If someone is secretly a narcissist, they’ll display these 9 behaviors

by Tina Fey | May 9, 2024, 11:43 am

How do you know if you’re dealing with a genuine person or a closet narcissist?

Let’s be honest: the line can be blurry.

Narcissists are masters of disguise. But if you pay close attention, certain behaviors begin to stand out.

In this article, I’ll reveal 9 telltale behaviors that might just make you go, “Aha! I knew it!” Trust me, you might just save yourself a lot of heartache.

1) They have an inflated sense of self-importance

Did you know that individuals secretly harboring narcissistic traits often have an exaggerated sense of self-worth?

The thing is that they see themselves as superior to others and believe they are unique, special, and entitled to more than average people.

Sounds familiar?

Then, you need to know that this inflated self-perception is not merely a result of confidence.

Instead, it’s a deep-seated belief that they are inherently better than everyone else.

Why does this happen?

Because narcissists consider their opinions, ideas, and decisions to be the absolute best. As a result, they often disregard the views or feelings of others.

However, this grandiosity is more than just boastfulness—it’s a defense mechanism to protect their fragile ego.

When their superiority is challenged, they can become hostile or defensive.

2) They lack empathy for others

Have you ever opened up to someone, only to realize they couldn’t care less?

Well, a lack of empathy is a glaring red flag for narcissism.

They’ll listen to your story, nod, and maybe even throw in a “That’s tough”.

But guess what?

Deep down, they’re unfazed.

That’s because a narcissist’s world revolves around one person: themselves.

I’ve seen this firsthand. They might know exactly how you feel, but the thing is, they don’t really care.

It’s not a lack of understanding — it’s a lack of interest.

The simple truth is that for narcissists, you exist only as a way to fulfill their needs.

Your feelings, aspirations, or problems? Mere background noise.

So why do they act like they care sometimes?

Simple: it’s all part of the game.

They can mimic empathy when it serves them, like a chameleon changing colors.

But don’t be fooled — their focus never shifts from their own wants and needs.

3) They exploit others without guilt or shame

Want to know one interesting fact about narcissists?

Studies have shown that they often score lower on measures of guilt and shame compared to the general population.

Imagine that!

These people can use and exploit others without losing a wink of sleep.

Sounds like something out of a movie, right? But it’s uncomfortably real.

Now, let’s get to the truth:

Narcissists see relationships as transactions.

I’ve observed this multiple times—you’re either useful to them or you’re not. It’s as binary as that.

And the moment you’re not?

You’ll find yourself kicked to the curb, often with a stunning lack of remorse.

However, the chilling part is that they’ll rationalize their actions in a way that not only absolves them of guilt but sometimes even paints them as the hero of their own story.

Yes, in their minds, they’re doing you a favor by cutting you loose.

4) They frequently seek admiration and validation

How many times have you observed someone fishing for compliments, like it’s their life’s mission?

Let’s admit it:

We all enjoy a pat on the back or a “Well done!”

But for narcissists, it’s a different story.

They don’t just like admiration and validation, they crave it like oxygen.

I can’t stress this enough: their self-worth is built on the shaky foundation of how much they’re adored or admired.

What’s fascinating is that this hunger for validation is never satisfied. One compliment is great; a hundred is better.

Their ego is a bottomless pit, always craving more, more, and yet more.

For a narcissist, every room is a stage, and every social interaction is a performance to garner applause.

Why do they act this way?

Because in their world, they’re the main characters, and everyone else is merely a supporting role.

5) They have a sense of entitlement

Let’s get straight to another sign:

Narcissists believe they’re entitled to special treatment.

No queues, no waiting, no compromises. In their mind, the world should bend to their will.

Here’s what that entitlement often looks like:

  • Expecting preferential treatment
  • Demanding excessive favors
  • Disregarding rules that “don’t apply to them”

If I may be blunt, it’s like they live in their own VIP section of life. And you?

You’re just the bouncer at the rope.

I know it’s sad but let’s face the truth:

It’s this “me-first, you-later” mentality that underlines their actions, creating friction in relationships and workplaces.

Keep in mind that narcissists genuinely believe they deserve it.

It’s not arrogance for show — it’s a deep-rooted conviction.

6) They are often envious of others or believe others are envious of them

Here’s something counter-intuitive:

Narcissists are often envious of others, but they genuinely believe the feeling is mutual.


Because in their world, they’re the epitome of success, beauty, or talent—so naturally, everyone else must be green with envy, right?


While they’re busy tallying up all the ways they’re better than you, they’re also keeping a keen eye on what you have that they don’t.

It could be your job, your partner, or even your new pair of shoes.

And if they can’t have it, they might resort to belittling or devaluing it, just to soothe their bruised ego.

But here’s the deal:

Even as they envy you, they’re convinced you’re envious of them.

It’s like a never-ending cycle of jealousy where they’re both the perpetrator and the imagined victim.

7) They frequently belittle or demean others

Ever been put down just when you started to feel good?

If so, imagine this scenario:

You’ve just received a promotion at work, and you’re ecstatic. You share the news, and instead of a hearty congratulations, you get a snide, “Well, they must’ve been desperate.”

A bit painful, isn’t it?

Well, narcissists have a tendency of belittling and demeaning others. It’s especially true when they sense someone else is getting the limelight they so crave.

By demeaning you, they create a contrast that, in their minds, makes them look better, smarter, or more competent.

So, here’s what you should know:

It’s not about you being less. It’s about them wanting to be seen as more.

The takeaway?

If someone can’t stand to let you have your moment—if they make it a point to belittle or demean you just when you’re feeling good—you’re not the problem.

They are. And it’s a glaring sign of narcissism.

8) They are highly sensitive to criticism

Have you ever tried giving constructive criticism to someone, only to have them react like you’ve slapped them across the face?

If this rings a bell, you might be dealing with a narcissist.

Here’s a short example:

You kindly suggest they improve their time management, and suddenly, it’s World War III — they’re offended, defensive, and might even retaliate.

Why is this?

Believe it or not, it boils down to their fragile ego.

Yes, narcissists indeed build up a grandiose sense of self to mask their insecurities.

Any critique, no matter how small or well-intended, is perceived as a full-scale attack on their persona.

9) They thrive on creating drama

Let’s be real: life has its ups and downs.

But if you constantly feel like you’re stuck in a whirlwind of chaos and drama, pause and consider:

Are you the common factor, or is it someone else?

When it comes to narcissists, they don’t just handle drama —they create it, fuel it, and thrive on it.

Why is this the most powerful sign?

Because this drama isn’t random; it’s calculated. I’ve seen this play out too many times.

Narcissists stir the pot to divert attention away from their flaws, to manipulate situations in their favor, or simply to revel in the emotional turmoil of others.

Yes, they get a kick out of it.

And it’s not just petty drama. we’re talking full-blown, divide-and-conquer scenarios.

They’ll pit friends against each other, sabotage professional relationships, or blow small grievances out of proportion—all while playing the innocent victim.

Trust me, this is more than just a red flag — it’s a siren. If you see this in someone, don’t just walk away—run.

The bottom line

So you’ve made it to the end, and maybe you’re thinking, “Wow, I’ve seen these signs in someone I know.”

It’s a tough realization, but also an empowering one.

You’ve now got the knowledge to recognize toxic behaviors, and that’s the first step in making more informed decisions about the people you let into your life.

Remember, a relationship—be it friendship, family, or romantic—should enrich your life, not drain it.

You deserve to be around people who value you, not those who see you as a pawn in their self-centered game.

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