If you’re trying to figure out how to deal with a narcissistic parent, this post is a great place to start.
The relationship we have with our parents – particularly the one we share with our mother – is the foundation from which we learn, develop, and grow. The way our parents care for and nurture us as children impacts not only how we perceive ourselves, but how we form relationships with others, and how we regulate our moods and emotions. Our parents are our greatest role models, and as we grow, we look to them for guidance, support, encouragement, and unconditional love. When our parents are unable to provide these things to us, it not only affects how we view ourselves, but it also impacts the way we communicate with others and often results in unhealthy coping mechanisms and behaviors.
If you believe you were raised by a narcissistic parent, keep reading to find out the most common signs and characteristics of narcissism, as well as helpful tips and strategies to help you set boundaries, avoid gaslighting, and survive the wraths of your toxic parent.
What Is a Narcissist?
Many of us think the term ‘narcissist’ refers to someone who is vain and ‘in love with themselves’, but it’s actually much more complex than that. Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition characterized by a grandiose view of oneself in response to deep-seated insecurities. In an effort to avoid feeling insecure, the life of a narcissist is centred around upholding an image of superiority. Narcissists believe they are better than others, exhibit a sense of entitlement, and become enraged when others don’t meet their expectations and/or ‘selfishly’ ask for something in return. They are very sensitive to criticism from others, yet they are quick to judge others themselves.
Common personality traits of narcissists include (but are not limited to):
- Inflated sense of self-importance
- Lack of empathy or consideration for others
- Constant need for attention and recognition from others
- Self-centered thinking patterns
- Feel superior to others, and expect to be treated as such, despite a lack of achievements
- Easily upset by the slightest criticism from others
- Only associate with people they feel are at ‘their level’
- Unable and/or unwilling to recognize the needs and feelings of others
14 Signs You Were Raised by a Narcissist
Narcissistic parents live through their children while also marginalizing their successes. They enjoy boasting about and taking credit for the successes of their children to others, but feel threatened by their developing independence. They are very critical of their children, set unrealistic expectations on them, and never make them feel like they are worthy of love just for being themselves.
If you identify with several of the following, you may have been raised by a narcissist:
- You never feel ‘good enough’
- You feel insecure about yourself
- You’re constantly seeking validation and recognition from others
- You have low self-esteem
- You have a fear of failure
- You second-guess yourself
- You’re extremely self-conscious
- You’re a ‘people pleaser’
- You find it difficult to speak up and assert yourself due to a lack of confidence and/or a desire to ‘keep the peace’
- You’re hypersensitive to the feelings of others
- You have a tendency towards developing co-dependent relationships
- You have trouble establishing and maintaining boundaries
- You struggle with feelings of shame and guilt
- You suffer from anxiety and/or depression
How to Deal with a Narcissistic Parent
1. EDUCATE YOURSELF
If you want to know how to deal with a narcissistic parent, the first thing you need to do is educate yourself. While your parent may not have all of the signs and symptoms of traditional narcissistic personality disorder, he or she may still exhibit one or several symptoms and behaviours that continue to impact you in negative ways. Take the time to really dig into the signs, symptoms, and causes of narcissistic personality disorder and how it pertains to your relationship with your parent. This will help you see their behaviour through a different lens, and while it won’t change your past, it will shed light on your childhood and the relationship you have with your parent, and help you understand why you struggle with the things you do. Educating yourself on narcissism will help you see that this behavior isn’t normal or something to be accepted, and will empower you to find ways to heal.
2. ACCEPT AND MOVE FOWARD
Despite years of criticism and feeling as though they’ll never measure up to the expectations placed on them, children of narcissistic parents desperately crave the unconditional love they’ve witnessed in other parent-child relationships. If this sounds like you, the sooner you recognize and accept that your parent will never change, the better. Instead of seeking validation from him or her, invest your time and energy into healing yourself and developing meaningful relationships with others.
3. PUT YOURSELF FIRST
Children of narcissistic parents learn from a young age that their thoughts and feelings don’t matter. The parent often projects feelings of shame and guilt onto the child, and take credit for their successes themselves. If you want to know how to deal with a narcissistic parent, simply giving yourself permission to put yourself first can make a world of difference. Taking the time to feel and experience your own thoughts and emotions without worrying about anyone or anything else will be extremely eye-opening, and will (hopefully) help you determine where you need the most help in your recovery.
4. ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES
Learning how to set boundaries can be challenging at the best of times, but it can be especially difficult when it comes to a narcissistic parent since narcissists are notorious for ignoring and violating boundaries. They fail to see their children as independent people with their own needs, and see them as an extension of themselves instead. Narcissistic parents use their children for a variety of different reasons – to project a certain image of themselves to the world, as a scapegoat for their shortcomings, etc. – and they have no empathy with how their behavior impacts them.
If you’re trying to figure out how to deal with a narcissistic parent, setting boundaries will be challenging, but it’s important that you give yourself permission to put your own mental health and needs first. Recognize that your parent will make this as difficult as possible for you, using manipulation, guilt, and any other tactics to maintain control. Try your best to be direct, avoid confrontation, and follow through.
5. BEWARE OF ‘GASLIGHTING’
As you try to heal and set boundaries for yourself, it is very likely that your parent will resort to psychological manipulation. They will engage in what I like to call ‘revisionist history’, telling you that you’re crazy, delusional, and making things up. This can be a tricky space to navigate as it will likely make you question yourself and bring up past fears and insecurities. Try to remember that this is a manipulation ploy – your parent is feeling threatened and is attempting to gain control over you. Seek the support of someone close to you to help you maintain perspective and remain strong.
6. DON’T LET HISTORY REPEAT ITSELF
Children who are raised by narcissistic parents often pick-up some of the same characteristics, with some people developing into full-blown narcissists themselves. This tends to be especially true for those who were the ‘golden child’ of the family – the ones who were used to help the parent project a certain image of themselves to others. Be mindful of your own behavior as you heal to prevent history from repeating itself!
7. ACCEPT THAT YOUR RELATIONSHIP MAY CHANGE
My last tip for those who want to know how to deal with a narcissistic parent is to come to terms with the fact that your relationship with your parent will change as you heal. As mentioned earlier, it is unrealistic to expect that a narcissistic will change their behavior. It is much more likely that they will become enraged and/or engage in manipulation tactics as you establish boundaries. Your relationship may become more superficial, and some may decide that ending the relationship is the best course of action for their own emotional well-being. Trust the process, allow yourself to grieve, and seek help from a therapist if needed.
If you’re trying to figure out how to deal with a narcissistic parent, I hope the tips in this post help you set boundaries, avoid gaslighting, and survive the wraths of your toxic parent.