People are the product of their family of origin. They might turn out to be like their parents, or they might behave in certain ways because of how their parents treated them. Narcissists as parents are usually very strict and controlling, and can be very angry and oppressive to their children when they step out of line. This can affect the success of their children when they grow up. These are the most common blocks that the children of narcissists encounter when they are adults.
- They tend to lack confidence. Confident people are encouraged and supported when they are young, but narcissists tend to dominate and control their children excessively, and so their children learn to be anxious, always wanting to make sure that they don’t trigger the anger of the parent. Later in life the child is over-cautious and uncertain.
- They often suffer from Imposter Syndrome. This is the feeling that you got your job by mistake and you’ll be sacked when they find you out. Everyone feels like that sometimes, especially when they start a new job. The Adult Children of Narcissists experience it more frequently and more intensely throughout their career.
- Adult Children of Narcissists avoid speaking up in meetings or other discussions. As a child they always had to defer to the authority of their parent, who would fly into a rage if crossed. As a result they learn to keep a low profile.
- They also tend to please others rather than themselves, for the same reasons as above. They are afraid to attract anyone’s displeasure or disagreement, so they struggle as soon as they are in a management role where they have to direct others and sometimes be unpopular.
- Growing up with a narcissist tend to make the adult children have fixed mind-sets. This is a mind-set of always looking for a “right answer” rather than being creative and taking a risk. As a child they would need to always find the solution that the narcissist parent thought was correct, and would not be encouraged to try new things.
- Adult Children of Narcissists can be very indecisive, because taking any action that might displease their parent would have been a risky thing to do. As adults they avoid decisions because of the risk of displeasing others.
- Adult children of narcissists avoid conflict. In the normal work situation a measure of conflict is normal, and is a part of the sharing of a variety of ideas and approaches by different people with different characters. The narcissistic parent often punished disagreement or conflict, so the child grows into an adult who is compliant and unsure of themselves.
If you recognise anyone in these descriptions, you might be interested in my book Raised by a Narcissist, which is about narcissistic parents and their children, available from Amazon (August 2020). If you think your parent was a narcissist, you might also join my Facebook group Adult Children of Narcissists.
Alan Chatting is an author, coach and psychotherapist. If you have any questions or would like further help, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.