Covert narcissists, in my opinion, are the absolute worst. I’ve had to deal with two of them. Malignant narcissists are heinous and horrifying. Overt or grandiose narcissists are terrible too but I think covert narcissists are especially awful because you don’t see them coming. They are so good at hiding their behavior so that only their target, their victim, really sees who and what they truly are. They knowingly do things in order to obtain a sense of plausible deniability. In other words, it’s really easy for them to deny certain things and have it seem plausible. Because of this, it can become incredibly difficult to prove them wrong. You will find a covert narcissist doing little tiny things that make life just absolutely horrible for the people in their lives.
Prior to understanding narcissism, I believed that narcissists were people that were boastful, arrogant, and outright telling people how great they are all the time. I suppose I knew that narcissists lack a degree of empathy; but to me, the grandiose narcissist was the archetype that I had in my head. I didn’t have the picture of a covert narcissist in my head and I had never even heard of the term before. It wasn’t until I read “The Covert Passive Aggressive Narcissist” by Debbie Mirza, that I really started to understand this personality type and recognize it in the people who had made my life a living hell. One of the worst attributes of the covert narcissist how passive aggressive they are. Although they can also be very offensive, the rest of the world will think otherwise. They often play the victim and even show up as significant figures in religion or politics. In Craig Malkin’s “Rethinking Narcissism,” he talks about the three E’s that “introverted” or covert narcissists possess– which pretty much summarizes why I think they are the absolute worst!
The first thing you might see in a covert narcissist is their ability to exploit situations and people with ease. Although a lot of narcissists do this, coverts will do this in such a subtle way that will ultimately cause their victims agony.
The second “E” that Craig Malkin describes is entitlement. Although all narcissists feel entitled, covert narcissists are entitled to things that seem less obvious yet cause more damage to the people they target. They feel entitled to things that don’t even have anything to do with them. They want to take credit for things that they didn’t do. They want to have praise for things that they didn’t even accomplish. They feel entitled to center stage even if they didn’t have anything to do with the play.
The third thing that he talks about is empathy impairment, which again, you see with all narcissists. Covert narcissists seem to lack empathy; however, know what they need to say and do when it behooves their ego. When somebody is ill or injured or is grieving, the covert narcissist might be the first person to actually show up. They might be at the bedside of the ill or injured person or the first person to send a gift to the family grieving because they recognize the situation might be an opportunity for them to look good in front of others. They will only do this if they think there’s going to be a significant audience with the right people in the audience to see it. They don’t do this because they actually care. This is one of the worst things about covert narcissists because they are able to use their lack of empathy as a manipulative tool. They are the most strategic of them all.