13 Effects of Being Raised by a Narcissist

Disclaimer: This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide, but a starting point for your own exploration. Likewise, I am not a professional, but a survivor of childhood narcissistic abuse (among other types). I write about my own experiences, observations, and what I have learned through research.

Yesterday was World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day, which inspired me to write about the signs that you may have been raised by a narcissist for those who are still unsure or questioning. If this resonates with you, I encourage you to do your own research on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), narcissistic parents, narcissistic abuse, and Narcissistic Victim Syndrome to learn more. You can reclaim your life, and educating yourself is the first step.

The following are common effects brought on by the specific abuse tactics used by narcissists:

1. You Feel You Don’t Have Rights

Because you were treated like a “second class citizen” by your parent, it’s natural to grow up feeling like you don’t have any rights. For all intents and purposes, you didn’t have rights in your childhood home. Your parent did not grant you the freedom to express yourself or your feelings and opinions, explore your talents and interests, make mistakes and learn from them, set and maintain boundaries, or anything else children and adolescents are supposed to do to prepare themselves for adulthood. Due to this, you are compelled to explain yourself and your actions, justify your feelings, and you are reluctant to voice your opinion, because you feel you are constantly being judged.

2. You Feel Guilty for Having Basic Human Needs

Narcissists cannot focus on anything other than themselves, which is why they find everyone else’s emotions and needs annoying. And they resent having to take care of anyone because, as the perpetual victim, they believe they are the ones who should be taken care of at all times, so they treat their children (and their needs) as nuisances. This makes you feel guilty for having the same basic needs everyone else has, such as food, emotional stability, or medical care when you are sick or injured. Moreover, it leaves you feeling like a burden and believing that wanting even your most basic needs to be met is somehow selfish. (It’s not.)

3. You Find Boundaries Confusing

Due to their unparalleled sense of entitlement and an astounding inability to view you as an individual and not a mere extension of themselves, your parent refused to allow you to have any boundaries, which makes it difficult to understand, set, and maintain them in adulthood. Further, if you had at least one narcissistic parent, you were forced to “take up as little space” as possible to prevent them from turning into a puddle of tears or suddenly exploding on you any time you expressed a need or emotion. This resulted in more blurring of boundaries, as you had to become your parent’s “caretaker” to try to avoid their meltdowns.

4. You Were “Parentified”

Narcissists do not mature with age, and they often put their children in the position of having to “parent” them. If you took on the responsibility of being a caregiver for your parent in any way, for any reason, as a child, you were parentified, and it likely reinforced the notion that your needs were insignificant, or at least secondary, to the needs of your parent. As an adult, you are overly concerned with being selfish and view your needs as a burden to others, so you organize your life around everyone else’s needs and desires.

5. You’re a Chronic “People Pleaser”

Because your parent’s wants and needs were always of the utmost importance, you were conditioned to bury your own needs in order to better serve them. Another contributing factor is that narcissistic parents continually force their children to seek approval by setting an expectation, then “moving the goalpost” once the expectation has been met. If your parent made you feel like you had to earn their love, as an adult, you probably feel compelled to prove you are worthy of love and affection.

6. You Are a Perfectionist

Similarly, narcissistic parents make their children feel like they will never be “good enough.” Because they forced you to earn their conditional love, you became a perfectionist as a way to bolster your chances of pleasing them and finally being good enough. On the other hand, if you were like me, you became a perfectionist to prove to yourself and others that your parent was wrong about you. Either way, it’s about earning your right to be in the world, as you were raised to believe your worth was contingent upon the tenuous value your parent placed on you, rather than being taught your inherent value as a human who exists on this planet.

7. You “Feel” What Others Are Feeling

In many cases, children of narcissists develop very highly attuned empathy. This is a survival mechanism. When you have a volatile parent who becomes enraged at the slightest provocation, and sometimes for no discernible reason at all, you become hyper-aware of their facial expressions, body language, and energy in an attempt to avoid being abused.

8. You Second-Guess Yourself… A Lot

The goal of the narcissist is to keep their target off balance, and the abuse they dole out has the specific purpose of inducing uncertainty. If your parent consistently questioned your emotions and actions, dictated how you should feel, and challenged your perception of your own experiences, you learned you couldn’t trust yourself. Additionally, narcissists convince their targets that they deserve to be abused. This manifests as deep insecurity in a child who grows up to believe that everything is their fault and they can’t do or say anything right, which often results in debilitating self-doubt in adulthood.

