Do either of your parents emotionally blackmail you, as in, guilt trips are just par for the course in your relationship with them?
Or maybe you grew up feeling like one of your parents was always trying to one-up you or take credit for your accomplishments?
If you are nodding your head then this episode is for you.
Having a narcissistic parent is an incredibly painful and isolating experience and the wounds left behind can continue to impact us throughout our lives.
This week, I’m breaking down the signs and symptoms of growing up with a narcissistic parent and helping you get a better understanding of how this might be impacting your life right now.
Our parents or parental impactors (the people who raised us) and the environment we grew up in lie the foundation for our identities and the way we interact with others and the world around us.
As our very first attachments form from our earliest experiences, our sense of self develops. If there is abuse, neglect, or ambivalence in childhood, it can leave psychological and emotional injuries that last a lifetime.
If you grew up with a narcissistic parent, you might have experienced all of these dysfunctional behaviors, because a true clinical narcissist has no ability to empathize with their children or with others. They have little to no awareness of how their own behavior impacts others.
Here are some signs your parental impactor might be a narcissist:
- Emotional blackmail + guilt trips. They would use emotional manipulation to get you to take care of their needs instead of them taking care of you.
- Inability to have empathy or compassion for your feelings or experiences. There is a fundamental lack in their capacity for them to love you the way you want and need to be loved.
- Punishing by withdrawing love or attention if you didn’t do what they wanted. Can include verbal, emotional, and/or physical abuse.
- Taking credit for your accomplishments. A narcissistic parent tends to make most things all about themselves, and that can include them swooping in when things are great for you and trying to soak up accolades and praise for your accomplishments.
- Competing with you. No matter what you do or accomplish, they’ve done it better.
- Exaggerating their own accomplishments and even straight-up lying about what they have or haven’t done in their life.
- Their agenda is the only one that matters. Their truth IS the truth.
- Narcissists can be very charming. They feed on attention (called narcissistic supply), and they can be very skilled at using their charm to get what they want.
- Purposefully doing and saying things to make you doubt yourself and your reality. (ie. gaslighting)
- Pitting siblings or other family members against one another. Poor communication and triangulation (talking behind others’ backs).
- Breaking your trust by using things you’ve told them in confidence against you. They might try to exploit you and you often regret telling them anything that really matters to you.
- Getting overly involved with your friends. It can be very lonely to be the child of a narc because your friends and others might think they are awesome (remember the charming thing?).
- Super-thin skinned and reactive. Cannot handle even the least bit of feedback or criticism and will retaliate by blowing up or stonewalling.
If these experiences and behaviors resonate with you, you’re not alone, and I see you.
As a child of a narcissist, you likely learned how to stay out of the line of fire and avoid pain by shoving your own needs down and prioritizing the needs, wants, and desires of your parent. No matter how damaged a parental impactor is, a child still craves their love, attention, and approval.
Behaviors that were adaptive in your childhood can become maladaptive in adulthood. If we don’t do the work to heal these wounds from the past, they can follow us into our present.
The impact of growing up with a narcissistic parent can show up in a variety of ways, but here are some common symptoms of adult children of narcs:
- Emotional transference. You can become unconsciously activated by a person or situation, and your reaction is fueled by an earlier experience that is in some way similar to the current situation or person.
- Re-creating the relationship with your narc parental impactor in your romantic relationships. It’s almost like somewhere, deep down, the little kid inside of you is seeking a do-over and hoping for a better outcome.
- Codependency. A codependent is all about putting the focus on the other person and a narcissist is all about putting the focus on themselves. You might have learned codependent behaviors were what kept you safe when you were growing up, but in adulthood, I promise you, they are compromising the quality of your relationships.
- Disordered boundaries. If you grew up with a narc, there were likely no boundaries in your world. Narcissists are what I call “Boundary Destroyers” and the normal rules of setting and maintaining healthy boundaries just don’t apply to them.
Now that you’re a grown-up, you get to choose who has access to you and to your life. You can begin to heal from your past, no matter how painful.
Here are some steps you can take to start to heal:
1. Boundaries. Boundaries. Boundaries. Learn as much as you can about setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. If your narcissistic parent is still in your life, there are ways you can emotionally protect yourself.
2. Focus on YOU. What do you want? What are your needs, wants, and preferences, and desires? Now is the time to finally start to prioritize you. At first, this might be awkward or scary, but trust me, this is a vital part of healing.
What would bring you joy? What can you do for yourself that is just for YOU? Part of this process is to care for yourself impeccably and re-parent yourself. You can now care for yourself and love yourself the way your narc impactor never could.
3. Get knowledgeable. Learn as much as you can about narcissism and about being the child of a narcissist. There is so much information out there, so get committed to becoming an expert. Knowledge is power! The more you learn, the more empowered you can become to take your pain and transform it into your purpose.
4. Honor your anger. As a child of a narc, you likely learned to disavow your anger. Remember: what was adaptive in childhood is maladaptive in adulthood. You’re an adult now and you don’t want unprocessed anger driving your decisions!
Write about it, talk about it, get into therapy and begin to release it. When you process and release your anger and disappointment, only THEN you can be fully present in your one-of-a-kind amazing life!
Let’s heal this so you can move on and have more internal peace and harmony in your life. I have more resources inside this week’s guide for you, so make sure to download it here now.
I hope this added value to your life and you know you are not alone. I created this for you because I understand from being a therapist for 25 years, how isolating, painful, and hard it can be to describe the experience of being the adult child of a narcissist.
I would love to hear where you are on your personal journey and I read all of your comments, so drop one here for me or connect with me over on Instagram @terricole.
What do you think about this? Have you healed from a narcissistic parent? How did you do it? Did this help you? Lemme know!
I super appreciate you, and as always take care of you.
P.S. If the narcissist parent in your life was the maternal impactor, I want to share my newest course with you. It’s called Understand and Transform Your Mother Wound. If you are interested in having me walk you through this process of healing in a safe and sacred group container, you can get all of the information right here.