When you think of what a narcissist looks like, a pretty clear picture probably pops into your head: They're over-the-top, think they're the greatest, and they always want to tell you how much better they are than you. In other words, when you think of a narcissist, you probably imagine someone who's fairly outgoing. Just because they don't fit the picture in your head, however, doesn't mean that there aren't also more introverted people who have a narcissistic streak. In fact, there are some signs that you're an introverted narcissist, so even if you don't think you fit the typical narcissistic mold, you might be more focused on yourself than you thought.
Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby, Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada, and Gilderoy Lockheart from Harry Potter... all classic narcissists, as Dr. Gerard Lawson, president of the American Counseling Association and an associate professor at Virginia Tech, tells Romper. Those characters look different than someone like Seinfeld's George Costanza who, as W. Keith Campbell, a psychologist at the University of Georgia, told Science of Us, is a good illustration of an introverted narcissist.
Introverted narcissists often act differently than their extroverted counterparts, Lawson says, but internally, it's all the same. "What we’re really talking about are folks that have this underlying sort of fragile and insecure beliefs about themselves, things that began when they were very, very young," Lawson says. "And the way that they compensate for it is the stuff that we see in the day-to-day world, the narcissistic stuff about self-enhancing."
Lawson explains that the grandiose behavior and exaggerating of accomplishments that people associate with narcissists is all really done to "cover up for the doubts and the insecurity and the self-criticism that they feel internally and they just don’t know how to manage." So while it might seem as though those who are extroverted and have Narcissistic Personality Disorder are the most confident around, introverted narcissists give more subtle clues that ultimately, inside, they're struggling to cope. Just because those clues are subtle, however, doesn't mean that it's not still narcissism.
1. You're Irresponsible
According to Lawson, one of the signs that someone has a personality disorder like Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which is what introverted and extroverted narcissists both show signs of, is that they're unable or unwilling to act responsibly. They do things that are irresponsible to compensate for feeling (internally) like they're less than. They're sensitive, immature, and irresponsible, which can make interacting with them a little bit difficult.
"For these individuals, lack of effort or follow-through protects them from facing their 'normalness' by not even trying," Lawson says. "'That project is beneath me' may be the extrovert excuse, but for the introvert it's, 'My normal performance might reinforce that I am not actually superior.'" So, the introverted narcissist will avoid the project all together, so there's no tangible proof of failure, and their fantasy of superiority is left intact.
2. You're A Terrible Listener
You can be a bad listener without being an introverted narcissist, but introverted narcissists are oftentimes not very good at listening, as noted by an article from Psych Central. They don't want to ask you questions or put much time or energy into the conversation. They'd rather just give you the advice they think you need or tell you what they want to tell you and then move on without another word.
3. Relationships Are Hard
Oftentimes, those who exhibit narcissistic characteristics or have a full-blown personality disorder struggle to form relationships, as well as to make those relationships work longterm. Lawson says that these folks can have a difficult time when it comes to relationships because they placed the other person in the relationship specifically to make them feel superior. For example, your partner may not be as educated as you, or make less money, or otherwise be perceived as not as good or not as accomplished. Lawson explains, "The relationship is almost transactional, where ‘I’m getting one thing from this partner and nothing more. They are there specifically to make me feel better about myself, to portray to the world that I’m superior.'"
Your partner may be getting something out of this as well, but typically he or she will get to a point where they just can’t tolerate your behavior anymore, explains Lawson. For introverted narcissists, it's much more difficult to see the relationship issues from the outside looking in. Lawson says that introverted narcissists often have boundary issues; they can be passive aggressive towards their partner; and they might not have a set definition of what's right or wrong. All of these behaviors are designed to hide the fact that you're internally self-conscious.
4. You're Constantly Looking For 'Likes'
It can be easy when you post a photo to Instagram or a status to Facebook to want to check regularly to see if anyone likes or otherwise appreciates what you posted, however, this can be a sort of sneaky sign of someone being an introverted narcissist. According to Dr. Richard Shuster, clinical psychologist and creator and host of The Daily Helping podcast, posting things on social media is the 2017 equivalent of telling everyone how great you are without having to draw too much attention to yourself. Each 'like' or comment or retweet is an affirmation that you can use to prove that other people think you're great, as well. Many people get caught up in this, but if you're particularly obsessed, this can be a possible sign of narcissism.
5. You're Unable To Work With Others
Because it's so difficult for them to form collaborative, cooperative relationships with people, working with introverted narcissists can be a challenge also. According to Lawson, not only do intimate relationships experience the effects, but professional ones do, as well.
6. You're Passive-Aggressive
In a blog post he wrote for Psychology Today's website, professor Preston Ni said that introverted narcissists can often respond to criticism passive-aggressively. They might brush off the critique or agree to make a change, but then simply do whatever they wish. They can't believe that you'd think there was anything about them that needed to be changed.
7. You Minimize Other People's Feelings
If you're an introverted narcissist, you might not think that other people's feelings and needs are as important or significant as your own. According to the previously-mentioned article from Psych Central, introverted narcissists don't think that spending the time on your needs is worth it for them, which is why they act as though it's not really that big of a deal. "One of the differentiating points is that the extroverted type act out their beliefs that they are superior, whereas the introverts internalize their fears that no one will recognize their superiority," explains Lawson. Ultimately, everything comes down to how it affects or relates to them. They internally minimize the complexity of some issues, making it seem to be simple, insignificant, or unworthy of their time, which lets them easily move on without addressing it.
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