9. You Are Indecisive

Because your parent saddled you with an exceptional sense of self-doubt, you have trouble making decisions. This is due to the scrutiny you likely endured for making even the smallest mistake as a child. You become paralyzed with fear, and you think and rethink over all of the possible outcomes, until you become so overwhelmed that you decide not to make a choice at all.

10. You Have Trust Issues

If your parent was narcissistic, they conditioned you not to trust your own feelings, instincts, and perceptions of reality. Besides that, you probably also learned you couldn’t trust your parent at an early age. When you can’t trust your own parents or yourself, you will not be able to trust others either. (Learning to trust yourself first is key.)

11. You Are Fiercely Independent

This may seem counter-intuitive due to trauma bonding (a powerful emotional attachment between an abuser and their target, which forms as a result of the cycle of abuse); however, if you learn you cannot rely on or trust anyone, you may grow to be fiercely independent. Another reason for this is the constant criticism to which you were undoubtedly subjected. If you were endlessly scrutinized for the way you did things, you probably learned to do them on your own, with no one watching, to avoid being ridiculed.

12. You Are Profoundly Lonely

When they’re not being abusive, narcissistic parents are neglectful. This can result in what I often refer to as a “profound sense of loneliness.” I believe it is the combination of abuse and neglect, along with never feeling like you quite fit in anywhere, because you are convinced you are a burden, strange, stupid, incompetent, lazy, crazy, etc. Narcissists are basically empty shells, devoid of positive emotion and love, which leaves their children feeling like they are on their own, because they are.

13. You Have a Distorted Self-Image

Living with a narcissist will leave you with a distorted self-image physically, mentally, and intellectually. When the narcissist is also your parent, the damage can be catastrophic. Because they do not allow their children to explore and acknowledge their talents and interests, you probably feel like you are still “finding yourself” well into adulthood. This leads to difficulty even acknowledging your talents, skills, abilities, and positive traits, as well as discomfort with receiving and accepting compliments, because you were prohibited from doing such things by your parent. In addition, the abuse tactics favored by narcissists cause low self-esteem and a lack of self confidence in their targets, which makes it nearly impossible to view yourself with any accuracy.

Spreading Awareness

Narcissistic abuse is highly misunderstood and particularly treacherous, yet extraordinarily prevalent in society as a whole, which is why awareness must be spread. Because this type of abuse can be so subtle, and its perpetrators are oftentimes very charming or even charismatic, the average person has difficulty recognizing and understanding it, but its effects are devastating, nevertheless. Please remember that it was not your fault. You didn’t deserve to be abused by the people who were supposed to love and protect you. Narcissists are abusive by nature, so there was nothing you could have done as a child to affect their behavior. Your parent is solely responsible for his or her own abusive actions. The simple fact is that you were born to someone who can’t stop being abusive, and that is their defect, not yours.

Tell Me, How Do I Feel?

Warning: this post contains possible triggers for survivors of emotional & psychological abuse.

For my entire life, I have had my feelings questioned, mocked, and dictated to me by the ones who were supposed to love me the most. The message I’ve received is that my feelings are wrong, invalid, merely a tool of manipulation, and/or I am not entitled to them at all. Furthermore, others are more entitled to their opinions about my feelings and why I am experiencing them. I now know that is not true, and I am working to repair the damage it has caused, as it has affected every aspect of my life.

Narcissists love to share their expertise on everything, especially when it comes to other people’s emotions. After all, they are experts on…well, just about everything if you ask them, but particularly feelings. (Obviously.) They won’t hesitate to let anyone know what they think of their emotions (and opinions for that matter), which is that they are unforgivably wrong if they are not in total alignment with that of the narcissist. Why? In my view, there are a few reasons.

1. The Narcissist is Always Right

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Because the narcissist is always right in their mind, if someone has a negative reaction to their behavior, that person must be wrong. For example, my first memory is being berated by my father from the driver’s seat of the car as I sat defenselessly in the backseat. He was screaming at me about how stupid I was. I have no idea what I could have possibly done to deserve that degree of a verbal tirade at such a young age, as I couldn’t have been much older than about three years. (But then again, I rarely knew what I was getting in trouble for with him. He was very volatile and anything could set him off.)

