When covert narcissism is disguised as altruism

Covert narcissism is a type of narcissistic personality disorder where individuals exhibit grandiose fantasies and a sense of entitlement, but their behaviours and emotions are not as obvious as those of overt narcissists. They often appear humble, self-sacrificing, and altruistic, but their true motives are still self-centred and self-serving.


When covert narcissism is disguised as altruism, individuals may use their supposed acts of kindness and selflessness to gain attention, admiration, and control over others. They may make sacrifices or do things for others, but their ultimate goal is to satisfy their own needs, boost their self-esteem, and maintain their sense of superiority.

Covert narcissism disguised as altruism

Some signs of covert narcissism disguised as altruism include:

Excessive need for validation: Covert narcissists may appear to be selfless and humble, but they still crave attention and admiration from others. They may go out of their way to help others, but only if they can receive praise or recognition for their actions.

Manipulative behaviour: Covert narcissists may use their supposed altruism as a way to manipulate and control others. They may use guilt or emotional blackmail to get what they want, or they may give gifts or do favours with the expectation of receiving something in return.

Lack of empathy: Covert narcissists may not truly care about the well-being of others, despite their claims of selflessness. They may use their supposed altruism as a way to hide their lack of empathy and emotional connection to others.

Inability to handle criticism: Covert narcissists may become defensive or angry when their altruistic acts are questioned or criticised. They may see any criticism as an attack on their sense of superiority and may become hostile or withdraw from the situation.

It's important to recognise that not all acts of kindness or selflessness are motivated by covert narcissism. However, if someone consistently uses their supposed altruism as a way to gain attention, control, or admiration, it may be a sign of a deeper issue that requires professional help.

How do you spot the difference?

Some signs of covert narcissism include:

Lack of empathy: Covert narcissists may struggle to put themselves in other people's shoes or to understand how their actions or words impact others. Think of a bull in a China shop that continues its direction irrespective of the damage they are causing.

Sensitivity to criticism: They may be hypersensitive to criticism or rejection and may react strongly when they perceive that their ego is being threatened. The strong reactions may present themselves in three common ways: They become the persecutor of drama, which is driven by anger. They may develop a victim mentality that has a woe is me, which is driven by sadness. They may have the need to rescue a situation or person, which is driven by fear.

Grandiosity: They may have an inflated sense of self-importance or uniqueness that they keep hidden from others.

Attention-seeking behaviour: Covert narcissists may seek attention and admiration from others, but in a more subtle and indirect way, such as by being self-deprecating or fishing for compliments.

Manipulative behaviour: They may use their charm, intelligence, or charisma to manipulate others to get what they want.

Envy: Covert narcissists may harbour feelings of envy towards others who they feel are more successful or accomplished than they are. They frequently seek to undermine those who they perceive as more accomplished or successful than they are by covert means.

Self-centeredness: They may be preoccupied with their own thoughts, feelings, and interests to the point where they disregard the needs and feelings of others.

It's important to note that these signs can also be present in other personality disorders or mental health conditions, and a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder should be made by a trained mental health professional.

Signs of altruism

Altruism refers to selfless concern for the welfare of others. Here are some signs of altruism:

Helping behaviour: Altruistic individuals often engage in helping behaviours without expecting anything in return. This can include volunteering, donating to charity, or assisting someone in need.

Empathy: Altruistic individuals tend to be highly empathetic, meaning they can understand and feel the emotions of others. This allows them to connect with others on a deeper level and respond with kindness and compassion.

Sacrifice: Altruistic individuals are willing to make sacrifices for the benefit of others. This can include sacrificing their time, resources, or personal goals in order to help others.

Generosity: Altruistic individuals tend to be generous with their time, resources, and energy. They are willing to give freely to others, even if it means they have less for themselves.

Kindness: Altruistic individuals are often kind and compassionate towards others. They tend to treat others with respect and empathy and are willing to lend a helping hand when needed.

Overall, altruism is characterised by a genuine concern for the well-being of others, a willingness to help and support others, and a desire to make a positive impact in the world.

Spotting the difference is key in knowing whether you are being manipulated and controlled or whether you are truly blessed with knowing someone who is truly altruistic. According to psychometric testing, a truly altruistic personality is the rarest personality type of them all. The INFJ or Advocate/Advisor makes up just 2% of the population of the world.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 3BN
Written by Nikki Emerton
Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 3BN

I’m Nikki, a recovered perfectionist, still a bit of an over-achiever and slightly introverted lover of running, the outdoors, wild swimming & good food - not all at the same time of course!
Using a range of modalities, including coaching, NLP, IEMT & Somatic work. I help people achieve positive changes so that they can live life to the fullest.

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