Seven Signs You’re Dealing With A Covert Narcissistic Mother

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Most people think of narcissists as loud, obnoxious people hungry for admiration and attention, but there is another kind of narcissist. Psychologists define behaviors as either covert or overt. 

Overt behaviors are those that are easily seen by other people around the individual. An overt narcissist is the loud, obnoxious individual craving the praise of the room. Covert behaviors, on the other hand, are less obvious. 

A covert narcissist craves admiration just like the overt one, and they also lack empathy like any other narcissist. The difference is simply that they express those desires differently. 

Covert narcissists tend to be more self-effacing and/or withdrawn outwardly, but inwardly they are still feeling the same as other types of narcissists. This is typically because they are more introverted than the overt narcissist who tends to be extroverted. 

Don’t be fooled though. The covert narcissist still has a sense of self-importance, and they still fantasize about grandeur and success as well as being the recipient of glowing admiration.

The one thing that is true about the covert narcissist is that they are harder to spot. It’s easy to fall victim to their manipulative behaviors without even realizing it’s happening. This is particularly true if the covert narcissist in question is your mother since all you’ve ever known is her behavior. Read on to learn about the covert narcissistic mother.  

How Do You Spot the Covert Narcissist?

So, how can you tell if your mother is a covert narcissist? Here are seven signs your mother is this type of narcissist. 

1. Passive Aggression

Covert narcissists tend to make use of passive aggression rather than other, more obvious forms of aggression. Basically, passive aggression is a way to express negative feelings indirectly instead of directly. You can read more about it here

Passive aggressive tendencies include conveniently forgetting things you’re supposed to do, avoiding taking responsibility for your actions, withholding critical information, and a failure to follow-through on promises. 

In the covert narcissist, the two main reasons behind this behavior include the following: 

  • Specialness and Entitlement

The covert narcissist believes that their specialness entitles them to get their way and what they want in any situation. 

  • Vindictiveness

The covert narcissist always wants revenge against people who wronged them in some way or even just had more success than they have had. 

In your covert narcissistic mother, this behavior might present in the form of giving you the silent treatment when you stand up to her, sarcastic remarks that are framed as jokes, sabotaging your friendships, subtly blaming you for any problems, and procrastinating on those tasks she considers to be beneath her. 

2. Self-importance Disguised as Humility

While overt, extroverted narcissists are quite obvious about expressing their sense of self — to the point of arrogance — when they interact with others, the covert narcissist is more subtle. They still crave admiration and have an elevated sense of importance, it’s just not as obvious to those around them. 

Covert narcissists might, for example, minimize what they have accomplished or are capable of doing precisely to prompt people around them to reassure them of their talent or ability. They are in an almost constant need of validation from those around them. 

3. Disregard

The overt narcissist goes out of her way to keep your focus on her, and she won’t hesitate to push you aside or engage in manipulative behaviors to get what she wants. The covert narcissist, on the other hand, prefers not to acknowledge you at all. 

Covert narcissistic mothers will use passive aggressive techniques to convey just how unimportant you are to them. They might, for example, show up late for events with you like graduation or other major life events. They essentially have no regard for your interests or your time, and by refusing to acknowledge you, they are attempting to make you feel small and irrelevant. 

4. Emotional Neglect

Covert narcissists, like any other narcissist, are incapable of building nurturing emotional bonds even though they appear kinder than their extroverted counterparts. Your covert narcissistic mother will still be as emotionally neglectful toward you as any other narcissist. 

As a result of their inability to emotionally connect with loved ones, these kinds of narcissists are unlikely to compliment you since they are focused on maintaining a sense of self-importance. You’ll be the one who has to do the emotional bonding in the relationship despite the fact that this kind of narcissist will appear more emotionally accessible. 

This kind of narcissist will appear accessible only when they are trying to exploit you or make you feel small by shaming you. In short, your covert narcissistic mother will simply be unresponsive to you on an emotional level. 

5. Giving with an Agenda

Covert narcissists might appear giving, but that is only when it serves their purposes. For example, they might make sure the waiter is looking when they leave a tip so that it will prompt praise for their kindness. 

Covert narcissists giving with an Agenda

If your covert narcissistic mother is giving you something, you can be sure there is an agenda behind her generosity. The intent of giving for these kinds of narcissists is always more about them rather than the act of giving or the person to whom they are giving. 

6. Blame and Shame

While the covert narcissist might have a more gentle approach to explaining why something is your fault, you can be certain their goal is not gentle. They are out to make you feel small. 

They might even act the role of the victim in order to engender sympathy and reassurance. If you’re not careful, you may even find yourself praising your covert narcissistic mother for something that was not your doing. 

7. Self-effacing Nature

At the root of all narcissism is a deep-seated insecurity, but overt and covert narcissists express this differently. Overt narcissists will cover for their insecurity by bragging about their accomplishments even to the point of exaggerating. 

Covert narcissists, on the other hand, crave the same recognition because of their insecurity, but they strive to get it differently. They will often put themselves down as a way of fishing for compliments. 

Both types of narcissists rely on other people to validate them and build up their self-esteem. Instead of talking up their accomplishments to get praise, the covert narcissist puts herself down to cause people to respond by giving her reassuring compliments. 

Final Thoughts

Just because your mother doesn’t run around bragging about what she’s done doesn’t mean she isn’t a narcissist. She might be a covert narcissist. The underlying insecurities are the same, while the outward appearance is different. 

In some ways, the covert narcissist’s behavior is even more abusive, because you don’t see it coming. With a malignant narcissist, the abuse is evident, but with a covert narcissist, you don’t see it as clearly. The important thing is to recognize what’s abusive and distance yourself from the abuser. You don’t deserve even subtle emotional abuse.

After discovering if you’re dealing with a covert narcissist mother, it might also be helpful to learn how to say no to her. Just click on the link below this blog post and I’ll send you a free copy of “5 Must-Know Techniques to Effectively Reject a Narcissist.”


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Narcissistic abuse takes a terrible toll on your life. I’m Patricia, and my mother is a narcissist, so I know what you’re going through. These blog posts will help you understand narcissism better and give you tips for dealing with the narcissists in your life. Healing starts here!

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