Thank you to Ellie Coverdale for the great article!
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a personality disorder whereby a person has an inflated sense of self-worth and they crave the praise and the approval of those around them. Their relationships are superficial and focused on how other people can affect them and they tend not to feel empathy for others. Children of narcissists can’t ask their parents to seek help and they might not even realize that their parents are narcissists. Here, we break down the indications that a parent is narcissistic which can help adult children of narcissists seek help.
1. You’re treated like a doormat.
Narcissistic parents will walk all over their family members to meet their desires without thinking of others’ needs. This means that children of narcissists will tend to over correct and do anything they can to not be perceived that way. They will let people treat them like a doormat because they’ve never learned how to discuss their needs and go for them. For them, saying they have needs feels narcissistic.
2. You fear you might be a narcissist.
Children may feel like they need to mimic their narcissistic parent as a survival method to avoid abuse or ridicule and with time it becomes their perspective. It’s possible that these adult children put others down so that they can be seen to show strength first to avoid being crushed. It’s important to identify these signs and speak with a professional, especially if you’re starting a family yourself, because it’s important to get to a place where you can feel and express vulnerable feelings.
3. You feel resentful of your siblings.
A narcissist with many children will often choose one child to be raised in their image, as an extension of themselves. That child will get praise, support, and the most attention, and they’ll also be under immense pressure to meet expectation. Other children are the targets of the blame and shame of the parents, in the sense that they can never do anything right, unlike the chosen child. According to Ruth Wilder, a psychology writer at Academized and Australian Help, “these two children will have totally different childhoods and this fosters competitiveness and resentfulness. It’s important to speak with your sibling about your experiences and understand that the dynamic you were put in is not your fault or theirs.”
4. You felt like a partner instead of a child.
Some narcissists want attention by playing the victim or embellishing their problems and threatening to harm themselves if people don’t do what they want. Children who have a narcissistic parent like that could feel like their childhood was spent trying to fix all these issues and maintain the peace. This means they end up feeling more like a partner to their parent than a child, and this means they perform all of the emotional support.
5. Your self-worth comes only from achievements.
It’s possible that children of narcissists feel that their self-worth comes only from their performance and achievements. They may not have low self esteem or sense of shame like other children but they may become workaholics because the only way they can define themselves is through their achievements.
6. You have no sense of self.
Narcissists feel grandiose, superior to others even if that’s not grounded in any facts. It’s possible that if narcissistic parents never achieved the success they wanted they will try to live it vicariously through their child. As per Kathy O’Leary, a mental health blogger at Paper Fellows and State of Writing, “children of narcissists may find that they’re in careers because they followed their parents’ goal for them without knowing what they wanted themselves. Sometimes the best thing to do is limit your contact with a narcissistic parent because it is at its core a toxic relationship, especially if the parent doesn’t realize their behavior was wrong.”
7. You struggle with handling emotions.
Children of narcissists often struggle with emotional problems like emptiness, shame or self-loathing. They have an inability to express emotions, are more likely to suffer anxiety or depression, and have trouble finding healthy relationships because of trust issues and codependency problems.
You shouldn’t have to deal with physical or emotional abuse so if your parent can’t accept the fact that there is a problem, it’s unlikely that things will change and adult children of narcissists should consider going no contact with their parents, or limit contact.
Ellie Coverdale, an editor, tutor, and psychology writer at UK Writings and Boom Essays, shares information on many different subjects. Her area of expertise is relationships between parents, educators, and children, and help development of young children. She also tutors at Essay Roo.