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Why being raised by narcissistic parents can negatively affect a child’s life

How narcissitic parents affects children. PHOTO BY Vector flat illustration

According to psychological experts, a narcissistic parent is characterized by self-centeredness and self-absorption, often displaying an inflated self-image and believing themselves superior to others. They frequently disregard the needs and concerns of others, including their own children, as they prioritize their desires and emotions. In severe cases, they may even suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Narcissistic parents are often deeply wounded and harbor profound insecurities. This is why their children often become their primary source of self-esteem.

Dr. Nicole LePera, a clinical psychologist and author of popular books like “How to Meet Yourself” and “How to Do the Work,” explains in her book “How to Meet Yourself” that one of the most perplexing aspects of being raised by narcissistic parents is the learned roles of achievement, appeasement, or performance. This creates significant confusion as children reach adulthood, as they struggle to ascertain their true selves.

Subconsciously, children begin to feel the need to provide something to their parents, which varies depending on what the parent values most. Some parents may prioritize physical appearance (being “thin” or “pretty”), academic achievement, financial success, or being a “good helper” or “good girl,” among others.

Dr. Nicole LePera, a clinical psychologist and author of popular books like “How to Meet Yourself” and “How to Do the Work”

Children willingly adopt and focus on these roles because they learn that conforming to their parents’ expectations is the way to earn their love or approval. However, love and approval from narcissistic parents are often fleeting and conditional. Their fragile self-esteem and inability to regulate their emotions create a cycle where children may receive love and then face its withdrawal as a consequence of perceived failures, such as receiving a poor grade. This turmoil during childhood significantly impacts emotional development.

Instead of discovering and nurturing their true selves, children molded by narcissistic parents become versions of themselves that their parents need them to be. Consequently, many adult children of narcissistic parents may appear as overachievers, caretakers, financially successful individuals, or physically beautiful, fulfilling the desires of their parents. However, beneath the surface, they often grapple with anxiety, depression, and a profound sense of disconnection from life.

This lack of self-discovery is a major challenge for those raised by narcissistic parents. Dr. LePera emphasizes that healing involves the process of self-discovery, which can be difficult because the voice of the narcissistic parent tends to dominate our internal dialogue. We may have been conditioned to perpetually seek their approval before making our own choices.

When dealing with a narcissistic parent, it is crucial to educate yourself about narcissism through various resources, online forums, and professional guidance. Accepting the challenging reality that narcissistic parents are unlikely to change significantly is vital, as genuine change is rare. Hoping for their unconditional love can make you vulnerable to further abuse, hindering your progress. Recognizing the enabling parent who supports and normalizes the narcissistic behavior is also essential, even if forgiving them can be as difficult as forgiving the narcissistic parent.

Additionally, understanding the roles within your family dynamic is crucial, as narcissists often sow divisions among family members. Finding unity with other family members can be a potent defense against the narcissist’s abuse. Asserting boundaries to protect yourself from constant violations by the narcissist is another critical step in the healing process.

Lastly, reconnecting with your feelings, which may have been suppressed or manipulated by the narcissistic parent, is essential. This process will help you navigate through the healing journey and discover your true self amidst the distortions imposed by the narcissistic family dynamic.

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