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

Low-key narcissists, like their more overt counterparts, are primarily motivated by a deep-seated need for validation, admiration, and control.

They often have fragile self-esteem and rely heavily on external validation to feel good about themselves.

But how can you recognize one? Well, that’s what we’re here for. In this article, you’ll learn about the signs you’re dealing with a low-key narcissist, according to psychology.

So, buckle up, and let’s begin!

1) They crave attention and validation from others

As I already mentioned, they always want to be the center of attention. To do that, they’ll interrupt conversations, brag, or constantly seek praise and validation.

For instance, they resort to attention-seeking behaviors such as loud or dramatic actions, dressing provocatively, or making grand gestures to draw attention to themselves.

They simply crave attention and admiration from others to boost their ego and reinforce their sense of superiority. Simply put, being admired and praised fulfills their need to feel special and important.

And that’s not according to me. Oh, no, it’s what psychologists are saying about them. 

2) They struggle to understand or empathize with the feelings of others

A low-key narcissist, more often than not, doesn’t get how you’re feeling, or they don’t care much about your emotions because they’re too wrapped up in their own.

Psychologically, this inability to empathize with others is a hallmark trait of narcissism. 

Research suggests that narcissists may lack the cognitive and emotional capacity to understand and resonate with others’ emotions.

So, in a way, it’s not their fault. Still, that doesn’t make them any less annoying, does it?

3) They often manipulate situations and people to serve their own needs

Psychologically, manipulation is a tool used by narcissists to maintain control and dominance over others. 

It serves their need for admiration and validation while disregarding the feelings of those they manipulate.

Think of them as puppet masters.

They’ll pull strings to get what they want, whether it’s guilt-tripping you, playing mind games, or twisting situations to their advantage.

If you want to have any chance at dealing with them effectively, you need to recognize manipulation tactics and not give in to them.

Stay firm in your own beliefs and decisions.

4) They believe they’re entitled to special treatment and privileges

These people feel the world owes them something. And so, they expect special treatment and privileges or just think they’re better than everyone else.

Again, this is very annoying to deal with, as I’m sure you already know.

Just think of all the Karens of this world.

They exude entitlement and narcissism, don’t they? 

In psychology, entitlement stems from an inflated sense of self-importance and superiority. 

Narcissists feel entitled to special treatment and privileges because they think they’re better than others or have unique qualities and status.

And that’s why they always want to talk to the manager when things don’t go their way.

But let’s talk about self-importance a little bit more, as it’s such an interesting topic. 

5) They have an inflated sense of self-importance

Can you picture someone who thinks they’re the hottest thing since sliced bread? It might be your friend, a family member, or someone famous.

What they all have in common is that they always exaggerate their achievements, name-drop, or constantly talk about how amazing they are.

Narcissists often do these grandiose behaviors to assert their dominance over others.

They just have to be better than everyone else, no matter what.

They act like they’re the kings or queens of the universe.

Everything they do is bigger, better, and more important than everyone else.

What you can do is not feed into their grandiose fantasies.

You know those signs in a park, “Don’t feed the animals,” yes, exactly like that!

Offer genuine compliments when deserved, but don’t inflate their ego further.

Don’t ask them any additional questions, or you’ll be sorry. 

6) They react poorly to criticism and may become defensive or hostile

Psychologically, narcissists struggle with criticism because it threatens their fragile self-esteem and challenges their grandiose self-image. 

For those reasons, they often react defensively or aggressively to protect their fragile ego.

They’re like a balloon that pops at the slightest prick.

Criticize them, and they’ll lash out, get defensive, or turn the tables and criticize you instead.

So, to counteract their tricky ego, be constructive but also firm with your criticism.

Don’t back down if they react negatively. Instead, stand your ground respectfully.

7) They take advantage of others to achieve their own goals

You should do the same if you notice them use flattery, manipulation, or even deceit to manipulate others for their own gain.

All narcissists see people as pawns to get what they want. 

From a psychological perspective, they lack genuine concern for others and exploit them to fulfill their own needs and desires.

Protect yourself by setting clear boundaries and being cautious about how much you share with them. 

Instead of spilling all the beans about your personal life, keep it light.

Talk about hobbies, movies, or sports, but steer clear of deep, personal stuff until you really trust them.

Still, while it’s good to be there for friends, don’t let them dump all their problems on you without giving anything back. 

Balance your emotional support with theirs, and don’t let them drain you dry.

Above all, don’t let them take advantage of your kindness.

8) They rarely take responsibility for their actions or mistakes

Low-key narcissists are like the kids who blame the dog for eating their homework. It’s never their fault, and there’s always an excuse or someone else to blame.

Psychologically, narcissists have an external locus of control, meaning they attribute their failures and mistakes to external factors instead of taking personal responsibility. 

So it’s up to you to hold them accountable for their actions by refusing to accept excuses or scapegoating. 

Encourage them to take ownership of their behavior and its consequences, even if it means facing discomfort or consequences.

Don’t kick the can down the road. Do it for all of us!

9) They envy others’ success or possessions and feel resentful towards them

They’ve got a green-eyed monster lurking inside, and that’s why they feel jealous or resentful of others’ success, possessions, or even just their happiness.

In psychology, envy is linked to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

Narcissists experience envy towards others’ success or possessions as it threatens their fragile sense of supremacy.

I mean, we’ve seen it over and over again, right?

Just imagine a friend buying a new car or moving into a bigger house.

Rather than celebrating their success, the low-key narcissist might make snide comments or belittle their choices to make themselves feel better.

For example, “No one buys Fords anymore.”

10) They need constant admiration and approval from others

They’re like emotional vampires, constantly sucking up praise and validation to feed their ego. 

They constantly post updates, photos, and achievements on social media, looking for likes, comments, and shares. 

Their self-worth hinges on the number of likes and positive comments they receive.

Psychologically, the need for admiration is a core component of narcissism.

Narcissists rely on external validation and admiration to maintain their inflated self-image and sense of dominance.

That’s why they also often steer the topic toward themselves, bragging about their accomplishments, possessions, or experiences. 

They crave admiration and validation from others and even interrupt or talk over others to ensure they remain the center of attention.

Final thoughts

Frankly, narcissists are all around us, and they get validation easier than ever with the rise of social media. 

If you’re lucky, the likes they get there are enough to satisfy them.

If not, they’ll need your attention and admiration, too, and that can affect your relationship with them. 

But, ultimately, if you’re dealing with someone who’s constantly seeking attention, lacks empathy, or manipulates situations, it’s okay to step back and protect yourself. 

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