In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a hunter who was fixated with his own beauty. One day, he happened upon a pool of water, fell in love with his own reflection, and remained there until his death. All that became of him was the narcissus flower, or the daffodil.
This classic story of Narcissus is the origin behind the term narcissism, which refers to an unhealthy fixation with oneself. Narcissists have an excessive need for admiration, a sense of grandiosity, and in many cases, a lack of empathy for others. Though Narcissus seemingly fell in love with his own image, most experts agree that narcissists have incredibly low self-esteem. Underneath their inflated sense of self lurks a fragile ego begging to be affirmed.
Children of narcissists grow up in a household where honest communication was not welcome, gaslighting was far too common, and they were often starved for attention. All children need unconditional love from their parents to thrive, but narcissist parents make their love seem conditional; they expect perfection and become disappointed when their children do not live up to their unrealistic expectations.
Being raised by a narcissist can have long-term effects on a child’s self-esteem and future interpersonal relationships. The following signs indicate you were raised by a narcissist mother or father:
You Still Feel Like a Child Around Your Parents
Even if many years have passed since you left home, being in the presence of your narcissist parent can be triggering. It may almost feel like you’re in a trance, like your sense of self has vanished and you only exist for your parent. You may feel responsible for their happiness and eager to please them.
You Give too Much in Your Relationships
Having always felt responsible for your narcissist parent’s happiness, you may take this pattern into your future relationships. You feel highly attuned to the needs of others and always place far too much attention on others to the extent of neglecting yourself.
Setting Boundaries is Difficult
Narcissist parents rarely respect boundaries because they feel entitled to go where they please and do what they want. Because your boundaries have always been crossed, you may have trouble setting them and reinforcing them.
You Suffer from Low Self-Esteem
Growing up with a narcissistic parent means being subjected to heavy criticism and blame. This can take a toll on one’s self-esteem well into adulthood. A child of a narcissist may have tremendous difficulty feeling good enough.
Your Parent Refuses to Go to Counseling
Maybe you’ve worked up the courage to ask your parent to see a counselor or therapist to help heal your relationship. Most narcissists will refuse to get professional help because they do not see anything wrong with their actions.
You Think You May Be a Narcissist
Many narcissist parents pass their narcissistic patterns onto their children. This makes sense because children will model what their parents have taught them to gain their love. However, if you become aware of this link, you’re already taking the first step in a healthier direction. The pattern of narcissism can stop with you if you commit to change.
During the Hoffman Process, participants delve deeply into their family history to uncover patterns that have consciously or unconsciously passed from generation to generation. With guidance and support from teachers and peers, there is an opportunity to heal intergenerational trauma, whether your narcissist parent is ready to heal or not. By recognizing the effects of narcissism and grieving the loss of the parent you hoped for, you can finally step forward and develop self-forgiveness, self-compassion and self-love.
This article was contributed by Erica Garza. Follow @ericadgarza on Instagram