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9 signs you were probably raised by a narcissistic parent

“Family is supposed to be our safest haven. Very often, it’s the place we find the deepest heartache.” — Iyanla Vansant

Admit it, most of us like to be perceived in a positive light, maybe some more than others. Others, however, may be a bit more extreme, projecting perfection on the outside, and then acting the exact opposite in private.

Your family members may be like them, and generally it is important to recognize if you were raised by a narcissistic parent for your own mental health and well-being.

A narcissist is self-absorbed, has an inflated sense of self-worth, and an identity based on the praise and approval of others.

They believe that they are better than others, have an exaggerated list of achievements, and fantasize about money, power, and brilliance.

They are also prone to feelings of intense shame or anger when criticized or when they make mistakes. Because narcissists are focused on how other people reflect on them, intimate relationships are largely superficial since there is little empathy for other people’s feelings or experiences.

Narcissism is easy enough to ascribe to someone, but there is also a real condition known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), which is described by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as one of 10 personality disorders.

Research shows that around less than 1 percent of the general population has what may be considered as full-blown NPD. However, anywhere from 2 to 16 percent who seek professional help have the disorder.

Families generally find out that loved ones have NPD when interactions are at the point of destroying familial, professional, and even social relationships.

Therapist Wendy Behary, founder of The Cognitive Therapy Center of New Jersey and author of the book Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed, stresses that its important to determine if you were raised by a narcissistic parent to ensure that such relationships are not lost, and that affected loved one can get the help they need.

Children raised by a narcissistic parent need to know the signs to be in the position to demand that parents get help. However, Behary, who specializes in treating people with NPD and their “survivors,” said that people might not even realize that their parents were narcissists until they seek help for their own mental and emotional issues.

Behary and psychologist Craig Malkin, author of the book Rethinking Narcissism: The Bad — And Surprising Good — About Feeling Special, noted down signs of people raised by a narcissistic parent, and what adult children must do to break the cycle of destructive decisions. Some of these signs include the following:

  1. You’re a complete doormat.

Children raised by a narcissistic parent were taught that their own desires and needs do not matter. As such, they are not in touch with what they want and have no idea how to express or address their own desires.

They end up being trampled on, and some even feel sick, crazy, or selfish when they express even their most basic needs. As adults some feel worthless and may cower in the face of authority figures that remind them of their narcissistic parent.

  1. You feel like you’re never good enough.

People raised by narcissistic parents often don’t receive unconditional love, which causes them to question their own self-worth. They often remain stuck in the same role they had as children since they don’t measure up to their parents’ expectations.

  1. You feel relentlessly competitive with, or resentful of, your sibling.

In families with multiple children, some may be chosen to be groomed as the mirror image of the narcissistic parent, while another may be shamed as the burden compared to the favored child. This builds pressure for the siblings to perform and creates harsh competition.

  1. You sometimes feel you were more your parent’s partner than their child.

While some narcissists want to be the star, others play the victim and stress that their problems are greater than anyone else’s. This causes the children raised by a narcissistic parent to constantly resolve problems to maintain peace and ensure that no is hurt. Having to build this emotional support makes the child feel more of a partner to the parent, rather than the child who needs care.

  1. You derive self-worth solely from your achievements.

Some children of narcissists learn to define themselves based only on their performance and achievements. Some become workaholics since what matters is only what they can produce in the world.

  1. You have no sense of yourself, your wants, your needs, or your goals.

Narcissists feel that they are superior to others even though they may lack the achievements to justify such grandiose thoughts. They find meaning in living vicariously through their children and as a result, the children lose their sense of self, and become a reflection of the narcissistic parent rather than their own person.

  1. You might self-sabotage.

No matter how successful a child raised by a narcissistic parent becomes, there is a tendency to self-sabotage because of pressures from and the high expectations of the parents.

  1. You have relationship problems.

Children raised by narcissistic parents tend to repeat the cycle by seeking partners with more passive personalities whom they can manipulate.

  1. You struggle with your own emotions.

It is traumatizing to be raised by narcissists and children often cope by regulating their emotions, which then lead to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.  

What should children raised by narcissistic parents do when they finally acknowledge the signs? Learning more about narcissism and talking to a mental health professional is crucial especially when it affects relationships, work, or daily life.

Reaching out to siblings can also help, particularly if the children were played off against each other, leading to competition and resentment in the family. This dynamic is not the children’s fault, but an effect of a parent’s narcissistic behavior.

Since children raised by narcissistic parents often lose their self-worth and identity. It is thus important to acknowledge your own personal and emotional needs, and these are not being fulfilled by your parents.

Empathize but do not feel sorry for your parents. Recognize that at whatever level, this is abusive behavior and must not be tolerated.

Still, there must be a level of understanding and care when dealing with narcissism in the family. Narcissists are also suffering and deep down, they feel shame, vulnerability, and low self-esteem.

They may not be who they appear to be on the surface. According to the Mayo Clinic, genetics and neurobiology also play a role in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

While it is crucial to understand the long-term effects of being raised by a narcissistic parent, handling the issue should not be about blaming mom and dad.

It should focus on forgiving, healing relationships, and resolving not to replicate toxic behavior with existing relationships.

Healing from the effects of narcissistic parenting is a gradual journey with ups and downs. Be patient with yourself and celebrate even small progress. Consider joining support groups or online communities with others on a similar path. Prioritize your well-being and emotional health to break free from lingering effects and build a more fulfilling life.

To learn more about this topic, watch the video below:

(Note: This article is for informational purposes only and not to be treated as a professional opinion or diagnosis.)

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Chita Morales

Monday 4th of September 2023

I need also help


Wednesday 2nd of August 2023

I was married to a severe narcissist for 32 years. I became alcoholic. I divorced her and became a sober alcoholic for the last 26 years.

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