Yikes! Does this mean I’m a narcissist?

I just finished reading a Scientific American article that delineates narcissists into two categories: Overt Narcissists and Covert Narcissists:

When most people think of narcissism, they think of the public face of narcissism: extraversion, aggression, self-assuredness, grandiosity, vanity, and the need to be admired by others (see “How to Spot a Narcissist“). But as far back as 1938, Harvard psychologist Henry Murray noticed another breed of narcissist among his undergraduates: the covert narcissist. While the “overt” narcissists tended to be aggressive, self-aggrandizing, exploitative, and have extreme delusions of grandeur and a need for attention, “covert” narcissists were more prone to feelings of neglect or belittlement, hypersensitivity, anxiety, and delusions of persecution [I’ve also seen this referred to as “inverted narcissism,” whatever that means].

Um, I’m prone to feelings of neglect or belittlement, am known to be hypersensitive and anxious, and there are times I believe I’m being persecuted…

But it gets even worse…

In the 90s, psychologist Paul Wink analyzed a variety of narcissism scales and confirmed that there are indeed two distinct faces of narcissism, which they labeled “Grandiosity-Exhibitonism” and “Vulnerability-Sensitivity”. He found that both shades of narcissism shared a common core of conceit, arrogance, and the tendency to give in to one’s own needs and disregard others. But that’s where the similarities ended.

Okaaaaayyy, I admit I can be selfish, but I don’t think I’m arrogant or conceited. But read on…

While Grandiosity-Exhibitionism was associated with extraversion, aggressiveness, self-assuredness, and the need to be admired by others, Vulnerability-Sensitivity was associated with introversion, hypersensitivity, defensiveness, anxiety, and vulnerability. Further research by Jonathan Cheek and Jennifer Odessa Grimes at Wellesley College found a moderate correlation between covert narcissism and the Highly Sensitive Person Scale developed by Elaine Aron.


Uh…I’ve frequently mentioned being an HSP and I’m definitely introverted….

In other words, while introversion, sensitivity, and narcissism are all partially separate traits, hypersensitive covert narcissists are more likely to report that they are introverted and sensitive.


I’m so busted. I’m almost afraid to take the test at the end.

But if I am narcissistic, I think I’m a pretty benign narcissist, as the disorder runs on a continuum from somewhat narcissistic to murderous evil psychopath. I would guess the same is true of all HSPs (who I noticed tend to blog about narcissism a lot)–that we aren’t malignantly narcissistic. I think a lot of HSPs and people who tend toward introversion also tend to feel guilty about everything too and feel bad when we hurt others, so that doesn’t seem to indicate malignant narcissism or psychopathy anyway. I think they missed the mark here, because narcissists don’t feel guilt or care if they hurt others.

14 thoughts on “Yikes! Does this mean I’m a narcissist?

  1. The fact that you’re being introspective here in a healthy way…willing to consider your vulnerabilities and possible blind spots…tells me your ego is not particularly an issue. I mean ego in a negative sense, because the word ‘ego’ means different things, depending on the school of psychology defining the term. You’re being introspective, willing to consider that you may have issues – and that makes you…DEFINITELY not a narcissist. I think they missed the mark too.

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    • Whewl, I’m relieved! 🙂 You’re right though. There have been better articles about narcissism, and almost all the other theories I’ve seen do not consider introverted, anxious people with high sensitivity to be Ns–they are usually considered neurotic and their hypersensitive (hypervigilant) personalities are likely the RESULT of having been under a narcissist’s influence, especially as children. Sure, we may have some narcissitic traits (almost everyone does unless they’re a saint), such as worry about what other people think of us (that’s the hypervigilance) and suspicions of the motives of others (we think other people are gonna hurt us) . One thing Ns are not is introspective and they don’t really care what other people think of them, as long as they always get to have their own way.

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  2. Part of me wants to say that this might intuitively make sense, at least for me. I’m beginning to think more and more that one of my parents is a narcissist, and while growing up I was always being told to ignore my feelings while having to focus on the feelings of my narcissistic parent. This could be seen as a deprivation of the normal growth of a human being, and so it would make sense that my mind would seek attention and positive affirmation through a passive context.


