Once you start learning more about the ins and outs of narcissism, all the terminology and information can seem overwhelming. This emotional whirlwind can affect anyone, and you’re certainly not alone if you’re feeling confused, scared, or frustrated.
On the one hand, having knowledge is empowering. It can give you a working language to understand the fundamentals of some of your toxic relationships. But, on the other hand, having this perception can be discouraging. He now knows the core issues of his situation, and now it’s up to him to decide what he wants to do with it all.
Covert narcissism can be especially confusing. Is this person just insecure and projecting her low self-esteem onto you? Are they more volatile than you realize? Or are they struggling with something else entirely?
Let’s discuss some of the key differences between covert narcissism and borderline personality disorder.
Understanding the traits of covert narcissism
Most of us know the obnoxious personality of a grandiose and outspoken narcissist. After all, this is the person who loves attention and does all About them. They are loud, proud, and often humiliating to be around.
But covert narcissism it is a completely different breed. These narcissists often seem incredibly “normal” when you first meet them. If anything, they may present as shy, introverted, or depressed. They can be transparent about their struggles with low self-esteem or feelings of inferiority.
However, the more you get to know the covert narcissist, the more things start to feel wrong. First, he’ll notice that he often feels like he’s walking on eggshells. You are always trying to guess his needs. And when you guess incorrectly (which is most of the time), you are punished with passive aggression and gaslighting.
The covert narcissist will make it seem are the reason why everything is wrong. But they may not tell you this outright, or they may blame you squarely. Instead, they’ll be subtle and crafty, leaving weird comments here and there. This pattern of indirect behavior will only add to your confusion.
The covert narcissist relies on putting other people down to feel good about himself. But instead of being direct, they often gossip and pretend to like others when they think it’s important to their self-image.
Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder Traits
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition that affects 1.4% of the population (although 75% of people diagnosed are women). Like narcissism, borderline traits are pervasive and chronic.
Deep down, people with BPD often feel a constant feeling of emptiness. They worry about rejection and may assume that people will inevitably hurt them. As a result, they tend to have difficulties in interpersonal relationships and often feel their emotions very deeply.
People with BPD often struggle with impulsive behaviors. This condition coincides with problems such as substance abuse, eating disorders, and other forms of self-harm. Unfortunately, the death rate is also a major concern: a staggering 10% of this population dies by suicide.
Narcissism vs Borderline Personality Disorder: Can the Two Match?
It’s true that both narcissists and people with BPD often have complicated histories of trauma. This is a precursor in almost all personality disorders. These traumas are likely to establish a faulty foundation for fear of vulnerability and abandonment.
Also, both sets of people tend to display “hot and cold” behaviors. This means that one day, things seem great. The next, it may feel like everything is falling apart. And you may not even be sure what caused the massive change!
However, narcissists exploit others to get what they want. They generally lack empathy (unless it’s cognitive empathy), and often think they are above the rules when it comes to meeting their needs.
People with BPD may exploit others, but their motives tend to be less nefarious. His actions stem from a desperate desire for connection.
Where the narcissist fears to be average, the person with BPD fears being hurt. Where the narcissist avoids intimacy because they want all the power and control, the person with BPD may avoid it because they want to feel safe and secure.
Finally, where the narcissist exaggerates their own perceptions of self-importance, the BPD person wants only meaningful relationships. They’re not that interested in furthering their own agenda; they really value feeling that people care about them.
Of course, some people may have borderline and narcissistic traits. But this is the best way to tell the difference. Life with a narcissist feels vindictive. You always feel like they are trying to trick you.
Are narcissists and people with BPD attracted to each other?
It seems that these two sets of people often end up in a relationship with each other. At first, the dynamics may seem confusing. But here’s why it can happen.
Someone with BPD often presents as vulnerable. They may lack healthy boundaries and cling to any relationship that initially feels secure.
Unfortunately, this energy can directly attract a narcissist. The narcissist, after all, is forever seeking to fulfill their narcissistic supply. They tend to gravitate towards people who will subdue or adore them, and the person with BPD may very well give those unconscious signals.
And so, the narcissist will respond by love-bombing this new partner. They will do everything in their power to make you feel special and appreciated. At first, everything will seem amazing: both of you can really feel that you have discovered a genuine, once-in-a-lifetime love.
Unfortunately, the crash often happens quickly. The person with BPD needs that love bombing. It’s a signal of safety, a way they can maintain their need for intimacy and connection. They value being as close as possible.
But the narcissist starts to walk away. In a sense, they already have what they want, so it’s already starting to lose its appeal. At this point, they tend to become more distant. They could start scanning for new supplies. Once they have it, they could discard the relationship total.
Can these relationships work?
Most of the time, no.
Needless to say, it is very challenging to be in a healthy relationship with a narcissist. For them, relationships are not a source of connection and intimacy. Instead, they are a way to satisfy their egos. So they find (and use) people who meet their needs.
Also, most narcissists are not willing to work on themselves. Which can do promises to change or shows some half-hearted attempts, but actual growth tends to be very limited or non-existent. They don’t see themselves as having a problem, they want others to bend over backwards and conform to their expectations.
And so, they both end up feeling frustrated, hurt, and alone. The person with BPD often experiences a familiar pattern of humiliation and rejection. The narcissist does not have the bandwidth to deal with those emotions or validate how her partner might feel.
As a result, these relationships often become very destructive and volatile. The person with BPD continues to feel that her needs do not matter. And the narcissist does not watch out.
Are narcissists codependent?
When you think of someone who is codependent, what comes to mind? Someone needy and insecure? Someone who can’t set boundaries with others? Someone who tolerates abuse?
It can be all of the above, but it can also be more.
And while we often think of narcissism and codependency as two separate issues, that’s not always the case. In fact, the root of narcissism is codependency: the narcissist needs approval, devotion and adoration of others to feel self-confident.
Paradoxically, this pattern tends to be the majority evident in covert narcissists. This is because they are more open about their insecurities and sometimes even flaunt them as a way to get the attention of others.
If you identify with be nice, you probably know what it feels like to be “called” to rescue others. You don’t want to see people suffering. And so, you may find yourself in repeating cycles with injured colleagues. You want him to feel loved and unique, even if it means putting his needs before yours.
Remember that all narcissists are codependent in their own way. They lack a core sense of identity. They do not easily identify their feelings or communicate their needs appropriately. They also lack limits, both for themselves and for others.
Narcissism is a complex subject, and different types of narcissists come with different types of behavior. So it’s okay if you don’t understand everything now. What is most important is that you know (and validate) your feelings.
Understanding the main differences between narcissism and borderline personality disorder can be helpful when trying to understand your unique situation. Also, recognizing what is happening is beneficial because having that knowledge gives you a working roadmap for what to do next.
That being said, if you are in a toxic relationship, the best solution is to make a plan. leave from her as quickly as possible. In most cases, this means committing to ending the non-contact dynamic. Cutting all ties is the only way to truly free yourself from such agony and embrace a path to freedom.
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