These days narcissism has become a dirty word. People are turning away from the self-absorbed selfie-takers and the over-sharers.

Nowadays, it’s all about looking outwards with understanding, not banging on about thigh gaps and contouring. The emphasis is on compassion, helping those who have nothing, caring about the environment, and protecting the world we live in.

That’s not to say narcissists have ceased to exist. Whilst the outlandish behaviour of the overt narcissist may have become decidedly distasteful, the covert narcissist has subtly taken its place. So how do you spot one? You have to listen to what covert narcissists say.

Before I talk about the things covert narcissists say, it’s important to understand that there is no difference between the things overt and covert narcissists think.

Both overt and covert narcissists have the same sense of entitlement, a grandiose sense of self, a craving for admiration, a tendency to exaggerate their achievements, and they believe that they are special. 

It’s the way they act that is different. 

The overt narcissist is loud, obvious, and larger than life. The covert narcissist is the opposite. 

Here Are 9 Things Covert Narcissists Say

1. “No one knows what I’ve been through.”

Although covert narcissists feel entitled, they also feel inadequate. This sense of inadequacy can lead to resentment, a feeling of victimisation, or both.

This type of narcissism originates from a place of lacking. The narcissist finds comfort in victimhood but then grows to begrudge their victim status. They need others to understand that their suffering is worse than anyone else can imagine.

2. “I didn’t say that, you must be mistaken.”

Gaslighting is the perfect technique as it is subtle and the victim doesn’t realise what is going on until it’s too late. Covert narcissists love to gaslight because once they confuse their victims it’s easier to manipulate them. 

Whether it’s to undermine a person, get money from them, ruin a relationship or play mind-games with them, gaslighting is an ideal tool.

3. “I’m better off on my own, I can’t rely on anyone.”

All narcissists are needy and wanting in relationships, but because covert narcissism is so subtle, it’s hard to spot it.

Covert narcissists are all-consumed with their own well-being. They have nothing to offer their partner so they tend to end relationships quickly. Afterwards, they present themselves as strong and stoic, destined to be alone. 

4. “It was nothing.”

You will find that the covert narcissist will deflect any compliments with self-deprecating comments.

What this old thing? I’ve had it years!” “The A+ grade in advanced quantum physics? The questions were easy!

Such comments are among the typical things convert narcissists say.

There are two reasons for this; the first is that playing down their achievements makes them look even better, the second is that you naturally have to reassure them. It’s a win-win situation for them. 

Well-rounded people simply accept the compliment and move on. 

5. “If only someone had believed in me, I never stood a chance.”

Poor me, poor me. I imagine this is what covert narcissists chant every night before bed. It’s relating to being a victim again.

Covert narcissists believe they are special and because of their upbringing, their circumstances, the family they were born into, you name it, that’s the reason they never made it.

They are the ones that should have gone to university, or whose parents didn’t buy them a car, or who were bullied at school and suffered academically because of it. The common theme here is ‘woe is me’, and it is never their fault

6. “I can’t, I’m too busy.”

One way covert narcissists can subtly show off to friends and family how important they are is to pretend they are busy. If you call or text and the other person is busy all the time you begin to get the feeling that they must be doing something really important. 

It gets to the stage where you don’t want to bother them anymore. They are rushed off their feet and you have to be careful not to interrupt them. The chances are that they are bored with nothing to do, just like the rest of us!

I remember a work colleague years ago, we both worked in a pub kitchen. She said to me once:

“I wish I only had one job like you. I do two shifts here a day, then I’ve got my cleaning job and I’m studying on top of that.”

She knew nothing about me, only that I worked the lunch-time shift with her.

7. “I wish I’d had the opportunities you’ve had.”

On the surface, this sounds like a compliment, but believe me, it isn’t. Narcissists are crippled by intense jealousy, but they’ll try and hide it.

However, eventually, their bitterness spills out. But they’ll wrap this vicious bile in sickly sweet paper and hope you don’t realise the spite behind the comment. 

8. “No one has been through as much as I have.”

Have you ever met someone that no matter what trauma you have experienced, they have had it a thousand times worse? Did you feel like saying it is not a competition? This is an example of trauma pity or gathering grief to elicit sympathy. 

A covert narcissist tends to dwell on the negative side of things. It is always about what they have been through, how it has affected them and how awful it was for them. They can’t comprehend that others endure awful times too. 

“There’s this sense that their situation is unique and special, despite the fact that, from an objective perspective, we might realize that (all) people experience difficult situations,” Kenneth Levy, director Laboratory for Personality, Psychopathology, and Psychotherapy Research at The Pennsylvania State University

9. “I’ll show you all, even though everyone is against me, I’ll get what I deserve.”

Finally, one way you can spot a covert narcissist is to watch for signs of unjustified paranoia. Covert narcissists are always unlucky, or they believe someone is out to get them. Nothing is within their control, so they might as well not bother trying. 

They think that people are plotting against them or that everyone they know is taking advantage of their kind and caring nature (which we know they don’t have). 

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to spot the overt narcissist by their dramatic, grandiose actions. As the covert narcissist is subtle and insidious, you have to be on your game.

Look out for people who need constant reassurance and always play the victim. Keep in mind the above things covert narcissists say. And remember, once you’ve identified one, it’s best to walk away.



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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Danyell

    Thank you. It’s was an insightful read. Hit the aha button a few times. Cheers.

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