Narcissism seems to run rampant these days. But if you are the child of a narcissist, it has certainly affected your life in a negative way.
Do you know people who are selfish and full of themselves? You know the ones. We all do. They are always taking selfies, talking about themselves, and rarely care about other people. Yup, they’re everywhere. But are they all narcissists?
What exactly is a narcissist?
Simply put, a narcissist thinks they are the center of the universe. They are only concerned with themselves, and rarely show any empathy or compassion for other people. But the important thing to remember is that it’s not an all-or-nothing deal. It’s not like you’re either a narcissist or you’re not.
People can have narcissistic tendencies, but not necessarily be a full-blow narcissist. In some ways, narcissism exists on a continuum. But for the purpose of our discussion in this feature, let’s first take a look at some of the prime characteristics of a narcissist.
#1 They talk about themselves all the time, and rarely listen to other people. It’s almost like they’re an “energy vampire.” They suck out your energy by demanding to talk about themselves all the time. Rarely can you ever get in a word, especially if you want to talk about yourself or your problems.
#2 They think the rules don’t apply to them. This is different than a normal person who doesn’t like rules and might occasionally be a rule-breaker. Narcissists don’t think that rules EVER apply to them. It’s like they’re too good to follow the rules like all the other “losers.”
#3 Anything someone says about them is perceived as criticism. Unless someone is praising them and telling them how great they are, they can’t handle anything else. Any constructive criticism will be met with vicious attacks against the person who delivers the advice.
#4 I’m right, and you’re wrong. They can never be wrong. It just doesn’t occur to them that they are ever wrong. Other people are wrong, but not them. So they might even fight to the death to prove they’re right… even if it’s impossible to do so.
#5 It’s always someone else’s fault. They never take personal responsibility for anything. If they screwed up, it wasn’t their fault. It was because someone else messed up and made them look bad. Pointing the finger away from themselves is just habit… and normal for them.
#6 They get angry easily. And when they do, it’s your fault, not theirs. They have a temper, and you never quite know when they’re going to blow. So it makes people around them anxious.
There are many reasons that someone becomes a narcissist, most specifically the way they are raised and/or some of the chemical makeup in their brain. But even our supports and encourages narcissism in many ways. Just take social media… well, that really nurtures and fosters narcissistic behavior, don’t you think?
Not that I’m blaming social media for narcissism, but think about how Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and all the other social media outlets promote it with selfies and constant status updates. The inherent message there is, “Look at me! Look at me! I’m important! You should care about what I’m eating for dinner tonight!”
But I digress.
Effects of being the child of a narcissist
Imagine growing up with a parent who is a narcissist. It’s bad enough to deal with them in life when we have to interact with them at work or school. But being the child of a narcissist is not easy, to say the least. And unfortunately, it has long-lasting effects that can last a lifetime. So, here are some of those effects on a child of a narcissist.
#1 Low self-esteem. If your parent is always blaming you for everything, not taking personal responsibility, and always needs the attention on them, well, where does that leave the child? Nowhere. The kids are basically non-existent. And, of course, that doesn’t build up anyone’s self-esteem.
#2 People-pleasers. Being a child of a narcissist, you never can get the approval of your parent. They always want the attention on themselves, and they’re also criticizing you. So many kids turn out to be people-pleasers just so they can get some self-affirmation and make people happy – something they didn’t get at home.
#3 No sense of self. When your childhood home life revolves around your narcissistic parent, then how is it possible to find out who you are and what you should become? No one ever asks you about YOU. So, a child of a narcissist is likely to be lost and not really know who they are.
#4 Lack of life direction. Are you seeing a pattern here? With a child of a narcissist, there was probably no parent there to help guide them through life decisions.
Let’s face it – kids don’t know where to go or what to do on their own *or at least not many*. So we rely on parents to help us. But not the child of a narcissist. They’re on their own.
#5 Lack of boundaries. A boundary is when you draw the invisible line of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. The child of a narcissist never learned this. So, this filters into their relationships later in life. They don’t know what behavior to accept and what behavior they shouldn’t.
#6 Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Can you even imagine what it’s like getting constantly put down, ridiculed, and ignored? Or to not know when your parent will explode? Yeah, it’s no surprise that the child of a narcissist sometimes has mental health issues.
#7 Problems with trust. A narcissist is not trustworthy. If you review the six characteristics that they possess discussed above, it’s no wonder a child of a narcissist grows up with trust issues. I wouldn’t trust anyone either if I was raised by someone like that.
#8 Difficulty maintaining healthy relationships. Narcissists do not have healthy behavior in general, but especially when it comes to relationships. As a child of a narcissist, you don’t know any different. What you see growing up is “normal” to you. So, they need to learn new skills before they can have healthy relationships.
#9 Problems with reality. Lots of times narcissists will lie just to be right. They might even blatantly deny reality, and this can rub off on the child of a narcissist too. This is because the behavior was modeled for them.
#10 Becoming a narcissist themselves. You would think the opposite would happen, but again, if that’s the only kind of behavior that a child of a narcissist sees, then they will likely pattern themselves after their parent. Not necessarily on purpose, but it does happen.
Being a child of a narcissist is never easy, but with some help, they can have a better life. Perhaps seeking professional help from a trained therapist is an ideal first step to take.