The basic definition of a narcissist is someone “who has an excessive interest in, or admiration of, themselves.” While there are many different types of narcissists, like vulnerable, toxic, and closet narcissists, when it comes to parents specifically, there are two main types, engulfing and ignoring.
Engulfing: The engulfing narcissistic parent is extremely involved in your life, to the point where they often attempt to exert too much control and have no respect for your boundaries. They see you as a full extension of themselves and not as a separate individual. They strive to mold you into who they want you to be, rather than considering your needs and wants.
Ignoring: The ignoring narcissistic parent is the complete opposite of engulfing, and will do just that, ignore. Ignore you, your feelings, your accomplishments, and have very little interest in your life overall. They don’t do things for you out of the kindness of their heart because they are completely self-absorbed. And they’ll want recognition whenever they do anything for you, no matter how insignificant.
Here are signs that you may have a narcissistic parent:
1. It Is Always About Them
You landed that new job? You graduated from college? A narcissistic parent may be happy for you for a fleeting moment, but ultimately the conversation will return to being all about them. It always has to be about them. They will do anything to attract attention and take the spotlight, even if it means lying about an illness or over-dramatizing something that happened to them. They hardly ever listen to you, and can be pretty absent from your life. They think the world revolves around them.
2. They Lack Empathy
A narcissistic parent really only cares about their feelings and thoughts. They often don’t put in the effort to even try and understand how you’re feeling and won’t ask about what’s going on in your life. As a result, you never really feel like you can talk to them about important things because they would either dismiss it or just start talking about themselves.
3. They Have Codependency/Dependency Issues
Whether it be emotionally, physically, or even financially, a narcissistic parent will expect you to take care of them, despite being far from elderly or in actual need of that care. They will manipulate you to do things for them that you may not want to or, should not, be doing for them. They don’t take your needs into consideration but always expect you to be available. Your independence freaks them out. They will make you feel guilty if you haven’t called them in a few days.
Some narcissistic parents may also try to make their adult children codependent by enabling irresponsible behavior. For example, enabling you to continue a drug or alcohol habit, or never encouraging you to achieve anything on your own. This way, you’re always dependent on them, and you’re held back from building a life of your own. Since a narcissistic parent often hopes that you will permanently dwell under their influence, they may become extremely jealous at any signs of your growing maturity and independence.
4. They Guilt Trip You To Get What They Want
“I’ve done so much for you…the least you could do is…” They ignore the fact that THEY are the parent and ask/expect a lot more from you than they should. “After all I’ve done for you, you’re so ungrateful,” is another common phrase they will use to make you feel like you owe them something when, in reality, you don’t. They’ll use various guilt trip tactics like manipulation and blaming so that they get what they want from you.
5. They Aren’t Afraid To Blackmail You
Narcissistic parents aren’t afraid to punish you if you did “something wrong” in their eyes, even if you didn’t actually do anything. Especially if you do something they don’t agree with, or didn’t give into them, they will more than likely punish you for it. This includes threatening statements like “if you don’t do this for me, then I’ll never do such and such for you again…”
6. They Will Ignore Your Boundaries
Some narcissistic parents will ignore your boundaries and smother you. They constantly want your attention and don’t respect your space. They become upset if they feel as though you don’t spend enough time with them. They disregard the fact that you probably have a busy schedule, and believe that they should come first no matter what you’re doing.
7. They Gaslight You
Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic someone will use to gain control or power over you. This is done through lies, denial, and contradiction in order to make you doubt yourself or feel crazy, so that they can try and gain power over you. They will even play the victim or make false accusations about you. They want you to second-guess yourself. They want you to get caught in their frustrating web of drama and deceit.
8. They Expect You To Act Like the Parent, Not Them
They hardly ever act as any parent would, and they often expect you to do the things that they should be doing. This includes taking care of them and constantly asking about their lives and how they’re doing. They’re immature and want so much from you, but give little in return – little emotional support, advice, and encouragement. But in their eyes, they believe they give and do a whole lot for you. They want praise for that false reality, too. Put simply, it’s their world and you just live in it.
9. They Never Think They Are Wrong
If you ever criticize or try having an honest conversation with a narcissistic parent about their unwarranted behavior, expect a really intense outcome. They will completely overreact, never admit any of their faults, deny everything, and eventually spin the situation to make you the one to blame. It is a vicious cycle that never ends well, no matter how hard you try. Even if you want to have a true heart-to-heart, they won’t try to see your side or hear you out. If you point out how they’ve mistreated you, they’ll tell you that you pushed them to act that way, or that you’re at fault for their behavior. They are never the ones to blame, it is always you or someone else who is the problem.
10. They Are Inflexible
A narcissistic parent most likely doesn’t have the ability to change his or her behavior. They are easily offended if you point out their inappropriate behavior or if you are not falling for their irrational ways. One reason for this inflexibility and touchiness is the desire to control you. They will exert love for you when you follow what they want or are proving “your worth” to them. But they will easily withdraw that love if you fail to do what they want. The narcissist responds negatively when they realize you will not always be pulled by their strings.
11. They Throw The Best Pity Parties
They always want everyone to feel bad for them because they are attention-seekers. They won’t ever sympathize with you, though, no matter what you’re going through because in their mind, they’re always going through something much worse. They’re only interested in their own feelings and often feel very sorry for themselves, yet they do nothing to try and better their lives.
12. They Often Insult You
Narcissistic parents often spew subtle or clear insults at you because by lowering your self-esteem, they are oddly boosting their own. They marginalize you and this includes anything from nit-picking everything you do, invalidating your positive attitude or emotions, unreasonably comparing you to others, and rejecting any of your achievements. They may even go so far as to say clear insults such as “why can’t you be more like her.” Narcissistic parents only do this because they may feel threatened by your success or potential. Especially if you aren’t doing what they want you to do, they will use criticism to try and tear you down. Don’t wait for their validation on anything because you’ll never receive it.
Most people who were raised by a narcissistic mother or father:
Have trust issues and very low self-esteem. Tend to suffer from anxiety or depression and have difficulty expressing or handling emotions. Tend to always try and please everyone and often seek validation in most decisions they make. Are codependent in other relationships and have a weak sense of self, wants, needs, and goals. Use their accomplishments as a way to define their own self-worth.
To anyone who was raised by a narcissistic mother or father just know:
Truly think about what YOU want in this life, where you want to go, and who you want to be. Begin taking the steps to get there and don’t let anyone tear you down. And be proud of everything you’ve accomplished so far.
There are many people in your life who love you and support you. Surround yourself with those individuals who give you love, laughter, and warmth. Confide in friends and other loved ones about your experiences. Opening up and talking about it helps with the healing process. You are not alone in your struggles.
If your parents have become toxic to your mental health, cut them out of your life. You must put your mental health first. Learn to say no and remember you can’t always please everyone. You have to do what’s best for you.
Sit and talk to a professional, they want to listen and they will give you helpful tools and advice.
Learn to love yourself, and take the time to do things that make you happy. Overcome your past, don’t let it consume you. Learn how to move forward and use your past to only make you stronger. Use all that energy and emotion to give you the determination to make a better life for yourself and for your future.