I remember saying, “I’m not stupid,” over and over again as I sobbed. I remember watching my mom through tear soaked eyes as she sat in the passenger seat doing nothing to stop it, wondering why she wouldn’t defend me (she must have agreed with him), which turned out to be a theme throughout my life. Then I got in even more trouble for “arguing” with him and he threatened to “give me something to cry about” (that was a favorite of his) because, in his mind, his abuse of me was completely warranted due to whatever minor infraction I had just committed. I remember him twisting the situation and actually managing to become the victim of a toddler by accusing me of trying to manipulate him by crying (another of his greatest hits).

A couple of days ago, my soon-to-be ex did the same thing to me. Here’s the extremely abridged story. We started arguing. The topic and reason don’t matter because the outcome was the same as it always is. There was no resolution because he cannot communicate constructively, and resorts to abuse to “win” any argument. When I reacted to his belittling of my emotions, he became exceptionally condescending, said some more incredibly hurtful things dressed up as his opinions to which he is entitled (of course), and then told me my feelings about it were ridiculous. I told him I felt like I was about to cry in a foolish attempt to communicate my pain to him, and his response was, “of course you are! That’s your go-to!” (Smacks of accusing me of trying to manipulate him with my tears, doesn’t it? I was trying to get him to understand that he was hurting me and to stop being abusive toward me, so we could talk rationally. If that’s manipulation, so be it.) When I tried explaining that I was legitimately hurt by what he said, he went into stonewall mode and told me to leave him alone; thereby, successfully (in his mind) becoming my victim because he didn’t want to talk about it anymore, and I was trying to make him do something against his will. He knew he couldn’t “win” the argument, so he shut me down with insults and wouldn’t let me speak, because he thinks whomever has the last word automatically wins. The whole thing is fairly despicable and 100% pathetic when you stop to think about it.

Playing the victim is an excellent way to shift blame and continue being right. Moreover, it is key to maintaining the narcissist’s facade. When the target reacts to the abuse naturally, they will minimize their own actions and dismiss the other person’s feelings, because if they acknowledge their behavior as the cause, they can no longer be right. Additionally, this requires them to turn the situation around and paint the target as the aggressor or abuser. To that end, the narcissist will use any of the other abusive tactics they have in their arsenal to manipulate their target, control other people’s perception of that person, and portray themselves as the victim.

2. You Are Their Projector Screen

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Compounded by their inability to see people for who they genuinely are, and their unbelievable lack of empathy for others, narcissists are masters of projection. They project their own traits, behaviors, beliefs, thoughts, and feelings onto their targets, while mimicking that person’s positive characteristics. They essentially have two selves: a false self and a true self. The false self is a facade they project outwardly for others to see and to protect their true selves. It is mainly comprised of an idealized, grandiose version of themselves, combined with some of their target’s most admirable attributes, and it masks their true self, which has been critically damaged. Since their primary goal is preserving their false self, they use projection as a way to free themselves of their undesirable personality traits and transfer them to the target by accusing them of doing the very things the narcissist is guilty of doing. Oh, the hypocrisy!

For the narcissist, projection has the happy side effect of gaslighting. Projecting inaccurate character flaws onto the target, or telling them how they feel, for instance, is effectively gaslighting them. Take this example from my childhood. Not surprisingly, my father was not the most patient person. Some of my earliest memories are of being screamed at to hurry when getting ready to leave the house to go somewhere before I was even school aged. Then my father would become enraged and accuse me of purposefully going slower just because he wanted me to go faster. He would proclaim that it proved how stupid I must be, because I was obviously trying to make him angry. Please believe me, I promise I was not doing it on purpose because, contrary to his projection, I was not stupid. If I was, indeed, going slower, it was probably because there was a maniac standing over me screaming the whole time I tried to get ready, and I was a terrified little kid. I’ve also never gotten my jollies by intentionally fucking with another human being, so that had to be some kind of projection, too. I did everything within my teeny-tiny power to avoid his wrath at all times.

