Narcissists and narcissism are popular subjects for articles nowadays. The world is used easily for almost anyone who is a bit self-centred. What would it actually be like to be brought up by a real-life narcissist as a parent? From my own experience I know it can be pretty tough. Let’s establish whether your parent is or was a narcissist.
- Are always right and refuse to be contradicted. If you do contradict them, you soon find out that it’s a bad idea. They will insist that their version of events is the true one, and that you must be mistaken. In the long run the result of this is that you come to doubt your own judgement.
- Have an inflated sense of their own importance. They will often talk about how pivotal their role is in events, wherever they have been. They will often talk about how they have advised famous people when they’ve met them.
- Are manipulative, and have different behaviours in public and in private, often being very charming outside the family and controlling and manipulative behind closed doors.
- Don’t acknowledge that children have their own feelings. If you were upset about something, they would have discounted or disregarded it in some way, often comparing it to how hard it was when they were young.
- Have to be appeased, looked after and kept happy. If your parent was a narcissist, you will have learnt to think ahead and be sure that nothing happened that would displeased them. Their anger would be frightening, and you would want to avoid making them angry.
- Always take the credit for their children’s successes. Any achievements that you might have, for example good grades at school, would be because you had inherited their characteristics.
- Are critical and judgemental and know how everyone should live their life. There is always only one way to do things, and that his or her way. The narcissistic parent is never wrong.
- Would become enraged if things didn’t go their way, or if anyone disagreed with him or her. See point 1.
- Play the martyr, always ready with a “What about me?” If a narcissistic parent can’t be the most important person in the room, and it’s quite likely that they’ll be the most hard done by.
- Never reflect on their own actions. You might notice that they contradict themselves over a period of time or on a particular issue, but you probably learned that it’s not wise to raise that, because looking at themselves is not something that narcissists like to do, at least not in a constructive way.
If you have looked at this list and realised that your parent was a narcissist, then do not despair! It may be that you feel awkward, not quite right, that you don’t quite know how to be in the world. That’s very common for the children of narcissists, but there is a way out and the first step is to understand the problem. Change is possible, this is an external issue, and you are not the problem. Knowledge is empowering, and learning about this kind of family pattern is helpful.
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.