- You don’t feel like a valuable person
- You feel anxious a lot of the time
- You are never very confident about the decisions you make; you tend to ask other people what the best thing is to do
- You wonder if you’re being too sensitive
- You sometimes feel like everything you do is wrong
- You always assume it’s your fault when things go wrong
- You apologise often, even if it’s not your fault
- You have a sense of dread or that something’s wrong, but aren’t able to identify what it is, so you feel on edge most of the time
- You make excuses for your parents’ behaviour
- You try to make everything ok for everyone else
If 5 or more of these ring true for you, then you have probably been raised by a self-absorbed parent. Being raised by a self-absorbed parent can have a profound impact on how we see ourselves and how our lives turn out and may even have led to an inability to trust ourselves.
Ask yourself: What happens when you do talk about yourself? Do they ask follow-up questions and express interest to learn more about you? Or do they make it about them?
Give me a child until they are 7 and I’ll show you the adult.
Children are completely dependent on their parents and other caregivers in the first 10 or so, years of life. We develop all our values, beliefs and sense of who we are, during this time. If our parents lack the ability to make us feel seen, validated, understood, at all interesting or accepted, we may carry throughout our lives a sense that we are not worth the time, the love, the abundance, the energy, the luck etc..
A child parented by a self-absorbed adult also may have an inability to say NO when they need to as this may have been seen to be selfish by the self-absorbed parent when they were growing up, so they may say yes to everything and everyone, leading them to feelings of exhaustion and being victimised.
This is all thanks to a self-absorbed parents’ inability to show empathy and to be so focused on their own needs and wants they do not see the child’s needs, wants and wishes, this leads to feelings of being invalidated, as if they are not worth listening to, understanding or being given time or shown any respect.
There are many reasons why a parent may put their needs ahead of their child, it could be that they are depressed and unable to focus on anything but getting through each day, it could be trauma, feeling overwhelmed and under resourced – again needing to focus on the functioning practicalities of the day rather than spend time or give attention to the child, the parent could have drug or drink dependencies and totally focused on satisfying that need, it could be that they were raised this way themselves and see no other way of parenting or it could be that they have Narcissistic tendencies – so lack empathy for others including their children. In this article, I’m focusing on being raised by a narcissistic parent and how that can lead to a child feeling that they are not worthy.
Children of self-absorbed parents often become people pleasers, being liked and accepted makes them feel safe. Unfortunately, being a people pleaser doesn’t gain someone any respect and doesn’t re-enforce their sense of their own personality.
A narcissist is a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves. Narcissists think the world revolves around them and have little interest in other people, including their children.
Although the narcissistic parent may seem incredibly likeable to people when they first meet – often seeming the life of the party. This doesn’t last for long. people may seem to gravitate towards the narcissistic parent, and they are well-liked on first impression as they love praise and love everyone to love them but overtime the interaction with others becomes a negative experience for the other person.
They’re too busy talking about themselves to listen to others. The warning is two-part they won’t stop talking about themselves, and second, they won’t engage in conversation about the other party. It always comes back to them.
They probably don’t have any long-term, real friends. Dig deeper into their connections and you may notice that they only have casual acquaintances.
As a result, they might lash out when you want to hang out with your friends. They might claim that you don’t spend enough time with them, make you feel guilty for spending time with your friends or doing activities that they are not interested in joining in, or they may berate you for the friends you have, putting them down to pull you back to them. This often happens when you meet a partner, the self-absorbed parent may make unkind remarks about your chosen partner and as by this time you are used to doing what they say, it may well make you re-think or question your choice as by this stage in your life you may not trust your own judgement.
A narcissistic person will use other people, people who are typically highly emphatic — to supply their sense of self-worth and make them feel powerful and loved. But because of their low self-esteem, their egos can be slighted very easily, which increases their need for compliments, although they may seem super confident, mostly they will lack self -esteem.
The main difference between people who are confident and those who are not is that they will need others to lift them up, and they will lift themselves up by putting others down. Two things people with high self-confidence do not do.
You may have even experienced a form of manipulation called gas-lighting, it is used for emotional control and it is a hallmark of narcissism. Narcissists may say blatant lies, falsely accuse others, spin the truth, and ultimately distort your reality, making you so confused, doubting your own mind that you back down and in so making sure that you remain under their control.
They do this to cause people to doubt themselves as a way to gain superiority. Narcissists thrive off being worshipped, so they use manipulation tactics to get people to do just that often seeming the life of the party and great fun to draw people in, sadly it doesn’t last for long. A person can’t relax in the company of a narcissist because one is never sure what they are going to do.
These behaviours when experienced as a child may lead to a child feeling empty, insecure in loving relationships, developing imagined fears, mistrusting others and themselves, experiencing identity conflict, and suffering an inability to develop a distinct existence from that of the parent. They often feel like they have no personality of their own. They may feel like they are unimportant and not valuable.