To give a more recent example from a different type of relationship, during our latest argument, my soon-to-be ex was literally jumping up and down like a toddler in front of me while calling me immature. As a matter of fact, projecting his immaturity on to me is a common defense mechanism. On many occasions in the past, he has used gaslighting, condescension, infantilizing, lying, and denial against me during arguments, and then when I inevitably became upset, he would suddenly be done with it, and I was the immature one for wanting to talk about my feelings. So, in other words, he thinks it’s acceptable to insult someone, but if they want to talk about how it made them feel, they are unreasonable and immature. Sorry, pal, but that’s not going to work anymore.

3. Gaslighting is Fun, Mental, and Fundamental

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Dictating the emotions of others allows the narcissistic abuser to utilize their go-to abuse tactic: Gaslighting. For a narcissist, nothing is more enjoyable than talking in circles around their target, spinning their head by twisting their words, then interrupting them so they can’t explain themselves, and telling them what they actually meant, what they really think, and how they feel. They will even say things like, “I know you better than you know yourself,” in an attempt to convince their targets that their perception of themselves is incorrect. As a result, the target becomes too dizzy with confusion to defend themselves anymore.

However, it’s not all fun and games. A crucial function is also served. Constantly telling someone what they think, how they feel, what they’re feeling is wrong, or that they’re overreacting, erodes their perception, self-confidence, and sense of self. Over time, this causes the target to question everything, including their own sanity, not only giving the narcissist instant gratification, but priming the target to become an ongoing source of narcissistic supply as well. Simply put, narcissists (and other abusers) have to break their targets down because healthy people don’t allow themselves to be abused.

Aside from making the target feel crazy because their emotions are always being challenged and invalidated, it can also make them appear that way to others, which offers the narcissist a certain amount of protection in the form of credibility. Other people in their lives will begin to side with the abuser, as they witness the decline in the target’s mental state. Consequently, the lies the narcissist tells about the target will ring true. This aids them in isolating the target from anyone who might help or be of support to them. Now when they say, “you need help,” there will be a chorus of flying monkeys to back them up. As a parent, it’s even easier for the narcissistic abuser to manipulate other family members, friends, teachers, counselors, etc. into believing the child is the problem, and they are a loving parent trying to do what is best for them. In a romantic relationship, the narcissist might start by dropping hints to mutual friends about their partner’s “strange” behavior, irritability, or overreactions; probably playing it off as concern, so those people will be less likely to believe the target if they try to ask for help.

Putting It All Together

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Once I awakened to the reality that I was the victim of narcissistic abuse, I began the long and enduring process of putting together the pieces of my life puzzle. Suddenly, so much of it made sense and I started remembering things I had forgotten long ago, which surprised me because I remembered more of my childhood than most people seem to already. I actually have kind of a scary memory, so when other incidents came flooding back, it was considerably traumatic for me. I wasn’t prepared for the memories to get worse, and sometimes I thought I couldn’t handle it.

It is very nearly impossible for those who have not gone through it to understand narcissistic abuse and the severity of its effects on survivors. And other family members are almost certainly too entrenched in their own role in the narcissistic family dynamic to see it for what it is. If you suddenly find yourself realizing you have been the victim of this kind of abuse, please know that you are not alone, and it is/was not your fault. You were never the problem; your abuser is and was. You are worthy of love, and you are way more than enough. Educate and empower yourself. With knowledge comes understanding; with understanding comes hope.

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Personal note: It’s been a little while! I had an awesome visit with my sister and family in New York! My nephew is doing better than expected, so I won’t give up hope that he’ll beat the odds! I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know my nephew and nieces as young adults! They are exceptionally cool humans. I can’t wait to go back this Summer! I’m back home now, though. So much has happened in the last few weeks, and I’ve been doing a lot of writing, but nothing else I can share as of yet. Sometimes it takes a bit for it to coalesce into something coherent and cohesive.

Believe it or not, I’m still working on my comprehensive article on 20+ abuse tactics employed by narcissists and others with Cluster B personality disorders. It’s been more difficult than I initially imagined it would be, and I keep having to put it on the back burner in favor of paying gigs. However, I am confident it will be a helpful resource to other survivors when complete. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments, concerns, or if you just need someone to talk to. 🙂

Reality of Lies

“Waking Up” from Abuse

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Awakening to the reality that your entire life has been a lie is about the harshest wake up call you can get. Click To Tweet

Awakening to the reality that your entire life has been a lie is about the harshest wake up call you can get. I speak from experience. I’ve actually done it twice now.

