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17 Signs You Grew Up With a 'Narcissistic' Parent

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Editor's Note

If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

If you grew up with a “narcissistic” parent, chances are, it has affected you in your adult life.

Maybe your mother was more interested in making you into a “mini me” than encouraging you to develop your own unique identity — so now you struggle with identity issues. Maybe your father made everything about him, refusing to acknowledge or validate your feelings — so now you believe your feelings are always “wrong.” Or maybe your parent was a master at playing the victim, shifting the blame onto anyone in the vicinity — including you.

Whatever your experience was growing up with a “narcissistic” parent, you’re not alone. We wanted to know some of the “signs” of parents with “narcissistic tendencies,” so we turned to our community to share their childhood experiences. You can read what they had to say below.

It’s worth mentioning that a parent who shows “narcissistic” tendencies does not automatically have narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), and people with personality disorders are not inherently abusive towards others. A mental illness diagnosis like NPD must be given by a trained mental health professional who is treating the individual. Whether or not a parent has an “official” diagnosis, narcissistic behaviors can hurt, and it’s important we talk about it.

If you are struggling with the emotional impact of growing up with a parent with narcissistic tendencies, you’re not alone. You are worthy of support, validation and care as you heal. If you’re interested in getting more support on your recovery journey, sign up for our Trauma Survivors newsletter with weekly encouragement from people who have been there.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

  1. Nothing was ever her fault — always someone else’s. If she wants something done, she will manipulate people into doing it for her and if they tried to say, ‘no,’ she would use every tactic in the book to guilt them into it. She also spends a lot of money buying things for people and makes sure she tells everyone she knows she bought them that even years later.” — Meredith B.
  2. “My father only cared about things that primarily interested him or that made him look good to others, regardless of his children and their needs, feelings or dreams. It has made me question my worth and decisions I’ve made in my own life because I was either being ‘selfish’ or ‘wrong’ in his eyes.” — Melinda B.
  3. “Anytime I had anxiety or a panic attack, he would tell me it was in my head. But anytime he has problems and needs help, he talks about himself like no other. You don’t even get a word in. I’m a teenager listening to my dad’s drama and crap in life but he won’t allow me to ‘get things off my chest…’ It’s all about him.” — Kylie Y.
  4. “She enjoys publicly shaming me. She enjoys when things go wrong for me. Rather then help me get through anything she talks about herself, then makes it all about her.” — Holley L.
  5. “I currently am recovering from elbow surgery and am having significant complications. When I told her about the pain and possibility of more surgery, she immediately turned the conversation to her and that she had a headache. Said that she was suffering too.” — Veronica B.
  6. “Mum’s the issue for me, always making everything about her and acting like she’s the victim whenever someone calls her out for being abusive. She also jumps to: ‘You and your father have something against me’ whenever we speak up. It’s always that we’re nasty to her when it’s actually the opposite.” — Alina C.
  7. “She always nitpicked me about things because she said I was a reflection of her and I was making her look bad. I was never a bad kid, I just didn’t always have my hair perfectly combed and sometimes I would spill a bit of mustard on my clothes. My siblings and I were expected to look and act perfect. No wonder I have anxiety. She once filled out a college application in my name without my knowledge. Her excuse was that she didn’t think I would fill it out correctly or write a good enough entry essay because her writing is better.” — Mikayla M.
  8. “Total control freak, I was always wrong. Still to this day I don’t make the ‘right’ decision according to her! I am 40 with a great life!” — Heidi N.
  9. “She’d always [say], ‘What about everything I’ve done for you?’ She’d always tell me how awful the world was so I would rely on her more to protect me if things went wrong while deeming it as ‘I’m just trying to keep you safe.’ She has been a good mom, but we just aren’t meant to live in the same household.” — Caelynn C.
  10. “Whenever my mother does something manipulative, and gets caught, she cries the victim. It’s always someone else’s fault, never hers.” — Jill H.
  11. “One of the biggest signs is being a constant victim. He will always be the victim in his eyes. He abused my family for our whole childhood, and blamed it on us, telling me I just ‘perceived it as abuse,’ and that it wouldn’t have happened if we had just ‘understood him.’ He got so awful that I finally cut him out of my life.” — Arianna J.
  12. “My dad always asked me for his opinion on how he looked every second of the day whether it be if he was too fat, had big muscles, what he wore or how his hair was. It was bad really bad. Now I constantly seek approval on everything and I am a perfectionist when it comes to my looks.” — Jody D.
  13. “Lying, changing stories, putting on an act for others when that’s not who she is behind closed doors, blaming me for everything even things that weren’t my fault, provoking arguments when she knows she’s wrong, gaslighting, always making things about her/bragging about herself and most of it isn’t even true. She’s told so many lies [about] me and sadly her family doesn’t know the real evil she holds. She’s convinced them very well that she’s this good person… I could go on but can’t be here all day…” — Brittany R.
  14. “Playing the victim. There’s always a villain in her life. For years it was my dad, for the last decade, it’s been me. Nothing has ever been her fault. She’s always trying to one up people on whose life sucks the most. Guilt trips. Anything she can do for attention. It’s always got to be about her!” — Beth G.
  15. “Oh, there are so many. Projecting her worst characteristics onto me by telling me I was the most selfish person she’d ever known. I think I was in fifth or sixth grade then, and spent every day after school cleaning the house and prepping dinner while my siblings did whatever they wanted with friends and extracurricular activities. Everyone went along with it like it was totally normal and I grew up thinking I deserved that kind of treatment.” — Janie L.
  16. “She puts on a facade, tries to wedge herself into my life through my daughter, but when nobody is around, she ridicules me and throws guilt in everything I do.” — Mina F.
  17. “The severe lack of empathy from my father. Life revolves around him. We lost my mom four years ago to COPD. He has made our lives a living hell ever since. He does anything to get attention and make life about him, then he expects us to come in and clean his mess. Now it’s to the point that we rarely have anything to do with him because it’s just too painful.” — Kristine S.

If you grew up with a parent with narcissistic tendencies, you’re not alone. We are so grateful you’re here and in our community. If you’re struggling right now, we encourage you to post a Thought or Question about it on the site to get support from other people in our community who get it. 

Unsplash photo via Brandon Wong

Originally published: October 16, 2018
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