Dealing with a narcissist can be a draining experience, mostly because they can always find a way to become the victim and put the blame of whatever situation on another person.
You might have noticed that your parent always complains about being misunderstood. They might also find a way to feel hurt, even when the issue at hand is clearly not about them. You may find yourself not telling the parent something that you’ve done because you are protecting yourself against any criticism or because you know they will turn it into something about them, so why bother. It may be that nothing you do is ever good enough for the self-absorbed parent. You have been raised to suppress and deny your feelings, this needs work to change habits of a lifetime when you become an adult.
Narcissists are pretty good at finding fault in others, but struggle to see any issues in themselves. They’re also terrible at receiving criticism and will often become hugely upset when it’s suggested they are not perfect. Most people don’t like criticism, but narcissists are hyper-sensitive to it. You may have noticed that your self-absorbed parent may cry, scream, yell or throw tantrums whenever they are being criticised — or even if they think they have been criticised. You may notice that you tip toe around them, so they don’t kick off and cause a fuss making your life miserable.
Traditionally, parents are supposed to be caring, loving, empathetic people. So, it truly can feel like you’ve been dealt a bad deal when yours can’t seem to care about anyone else’s needs, they may struggle with empathy, and may be unable to put your needs first, possibly seeming uninterested in your life, unless you do something that positively impacts them and then they tend to take the credit for whatever it was you achieved.
Whenever you make big decisions — like moving to a new job, or deciding to get married — is your parent able to handle it? A narcissistic person operates from self-protection and if their ego is bruised or they feel a decision was made they could not control they can become cruel, blaming, defensive, and project immense amounts of guilt and shame into the other person. They are very difficult to deal with.
Since narcissists are so focused on themselves, they often find it difficult to give anyone else the time of day. You may have been ignored as a child, or routinely left with nannies or older siblings. And now that you’re an adult, you may struggle to phone your parent, or you notice that they don’t listen or let you talk whenever you visit. Whatever the case, a pattern of neglect is there, and it will affect the way the child feels about themselves. This in turn affects how others treat them as we are treated by others, the way we believe we deserve to be treated (deep down inside). If we have had the misfortune to be raised by a self-absorbed parent, we may be used to be treated in such a way that we are ignored, not respected, accepted or valued by others we meet. This often leads us to finding friends and partners who also exhibit the same behaviour – after all, it’s something we are familiar with.
A narcissist’s feelings can be hurt incredibly easily, so take note if your parent feels slighted all the time and over the tiniest things. If you say, ‘My mother-in-law gave me a lovely birthday gift,’ they might reply, Well, I’ve given you lots of beautiful gifts, haven’t I? There’s just no winning with them or making them happy. This can lead to feelings of resentment in the child. One thing to remember and this can be hard to accept, if your parent has narcissist tendencies, you won’t be able to change them. You can only work on your own self and perhaps grieve for the parent you never had.
Whether you feel the way you feel because you’ve been raised by a parent who is self-absorbed for any reason, there will still be a need to release some of the emotions you would have gained over the years that may keep you stuck. Also, a need to re-build yourself, maybe even ‘find or identify’ your personality and your strengths, but definitely to gain understanding and so come to terms with your upbringing and try to find a way to be ok about it so that you can relax and start to feel peaceful and contented.
If you think you’ve been raised by a narcissistic or self-absorbed parent for whatever reason, definitely consider going to a therapist for help. There are lots of ways that you can be helped to be who you were meant to be. Aside from learning how to better deal with and understand your parent, therapy can help you uncover all the damage they are likely to have done over the years and begin to redress the balance.
We may talk about how you can gain some control over your life, by starting to think to yourself, do I actually want to do this? when asked by the parent because you probably haven’t asked this question of yourself for a long time. Sit down quietly or even better ask another family member if you can, what you were like as a small child, this may help you to remember your true personality and then you can start working on getting back to that. Realise this isn’t your fault and begin to allow yourself to realise that you are a worthy, worthwhile person and have the right to make decisions for yourself and then forgive yourself if and when you make a wrong one – this could be very new for you. Take control anywhere that you can over your life.
I am qualified, insured and have 30 years’ experience – I would love to help you come back to who you should have been, if you had had a different start in life.
It would be my pleasure to help you re-gain or find yourself so we can work towards you gaining confidence in yourself and your abilities, we will do techniques that will help release some of the emotional trauma that you’ve experienced and re-visit your self-belief and boundaries and help you change to a more healthy, self-assured, calm picture of yourself. If your parent is still alive, we can come up with strategies so you can more easily cope with having them in your life, please give me a call. Mob: 07949072620 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Deborah Kerslake