“Good morning, ordinary people.” – Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory
Scientific theories have been widely contested, all along the historic timeline. The first name that comes to mind is Galileo Galilei, the astronomer, who believed that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Each one of us has a modern Galileo in our friend circle who believes, instead, that the world revolves around them, and acts as if that’s a written fact already!
Unlike Galileo, these people aren’t considered criminals, or left under house-arrest, until they degenerate into blindness and die. We see them everyday, with an ever-lit halo, the seven seas lapping at their feet, eight planets perpetually orbiting around them (and that’s almost true, only the planets are called ‘human beings’). We call them ‘narcissists’, or people who are hyperbolically in love with themselves, much to the others’ discomfort.
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But today we are addressing a form of narcissism that goes unnoticed: Covert narcissism. More than often, you will find a covert narcissist actually addressing the issue of vanity, and speaking against it, because he or she, is unaware of how big a lover they are of themselves! They are silent worshippers, sitting in front of mirrors, crowning themselves king!
What is narcissism?
The term ‘narcissism’, originates from the ancient Greek and Roman myth about ‘Narcissus’. He was a man who roamed the world, looking for somebody to love (not the Queen song, even though it would have made for a fantastic pun!). Rejecting the courtship of a nymph named Echo, he catches a glimpse of himself in the river, and immediately falls in love. However, on being unable to tear himself away from the magnificence of his own reflection, he drowns. And, (brace yourself for the best anti-climax in history), a flower grew in his place, which we call ‘The Narcissus’ (because we’re innovative like that).
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Narcissism is more than a classification of personality. It’s a personality, and in most cases a psychological, disorder. These traits alone, however, don’t bear the tag of a disorder until they start meddling with your daily functioning, causing problems (mostly for the people around you). For example: Instead of caring for your partner, you are only ever concerned with being pampered and taken care of without returning the effort!
In the 90s, Paul Wink, a psychologist, spoke about 2 different forms of narcissism.
- Grandiose narcissism, which we all are familiar with since it is visible! If you are overtly dominating and attention-seeking, you are a grandiose narcissist, basically!
- Vulnerable narcissism, (or covert narcissism), on the other hand, is characterized by hyper anxiety, deluded perception, and hypersensitivity.
Suggested read: Early signs you’re dating a narcissist
Pope had written that we must “beware of all, must most beware of man!” especially if they’re the werewolf of narcissists, their traits hidden in normal daylight. Sometimes, though, like Invisible Man, they can’t see their own selves (or their disorder), which is where we step in!
In the next twenty questions, we’re going to try and uncover the covert narcissist in you.
1. Did your God say, “Let there be Limelight”?
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The undercover narcissists may not be in the limelight, but they always think they deserve to. When they quote Sheldon’s “you’re in my spot”, they mean the centre of the stage. If they ever became King, they’d sell the Sun for abundant spotlight, and sit underneath it all day.
2. Do you daydream about yourself?
Wait, did you think one could only daydream about their boyfriend or girlfriend (or food)? Pfft. Romantic movies have ruined you! A covert narcissist daydreams about world dominion, and people crying when he or she makes speeches (yes, I’ve referred to Hitler again. Get over it!), since they are the only thing right with this world.
3. Are you the Johnny Depp/Salma Hayek of your hometown?
8 of 10 narcissists believe they look so good, you should drop dead immediately. We believe beauty comes from within, but like Andy Stitzer, they’d tell you “that’s just something ugly people say”. Or, if they aren’t physically appealing (according to whosoever’s standards) they will deride anybody who is, criticizing them because they’re pretty.
4. Have you surpassed Newton in intelligence?
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An apple hit Isaac Newton! These people were probably hit by a watermelon (I wish), given the kind of intelligence they profess to embody. From anything to everything (yes, in that order!), they know it all!
5. Are you the human touch-me-not?
A ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude is very characteristic of narcissists. They believe they belong behind bullet proof glass, right beside Van Gogh’s paintings (where they would probably stand and criticize his brush-strokes!).
6. Are you against empathy?
Psychologists believe that narcissists have severe problems with empathy. The Outsider, by Albert Camus expresses the complete detachment from emotion in the beginning lines: “Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure.” Can you imagine yourself saying this for somebody else? If yes, empathy isn’t your A-game.
