Did you grow up with narcissistic parents? How do you protect yourself going forward?
Lately, a narcissistic personality disorder is being discussed more and more in mainstream media.
People affected by narcissism are described as selfish, self-centered, and uncaring. While that’s kind of simplistic, it’s easy to imagine that we’ve all met narcissists, to one degree or another.
Some narcissists are severely disordered and unable to function normally. But there are plenty of narcissists who are less damaged and can manage to appear fairly normal to the outside world.
They aren’t too bad unless you get to know them well or need to depend on them for anything. So, most people can tolerate one among their friends and acquaintances.
However, living with a narcissist can be miserable. Imagine being the dependent child of a narcissistic parent!
Here are 5 traits of narcissistic parents and how you can keep yourself safe and sane.
1. Narcissistic parents are self-absorbed.
Narcissists see everything as being about them. Other people exist only to serve their egos.
The child of a narcissist will be required to do things the parent likes. They will be pressured to perform them well enough for their parent to bask in the glow of the child’s accomplishments — but not better than the parent themself.
For instance, if mom was a dancer, then her daughter should dance well, but not better than mom at that age. To protect themselves, most children do their best at dancing (or whatever activity it is).
Still, we have little protection during childhood.
As an adult, you need to ensure that you can take care of yourself, so you’re not at this parent’s mercy. Then, find a hobby or activity you enjoy that has nothing to do with your narcissistic parent.
2. They are unwilling to inconvenience themselves.
Narcissistic parents may not accommodate their children’s needs, even allergies to certain foods.
If the child has learning disabilities, they will be ignored — unless the parent can see themselves as the amazing parent of a disabled child. Even the child’s emotional needs could be completely ignored.
Now, as an adult, you should make sure to meet all of your needs. Often, the children of narcissistic parents have difficulty recognizing their unmet needs. A therapist can help you figure it out.
3. Narcissistic parents are controlling.
Children of narcissists report that their narcissistic parents didn’t allow them to do the things they wanted to do. Usually, this is with the compliance of the other parent, because of fear, money, or ignorance.
Their children are made to follow all sorts of restrictive rules bolstering the narcissistic parent’s image.
Wealthy parents didn’t allow their children to keep the small sum they earned by doing something they wanted them to do. Instead, they made their child donate it, preventing them from learning about spending and saving.
Children of narcissists have also report not being allowed to leave their bedroom as teenagers after 10 p.m., even to use the toilet. These kids often learn not to want anything.
Now that you’re grown up, you can choose to want.
One exercise to try is going through paper catalogs, choosing all the things your narcissistic parent would not want or allow you to have.
Pick out three items. Read their ads, learn about the items (it’s OK to change your mind). Cut them out and put the listings up where you can see them. (Fridge magnets are good for this.)
You don’t have to actually buy the items unless you choose to, just know that nobody but you can tell you that you can’t have what you want now.
4. They are casually cruel.
To a narcissist, nobody has emotions apart from them, so their child’s emotional needs are meaningless.
They might talk negatively about their kids in from of them, making it clear that they don’t hold their own children in high regard at all.
They frequently do things like throw away a child’s teddy bear or another comfort object, claiming that it is dirty or that the child is too old for it. Then, they get angry with the child for the very normal fuss and crying.
Children of narcissistic parents often become hoarders, because they lost some cherished possession in a traumatic way.
Adults who develop this issue need to work on their relationships with their possessions, which cannot give them the love they crave.
5. Narcissistic parents are incapable of love.
This is a great tragedy for the children of narcissistic parents. These parents cannot love their children in the way that children need and crave.
Kids do everything they can to “earn” their parents’ love, but these children are doomed to go without it.
It’s true that narcissists can enjoy another adult’s company. So sometimes, their child will receive some positive feedback if their parent seems to enjoy them for some reason.
However, the deep love of a parent for a child — the protective love that children need — is unavailable from the narcissistic parent.
I encourage my clients who were raised by narcissists to love themselves and do inner-child work, so they can give love to their inner child and feel that love for themselves.
Don’t go looking for it from others, because that can lead to inappropriate and toxic relationships.
Being raised by a narcissistic parent is not a great start to life, that’s for sure. However, if you see these traits in your own parents, all is not lost. You can still be a loving parent and partner.
You might have some work to do to get back in touch with your emotions and ability to love, but you can do it. Allowing yourself to get the help you need to achieve complete recovery is the greatest gift you can give to yourself and your family.
Avoid the narcissistic parent, or make sure you can leave if their behavior becomes toxic.
Make sure your own children feel loved and strong. Limit their contact with that narcissistic grandparent to keep them safe.
It’s such a bleak picture, but narcissism is incurable and incredibly toxic. You need to protect yourself and those you love.
Nancie Barwick is a clinical hypnotherapist, author, speaker, and medical intuitive. For more information on her services, visit her website.