Covert Narcissists Say

False Modesty: 11 Self-Deprecating Things Covert Narcissists Say



Have you ever met someone who seemed to be an expert in downplaying their accomplishments? When a person appears modest or plays down their strengths or accomplishments, they engage in false modesty. You know, the type of person who always attempts to bolster their ego by making self-deprecating comments? The dynamic is fascinating. These people typically put on a modest front, playing down their intelligence, success, and abilities. These people are covert narcissists who use strategies like false modesty to disguise their genuine motivations. They may constantly criticize themselves in an attempt to get approval from others. It’s a garment of modesty covering up a veiled plea for approval. False modesty, also known as humble boasting, is a fascinating social behavior that sheds light on the intricacies of human interactions. The following are 11 instances of humble brags and self-deprecating things covert narcissists say intended to either bring attention to their accomplishments or elicit sympathy. Check these comments and beware of them.

1.”I can’t believe I got an A without studying for that test!”

Like overt narcissists, things covert narcissists say have an underlying desire for admiration and affirmation. However, they pursue it more indirectly and covertly. In this situation, they hope to be praised for their brilliance without coming across as arrogant by downplaying their academic achievements. The covert narcissist seems surprised by their success and claims they didn’t try very hard. This suggests that they view getting success without exerting effort as a common occurrence. The implication is that they are so naturally gifted that they don’t need to put in the effort required to become as brilliant as their peers. This pretense of modesty is just another method they try to get people to notice their smartness.

2.”Oh, I’m a horrible athlete. I unintentionally score goals for the opposition team.”

The covert narcissist will say they are horrible in sports and even give an example to support their claim. To make their self-deprecation stand out, they pick a particular and uncommon example: accidentally scoring for the opposite team. This is an extreme case of false modesty. The thing covert narcissists say to get the attention and warmth of others is the use of self-deprecating humor. They try to hide their genuine thirst for adoration while gaining attention and approval by portraying themselves as dramatically bad at sports. It’s an indirect way of saying, “Even though I’m bad at something, I’m still interesting or unique.”

3.”I have a poor memory for names; I forget them as soon as I hear them.”

In this statement, a covert narcissist pretends to have trouble recalling people’s names. They may be modest or self-deprecating by admitting to this supposed weakness. However, the real reason for making such a claim is more complicated. The person is trying to come across as humble and self-aware by portraying themselves as though they had flaws. By saying they are forgetful, they quietly invite others to reassure or compliment them on their different characteristics or skills. This strategy is common among the things covert narcissists say in their attempts to portray themselves as victims and get sympathy and pity from others around them. Ultimately, they want approval and praise from others but don’t like bragging about themselves. Others close to them may reply, “Oh, don’t be too harsh on yourself; you’re exceptionally good with names!” This satisfies their ego without coming off as bragging.

4.”I don’t understand why everyone thinks I’m so talented. There are so many more talented authors and artisans out there.”

When a covert narcissist says anything like this, it may come out as though they are sincerely questioning their talents and exhibiting humility. But it’s typically a covert tactic for getting others to like you. To appear more modest, the person plays down their abilities and argues that others are more capable. By comparing “better” authors or artists, they draw attention back to themselves and encourage others to dispute and defend their abilities. Things covert narcissists say often include this statement to elicit praise from others who feel obligated to provide reassurance over their perceived abilities. The underlying need is to be accepted and appreciated, preferably without having to brag about one’s own accomplishments. Someone else could counter with, “No, you’re incredibly talented!” Don’t undervalue yourself,” which gratifies their desire to be appreciated.

5.”I don’t know why I was promoted over more deserving colleagues.”

The things covert narcissists say are evident in this statement. The narcissists start with a declaration of self-deprecation, professing surprise and disbelief at their advancement. This may give the impression of humility or an underestimation of one’s talents. When someone says something like, “I’m not as competent as some of my colleagues,” they implicitly criticize those colleagues’ credentials while implying that their qualifications are superior.

False modesty like this is a common tactic covert narcissists use when looking for affirmation or compliments from others. They anticipate encouraging words such as “You deserved that promotion” or “You’re being unfair to yourself; you’re brilliant.” This remark gives them the ability to control the narrative. By anticipatorily responding to doubts or criticism, they maintain power over the discussion and make it hard for anyone to question their credibility.

