11 Subtle Signs You’re Dealing With a Narcissist, Not Someone ‘Humble’

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Even those who are really good at reading people can be fooled by the clever tricks of narcissists, especially since they can come off as entirely humble in their actions without raising any alarms. If you’re ever in doubt, here are 11 subtle signs that you’re not dealing with a humble person but a narcissist in disguise.

Giving Advice that Isn’t Asked for


Covert narcissists often position themselves as benevolent advisors. They’re quick to offer guidance, even when it’s not asked for, framing their unsolicited advice as a form of humble assistance. 

However, the underlying motive is less about helping and more about asserting their superiority. In other words, it’s a subtle way of saying, “I know better than you.” 

Playing the Victim


Playing the victim is a classic move in the covert narcissist’s playbook. 

They’re experts at spinning situations to appear as if they’re constantly wronged, using their own stories to garner sympathy and manipulate others. This victim mentality allows them to evade responsibility and cast any opposition as unjust persecution.

Playing the Hero

Confident businessman in formal cloths drinking coffee and reading news in the kitchen

Covert narcissists are experts at twisting situations. They might treat you poorly but then act as if they’re the more mature person for forgiving you when you react. 

It’s a confusing game where they’re both the problem and the solution, making you feel like you’re always in the wrong.

They Don’t Like Healthy Boundaries


Setting healthy boundaries is crucial in any relationship, yet those masquerading as humble might discourage this practice. 

To them, asserting oneself is synonymous with selfishness. It’s a clever way of making sure people stay within their control, always ready to meet their needs at the expense of their own. In their world, your boundary is an obstacle to their agenda.

Shifting Allegiances


Ever notice how some people flip-flop in their opinions and who they hang out with based on convenience? That’s the hallmark of someone who’s only looking to benefit themselves. 

These individuals have a knack for being on the side that offers the most advantage at the moment, revealing a lack of genuine loyalty or conviction.

Exploiting Whoever they Can 


It’s not uncommon for narcissists to surround themselves with people they can use. They’re drawn to empathetic individuals or those who’ve found success, but their intent is far from noble. 

They aim to leech off these relationships, boosting their image or taking advantage of the resources and connections offered. When they’re done, they won’t think twice about discarding these same people if it suits their needs.

Downplaying Your Success


A genuine person cheers on your accomplishments, but someone faking humility might do the exact opposite. 

If you’ve encountered individuals who subtly undermine your achievements or treat them with a patronizing attitude, you’re likely dealing with a narcissist in disguise. They simply can’t stand the spotlight being on anyone but themselves.

Sabotaging Others Out of Envy


Jealousy is a powerful emotion, and in the hands of someone hiding behind a mask of humility, it can lead to outright sabotage. 

They might not openly show their envy, but their actions speak volumes—belittling achievements, spreading rumors, or even attempting to undermine others’ successes. It’s their way of pulling the rug out from under those who pose a threat to their ego.

Flipping the Script


If you’ve ever been called controlling for asking basic questions, or aggressive just for standing up for yourself after they’ve pushed your buttons, you’ve been most likely dealing with a covert narcissist. 

These people provoke reactions and then label your perfectly normal responses as overreactions, making you the problem in their narrative.

Emotional Coldness Disguised as Stoicism


While they might claim to be simply stoic or unemotional, there’s often an underlying emotional coldness to covert narcissists. They may seem unresponsive or indifferent to others’ feelings or significant events, claiming a sort of philosophical detachment. 

In reality, this detachment is not about being principled or humble; it’s about a lack of empathy and an unwillingness to connect with others on a meaningful level.

Creating and Solving Problems


They have a knack for stirring up trouble, like spreading rumors or causing jealousy, then stepping in to comfort you, making them seem like your rock. 

It’s a manipulative cycle that keeps you tied to them, relying on them for support when they’re the ones causing the pain in the first place.

Kate Smith, a self-proclaimed word nerd who relishes the power of language to inform, entertain, and inspire. Kate's passion for sharing knowledge and sparking meaningful conversations fuels her every word.