Ten Signs of Having Been Raised by a Narcissist
Thank you Debbie Tudor for a great article!
In my life coaching and therapy work I began to see the same pattern over and over again in my clients-a highly intelligent, successful adult, desperate to please a narcissistic parent.
These clients, who are scapegoated their entire life and brainwashed into believing that THEY are “the family problem,” are looking for ways to fix things. The first thing I have to teach them is this: you didn’t cause this. You can’t change this. You can only change YOURSELF. And after a while, I began to notice common characteristics of these client’s childhoods:
- You got criticism instead of cuddles. (Narcissists lack empathy for a child’s need for affection and support. You, on the other hand, are probably a loving and affectionate parent!)
- Your other parent either supported and defended the narcissistic parent at your expense, was absent from the family, or excused or ignored what the narcissist did to you. If your other parent said things like “what did you do to upset them?” and “just quit making trouble,” then the enabler parent style was at work. Rather than holding an adult responsible for THEIR actions, they hold YOU responsible-for being a child, or an adult with needs!
- They bragged on you in public and criticized you in private. This is extremely confusing, as everyone else thinks they are such a supportive parent because they play one in public. Your private experience of them is very different from the public persona they display.
- You have a persistent feeling that you just aren’t good enough. The narcissist needs an unending supply of compliance and admiration, which no one can ever fill. You finally see through it, but the underlying sense of failure is reinforced by their comments (“you threw me a 40th anniversary party, now where’s my party for my 50th?”) (Happened to me. True story.)
- You feel that “if someone’s unhappy, what did I do wrong?” Children raised by a narcissist learn that the narcissistic parent needs to be appeased at all costs, which leads to taking responsibility for everyone else’s emotions. (People raised in a non-narcissistic environment understand that it’s not our job to make everyone happy.)
- No matter what you do for them, it’s never enough to keep you on their good side. You are exhausted from trying to please and get along with them. The approval you may receive right now is always temporary. Your parent’s attitude is not, “what have you done for me,” but instead it’s “what have you done for me-TODAY?”
- You nurtured THEM instead of them nurturing YOU. The normal flow of nurture is the parent taking care of the child’s feelings, not the other way around. Your attempts to get support were met with impatient dismissal, but YOU were expected to make THEM look good.
- You have a strong sense of responsibility for the happiness of your loved ones. You have a hard time letting go of advising or fixing their lives. Healthy boundaries are very difficult for you, and you find yourself playing therapist to everyone around you, under the guise of “being a caring person.” The addiction to trying to change others, called codependency, is developed in childhood.
- You set your needs aside in friendships and romantic relationships. This often causes you to be attracted to narcissists who are glad to take your sacrifice. You pretend to enjoy activities just to “make them” like you, subverting your own needs and desires, and stick around when they treat you rudely, making excuses for them.
- You research extensively to try to understand the narcissist. My clients have a hard time letting go of the WHY of narcissism when they should be focusing on themselves, and how to recover, instead. I have to remind them in session that the narcissist isn’t here, THEY are. This is because it’s less painful to “fix and understand” someone else than it is to look in the mirror, and learn to help YOU.
Author of, It’s Not You, It’s Them: 30 Days of Hope and Help for the Adult Child of a Narcissistic Parent
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