How Narcissistic Parenting Affects Your Life And Self-Esteem
Children of narcissists : I’ve written a lot on narcissism on Forbes and other blogs, and the response has always surprised me.
Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have been raised by at least one narcissist, and their self-esteem, emotions of well-being and safety, confidence, and courage have all suffered as a result.
Being raised by a narcissist instils in us the conviction that no matter how hard we strive or how much we bend over backwards to please others, we will never be “good enough.”
It also harms your borders, which are the invisible barriers that limit the flow of information and input between you and your external systems.
These shattered boundaries hamper your capacity to speak openly and powerfully, as well as taint your own self-concept, which harms your relationships and ability to prosper in the world emotionally and professionally.
Because they have no awareness that what they experienced as children was harmful and destructive, most adult children of narcissists never receive the treatment they need to rehabilitate and heal.
I’ve had a lot of personal experience with narcissism over the years, and I can tell you unequivocally that if you were raised by a narcissist parent, your boundaries aren’t where they need to be in order to be healthy, happy, and confident.
As a marital and family therapist, I’ve seen personally how adult children of narcissists can spend their entire lives believing they’re not good enough, seeking validation and praise at every step but never feeling like they get it (until they get treatment to heal and overcome it).
Children of narcissists are frequently hypersensitive and insecure, unable to perceive themselves as decent, worthy, or lovable.
And, unfortunately, they are so experienced with narcissism (having lived with it their entire lives), that they unintentionally draw it into their lives, adult relationships, and work environments and professions.
This month, narcissism has become even more prominent on my radar, and I’m ready to take extra steps to assist others.
Many of my clients have stated their surprise at discovering that they grew up in a narcissistic environment, and that their professional and personal issues are directly related to what they learnt as children of narcissists.
First, I’d like to define narcissism so that we can all agree on what it means.
The following is from the Mayo Clinic:
“Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental illness characterised by an exaggerated feeling of self-importance, a strong desire for adulation, and a lack of empathy for others.
Behind the façade of extreme confidence, however, is a fragile self-esteem that is easily shattered by the smallest criticism.
A narcissistic personality disorder can cause issues in a variety of aspects of life, including relationships, employment, school, and finances.
When you don’t receive the special favours or admiration you believe you deserve, you may be generally sad and disappointed.
Others may dislike being around you, and you may find your connections to be unsatisfactory.”
According to recent studies, about 6% of the population has had clinical NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) at some point in their lives.
However, many more people suffer with non-clinical symptoms.
Based on my research, I believe that narcissism is significantly more common than this, and that adult children of narcissists are all about us, but they are unaware of it or do not identify it since they are not taught about it or hear about it in the ordinary course of their lives.
There’s a lot to say about narcissism’s negative consequences, but I’d like to focus on how it affects our professional lives today.
The signs and symptoms that you may have been raised by a narcissist and learned some harmful lessons are listed below.
But I have to tell you that it’s vital for your mental health that you don’t blame (and hate) your parents if they are or were narcissists. E
veryone is doing the best they can in life, and their disease is most likely the result of a traumatic childhood and upbringing that needed to be healed but never was.
So we’re not pointing fingers, but rather casting light on this vital issue so that if you were raised by a narcissist, you can spot the problem right away, seek help, and effectively traverse the hurdles.
The nine narcissistic tendencies highlighted in Dr. Karyl McBride’s excellent book Will I Ever Be Good Enough (which I’m finding tremendously helpful) are listed below.
Some of these features, but not all, will be present in a real narcissist, and these traits are on a continuum with variable degrees of manifestation:
The narcissist personality is characterised by the following characteristics:
1. Exaggerates achievements and talents, expecting to be recognised as superior without commensurate achievements.
2. Is obsessed with dreams of unrestricted success, power, brilliance, beauty, or perfect love.
3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique, and that only other special or high-status individuals can understand him or her, or that he or she should associate with other special or high-status people (or institutions).
4. It necessitates a lot of admiration.
5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unrealistic expectations of preferential treatment or automatic compliance with one’s wishes.
6. Is interpersonally exploitative, that is, uses others to further his or her own goals.
7. Lacks empathy: refuses to understand or sympathise with other people’s feelings and needs.
8. Is frequently envious of others or believes she is envious of others.
9. Displays arrogance, arrogant attitudes, or behaviours.
I’ve also discovered that narcissistic parents expect you to agree with them or they’ll reject you, because being challenged indicates they’re not loved.
As a result, adult offspring of narcissists only feel conditional affection (based on certain conditions and specific actions that must be demonstrated).
They never receive the acceptance, empathy, and unconditional love and care that we humans all desire as a result of their experience of needing to behave in a certain manner to be liked and accepted.
The most harmful and blatant cases of narcissism I’ve encountered involved not only toxic colleagues and employers, but also people in my personal life.
One supervisor, for example, went about the office on the day of the 9/11 attacks seeming to care about how the employees were feeling while, in fact, he was absolutely empty of emotion.
His aides persuaded him he needed to put on a faux “show” of care to prove he was a competent leader.
However, if you watched his eyes and his “affect” while he spoke to mourning and terrified people, you’d notice that he was completely unconcerned.
I eventually had to report to this man, and when I expressed my displeasure with his behaviour, he reacted in a frightening manner, demonstrating that he would not accept being challenged. And what happened after that proved it.
Another narcissistic incident I had was with a family member, and I learned throughout my childhood that speaking up meant disagreeing with this person.
If I confronted the person, affection would be withheld, which is a highly intimidating and frightening experience for a youngster.
As youngsters, we’ll go to great lengths to be liked.
In my therapy and coaching practise, I’ve noticed that adult offspring of narcissists frequently experience the following:
• You’re never good or valued enough.
• Extremely hesitant to speak up or challenge people.
• They are hyper-sensitive to what others are feeling, therefore they are acutely aware of what everyone around them is feeling (to an almost uncanny degree) (they had to have this in order to survive being raised by a narcissist).
As a result, they may be unable to insulate themselves from the emotions of others.
• Constantly self-conscious and too concerned with what others think of them
• They are extremely insecure since they have never known unconditional love. Any love or care they received was offered under difficult circumstances that made them feel inauthentic and false.
• That the relationships they’ve formed (at work or in their personal lives) are difficult and unsatisfactory (and even toxic and frightening).
They see narcissism all around them when they take a step back and look at these connections honestly, and they don’t know what to do about it.
• Finally, they feel exploited and abused by their jobs, their supervisors, and their coworkers, and they don’t understand why their professions are so challenging.
If any of the following events ring true for you, it’s time to become more aware of what you went through as a child so you can have more control over your thoughts, mindsets, and behaviours in order to heal.
Being raised by a narcissist isn’t something we just “get over.” To “peel the onion” and heal the scars, you must have the guts to examine the precise brand of narcissism you encountered (it varies by family), how it has damaged you and your way of life, and acquire new behaviours that will allow you to heal the child within and grow into the adult you desire.