How You’re Affected as the Child of a Narcissist

by | Jul 5, 2018

If one or both of your parents is a narcissist, you can’t help but be affected. The overwhelming, controlling narcissist criticizes your every move. You can’t peel carrots without your mother telling you you’re doing it wrong. The constant drip, drip, drip of disapproval and put-downs is bound to wear on you.

On the other hand, you may have a narcissist parent who completely ignores you because he’s the only important person in the family, and child rearing doesn’t interest him. What does interest him is pursuing his own hobbies or work that will bring him glory. Children should be seen and not heard. And maybe not even seen.
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Worst of all, you may have that combo parent who largely ignores you but micromanages you to death when it’s convenient for her. She’s so self-absorbed that she doesn’t pay attention to you except when she wants to control you and feel power over you.
How are you likely to react to this kind of parent? You may experience one or more of these issues:

1) Poor self-esteem. When you mother is superior and the most worthy person in the family, you can be nothing but less than her. The more she puts you down, the higher she elevates herself and the worse you feel.

2) Desperate to please. If your narcissist father withholds approval from you because he has to be the one to shine, you may try your entire life to please him. He will only show you he loves you if you perform as he would wish. And he may not even then. By extension, you will continue to people-please with others, hoping for a little love.

3) Inability to say no. This is a part of people-pleasing. You can’t say no because your narcissist parent has conditioned you to do whatever he wants. In other words, he expects you to be a doormat. You have no self-respect so you try to make others like you by doing whatever they want, thus blurring your interpersonal boundaries.

4) Codependency. Your narcissist parent has used every trick in the book, including gaslighting, to manipulate you into being her minion and doing her bidding. You and that parent have a codependent relationship—she can’t live without your validation that she is superior and you’ve grown used to her control. You seek out similar relationships elsewhere in your life because the familiar is comfortable.

5) Guilt and shame. Your narcissist parent has used guilt and shame to control you your whole life. You have wallowed in these sad feelings so long you’re used to them. You may even begin to assign guilt and shame to yourself without your parent even participating.

6) Depression. You may not know why you feel bad, but you do. A barrage of constant criticism from your narcissist parent can trigger self-loathing. This, coupled with a lack of control over your life, can put you in a depressed state. It can also make you chronically anxious.

Next week we’ll talk about how you can recover as a child of a narcissist.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here:


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