I’m telling you this because I want to spare you some unnecessary pain, confusion and manipulation. Covert narcissists infiltrate your mind. Here are some ways to untangle and free yourself.
Just for the record, we all have a degree of healthy narcissism.
It’s a necessary dose of self-involvement which keeps us aware of our physical, emotional and mental condition. Sometimes our own pain is so consuming that it blinds us to the needs of another. That comes with being human. On the other hand, unhealthy narcissism is a fixed, daily way of life. It ranges from obnoxious but harmless to a full-blown psychological disorder.
You can find lots of articles on narcissists and narcissism, but they almost always address overt narcissism. Overt narcissists are self-centered, have a high opinion of themselves, feelings of entitlement, are often contemptuous of others, lack empathy and are what’s called “ego-syntonic.” In other words, they are in agreement with their inflated self-image. I’m sure you can name a few.
Self-image, mind you, is not the same as a healthy sense of self.
Self-image is a protective layer, a “game face,” developed since early childhood. Overt narcissists maintain their self-image by projecting their buried feelings of shame and inadequacy. In other words, they blame others.
They are capable of worldly success, sophistication and polish, and an unrealistic assessment of their personal power, but underneath all this “confidence,” they are emotionally damaged. They are easily offended, insulted and sensitive about their own feelings … but not yours. If they see a psychotherapist, it will have to be one who supports their self-image. Overt narcissists avoid knowing themselves by disdaining all true self-examination and living an externally-based life. Image is everything.
The actress Joan Crawford, a notoriously well-known narcissist according to her adopted daughter Christina who wrote Mommie Dearest, appears very sympathetic to her young son in this picture … but is Christopher feeling understood?
Even though they are braggarts, shirk responsibility, and rarely apologize, narcissists are notorious for their ability to charm. They are master manipulators who have an uncanny ability to enter into relationships with people who are taken in by them for far too long. Since you’re reading this, you’re probably one of these people. Which is why I want to warn you about covert narcissists. Because if you’ve been taken in by an overt narcissist, it’s even harder to catch what’s going on with a covert one.
The covert narcissist, who is subtler to detect, leaves you feeling just as used, overlooked, unimportant, depleted, and guilty of something you haven’t actually done as an overt narcissistic. But he or she also makes you feel sorry for them. For the rest of this article I’m going to refer to the narcissist as “he” but please know that both males and females are capable of narcissism.
Covert narcissists fall into two categories: “closet” and “failed.”