What does covert narcissism feel like?


This was a comment in a post on my other site, but I wanted it to be a blog post because I think it’s a good nutshell explanation of what covert NPD actually FEELS like, filtered through self-awareness:

I feel like…”everyone’s better than me and has more and I deserve to die because I’m a worthless POS”…but underneath THAT is this “how DARE they have more, I’m more SPECIAL and that’s why I don’t feel like bothering with you and people are stupid for rewarding you for not being all that,” (but this defensiveness stems from my fear of them getting too close and seeing nothing but a black void under that).

And under all THAT–inside the VOID I can’t let anyone see–is the true self I’m seeing more and more of, as she shows herself more. She’s creative and sensitive and cares about people–a LOT. That void isn’t empty at all, but I have to go in there and face the darkness…

Coverts have TWO masks, not just one.

So it can’t be Aspergers (like I thought I was for years). Aspies don’t have all that RAGE..and self hatred…and fake hidden grandiosity and bitterness…

I still have a long way to go but I’m feeling pretty good about it all. I hope that’s not being grandiose. I’m actually happier than I’ve ever been right now because I lost something really toxic during that bizarre journey of a week ago…I still get emotional (in a good way) thinking about it…


14 thoughts on “What does covert narcissism feel like?

  1. Hi,
    I skim-read a couple of pages about covert narcissism as a result of this, and I’m very curious, and a little confused. I have a diagnosis of (mainly) avoidant personality disorder, but I also know that when things aren’t going well for me, I still have fantasies of being an abnormally strong, capable, resilient survivor, like Katniss Everdeen, which I developed as a lonely teenager who took on the role of looking after her family. I also have a mechanism for creating and reinforcing self-value by playing at being the “precocious child”, in which I try to be noticeably smart to impress people, which originates in early childhood. I had been quite worried that these are narcissistic tendencies, but now I am coming to think it is quite likely I have covert narcissism traits. At the same time, I think there is a lot of overlap with avoidant personality disorder, and it seems like some aspects of the disorder would be natural for a person trying to cope with avoidant PD. Still, I am not going to shy away from another diagnosis I can work with.
    Anyway, thank you for posting this, and any advice would be welcome.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi!
      Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s hard to say if you have covert narcissism or not, and of course I can’t diagnose you, but it’s possible you could be. I agree though, a lot of cNPD traits mimic Avoidant PD (as well as Aspergers) so if you’re comorbid cNPD/Avoidant it can be really hard to tell which disorder the traits are coming from, or even if you have two disorders or just one. I don’t think it’s BPD because of the grandiose type of inner fantasies you have. Although I was diagnosed borderline, BPDs don’t usually have those kinds of fantasies unless they also have narcissism or narcisssitc traits. That’s one way I can tell I am also a narcissist.
      Think of the small child of age 3 or 4–NPDs are emotionally arrested at about that age–and hang onto their “slaying dragons” fantasies–and that becomes the grandiose false self (and is covered over with a second, “humble” one if they are covert).
      Think I’ll write up something about that, It’s an interesting theory.
      But only professional testing can actually tell you if you have it or not. It could be you just have narcissistic traits or a low level of narcissism called DNP (destructive narcissistic pattern disorder) or just an active imagination!
      I hope that helps a little.

      Would you mind if I use an exerpt from your comment in my next post? Thanks for giving me the idea.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi,
        I’ve thought about this, as well as your comment, some more, but I’m actually not sure how much I have narcissistic traits at this point. The “precocious child” game definitely has narcissistic elements to it: mainly through the seeking of others reinforcing this idea. I also think its origins stem from this being the only thing my mother seemed to approve of about me, and her statements that I was “smarter than the other children”. (Although she said I was good at other things, and I never believed it.) I don’t know if you’ve seen this paper claiming that NPD is causally linked to the social conditioning model of parents telling their children they are “better” than other children: http://www.pnas.org/content/112/12/3659.abstract

        I am less sure about the Katniss-style fantasies though, as I think I created them because I felt lonely and like my needs weren’t met by my parents. To summarise, I’m not sure if that was a hero fantasy, so much as a fantasy about being capable, able to survive anything, and not needing anyone to meet my needs because I could cope perfectly on my own. I very much like your other post though, and I will think on it some more. There’s an interesting idea on the blog BPD Transformation, that personality disorders form a Borderline-Narcissistic Continuum. He talks about the ideas of Donald Rinsley, including that the type of disorder relates to the time of developmental fixation in the child’s development, and the notion that, during treatment, one diagnosis morphs into the next along to “healthy”. Where did you find that NPDs were emotionally arrested around 3 or 4 years old? I find it all very interesting, and I am very grateful for how thought-provoking your posts and comment have been.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m sorry, I wasn’t saying you are a narcissist, but still, your comment really got me thinking and was a good example of the type of fantasies narcissists experience. But I think everyone has those fantasies of being larger than life and all-powerful. Narcissists have them all the time and can’t face reality.
          BPD Transformation has a great blog, and I agree with his views about PD labels being extremely damaging and full of negative stigma, especially the Cluster B category of personalty disorders.


