
Related reading: 6 Things To Keep In Mind After Unmasking A Covert Narcissist
Dealing with a covert narcissist
The mind of a covert narcissist may be hard to read, but when you pay attention to the common phrases used by a covert narcissist you will be better able to spot and deal with them. Make sure to set strong personal boundaries, avoid taking things personally, do not try to change them, and walk away if needed.
Having said that, you should also encourage the narcissist to seek medical help as treatment and therapy can help them change their personality and behavior. It can also be beneficial for you to seek therapy, especially if you are in a relationship or have been abused by a covert narcissist.
A therapist can help you better understand a narcissist’s mindset and behavior and equip you with coping strategies to build a healthier relationship and a better life.
Related reading: Why Is It So Hard To Leave A Covert Narcissist?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
How does a covert narcissist make you feel?
Although they are hypersensitive to criticism, they may pretend that your opinions, feedback, or criticism does not affect them. They may use sarcastic comments or make dismissive remarks to put you down. But in reality, their illusion of themselves can get easily shattered by genuine criticism as they are desperate for admiration. Hence, although they may make you feel abused, they are their own victims.
Does a covert narcissist have feelings?
Although they are capable of experiencing feelings, they struggle with expressing positive emotions like affection, love, and attentiveness. They tend to be highly sensitive and fragile, but as they are excellent at hiding their real emotions, it can be hard to notice for others.
How do you outsmart a covert narcissist?
Here are a few ways to deal with a covert narcissist – accept that they have a personality disorder, avoid engaging in arguments, show empathy and compassion, do not expect them to behave differently or try to “fix” them, and don’t take it personally, find support and practice self-care.