    • It took me years to figure out my mother was a Narcissist, and part of it was denial–who wants to admit to themselves their OWN MOTHER can’t and won’t really ever be able to love them? I too always had to focus on her feelings at the expense of mine, even as a young child. If I didn’t she’d go into a narcissistic rage and there’d be hell to pay. It’s definitely a deprivation to a child’s development, because children of narcissists don’t grow up with the life skills and tools most children are equipped with when they enter adulthood, and unfortunately from my observations it seems that children of narcissists are often underachievers and never become that successful in life (even if very intelligent with a lot of potential) –because they’ve been PROGRAMMED TO FAIL from a very young age. Once we free ourselves from their evil influence we can finally grow into ourselves….but it may take time.

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  3. I think it was sometime last year that I figured out my mom was a narcissist and my brother was the “golden child”. Somehow I got on the internet after having another altercation with my mother and just “googled” “mean moms”. I was 60 years old!

    That is how long I had endured my confusion. After I read up about Narcissists, I felt like it put all the pieces of my puzzle into place. Finally everything made sense to me. Before I struggled with feeling like a spoiled whining child who was never happy. I suffered in silence when I was with my family.

    It was always 2 against one. A few times I had tried to confide in my brother about my mom but he never got what I was saying. So I always thought it was me.

    It concerns me that I may be a covert narcissist myself. I do have some of the traits. I smile at the thought of the possibility that my mother and brother would accuse me of being a covert narcissist after they find out that I accused them of being narcissists.

    During my adult life, I pretty much stayed away from my mother. I always felt guilty, like a thankless daughter. Now I see that I was just intuitively going no contact.

    I did a very good job of never becoming like my mother, instead I just married someone even worse than her!

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  4. LOL, I don’t think you’re a narcissist. Everybody has some aspects of arrogance, self absorption or even feelings of persecution. My mother is actually a covert narcissist, so I know the characteristics fairly well.

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    • I agree almost everyone has some narcissistic traits. It’s easy to pin the label on anyone we don’t like or disagree with. It can be dangerous because a lot of people who aren’t really narcissists could be saddled with the label. My ex (who really is a narc) has read all the books on narcissism and knows as much as me, he says I am the narcissist and he’s the real victim, haha! I’ve heard this happening to other victims too.


      • In my fairly limited reading and watching YouTube the last couple weeks since realizing I am most likely somewhere on the narcissistic spectrum I’ve observed there is almost a circle jerk of finger pointing, “You are the narcissist”, “No, you are”.

        I think understandably that many don’t want the label pinned on them, or even if they would be diagnosed with NPD would want to minimize it or shade it differently. Some of the YouTube videos and associated comments are frankly terrifying, they remind me of the panic about Satanic cults in the 80s or the Salem witch trials. Let’s identify all the narcs and burn them at the stake!

        As I mentioned in a previous comment, I’m not sure exactly where I fall, but I am still a human being, not a demon or alien. I’ve never committed any crime, let alone violent crime or cheating an innocent person out of their money. I’ve read comments to the effect that all narcs should be locked up and throw away the key with no mention that any criminal offense and conviction is even necessary. Being somewhere on the narc spectrum is a crime in an of itself.

        I guess I can cognitively understand that some people have been victimized badly by those who fall into the “malignant” category or even psychopathy, but what I’ve observed and read certainly seems like an almost crazy mob mentality overreaction. Anyone with good sense will be very reluctant to be candid even if they self-identify. Heck, I created an entirely new e-mail account simply for discussion of these matters.

        There are some good videos on YouTube that provide knowledge, but there are some that really feed into the “lets burn all narc/witches” mentality. I think the consensus medical view that it is difficult to impossible to treat or “cure” also plays into that frenzy. If narcs can’t be “fixed”, then let’s just lock them all up proactively, never mind things like due process, constitutional rights, and the fact that probably most narcs never commit any serious crimes, but are guilty at most of being self-absorbed, selfish, demanding, manipulative, etc.

