The Effects of Having A Narcissistic Parent

Photo by Maria Lysenko on Unsplash

At a very young age, you are conditioned, bullied, punished, shamed, lovebombed into acting and thinking whatever way the narcissistic parents wants — it varies by parent. By adolescence, you notice your friends’ moms act differently — comforting, supportive, encouraging, stable — but, you still lack the cognitive wisdom to connect dots. You won’t bite the hand that feeds you when you’re fully dependent on your parents to live, eat, exist. If anything, you avoid bringing friends to your house and keep more to yourself.

You are raised to think love is conditional

It’s your baseline and this will feed into every relationship you ever have. You ‘know’ appearances are most important and substance is less so. You learn to lie and hide things from your narcissist parent and keep certain things private. If found out by your parent, you are excessively shamed and belittled for being sneaky, selfish, cowardly, or deemed worthless. Those kind of labels tend to stick in your subconscious when coming from either mom or dad. Children of narcissists will have deep down esteem issues whether the golden one or the black sheep. It just gets externalized differently in adulthood.

You tend to associate your home with chaos and anxiety. One day to the next, things change. The narcissistic parent can be amazing some days when they are high on life. As most know, narcissists aren’t all bad. Many are fantastically vibrant and exuberant when things are going well. Sometimes they will surprise you with spontaneous playful acts like a fun day trip, buying you something special, or just opening up and telling you stories. That’s the thing. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions and you crave their approval. It’s very difficult to ever feel comfortable when you don’t know how they will react each waking day.

Arguably, the most consistent byproduct of being raised by narcissist parents is having trust issues that will plague your adult life. You want to trust people, but there’s always an unease that a partner, boss, friend, etc. will turn on you much like the narcissistic parent. You will also have trouble trusting your own judgment. Growing up being gaslit and marginalized does not allow you to have a core faith in making choices. You either rely on someone else to decide for you or you lament and lament over making any choice. This lack of core faith will lead to procrastinating or outright missing important deadlines. You will be triggered into punishing yourself over it and feeling lazy. You are not lazy. You just lack the awareness of why you are struggling. Therapy helps immensely in this area.

Overall, many hit their emotional rock bottom at some point in their 30’s or 40’s via a life event like a divorce, failed relationship with perhaps another narcissist, working or being fired, publicly ridiculed, bankrupt, a death, etc. Whatever it is, you will be forced to seek help. You will become self-aware and start to truly understand the impact of being raised by a narcissist. You will realize why you avoid deep friendships, keep secrets from your partner, may feel uncomfortable being home alone, act differently around authority figures, among other complications.

The core behaviors may vary but it will come back to learning as a full grown adult on how to trust your own mind. It’s quite freeing to know you are okay after all. You are allowed to fail and not go through great lengths to punish yourself. You can make innocent mistakes and not have to say sorry. You can be proud of yourself without any one’s validation or confirmation. By then, you’ll realize that life can be very sweet.

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A writer who’s in a constant state of self-reflection sharing my perspective with the world.

Pittsburgh, PA

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