        2. Not at all! Sorry, I think I was just throwing a lot of thoughts at you. It has helped me a lot: Thank you! I don’t actually see narcissistic pd as “bad” as such, but (somewhat ashamedly) admit that I have absorbed a lot of the stigma of both that and BPD. In the end, I see all of these traits as maladapted coping mechanisms from early experiences. I really appreciate your comments and posts, so please continue with the great work. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        3. I’m really starting to think all PD’s are really forms of complex PTSD….what do you think?
          It was hard coming out here about my BPD. I never lied about my dx, but downplayed it because of the stigma. But finally I reached the point of wanting to talk, needing to talk about it. And I’m glad I did, no matter how bad the stigma. I just refuse to lie about anything–and that means hiding important things–on this blog.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. I agree with you, and I find your attitude inspiring. From what I’ve seen, pd’s are strongly related to traumatic experiences (although I am sure there are exceptions). I am also with you on openness. It helps me to do it, and I’m sure it helps to reduce stigma when people are open about mental health. xx

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Why do you think aspies can’t have all that rage and hatred and bitter? I have known quite a few online who had self hatred and one would make fun of other aspies for their traits because she over compensated. Then there was another one I knew and I also suspect she may have had narcissism or some sort of other personality disorder. She was very bitter too and she felt everyone was better than her and she felt her problems were the worst and looked down on others who complained. I had to stop talking to her because it was too much. She also had Bipolar and she was better to chat with when she was on the pill, then she quit taking them and she went back to being bitter again and to her old attitude.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you that Aspies can also be narcissists and vice versa. I’ve known some. They tend to use their Aspieness to feel “superior” to others and I used to do this too, thinking for about 10 years that I had Aspergers.
      But Aspergers by itself isn’t characterized by rage and resentment, although their lack of ability to function in social situations could make them feel enraged too, especially if they are being bullied for being “different.” .
      It’s confusing, I know. But some narcissists do use other mental disorders to hide behind, either conscously or unconsciously. My ex used fabricated “schizophrenia” to get disability. But he’s a narc to the core. He acts crazy, but he knows exactly what he’s doing.


      1. All these comorbids is confusing which is why I don’t trust self diagnoses and I would rather listen to someone who knows a lot about autism and specializes in it but I am sure they can make mistakes too. We could all look up disorders and think we have them, I often wonder if I have psychopath traits because I didn’t feel any remorse when I was a kid but that may be more due to not understanding how it would make others feel and not understanding feelings. I was also rough with animals but that is pretty normal in all children. At least I didn’t burn them or throw them out of windows or kill any or torture them. But I actually wanted to kill our puppy when I was 16 because he wouldn’t stop peeining the house and I was having all this anxiety from it but mother nature killed him instead so I didn’t turn into a psychopath lol. But I have read about OCD and compulsions and how sometimes people with it can get intrusive thoughts about torture so they may do a psychopathic thing due to the compulsion and they could no longer control it and that is how some get misdiagnosed with psychopathy and pedophilia. But that might have explained my compulsions to kill our animal at that age. But I didn’t tell anyone because I was worried I would be sent off to a mental hospital because I was already given that threat.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. IMO, having just arrived at this subject matter and self diagnosing as likely a covert narcissism, I think it is important to realize this is a classification/categorization schema for a set of beliefs, thought patterns, actions, behaviors, and communication with other people.

    My sense is the professionals are not that far along truly understanding this area particularly “Cluster B” hence the gazillion different narcissist labels, covert, overt, somatic, cerebral. I actually appear to have some aspects of overt and a blend of somatic and cerebral. My own self analysis tells me I may have morphed from purely cerebral to somatic once I got out of college and discovered a path to more potent increased narcissistic supply.

    Having read many of your posts and trying to overlay the theory on my life experience I think I was an HSP who turned narcissistic in the face of verbal abuse from one parent, and pure torture and ridicule from peers. I find that my cold empathy is very high. I’m usually really good at reading people and figuring out their buttons but I rarely attack first and I am not sadistic. I am highly vindictive though and I usually attack back in a no holds barred fashion. I think some things I said to a person were a trigger for them going NC.

    I’ve got a million thoughts racing… Who am I? I’m still trying to understand the true self false self paradigm. Even before I discovered this stuff I often though if myself as an actor on a stage… Playing a different part depending on the intended audience.

    It’s funny… I would often tell a friend “perception is reality” and I’ve always liked the quote about having it made once you can fake sincerity… Heck those might as well be the covert narc Creed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know sometimes I even think all the Cluster B disorders are really all the same disorder, because they bleed into each other so much. You’re right, there are so many different types of narcissism being identified, and sometimes it’s hard to distinguish one from the other. There’s a lot of confusion between BPD and covert NPD too, since they can seem so similar to each other.

      I have a lot of cold empathy too. I used to think I had warm empathy but I really don’t. I think I was in denial about it. At the same time, I wanted to hide my HSP nature (IMO, almost all narcs are also HSPs and we retain extremely high sensitivity about ourselves).
      But I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to heal NPD is to embrace and nurture that vulnerability that we rejected in the first place. It’s not easy, but it’s easier than shooting in the dark not having any idea where to start.
      That’s why I write–because it’s the one mode of communicaiton where I’ve become comfortable with utter honesty and being vulnerable. I’m painfully shy with flesh and blood people due to how exhausting it is to keep up that fake show of interest in others and risk having them see that really, I don’t really want to be bothered. That makes me feel like a terrible person, but online, I’m different. I think this is where my TS comes out. I’m working on nurturing that.
      Thank you for your comments, and I’m very glad you found my blog. I wish more people would find it , lol.


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