7. Are you always the victim?
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I could bet on the name of their autobiography: “They Were All Against Me: A Memoir”. A narcissist perpetually feels wronged. They feel like every god in Olympus sat in session solely to device hurdles in their way!
8. Are you the good cop/bad cop routine rolled in one?
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Heard of the ‘Angel Face/Demon Face’ transition of a narcissist? They’re Mother Teresa’s next-of-kin out in the open, but in close quarters they could put the Kraken to shame. These hidden narcissists strive to maintain a bright exterior because it helps people like (read: praise) them.
9. Did you take ‘Monopoly Deal’ too seriously?
Narcissists tend to believe that everything belongs to them. They call dibs, mentally, on everything that they see, and cannot reconcile themselves to the fact that it may be owned by some body else. I can hear the echoes of Gollum saying “My precious!” every time they see something new!
10. Do you only help when somebody is watching?
They’re the worst people to call when you’re stranded and in danger. No audience equals to no help. There are several narcissists who’re ‘philanthropic’, but use it as a means to further their goodwill, and build their social status.
11. Is yours the only side in a conversation?
These are people whose text messages run along the right, for as long as you scroll, because they don’t need your reply. They ‘cannot wait to tell you what happened’, and mostly, that’s ALL they talk about.
12. Is the top of the food chain your ‘spot’?
They are convinced that we never followed Darwin’s ‘evolution scheme’, and aren’t half as ‘evolved’ as they are [we’re apes, basically]. All the best things (or people!) belong to them!
13. Do you feel no pain?
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Closet narcissists are like Bruce Willis from, “Unbreakable”: they’re anything but fragile. They completely refuse to acknowledge their vulnerability out of utmost insecurity.
14. Is your brain poetry?
They uphold their philosophy as supreme, and probably believe they could’ve written the Bible better!
15. Does rejection make you catatonic?
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When you believe you’re the human form of gold, it’s severely difficult to handle rejection. Narcissists are known to implode/explode (depending on their form of narcissistic personality disorder) when faced with rejection. It’s almost like holding a mirror to a basilisk; narcissists experience severe heartburn when showed that they’re not perfect.
16. Are you destructive in the face of constructive criticism?
Closet narcissists run by a policy of ‘praise or nothing’. When they ask you to judge their work, just smile and say “Brilliant!” (Tip: if you must be honest and call it bad, then say it fast, and run for your life!). They have two common reactions to bad feedback: ‘You’re wrong’ or ‘You have something against me’.
17. Are you an undiscovered diamond in the rough?
Narcissists lead their lives criticizing successful people! They’re still “waiting for their chance” to “shoot to fame”; the world just hasn’t ‘discovered’ them yet.
18. Are you a one-man (/woman) group?
Group projects, invariably mean, equal contribution and sharing credit. There are two words in that sentence that give narcissists a nightmare: ‘equal’ and ‘sharing’. Undercover narcissists stay away from these activities as it makes them sick.
19. Do you feel validated by attention?
Much like babies who start crying the moment you take your eyes off them, narcissists cannot function without attention. They are always on the hunt for the next source of attention or admiration, and often, feel annoyed, frustrated, or severely dejected when ignored.
20. Do your letters read: ‘To Me, With Love, From Me’?
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When Ayn Rand said, “To say ‘I love you’ you must first know how to say the ‘I’,” she didn’t want you to make your ‘I’ so big that you forget all other alphabets! Narcissists are soaked in self-love, just too notches away from completely drowning in it!
‘Self-love’ is very tricky. You have to avoid crossing over to the dark side! To the ones who said ‘yes’ to most of these questions, may the God in you, help you.
Suggested read: 12 Out-of-the-box self-care strategies you must adopt right away
To the ones who barely said ‘yes’ at all, don’t be so hard on yourself! Indulgence is good, as long as it’s under control. Cat Stevens called this a Wild World: “It’s hard to get by just upon a smile.” So, you must look out for yourself and hold your own self high. Self-love in a controlled amount, is necessary, not narcissistic. So, listen to The Awkward Yeti when he says:
“Love thyself. Thyself is awesome.”
(But not so much that it makes people fear for their lives.)
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