The Secret Insults: Covert Narcissism in Disguise

Posted by Kate Munden
On 18/05/2024
In Blog

If you’ve ever received a ‘compliment’ that left you feeling confused or insulted, you might have been the target of a covert narcissist’s backhanded compliment. These subtle digs are often delivered in public and designed to undermine your confidence while appearing ‘kind’ on the surface.

Let’s explore some common examples and their hurtful effects, so you can recognise this manipulative tactic.

What is a Backhanded Compliment?

A backhanded compliment is a remark that seems positive but actually contains an insult or a put-down. These comments can create cognitive dissonance, leaving you feeling unsettled and questioning your worth.

What does this look life in real life?

  • “You look great in that picture, I didn’t even recognise you.”
    • On the surface, this seems like praise for your appearance. However, it implies that you usually don’t look good or that you look significantly different from the norm. This can make you feel insecure about your usual appearance, as if your everyday look isn’t good enough.
  • “Wow, you’ve lost so much weight! You look like a completely different person now.”
    • While acknowledging your weight loss, this comment suggests that you didn’t look good before, undermining your previous self.  It can make you feel like your worth is tied to your weight, fostering unhealthy body image issues.
  • “You’re so much smarter than you look.”**
    • This remark sounds like a compliment but insinuates that you don’t appear intelligent. It can make you feel self-conscious about your looks and intellect, creating unnecessary self-doubt.
  • “I’m impressed you got that job; I thought they only hired people with real experience.”
    • This comment undermines your achievement by suggesting you’re unqualified or that your success is surprising. It can make you doubt your abilities and feel undeserving of your accomplishments.
  • “You did a great job on that project, I didn’t expect it to turn out so well.
    • Although it acknowledges your success, it implies that failure was anticipated. This can erode your confidence and make you feel that your efforts ar e usually inadequate.
  • “You’re so brave to wear that outfit in public; it really suits your confidence.”
    • This comment suggests that your outfit is unconventional or risky, indirectly criticising your fashion choice. It can make you second-guess your style and feel embarrassed about expressing yourself.
  • “Your presentation was good; I was surprised you managed to do that despite your lack of experience.”
    • This remark highlights your inexperience, downplaying the quality of your work. It can diminish your pride in your achievements and make you feel like an imposter.
  • “Wow, you actually look pretty today. What did you do differently with your makeup?” While appearing to compliment your looks, this comment implies that you usually don’t look good. It can make you feel unattractive and dependent on makeup for validation.
  • “I’m impressed with your work, especially considering your background and education.
    • This comment undermines your accomplishments by suggesting that your success is surprising given your supposed disadvantages. It can make you feel inferior and question your qualifications.
  • Understanding the Impact of covert narcissism over time
  • Backhanded compliments create cognitive dissonance by pairing praise with subtle insults. Cognitive dissonance is when we hold two realities in our awareness at the same time. This is extremely exhausting and can leave you feeling confused and hurt, as you struggle to reconcile the positive and negative elements of the comment. Over time, these subtle, hard to identify remarks can erode your self-esteem and make you doubt your worth and abilities.
  • By recognising these subtle tactics and understanding their impact, you can begin to reclaim your confidence and break free from the manipulative cycle of covert narcissism. Remember, you deserve genuine compliments that uplift and empower you, not disguised insults that tear you down.

Kate is a trauma and embodiment specialist. She is a TRE & EFT Supervising Mentor and is on the Executive Board of EFT International (formerly AAMET) and is a Comprehensive Energy Psychology Practitioner, DipPsych, Master Hypnotist, Master Practitioner of NLP and Time Line Therapy (accredited by the ABNLP) and has been an intuitive body & energy worker for 30 years. While she works with any problem state she specialises in the sensitive areas of Post Traumatic Stress, emotional abuse, chronic pain and anxiety.

Kate Munden
Kate is a trauma and embodiment specialist. She is a TRE & EFT Supervising Mentor and is on the Executive Board of EFT International (formerly AAMET) and is a Comprehensive Energy Psychology Practitioner, DipPsych, Master Hypnotist, Master Practitioner of NLP and Time Line Therapy (accredited by the ABNLP) and has been an intuitive body & energy worker for 30 years. While she works with any problem state she specialises in the sensitive areas of Post Traumatic Stress, emotional abuse, chronic pain and anxiety.

Related Posts

Comments

0 Comments