How Can You Tell If You Have A Covert Narcissist In Your Life?

While there were a lot of hidden meanings in Taylor Swift's "Midnights" album, some of them were slightly more obvious. Swift clearly addressed the many themes of narcissism in "Anti-Hero." However, one of her lyrics mentioned the singer-songwriter's own traits of "covert narcissism" specifically. Of course, recognizing what narcissism is may help you understand if you've been dealing with a covert narcissist in your own life.

It can be hard to understand what it really means when you have a narcissistic personality disorder. Put simply, it's when someone has an inflated or exaggerated sense of their own value. Think of people who love being the center of attention or always want praise for their actions, regardless of how small or inconsequential. Another quality of narcissists is a lack of empathy and blatant disregard for other people's emotions. 

While narcissists may appear super confident, there are usually deep-seated insecurities underneath this facade. Notably, covert narcissism is essentially a disguised version, which makes it harder to spot. Having a covert narcissist in your life can create problems, whether it's a coworker, friend, parent, or romantic partner. Learning how to identify these subtleties will help you recognize covert narcissism if/when it happens to you. 

What causes covert narcissism?

Self-worth is an important and healthy quality to have. However, narcissists will often take this to the extreme and view themselves as overly important. They are the center of their own universe, which leads to manipulative behavior. While overt actions are quite obvious in their presentation, covert narcissists are harder to observe because they might appear humble on the outside but still have similar desires internally.

Covert narcissism is further complicated because the contributing factors are a combination of the way someone was raised, any abuse or trauma they had to endure as a child, their genetics, and the unique characteristics of their demeanor. While studies suggest that being overly criticized while growing up can lead to narcissistic tendencies in adulthood, being praised excessively can be just as problematic since it establishes a sense of superiority early on.

Being raised by parents who are deeply invested in being successful and having a high social standing can also contribute to children becoming narcissistic adults. Of course, if you are questioning if someone in your life is a covert narcissist, you may not be aware of the details of their past. Therefore, monitoring what causes certain reactions will be essential when figuring out how to proceed. 

How to identify narcissistic behavior

While more research is required to decipher what truly causes someone with a narcissistic personality disorder to express those traits overtly or covertly, certain situations will generally bring out that sense of entitlement, even if it's subtle. If someone in your life begins to act out when they aren't the center of attention or can't control the environment they're in, it may be a sign. Likewise, if they struggle to be around more attractive, successful, or educated people than them, they are likely feeling jealous, underappreciated, or they're struggling with feelings of inadequacy. 

While it's easy to view the narcissists in your life as toxic, cutting ties with them immediately may not be an option, especially if you're quite close to them. Ultimately, their reactions are a culmination of early and adverse childhood experiences that have likely influenced their egotistical pursuits. Since narcissists have little self-awareness of who they hurt along the way, it can be hard to set healthy boundaries. 

Covert narcissism often feels like more subtle manipulation over time, making it difficult to discern until you're already emotionally invested. Unfortunately, narcissists are easily triggered so providing constructive criticism may feel like you're walking on eggshells. Learning how to communicate effectively is a skill that often requires emotional intelligence and takes time to develop. Using positive language and staying calm are great places to start, but if you're not getting anywhere it's best to move on.