White knight narcissists are a subset of covert narcissists that display more traits in common with overt narcissists than a typical covert narcissist.
Say that fast three times.
Sound confusing? Let’s break this down.
Narcissists share some common characteristics.
They may believe they are superior, special, entitled, and worthy of admiration and envy. They may be arrogant and exploitative in their relationships. They have no or low levels of empathy. They may fantasize about extreme success, power, attractiveness, etc.
I say may because narcissists vary in the number and severity of criteria they have.
All narcissists require narcissistic supply. They get supply in 2 ways:
- Ingratiation – Praise, admiration, respect, validation, attention
- Aggression – Devaluing others
What makes narcissists different is how they show these characteristics and how they choose to get supply.
Overt narcissists tend to openly express their beliefs of being superior, special, and entitled. They make these beliefs obvious.
Covert narcissists, on the other hand, have learned that people often don’t like those who feel superior, special, and entitled. So, while covert narcissists feel that way on the inside, they don’t show those beliefs to the world.
Overt narcissists tend to be flashy, successful, even wealthy. They get a lot of supply through ingratiation. Others admire and respect them – even want to be them. They receive attention through who they date, the cars they drive, their career success, and their looks.
They also get supply by exerting power and control over others. This contributes to their image of success, their persona.
Typical covert narcissists are less likely to be particularly educated, successful, or high earners. They largely get narcissistic supply through the attention of their flying monkeys by making themselves the victim or the hero in every story. When they’re very skilled, they are both victim and hero.
Covert narcissists also receive supply through aggression, also known as devaluation. Their devaluation techniques are often VERY subtle – passive aggressive putdowns, weaponized incompetence, undermining your success, sabotage, and gaslighting.
White knight narcissists are an interesting variation.
They know that their exaggerated self-importance, entitlement, arrogance, need for admiration, lack of empathy, and exploitative behaviors are perceived as negative to most people.
They adapt a persona that masks those beliefs. This makes them covert.
The way they get supply, however, is quite different.
The white knight narcissist is often in a position of power and respect due to their perceived altruism. They may…
- Volunteer a lot
- Run and fund programs to serve the community
- Make large donations to charity
- Lead non-profits
- Offer to help others move, do yard work, do home projects
The white knight narcissist is smart, educated, successful, powerful, and often wealthy. They receive a great deal of attention for using these gifts for good.
Their false narrative paints them the hero in their stories – maybe even the unaware victim who is giving and generous to a fault. The white narcissist does not openly play the victim.
They do subtly ensure their good deeds are noticed. Their donations of time and other resources are not anonymous.
Contrast the covert narcissist.
The typical covert narcissist tends to come off as not so smart, easily taken advantage of, friendly, compassionate, a people-pleaser, and someone unwilling to rock the boat. They get attention by being the victim. Their false narrative is a sob story – their childhood, their past relationships, their job. They get reassurance and validation when they are down on themselves, or share that others are.
Covert narcissists fantasize about being the hero white knight narcissists present themselves to be.