Nobody has a perfect childhood- but being raised by a narcissist is an entirely different type of hell. The effects of such parenting are long-lasting and will likely stick with you, in some form, for the rest of your life.
For a deeper dive into the subject and better understanding, Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers is an insightful read that offers guidance and coping mechanisms.
Narcissists, by definition, are self-obsessed, destructive to the people they love most and controlling. They often think of their family members as extensions of themselves, rather than independent human beings with a will of their own. And if that sounds like the person or people that raised you, then keep reading.
1. They constantly criticize.
If you were raised by a narcissist, you likely felt like no matter what you did, you were never enough. “Why can’t you do anything right?!” you may have heard numerous times throughout your life.
2. You always felt like your parents were living through you.
Rather than accepting the fact that their children have their dreams and desires, narcissists usually push their children to do what they want them to do. If they always wanted to be a doctor- they may push you down that path, even if you wanted to be a teacher. Narcissistic parents focus more on making their children a mini-version of how they best envision themselves than they care about embracing their child’s individuality.
As children, we are raised to accept our parent’s wishes and do as we are told. Narcissistic parents take advantage of their child’s need to be accepted by them through manipulation. During a divorce, a narcissistic parent may try to manipulate their children to hate the other parent. Narcissistic parents may also try to make you feel guilty just for being alive. “I’ve given you everything! And you can’t do this one thing for me?”
Understanding and protecting oneself from manipulation can be achieved with tools like Emotional Blackmail: Understanding And Dealing With Manipulative People Like A Pro
4. They want all the attention to be on them.
Psychologist Nikki Martinez explains this by saying, “The world revolves around them and their issues, and they will not handle it well when the spotlight is off of them, or when you or someone else tries to take the light away and talk about something you are struggling with.” In turn, you may never feel like your needs are met- because the focus is constantly being put on your parent.
5. They lack empathy.
Narcissists have a difficult time empathizing with anyone, let alone their children. A narcissistic parent will tell their child to “just get over it,” when they are dealing with difficult emotions. And they don’t think about their child’s thoughts or feelings. Instead, they only seem to care about their thoughts and feelings.
The Empathy Trap: Understanding Antisocial Personalities offers a comprehensive look into the lack of empathy and how to navigate relationships with individuals lacking this vital trait.
6. They neglect.
Due to their self-absorbtion, the narcissist may let their child’s needs fall to the wayside so the parent can focus on their own. Sadly, the child may be left to fend for themselves, or may even be taken away from their parent if the neglect reaches a level that can’t be ignored.
7. They don’t want their children to make decisions without them.
A narcissist’s grasp can extend even into adulthood. And a narcissistic parent may get upset when their child makes big decisions about their own life. If you worry that your parents will be upset because you landed a new job and decided to take it, or that they will be upset because you got engaged, likely, you are still tangled in your narcissistic parent’s web. “A narcissistic person operates from self-protection and if their ego is bruised or they feel a decision was made they could not control they can become cruel, blaming, defensive, and project immense amounts of guilt and shame into the other.” explains psychotherapist Daniel Sokal.
8. They publicly shame their children.
Narcissists often shame their children in front of others, without a qualm. Rather than helping their child move through a struggle- they will put them on blast. They may even make ‘jokes,’ picking at their child to make them feel insecure. This is their way of asserting power and control.
9. They play the victim.
Most narcissists have a victim complex. And when they have children, it is no different. The main difference is that as the child grows older and develops a will of their own and a form of independence, the narcissistic parent may start to act as though their child is the one victimizing them.
10. They are superficial.
Narcissists are oftentimes showoffs. They may make it a point to flaunt their expensive material possessions, physical appearance, and life accomplishments. They crave attention and admiration. In an article by The Mighty, one commenter spoke of her narcissistic father by saying,
“My dad always asked me for his opinion on how he looked every second of the day, whether it be if he was too fat, had big muscles, what he wore or how his hair was. It was bad really bad. Now I constantly seek approval on everything, and I am a perfectionist when it comes to my looks.”
To cope with the constant need for approval from a narcissistic parent, You Are Enough: Heart Healing from the Inside Out is a great self-help book that fosters self-worth and self-love.
11. They don’t respect boundaries of any kind.
While most parents tend to do this from time to time, a narcissist goes above and beyond. Narcissistic parents may constantly dig through your belongings, read your diary as a child, or pry into all aspects of your life. Later in life, they will likely find other ways to do this, like trying to make decisions for you in your marriage, or checking your mail and snooping through your bank statements.
Establishing boundaries is crucial. Boundaries After a Pathological Relationship provides a roadmap on how to protect oneself after being involved with a narcissist.
12. They are extremely possessive.
As you get older and begin to develop your sense of self and your independence, a narcissistic parent will likely become extremely possessive. They may become upset when you spend time with friends, or a romantic interest, rather than with them. And they will likely view anyone that isn’t them in your life as a competition.