We all know the saying, “You don’t get to choose your parents.” But what should we do if one or more of our parents are narcissists?
The quality of parent-child relationships defines the child’s physical, emotional, and social development. The way our parents treat us impacts not only how we perceive ourselves but also determines how we behave and perform in all aspects of life in the future.
For example, if children don’t get enough support, encouragement, and unconditional love, they will likely suffer from low self-esteem, codependency, disordered boundaries, and fear of romantic relationships in adulthood.
So, if you believe you were raised by a narcissist, keep reading this article to find out how to deal with a parent maintaining a self-centered personality style.
What is a Narcissism?
Today, the word “narcissist” is thrown around to describe any arrogant person who behaves in a proud, unpleasant way towards other people. But there’s a clinical definition of this term.
According to the American Psychological Association, narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental health disorder with the following characteristics:
(a) Inflated sense of self-importance;
(b) A superiority complex;
(c) Constant need for attention and recognition from others;
(d) Lack of empathy or consideration for others; and
(e) Self-centered thinking patterns, manipulativeness, and the inability to stand the slightest criticism from others.
Most, if not all of us, demonstrate narcissistic tendencies from time to time. However, it is estimated that only up to 5% of people have NPD, and around 75% of people living with this mental disorder are men. In other words, nearly 1 in 200 people have narcissism.
Best Ways to Deal With a Narcissistic Parent
Whether you have a narcissistic mother or father, you should find a way to set boundaries, process your feelings, and work on healing. Otherwise, you might end up living in constant doubt, worry, panic, and fear of failing or letting down others.
Let’s look at the most effective strategies to handle narcissistic parents and avoid childhood trauma.
1. Educate Yourself
There is no better way to start healing from narcissistic abuse than learning about what you’re dealing with. For example, you can start by reading books on this topic, joining thematic chat forums, watching documentaries depicting narcissistic parents, and seeking a therapist who understands narcissistic traits and tendencies. You will be able to move beyond the toxic influence of your family once you realize that this behavior isn’t normal or something to be accepted.
Keep in mind that your parents may not have all of the major signs of traditional narcissistic personality disorder, but they can still be qualified as narcissists. So, take time to dig into the signs, symptoms, and causes of narcissistic personality disorder to understand the magnitude of the problem affecting your life.
2. Put Your Health and Needs First
Another essential recommendation on how to deal with a narcissistic parent is putting yourself first. Most often, narcissistic parents behave as if their children’s feelings are invisible to them. This is why children usually grow up thinking their thoughts and feelings don’t matter.
By understanding the interplay between taking care of yourself and other family members, you will be able to minimize feelings like guilt, sadness, or shame. Thus, stop judging yourself and be open to new opportunities without worrying about your parents’ reaction.
3. Accept that Your Parent is Narcissistic
No matter how much you try to change your parent, there’s nothing you can do unless they willingly decide to get appropriate treatment. At the same time, considering that narcissistic parents have no awareness of how their behavior impacts their minor and adult children, the chances they change are unsurprisingly small.
In this case, your best option is to accept that narcissists rarely change and start building your own life filled with love, support, and respect.
4. Set Your Boundaries
Living with a narcissistic father or mother is very nerve-wracking, to say the least. People affected by this mental health problem typically ignore and violate the personal boundaries of their own children. So, it is extremely important to establish healthy boundaries in order to protect your self-esteem, maintain self-respect, and enjoy healthy relationships.
Do not be afraid to define your thoughts, values, and opinions even if your narcissistic parents disparage your beliefs or disrespect your “No” to get their way. Besides, your family should be aware of basic physical boundaries that are important to you. For instance, make sure to mention who has permission to touch you and how.
By setting your boundaries, you will be able to improve your comfort levels and reduce the negative impact of narcissistic behavior maintained by your parents.
5. Don’t Let Yourself Repeat Your Parents’ Narcissistic Behavior
It’s pretty common for children raised by narcissistic people to pick up some of the same characteristics, thereby developing into narcissists themselves. It can be explained by experienced childhood trauma and psychological manipulation.
Hence, if you want to prevent history from repeating itself, you should be mindful of your own behavior. Pay attention to each step you take throughout the day and analyze your behavior from different perspectives. This strategy can help you create loyal and trustworthy relationships based on equality and respect in the future.
6. Stop Blaming Yourself
No matter how bad narcissistic parents hurt you, remember that it’s not your fault they act in this way. Narcissistic personality disorder usually develops due to a combination of several factors, such as:
- Childhood trauma;
- Early relationships with parents, friends, and relatives;
- Hypersensitivity to textures, noise, or light in childhood; and
- Personality and temperament.
Not all narcissistic mothers and fathers are experts at deflecting and projecting blame onto others, but most are. They use a variety of psychological tricks to make you feel guilty. Keep in mind that their behavior is just an attempt to break your spirit and enjoy their control over you.
7. Take Control Over Your Decisions
It’s not uncommon for children affected by narcissistic abuse to engage in risky behaviors, such as alcohol/drug abuse, binge eating, compulsive computer gaming, self-injury, smoking, and chronic avoidance. The problem is that they don’t know any other way how to deal with a narcissistic parent.
Struggling with self-destructive or dysregulated behavior does not mean you are weak or selfish. It is a sign that you should build a strong support system of people who love you for who you are. If you don’t receive enough emotional support from others, make sure to ask for medical help.
8. Seek Qualified Mental Health Professionals
Growing up without unconditional love and care might be very damaging to our mental health. It can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts in some cases. Therefore, if you have the opportunity, contact a therapist who knows how to deal with a narcissistic parent.
Simple talk therapy, also called psychotherapy, can significantly improve your self-esteem, develop problem-solving skills, and build confidence. To manage your mental health issues, you may be prescribed to take medications, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs.
Millions of people aim to understand how to deal with a narcissistic parent. There’s no one-fit solution that works for everyone, but the recommendations outlined above can considerably help you deal with a narcissistic mother or father.