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        • X, unfortunately in the acon community there’s a lot of splitting, or black and white thinking going on. That in itself is very narcissistic. I have seen the videos you talk about. I think they’re rather silly, although I still agree with the no contact rule. Not all of us are on the “all narcs are demons and should be burned at the stake” mentality that’s become so pervasive. People who think this way have been so badly abused they have generalized their hatred of their abusers (which is certainly understandable) to anyone who is a narcissist and even to borderlines and all “Cluster B”s. In fact I highly suspect some of these haters are Ns themselves but are so stuck in their anger and hatred they will never be able to see this. All they can do is project and gaslight. If you ever give a narc the benefit of the doubt, or suggest a narc can improve–well, to them that is heresy and YOU are a narc (or narc-hugger) who should be burned at the stake.

          Sam Vaknin and Spartanlifecoach made a video recently all about the demonization. It’s gotten out of hand. Somehow, a condition that used to be considered merely a mental illness has been blown up into something mythic and biblical. They give narcissists even more power over them by somehow making them “more than human”–angels of satan, if you will. Now, I won’t deny there is most likely a spiritual element in NPD, and I think malignant narcissists really are pretty evil. I’ve even done my own share of narc-bashing, especially when I first started this blog. I was still angry with my abusers. But at some point, I got sick of that attitude because it was eating me alive. I realized that even though I was NC with them, that I was continuing to let them abuse me from inside my own mind. You can’t heal from abuse when you’re that stuck in rage and hate. I tried to tell them this but it fell on deaf ears (and I got mobbed). They think I’m a heretic and a hypocrite. It didn’t help at all that I “came out” as a covert narcissist myself (I only discovered this a month ago). I would not have been able to make this self-discovery had I not been able to move on from the hatred and rage and begin the long journey of healing from abuse.
          I’m low spectrum, but to the haters that doesn’t matter. To them, a narc is a narc is a narc. They don’t know or care that it’s a spectrum disorder, and that narcissists not high on the spectrum aren’t a whole lot different than “normals.”

          You are welcome to post here (I have never had a no narcs rule) but I think you would feel most comfortable posting on my other blog, http://healingnpd.com/ , which I created in order to help me come to terms with this shocking realization about myself, which was so disorirenting I felt like I fell down the rabbit hole.

          And, let me remind you, that people forget that narcissists were abuse victims too. We are all trying to cope in our own ways with what was done to us. I don’t want to be a narcissist; I don’t think think it’s a healthy way to go through life or cope with our past, and so far the things I have been doing (which I talk about on my other blog) seem to be working.


  5. I’m totally new to learning about narcissism, so I’m no expert, but I definitely believe that covert narcissism exists. The reason? Because my ex fits the covert narcissism profile to a T. I have definitely suffered narcissistic abuse at his hands (the gaslighting, emotional manipulating, making me believe I’m worthless, hovering, etc. are all things that he did), but he’s not outwardly a vain show-off. Most people think he’s a “nice guy.” What makes him different than the average person? “the common core of conceit, arrogance, and the tendency to give in to one’s own needs and disregard others.” He sees people in black and white. On his side or not. And he doesn’t seem capable of empathy. I think a person who is concerned about being a narcissist probably *isn’t* one, and if you experience empathy for others I think that’s a pretty clear sign you aren’t. We all have the ability to be self-interested at other’s expense. From what I’m learning narcissism is on a spectrum and both too little or two much in unhealthy. That’s my two cents. Hope it helps!

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  6. Pingback: Empaths and narcissists « Mirrorgirl

  7. Reblogged this on Lucky Otter's Haven and commented:

    Almost a year ago, I wrote this slightly jocular post after I read an article describing covert narcissism. It was the first time I’d actually read anything about it. Even back then, I recognized the symptoms as fitting me like a glove, but was far away from awareness. This slightly humorous, false self-deprecating attitude was typical of a lot of my posts at the time. I think somewhere deep inside though, I knew.

    I can’t believe how different everything seems now.


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