Growing up has its own unique set of challenges. You’re learning how to make friends, study in school and you might be going on first dates. Perhaps most importantly, you’re trying to figure out your place in the world.
But when you grow up with a narcissistic parent, figuring out your place in the world can be especially challenging. Oftentimes narcissistic parents try to force their children to live in their shadows or set unachievable expectations for their children.
Maybe your parents had dreams of you being a star soccer player or world-famous musician — you know, things they didn’t get to achieve when they were younger. Maybe your parents placed beauty as a top priority, resulting in you growing up with a negative self-image if you didn’t look “perfect.” Or maybe your opinions or feelings were constantly invalidated, making you feel like you couldn’t trust yourself or your feelings.
If any of these scenarios sound familiar, you’re not alone. It’s no surprise that growing up with a narcissistic parent can have a big impact on your life as an adult. Because of this, we turned to members of our Mighty mental health community to share “habits” they have now due to their upbringing with a narcissistic parent.
The aftermath of growing up with a narcissistic parent can be tough, but you don’t have to go through it alone. You can always reach out to our Mighty community by posting a Thought or Question using the hashtag #CheckInWithMe. We’re here for you.
Here are some “habits” people have after growing up with a narcissistic parent:
“I definitely attribute some of my anxiety to this. My parents are divorced. I could do anything and my dad tells me how proud of me he is, while I can’t recall my mom ever telling me that for anything I’ve done. I’ve grown into being a people-pleaser with a lot of people and I drive my husband ‘crazy’ because I’m always looking for praise or acknowledgment for the littlest things. I just recently have been able to see how my mom’s behaviors and attitude have affected me and don’t let her current actions affect me as much.” — Shannon R.
“I never had praise from my father, so I would also do my best to please people so they would like me.” — Maxine R.
2. Being Emotionally Intuitive
“I can feel vibes of people very well, so I have a better sense of if I need to tiptoe around someone’s mood or if it’s OK to relax a little.” — Kimberly M.
3. Questioning Whether Your Thoughts and Emotions Are Valid
“I question the validity of my thoughts, opinions and emotions — to the point of assuming I am ‘crazy’ — because I was told I was wrong, especially if my opinion was not comfortable to my parents. My dad is a narcissist and my mom is co-dependent.” — Faith G.
4. Engaging in Negative Self-Talk
“Constantly saying ‘I’m bad.’ I assume everything is my fault and that somehow I’m a bad person, bad student, bad wife, bad patient, etc. I learned I had to be ‘perfect’ or my mom might flip out. So the onus was on me to be the ‘good’ or ‘perfect’ child.” — Monika S.
5. Apologizing for Everything
“I apologize to everyone about everything. Sometimes I actually apologize for my personality.” — Susi D.
“I’m always apologizing… for everything. I guess I always feel like I’ve done something wrong. In reality, I guess it was because I always tried to please everyone, especially my parents.” — Heather H.
6. Blaming Yourself
“I have a few, but one I think I carry with me every day is faulting myself for things that are out of my control. It could be as simple as trying to help another person out, but they continue to go downhill… I take that as a personal failure, I didn’t do enough. When a family member is in an emergency situation beyond my control, I feel guilt for not being able to do something to help them. If someone in one of my classes at school is talking while the professor is talking and I see my professor start to get annoyed, I feel like I did something wrong. It’s a constant cycle… It takes time and a lot of mental awareness to tell myself there are things outside of my control or things I can’t fix and I have to accept that.” — Cherish I.
7. Struggling to Make Decisions
“The habit people that know me don’t realize is because of my mother, is that I don’t like making decisions. Decisions were always made for me, and choosing something myself as a kid was always an inconvenience and now it still feels that way. ‘What do you want to eat’ turns into an internal battle of, ‘Do I say what I want to avoid the argument?’ ‘I don’t want to say what I want to avoid an argument about different food preferences’ and ‘I don’t know, you choose’ to avoid an argument. It makes me physically uncomfortable to impose my decisions upon somebody, even though it’s completely normal. Countless times have I eaten somewhere I didn’t like because I didn’t want to say what I wanted out of fear that I would get the same exasperated sigh my mom always did, ‘Fine, we’ll go where you want, I just won’t eat.'” — Anoka-Wynona A.
8. Being a ‘Perfectionist’
“Being a perfectionist. Making sure everything is OK so you don’t get into trouble or because you’re not sure why you were in trouble. Low self-esteem. Anger. Feeling inadequate among siblings or others.” — Vini A.
9. Holding Others Accountable for Their Actions
“I won’t allow anyone to ‘get by’ with anyone. The smallest white lie, nothing. I feel like my mom was never made to be accountable so I am beyond rigid in my expectation of others taking responsibility for themselves and their actions.” — Laura H.
10. Minimizing Your Own Feelings
“Smiling all the time when I’m with most people, no matter how I’m really feeling on the inside. Minimizing my own feelings in discussions with others.” — Gretchen E.
11. Reading Into Social Interactions Too Deeply
“I look for the tiniest change in attitude (even texting differently) and try to think of all the ways I could be in trouble with that person regardless of if they tell me we’re OK.” — Tasha B.
12. Being Afraid to Talk to New People
“I can’t talk around new people because I’m afraid my parent’s words are going to come out of their mouths. I have to hear someone speak and interact with another person before I start talking.” — Shayla F.
13. Taking On Other People’s Problems
“Taking on everyone else’s problems, even when I didn’t need to. Even to this day, I take care of my mother because she can’t financially take care of herself. So I pick up the pieces, otherwise she makes me feel guilty for her shortcomings.” — Kirsten F.
14. Struggling to Develop Your Own Identity
“I have no sense of self. My parent probably wasn’t as bad as some of the others on here, but even having a mildly narcissistic parent can affect you. I can’t even truly blame them either knowing what they went through themselves growing up. I was constantly being corrected in everything from posture to behavior. I was told what to do, how to do it, and with what attitude I should have for it. Nowadays, my fiancé gets so irritated with me because I have no real plans or goals. I just kinda do whatever he draws attention to. I almost am incapable of making my own decisions and rely on his opinion for just about everything.” — Amy Y.
15. Repressing Your Emotions
“Because of two narcissistic parents, I learned how to repress emotions to the point of self-medicating at a young age. Not feeling is much safer.”— Sarah H.
16. Assuming People Don’t Want You Around
“I will not go somewhere uninvited because I just assume I am not wanted there. I was always told not to be a bother, so I leave people alone unless they either directly speak to me or ask me.” — Jessica R.
17. Isolating Yourself
“I isolate myself, sometimes push people away because I’m not worthy to be with them. I feel like I’m not enough, I’ll never be enough so people are better off without me.” — Roberto C.
18. Stand Up For Others
“My habit was to always go out of my way to stand up for people that couldn’t do it for themselves. It’s made me a great mediator and devil’s advocate, I can always see both sides. People think I overstep boundaries, but I won’t let someone be walked all over and just continue on my way.” — Dianna M.
If you see some of yourself in these responses, you’re not alone. Healing from the effects of a narcissistic parent takes time, but is possible. During your healing, you may feel grief over the things that you didn’t get from your parent — and that’s perfectly natural. To get support while on your healing journey, you can post a Thought or Question on The Mighty by using the hashtag #CheckInWithMe.