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7 Signs of a Female Narcissist: Unveiling the Manipulative Mask

The term "narcissist" often conjures up images of arrogant, self-absorbed men obsessed with grandeur. However, narcissism manifests differently in women. Female narcissists, often exhibiting a "covert" presentation, can be just as manipulative and emotionally damaging, but their tactics can be far more subtle.

In this in-depth exploration. I'll delve into the complexities of female narcissism, equipping you to identify the signs, understand their motivations, and navigate these challenging relationships.

7 signs of a female narcissist

7 Signs of a Female Narcissist

Traditionally, narcissism is associated with overly braggadocious men. However, women can exhibit narcissistic traits as well. Before I dive deep into 7 key signs that might indicate you're dealing with a female narcissist, let's understand the covert form of narcissism.

Beyond the Stereotype: The Covert Face of Narcissism

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. While both men and women can exhibit these traits, female narcissists often display them in a more nuanced way. They may appear charming, caring, and even vulnerable on the surface. But underneath, their focus remains on themselves, and their tactics can be manipulative and emotionally draining.

Why the Covert Approach?

Female narcissists may adopt a covert approach for several reasons:
  • Socialization: Societal expectations often pressure women to be nurturing and agreeable. A female narcissist might leverage this by appearing supportive and kind, masking their manipulative tendencies.
  • Self-Preservation: Openly arrogant or self-absorbed behavior might be less socially acceptable for women. Covert narcissism allows them to maintain a positive public image while still fulfilling their narcissistic needs.
  • Maintaining Control: The covert approach allows for a more subtle form of manipulation. It can be harder to identify and challenge, giving the narcissist greater control in the relationship.

Unveiling the Signs: A Deeper Look

The following signs go beyond the surface, revealing the manipulative core of a female narcissist:

1. The Envy Disguised as Support:
  • Backhanded Compliments: A female narcissist might shower you with compliments, but these compliments often come with a backhanded jab. For example, they might say, "That dress looks amazing on you... but the blue one really made your eyes pop."
  • Feigning Interest: They may feign interest in your achievements but subtly downplay them or express doubt in your abilities.
  • Competitive Comparisons: They might constantly compare you to others, highlighting their perceived shortcomings and subtly inflating their own sense of superiority.
2. The Master of the Martyr Complex:
  • Playing the Victim: Female narcissists excel at portraying themselves as the wronged party in situations, using emotional manipulation to gain sympathy and control. They might use phrases like, "Why does this always happen to me?" or "Nobody understands me."
  • Guilt Trips and Obligation: They may leverage guilt to get what they want. They might make you feel responsible for their happiness or use past "sacrifices" to justify their current demands.
  • Emotional Blackmail: Threats, both veiled and overt, can become a weapon. They might threaten to withdraw affection, self-harm, or even end the relationship if you don't comply with their wishes.
3. Social Climbing and Status Obsession:
  • Relationships as Currency: Friendships and romantic relationships become tools for validation for a female narcissist. They may gravitate towards individuals or groups that enhance their image or social status. They might brag about their connections or subtly put down yours.
  • The Need to be "Seen": They crave constant attention and validation, often on social media. They might prioritize appearances over genuine connection and constantly seek admiration for their possessions, achievements, or social circles.
  • Isolating Tactics: They may try to isolate you from your support system, making you more reliant on them and easier to control.
4. The Queen of Passive-Aggression:
  • The Silent Treatment: Female narcissists may use silence as a weapon to punish or control you. They might withdraw affection or communication to make you feel insecure or desperate for their approval.
  • Backhanded Compliments: Their compliments often come with a hidden barb, designed to belittle or diminish your achievements.
  • The Art of Sulking: Sulking and nonverbal cues become a way to express disapproval without direct confrontation. This can be emotionally draining and leave you confused about what you did wrong.
5. The Difficulty with Sisterhood:
  • Competitiveness and Insecurity: Female narcissists may view other women as threats or competition, making it difficult for them to build trusting and supportive relationships with other females. They might gossip or manipulate situations to create conflict within your social circle.
  • The "Pick-Me" Girl: They might portray themselves as "not like other girls" to gain favor and attention, often putting down other women in the process.
6. Preoccupation with Appearance (But for Validation):

While both genders can be concerned with appearance, female narcissists might focus on appearance for validation rather than outward arrogance. Here's a deeper look:
  • The Cult of Beauty: They may be fixated on maintaining a certain image and constantly seek compliments on their looks or achievements. Their self-worth seems to be heavily tied to their perceived attractiveness.
  • The Need for Admiration: They crave attention and validation for their beauty. They might fish for compliments, dress provocatively to garner attention, or constantly compare themselves to others they perceive as more attractive.
  • The Fear of Aging: The aging process can be particularly threatening to a female narcissist's sense of self. They might resort to excessive cosmetic procedures or dress in ways inappropriate for their age in an attempt to maintain a youthful appearance.
7. The Fragile Self-Esteem Behind the Facade:

Despite their outward confidence, female narcissists often have a fragile sense of self-worth. Here's why understanding this is crucial:
  • A House of Cards: Their sense of self is built on external validation. Criticism, even constructive feedback, can be met with defensiveness, anger, or a complete emotional shutdown.
  • The Narcissist Rage: When their ego is threatened, they may lash out with verbal abuse, insults, or even threats. This rage can be frightening and is a way to regain control of the situation.
  • The Cycle of Manipulation: The narcissist may apologize after an outburst, but the cycle of manipulation often repeats. They may use charm and affection to reel you back in before inevitably resorting to their manipulative tactics again.

Living with a Covert Narcissist: Protecting Yourself

If you suspect you're in a relationship with a female narcissist, here are some steps you can take to protect yourself:
  • Educate Yourself: Understanding the signs and dynamics of covert narcissism empowers you to recognize and respond to their manipulative tactics.
  • Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries around acceptable behavior and stick to them. Don't be afraid to say no and limit contact if necessary.
  • Focus on Self-Care: Prioritize your own mental and emotional well-being. Engage in activities you enjoy, spend time with supportive loved ones, and consider therapy to develop healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Seek Support: Don't isolate yourself. Talk to trusted friends, family members, or a therapist about your experiences.
  • Remember, It's Not Your Fault: The narcissist's manipulative behavior is a reflection of their own issues, not yours. Don't take their attacks personally.

Important Considerations:

  • Co-dependency: Relationships with narcissists can be addictive. They can create a cycle of highs and lows that keep you hooked. Recognizing codependent tendencies within yourself is crucial to breaking free.
  • Therapy for the Narcissist: While unlikely, a narcissist can change with intensive therapy. However, you cannot force them to seek help. Focus on your own healing and well-being.
  • No Contact May Be Necessary: In some cases, going "no contact" with the narcissist may be the healthiest option, especially if they are abusive or unwilling to change.


Understanding the complexities of female narcissism can equip you to navigate these challenging relationships or even avoid them altogether. Remember, prioritizing your own mental and emotional well-being is paramount. By setting boundaries, seeking support, and focusing on self-care, you can reclaim your power and build healthy, fulfilling relationships.

  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
  • The National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE


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