6.”I’m such an idiot; I broke another cell phone screen today.”

The narcissist makes light of their incompetence with humor. They may appear to be admitting a true character’s fault, but they are only doing it humorously or endearingly. Making light of their clumsiness and blunders helps them appear more genuine and friendly. This may make them more likable and approachable to others. Comments like “Don’t worry; accidents happen to everyone” or “You’re not an idiot; it’s just bad luck” are common things covert narcissists say to gain sympathy. Their sense of worthiness and need for approval are both bolstered by the positive answers they receive. They give off the impression that they are being critical of themselves while simultaneously quietly advertising that they own a high-end smartphone, which may be a symbol of their success or social standing.

7.”I wish I had your photogenic genes; I always look bad in pictures.”

This comment starts with a joke about how bad narcissists look in pictures. The covert narcissist seems self-conscious about their appearance. The most important aspect of this sentence is the second half: “I wish I had your photogenic genes.” This is an indirect way of bragging. By praising their “photogenic genes,” they hope to gain the other person’s approval and praise. The covert narcissist anticipates a reassuring response, such as “No, you look beautiful in photos, too!” from the targeted person. The narcissist’s sense of self-worth and ego is bolstered as a result, despite their outward displays of humility and self-criticism.

8.”There must have been an error; I don’t know how I was admitted to that prestigious institution.”

Things covert narcissists say often include such comments. This comment minimizes a major accomplishment, such as admission to a prestigious institute. The covert narcissist acts as though their achievements are accidental or the result of good fortune, as if they do not deserve them. But what they want is to be acknowledged and praised. They do this by expressing doubt in their abilities or value in the hopes of receiving affirming feedback from others. They may hear comments from others close to them, such as, “You deserve to be there; you’re extremely gifted and intelligent.” In this way, the narcissist receives the affirmation they crave while maintaining their modest and unassuming facade.

9.”I hate being the focus of attention; I’d rather just fade into the background.”

The covert narcissist appears to prefer a low profile in social circumstances, as shown by this comment. They may be displaying modesty and wish others to treat them respectfully. However, this is typically a manipulative strategy to draw attention while maintaining a low profile. Covert narcissists may like being the center of attention, but they say things like this to get specific reactions from others. They declare they don’t enjoy the spotlight, and then others say things like, “But you’re so interesting; we want to hear more from you” or “Oh, calm down; you don’t have to be the center of attention if you don’t want to.” Even though they say they don’t want to be the center of attention, these answers help them stay in the spotlight. While appearing humble and preferring obscurity, things covert narcissists say, in fact, gently push people in the direction of including or paying greater attention to them.

10.”I don’t deserve all this admiration for my presentation; it was just something I threw together at the last minute.”

This comment is common among the things covert narcissists say to get approval from others. The statement opens with a modest-sounding, self-deprecating remark about how hastily prepared the presentation was. The covert narcissist subtly implies that they are more capable than the situation warrants by downplaying their presentation as something hurriedly put together. They anticipate a positive or reassuring reaction, such as, “You did a wonderful job, particularly with the short notice.”

11.”Party conversation is impossible for me; I’m socially awkward.”

This comment shows the narcissist as socially awkward and demonstrates how they use self-deprecation to appear more vulnerable. Conversations with a covert narcissist typically include saying things like, “Oh, you’re not weird at all; I like speaking to you,” or “Don’t be so picky on yourself; you’re a great communicator.” They gain confidence from the positive reactions. Despite their apparent lack of social skills, things covert narcissists say may subtly promote them by suggesting they are in great demand at parties.


False modesty is a sophisticated social behavior typically shown by covert narcissists. These people minimize their achievements and skills while desperately seeking the praise and acceptance of others around them. Covert narcissists use many strategies in their communication, including pretending astonishment at their accomplishments, focusing on their weaknesses, and questioning their value. They achieve this by carefully manipulating their social contacts to gain the praise they need without appearing arrogant. Recognizing these actions and figuring out what drives them is crucial. Those who use fake humility to surreptitiously seek praise should be distinguished from those who truly struggle with self-esteem and may participate in self-deprecating humor without a narcissistic aim. Understanding these factors can lead to more honest, respectful interactions between people.

Click here if you want to read more about covert narcissists and their weird behaviors.

The writer has done B.S Psychology and has professional experience in the field

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