10 signs you’re dealing with a low-key narcissist, according to psychology

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Navigating the world of human relationships can be tricky. We all have the odd self-centered moment, but how can you tell if you’re dealing with a true low-key narcissist?

Psychology has given us some valuable insights into this subtle form of self-absorption.

Spotting a low-key narcissist isn’t always easy – they’re often charming and good at hiding their self-centered tendencies.

But if you know what signs to look out for, you can protect yourself from being taken advantage of.

Here are 10 tell-tale signs that you’re dealing with a low-key narcissist, according to psychology.

Stay tuned, because you might be surprised by what you learn!

1) They always steer the conversation back to themselves

Ever come across individuals who skillfully redirect any conversation back to themselves?

That could be an initial indicator that you’re dealing with a low-key narcissist.

Psychology indicates that narcissists relish discussing themselves, making it their preferred topic. They adeptly navigate discussions, consistently steering them toward their own experiences, achievements, or problems.

This behavior might not be immediately apparent – after all, who doesn’t enjoy sharing personal anecdotes? However, with a low-key narcissist, it forms a persistent pattern.

Regardless of the subject, they skillfully manipulate discussions to revolve around them.

This subtle self-centeredness can make you feel unheard and undervalued.

If you consistently find yourself sidelined in conversations, you might be encountering a low-key narcissist.

2) They’re never at fault

Picture this, last year, I was in a partnership on a project. As the deadline approached, we fell behind schedule.

My partner, let’s call him John, always had a reason why it wasn’t his fault. From blaming the computers for being slow to arguing that the task was assigned with unclear instructions.

Psychology informs us that low-key narcissists struggle to accept responsibility when things go wrong.

They will go to great lengths to protect their self-image and will often shift the blame onto others or external circumstances.

Whether it’s a missed deadline, a failed project, or simply arriving late for an appointment – if you notice that someone always has an excuse and is never at fault, it could be a sign that you’re dealing with a low-key narcissist.

In my case with John, I gradually realized I was dealing with a narcissist who was more invested in maintaining his self-image than in getting the project done.

3) They’re excessively competitive

Low-key narcissists tend to view life as a competition where they must always come out on top. Their need to be the best can manifest in everything from board games to career achievements.

Interestingly, a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that narcissists are more likely to engage in competitive strategies and less likely to cooperate with others.

This need for dominance can make them difficult partners in both personal and professional relationships.

It’s one thing to have a competitive streak, but when someone is constantly turning every situation into a competition, it can be exhausting and may indicate you’re dealing with a low-key narcissist.

4) They lack empathy

A classic sign of narcissism, according to psychology, is a lack of empathy. This means they struggle to understand or share the feelings of others.

Low-key narcissists may not display overtly cruel or dismissive behavior, but they often fail to show genuine concern when someone else is upset or facing a problem.

They may seem indifferent or unresponsive, particularly when the focus isn’t on them.

If you’re noticing that someone around you consistently fails to show understanding or compassion in situations where it’s needed, it could be a sign that you’re dealing with a low-key narcissist.

Empathy is about more than just saying the right things – it’s about genuinely caring for others and their feelings.

5) They need constant admiration and validation

Low-key narcissists have a deep-seated need for admiration and validation from others. They often crave positive feedback and compliments to reinforce their sense of superiority.

While they might not openly demand praise, they’ll often subtly fish for compliments or steer conversations in a way that allows them to showcase their achievements.

This can sometimes be mistaken for low self-esteem or a need for reassurance, but it’s a key characteristic of narcissism.

Therefore, if someone in your life is constantly seeking validation and reacts poorly to any form of criticism, you might just be dealing with a low-key narcissist.

6) They disregard boundaries

Respect for personal boundaries is a cornerstone of healthy relationships.

However, low-key narcissists often struggle to recognize or respect these boundaries.

This might take the form of prying into personal matters, disregarding your time and space, or consistently overstepping the line with comments or actions that make you uncomfortable.

It’s not uncommon to feel emotionally drained after spending time with a narcissist due to this constant invasion of your personal space.

Everyone has the right to establish their boundaries.

Respecting your personal space extends beyond that; it involves honoring you as an individual.

7) They have a grandiose sense of self-importance

A few years ago, I had a colleague who always seemed to think she was the most important person in the room. She would interrupt others, dismiss their ideas, and always believed she knew best.

This is a common trait among low-key narcissists – an inflated sense of self-importance.

They tend to believe that they’re special, unique, and superior to others, even when there’s no particular reason to think so.

This grandiosity isn’t always obvious.

It might just seem like they’re confident or self-assured.

But if you notice that someone consistently overestimates their abilities and importance, while underestimating others, it could be a sign that you’re dealing with a low-key narcissist.

8) They’re overly concerned with image

Low-key narcissists are often overly concerned with their image and how they’re perceived by others.

They place a high value on status symbols, whether that’s a designer handbag, an expensive car, or a prestigious job title.

They might spend a lot of time and energy curating the perfect social media presence or name-dropping influential people they’ve met.

This obsession with image is often driven by their need for validation and admiration.

Keep in mind, that genuine self-worth comes from within, not from what we show to the outside world.

9) They’re incapable of genuine apologies

The ability to apologize sincerely when we’ve done something wrong is a key part of empathy and emotional maturity. Unfortunately, it’s also something that low-key narcissists struggle with.

They say the words, but their apologies often lack sincerity, or they might make excuses for their behavior rather than taking full responsibility.

When an individual in your life consistently neglects to offer sincere apologies when they’re at fault, it serves as a strong indicator that you may be dealing with a low-key narcissist.

Acknowledging this pattern can mark the initial stride in safeguarding yourself and pursuing healthier relationships.

10) They exhibit a constant need for attention

Low-key narcissists crave a continuous spotlight on themselves.

This manifests in a constant demand for attention, whether through dominating conversations, seeking admiration, or resorting to attention-seeking behaviors.

Their actions often revolve around ensuring they remain the focal point, making it challenging for others to share the spotlight or have their needs acknowledged.

If you observe someone persistently vying for attention and becoming uncomfortable when not in the limelight, it could be indicative of a low-key narcissistic trait.

In the end: It’s about understanding

The complexities of human behavior are often intertwined with our psychological makeup. Narcissism, as subtle as it may be in some people, is no exception.

The concept of low-key narcissism helps us to understand that the signs of narcissism aren’t always overt or extreme.

They can exist in the everyday interactions we have with those around us, hidden beneath the surface of charming personalities and charismatic conversations.

Understanding these signs can be a powerful tool in navigating relationships, setting boundaries, and protecting our emotional health.

It’s not about labeling or judging others, but about recognizing unhealthy patterns and responding appropriately.

Think about it.

The next time you encounter someone who always steers the conversation back to themselves, or struggles to acknowledge their mistakes, you’ll be equipped to understand what might be driving their behavior.

Take note that knowledge is power. And when it comes to dealing with low-key narcissists, understanding is the first step towards empowerment.

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Clifton Kopp

Welcome to my writings on Hack Spirit! I'm a bit of a "polymath" in that I like writing about many different things. Often I'm learning from the process of writing. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment on one of my articles.

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