The first time I “woke up” was when I finally realized I was the survivor of childhood narcissistic abuse. It wasn’t until I had my own kids that I started to understand how troubled my childhood really was. I had to stumble upon the terms “narcissistic personality disorder” and “narcissistic abuse” myself, and learn about them on my own. Let me tell you, though, the pieces finally began falling into place and I’m grateful they did. No matter how agonizing this journey is, has been, or will get, it’s worth the discomfort — however extreme. The alternative is way worse.

What makes narcissistic abuse extraordinarily treacherous is that it’s not easily detected. Not by its victims, at least not at first (or at all in many cases), and certainly not by people who have never experienced or witnessed it firsthand. Additionally, it changes the way you think about everything: the way you perceive the narcissist, the world, YOURSELF… When the victim is the child of the narcissist, the effects of the abuse are insidious. Those of us unlucky enough to be born to one or more parent with this horrible affliction are indoctrinated into the narcissist’s sick and twisted vision of reality from birth, taught that it’s “normal” and that if we have a negative reaction to their abuse, we are somehow defective (i.e. too sensitive, overly dramatic, manipulative, etc.), and everyone else would agree with them.

What makes narcissistic abuse extraordinarily treacherous is that it's not easily detected. Click To Tweet

We are left to pick up the pieces of our broken senses of self, along with whatever self-esteem and self-confidence we can manage to scrape together and hoard from whatever sources (not always healthy or positive ones) we can find, if any. We carry the burden of waking up alone to the arduous reality that we now likely must spend the rest of our lives recovering from the damage of a childhood filled with lies, betrayal, and oftentimes sadistic abuse at the hands of severely broken people who happened to be the ones charged with “loving” and “protecting” us. They were far too damaged to do either of those things, so they took their pain out on helpless children who didn’t ask to be born into the dysfunction in the first place.

What’s worse? Some never wake up from it at all. They go on believing they deserve to be mistreated, so that’s the treatment they continue to receive, as it is what they will accept and allow. They spend their lives just trying to be good enough and never feeling like they measure up. Or, they go on to perpetrate the same kind of abuse. That’s the tragic legacy of toxic families.

(Then, if you’re like me, you awaken a second time to realize you married into the same kind of toxicity, and you now must make a second escape. Or if you didn’t get married as a “child” to flee the abuse you grew up in the way I did, you recognize you have gone from one abusive partner to the next. This is not a coincidence, but more on that in a later post.) 

The more proficient the narcissist, the better they are at hiding their true nature from people... Click To Tweet

The more proficient the narcissist, the better they are at hiding their true nature from people they don’t have to spend a significant amount of time with. Moreover, they can be exceedingly charming, so other people can never quite believe how cruel they can be in actuality, because they’re always so pleasant to be around. Narcissists even know how to make you feel special and important (for a time, anyway). In fact, that’s how they lure you in.

Combine that with their astonishing ability to turn any situation around, somehow become the victim, and make the actual victim look like the “crazy one” (or even the abuser) to the casual observer, and it isn’t difficult to understand how these situations become convoluted, leaving the victims disbelieved and defenseless. Because of their charm, which often borders on charisma, narcissists tend to inspire a flock of loyal protectors/enablers (or “flying monkeys”) who defend them tooth and nail, regardless of the heinousness of their actions. They are convinced the narcissist is the real victim; therefore, consequently, justified in what they perceive as retaliation, so they blindly do their bidding. It is time this societal epidemic was illuminated for what it is. Victims and survivors deserve a voice, and that is why I will continue to write about my experiences and call out abusive behavior when I see it.

Special Note: This is not the post I had planned next, but then again, this was not the day I had planned either. Due to computer issues and lack of expertise or skill level to fix them myself, I had to take to my phone & write, rather than work on d6 Collab bugs, and this is what came out. I promise my next post in “My Story” will actually explain what narcissistic abuse is for those who don’t know, as I believe it is an especially crucial topic given the current cultural and political climate in this country. I hope to have it posted by the end of this week, barring any other technical difficulties. Thanks for your patience.✌