One passive/aggressive tactic narcissists use to abuse victims is to be sure they know they aren’t good enough.
A common way narcissists do this is to make sure you know that no matter how good you are at something, someone is better than you at it. Let’s say you own your own interior designing business & the narcissist knows this. Most people would be impressed by that. Narcissists are too, just not when it comes to YOUR business. They may say something like, “Did you know that Sally owns her own interior designing firm? She is so smart & talented! She works so hard! Never takes a day off!”
While the words aren’t said, the message is still clear: “Sally has real talent! You aren’t as hard working, talented or business savvy as she is! You aren’t worthy of my admiration like Sally is!”
Another variation on this is when a narcissist says, “Interior decorating is so easy. Seems like anyone can do it. Anyone can put up a sign saying they’re an interior designer these days. I can’t imagine why anyone would pay someone to do something so easy…” Again, the words may not be said but the message is crystal clear – “You’re nothing special. Any idiot can do what you do.”
A different tactic is used mostly by narcissistic spouses but also by parents. They never tell you how attractive you are & they know you’re insecure about your appearance, but they freely complement others. As an example, a narcissistic husband may fuss over a famous model’s beautiful figure to his pregnant wife who is about to give birth to their child, & who feels fat. Parents can do this too, though. My mother never told me I was pretty as a child. In fact she used to brag that once she told me she thought I was “kinda pretty”, even though I don’t remember that happening. Yet, when I was young, she’d fuss over how pretty other little girls were. When I would be upset, she’d tell me I was wrong & shouldn’t feel as I did.
There are some big bonuses for narcissists in treating victims this way. If you confront him or her, the narcissist knows their comment hurt you. If you’re angry, all the better for the narcissist, because the narcissist can use your anger to prove how unreasonable & crazy you are. They’ll say things like, “Don’t be so sensitive!” “I don’t know how you got that out of what I said!” “You read too much into things!” If you’re unaware of what is happening, you easily can feel like the narcissist is right. You’re crazy, oversensitive, etc. Believing those lies will make you feel shame & be easier for the narcissist to control. The narcissist may even use it as an excuse to discard you.
These tactics are attempts for narcissists to diminish anyone they envy, compete with or see as a threat in some way. They knock a person down a bit by making them feel unimportant, bringing them closer to the narcissists level which also builds up the narcissist.
If the narcissist in your life treats you this way, remember what they are doing. They’re using a passive/aggressive tactic to try to destroy your self esteem so they can control you. Chances are, they don’t even mean the cruel things they say. They’re actually envious of you for being prettier, more talented, more successful or whatever than they think they are. Rather than try to better themselves, narcissists would rather tear someone else down. So if the narcissist in your life treats you this way, don’t forget that. What they say isn’t what they truly feel. What they feel is the exact opposite.