The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines narcissism as love for one’s own body. This personality disorder has two faces: the overt or arrogant narcissist and the covert or shy narcissist. PsycholoGenie does a breakdown of overt vs. covert narcissism for a deeper understanding of people with either personalities.
Did You Know?
The term “Narcissism” was first used by German psychologist and criminologist Paul Näcke in his studies.
Even though Paul Näcke used the term for the first time, it was first introduced to the psychoanalysis field by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud in his essay On Narcissism. However, the term itself is said to have originated from a Greek myth of Narcissus―thus, the name.
The Myth of Narcissus
Though there are several versions of the myth, all of them end with Narcissus committing suicide. Let us take the classic version of it as used by Roman poet, Ovid. In his magnum opus Metamorphoses, he narrates the story of a youth and how he fell in love with his own reflection.
As the version goes, Echo, a talkative mountain nymph, was cursed by Hera, Zeus’s wife, for distracting her and letting Zeus get away. Due to the curse, Echo could not speak unless someone spoke to her. Even then, she could repeat only the last word of what that person had said. One day, she saw Narcissus and fell in love with him. She followed him through the mountains. When angry Narcissus demanded to know who she was, she revealed her identity to him. However, he rejected her advances. Heartbroken, she vanished into mountains, following which only her voice was left behind.
The goddess of revenge Nemesis, Aphrodite in some versions and the goddess of love, decided to punish Narcissus. She lured him to a large water body in which he could see his reflection. When Narcissus saw his reflection, he fell in love with it without realizing it is his own reflection. He sat there for hours and hours staring at it. He could not consummate his love and died in frustration.
Even in today’s times, there exist people who truly love themselves. They may not sit staring at their reflection in the mirror (sometimes they do!), but their overall behavior may indicate that they put themselves before others. Some are easy to spot; with their attention-seeking, self-revolving, and decisive personality, they stand out. However, some keep their self-loving traits well hidden. These quivering, shy, and self-doubting creatures put self before others as well.
American psychiatrist James F. Masterson proposed two types of pathological narcissism, i.e., exhibitionist and closet. They are also referred to as overt and covert narcissism. The word ‘overt’ means something that is easily seen, something that is not hidden. On the other hand, the word ‘covert’ means something that is not easy to notice, something that’s secret or hidden. The names itself suggest the personalities that overt and covert narcissists have. Let us find out more about them.
► Overt narcissists are easier to spot in a crowd. Such types of personalities are exhibitionists, demand attention, and easily get offended due to any real or imaginary criticism.
► Overt narcissism revolves around grandiosity. This type of personality seems self-sufficient and believes that they are entitled to achieve outstanding success. Such people demand everything on a grander scale. They also have intense ambitions regarding anything.
► This personality type may have shallow relationships. The main reasons for it is that they always imagine their self to be better than others. Though they put up a show of humility, they lack empathy for others. They are not able to genuinely participate in a group.
► A positive characteristic of overt narcissists is that they are hardworking. However, most of the time, the hard work done is only to seek appreciation. Overt narcissists are usually socially charming. However, they can be seen preoccupied with one’s appearances.
► This type of personality puts up a great show, having no respect for money. However, it is not always the case that they disdain wealth. They might exaggerate modesty. They have great interest in socio-political events. These people are very peculiar and have uneven morals.
► Overt narcissists are very knowledgeable. However, they look for shortcuts to acquire their knowledge. In addition to that, they are very decisive and have their own opinions. They articulate their opinions each time they get a chance. They are considered to have a very egocentric perception of reality.
► Though covert or stealth narcissists are called shy, their personalities are similar to overt narcissists. However, they lack confidence manufactured by grandiose as a self-concept.
► Instead, they are filled with self-doubts and shame. Though they are hungry for power and glory, they do not go ahead to achieve them as they are shy. They are sensitive to criticism.
► They suffer from continuous envy of other people’s possessions, talent, relations, etc. This deep-set jealousy and the feeling of unworthiness leads to distrust in other people.
► They suffer from chronic aimlessness, and therefore, boredom. Covert narcissist’s get bored easily in anything that they do. This leads to their superficial interests in several things. They are considered to have an amateurish attitude towards everything. This results in their imitative aesthetic taste.
► This type of personality suffers from chronic pathological lying. The root of all such lies hides in their shyness, their self-doubting nature, and their urge to hide themselves from others’ prying eyes. Even if they do not show, they love a materialistic lifestyle. They sometimes show delinquent tendencies.
► Unlike overt narcissists, a covert narcissist’s knowledge is limited as he/she often forgets little details. This person is known to change the language and through that, their reality when their self-esteem is under threat. Their reality is regulated to suit their self-esteem.