Vulnerable narcissists tend to have a character that will typically pass as the opposite of narcissism. They tend to be more sensitive and, therefore, difficult to spot. You may realize you are dealing with or are in a relationship with a vulnerable narcissist when you are already too deep into it.
Similarly, their actions may be unconscious but subtle and very calculated. You can’t always notice them if you don’t look with a keener eye.
So Who is a Vulnerable Narcissist?
Also called covert narcissists, vulnerable narcissists don’t display their narcissistic tendencies openly. In fact, they tend to be introverts. A vulnerable narcissist is hypersensitive to rejection, negative emotions, and social isolation. They are more sensitive but still unaware of how their words and actions impact people around them.
Many times, they are also introverted and often deal with anxiety and feelings of shame.
Here are some ways to spot a vulnerable narcissist.
#1: They Have a Large But Never a Tight Circle
A vulnerable narcissist will have a lot of friends. They, however, cannot maintain close, personal, romantic, and professional relationships. Their self-absorbed nature makes them make friends easily but does not keep them.
If you suspect you are in a relationship with a vulnerable narcissist, start by looking at their circle of friends.
Similarly, in relationships, they never give. They only take. If you are in a friendship where you are always giving, you may want to look at their reasons for never giving back. They could be a vulnerable narcissist if it is always about their vulnerability.
Note: They only create friendships for their personal gain.
#2: They Demand Too Much Attention
Another reason vulnerable narcissists cannot maintain friendships is their attention-seeking behaviors. They are people that can go to extremes to get attention. It is not uncommon for them to abandon themselves to earn the attention of others.
#3: They Are Unaware of Their Impact on the People Around Them
A vulnerable narcissist is unaware of how they are hurting other people’s feelings. Their actions often result in issues, especially in group settings. They are unaware of this unless you point it out to them. And even if it is pointed out to them, they will never admit to being in the wrong. They are good at pointing fingers; the blame is always on the other person.
Also, they are constantly worrying too much about themselves. They have no care about what other people are feeling; it is just about them. Additionally, they are always after an ego boost and mostly receive any form of criticism with negative emotions.
#4: They Love to Trauma Dump
Vulnerable narcissists love to trauma dump to gain positive affirmation from their circle. They love to receive validation, but it is never enough. Think of trauma dumping as love bombing. Sometimes you don’t even know the person that well, but they feel welcome to go deep into their sad and traumatic stories.
If you are dealing with a friend who thinks life has been uniquely cruel and unfair to them, you need to look at it twice. It is even worse if they believe nothing can be done to fix their situation.
#5: You Feel Like You Need to Rescue Them
This is about you but may still help you spot a vulnerable narcissist. If you always feel you need to rescue them, you are most probably dealing with a vulnerable narcissist. They make it clear that life is very tough for them. This makes it difficult for people around them to not think of how to rescue them.
Remember that they are not doing anything about their trauma but expect people to cross oceans and save them. This is similar to people who have stayed in relationships because they thought they could change their partner’s life or could help them go through their trauma. However, they would not do anything about it. They would rather stay in that vulnerable position.
#6: They Display Contemptuous Social Anxiety
Contemptuous social anxiety is different from general social anxiety. With contemptuous social anxiety, narcissists hate confident people. For example, in a public setting, they will appear to be okay, not too shy, or not overly confident. However, when they spot confident people, they instantly start hating them.
Think of, let’s say, a party, and some people are on the floor dancing, and some are seated. In the seated group, there will be that person who is overly critical of the people on the dance floor.
- Why are they dancing like that?
- They cannot even dance well.
- I can never embarrass myself like that.
It is a sort of passive arrogance, projecting their social anxiety onto others. Sometimes, it may come off as if other people are always trying to harass them. Like the waiter is always mistreating them, or people are always looking at them. At this point, you may want to look at things differently.
#7: They Are Jealous of Others’ Successes
A vulnerable narcissist will make you feel bad about your accomplishments. They will downplay your success. You will even feel guilty about accomplishing anything if you are around them.
Sometimes, you cannot tell your close friend or even boyfriend/girlfriend about your success or accomplishment. Not that they will react negatively, but you do not want to share your success with them. This is usually a result of them devaluing or downplaying your successes earlier on.
What to Do When You Spot a Vulnerable Narcissist?
Spotting a vulnerable narcissist is one thing, but protecting yourself from them is another. According to psychologists, vulnerable narcissists rarely change. They feel so comfortable and will not even recognize their impact on others. If the actions of a vulnerable narcissist are significantly affecting you, you need to walk away.
You must set firm boundaries if walking away is not in the equation. However, setting boundaries in an old relationship is often tricky. This is why you should always set them as soon as you spot any signs of vulnerable narcissism. Do not wait until you are too deep into a relationship.