How to Know If You Were Raised by a Narcissist

Tara Blair Ball

I had emotional issues that I had to deal with as an adult.

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

A while ago, I had a dream in which my daughter was dangerously ill and had to be hospitalized.

All of my daughter’s family rolled in to see her: my husband, my step-daughter, my ex-husband, my ex-husband’s mother and sisters and brother and all of their spouses and children, and last but not least, my own mother.

In the dream, I considered how to deal with my mother. The most obvious course of action to me was to spit on her and get her kicked out of the hospital.

Yes, you read that right. Spitting on my own mother seemed like the best course of action.

My mother was a narcissist, and being raised by one is awful, which is one of the reasons why I have no contact with her today.


Throughout my life, my mother was egotistical with little to no empathy. She was cruel and mean, manipulative and controlling, and very violent.

She could not let a day go by without twisting it to somehow focus on her.

I hated my own birthday for years because I knew it would actually be a day on which I should celebrate her for giving birth to me, and if I didn’t “celebrate” her appropriately, she would throw a tantrum and make the day miserable for everyone.

Everything, including the birth of my own children, had to be about her.

The Mayo Clinic defines the disorder this way: “Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

Karyl McBride, author of Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers (affiliate link) gives the following characteristics of narcissists (all taken from her book):

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love.
  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high status people.
  • Requires excessive admiration.
  • Has a sense of entitlement.
  • Takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
  • Lacks empathy.
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of her.
  • Shows arrogance, haughty behaviors, or attitudes.

Growing up with a narcissistic mother meant that I spent my developmental years trying to care for someone whose needs were insatiable.

I grew up (taken from here):

  • Never feeling good enough or valuable enough
  • Deeply afraid to speak up confidently or challenge others
  • Hyper-aware and hyper-sensitive to the feelings of others
  • Chronically unsure of myself and overly-worried about what others think of me
  • Used and beaten up by all of the relationships in my life, including work and friendships

As an adult who no longer wanted to live with those kinds of deeply ingrained negative messages, I worked a lot with affirmations. I told myself constantly:

“I am lovable and deserving of love and respect.”
“I trust myself.”
“I deserve all of the good that happens to me today.”
“I deserve to be happy and successful.”

I worked on saying and being okay with saying “No.” I made taking care of myself a priority. I limited my interactions with anyone who might be exactly like my mother.

And I got better. Slowly.

There’s no quick fix way to “get over” being raised by a narcissist.

It takes a lot of internal work to look at those deep wounds and begin to heal them. It takes a lot of courage to look at exactly what you experienced, how it impacted you and your own reactions, and then learn new behaviors to counteract them to become the adult you long to be, but anyone can do it.

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Memphis, TN

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