Adult children of narcissists suffer a wide range of symptoms. Due to the lack of empathy, their lives are deeply scarred.
I don’t have to be a psychologist to know my childhood was dysfunctional. And I know my parents failed at many things in raising me. I was left alone many times with a senile grandmother, sexually abused by an adult cousin, and physically abused by my father on occasion. Although I think there was a semblance of empathy present, it was fleeting since I was alone so much.
Now, whether or not I was a child of a narcissist, I do not know for sure. Do you know any adult children of narcissists that fit this description?
Struggling through adulthood
It’s okay, maybe I fit into the category of adult children of narcissists, or maybe something else entirely. But that’s just my story to help you understand a small portion of what could be a narcissistic rearing. Adults who were raised by narcissists can tell their own story in a list of struggles.
Yes, as adults, children of narcissists struggle in many ways.
1. Persistent self-doubt
We all fall victim to self-doubt every now and then, but there are those who deal with it all the time. When adult children of narcissistic parents doubt themselves, it becomes a way of life. Almost every decision they make is surrounded by all sorts of doubts and worries.
Unfortunately, these constant feelings of self-doubt attract toxic people into their lives. In relationships, they are vulnerable to unhealthy and toxic treatments such as gaslighting and projection. Think about it this way, if you doubt yourself, it’s easy to feel at fault for almost anything, even if it’s blatantly the other person’s mishap.
2. Feelings of worthlessness
Even worse than self-doubt, adult children of narcissists can develop extreme feelings of worthlessness. These feelings come from years of conditioning, where the child is made to feel at fault for everything. They are also told they are worthless and cannot do anything right.
In adulthood, these feelings of worthlessness can affect the ability to get a job, keep a relationship, or even function properly. It will be hard to realize the true worth of your abilities and talents. Everyone is good at something, but adults who have been taught to feel worthless will not be able to see this potential without help.
3. Love is different
Children of narcissistic parents experience love in a different way than other children. With narcissistic parents, children do not get to experience unconditional love. Everything seems to come at a price or condition. These parents also teach their children that love has limits as well. This sets them up for how they will love in the future.
As adults of narcissistic parents, love is odd. Love is measured by how much you can give or attain in a relationship, not by the actual quality of the union. These adults usually bond with other toxic adults and end up in highly dysfunctional relationships. These relationships often mirror the parent-child relationship they had growing up.
4. No freedom of speech
Children of narcissistic parents are taught that differences of opinions are considered “talking back”. Children aren’t allowed to have different opinions when rules are made. Believe it or not, this was a normal way of parenting when I grew up. Who knew it was narcissistic!
But, when you grow up with this sort of upbringing, you usually have trouble confronting people or speaking in your own opinion. You feel timid or afraid, and usually, decide to keep your opinion to yourself. Adult children of narcissists even sometimes pass this type of mentality on to their own children.
5. No independence
Children are often raised to be extensions of their parents. Oftentimes, parents attempt to live out their own dreams through their children’s lives. This starts at an early age and extends well into adulthood. Narcissistic parents often set up their children to become caretakers when they reach adulthood.
When adulthood does arrive, narcissistic parents constantly remind their children of the need to stay in touch. They become angry if their adult children do things which contradict what the parent needs or wants. There is always pressure for the adult child to always take care of the parent, limiting the adult child’s independence and thus, dashing any independent dreams or goals.
6. Repeating patterns
I touched upon this in an earlier example above, but many times adult children of narcissists will repeat toxic behavior with their own children. For instance, if your parents taught you that love was conditional, then maybe you will teach your own children that love has to be bought or has severe limits. And of course, this damages the chances that your child will be able to find true love. That’s a tragedy.
Changing how we view parenting
The truth is, many of our parents were narcissistic. We can see it when we try to discipline our own children, hence, the repeating patterns bit. So, the goal is to change techniques when raising our children.
I think, as parents, we should listen more to what our children are saying to us, instead of assuming they’re just being rebellious. Sometimes the truth is hidden behind those budding attitudes. I think we should also teach them about the truth of how great love can be, and not about the work we have to do to attain it.
In all honesty, we’ve got a lot of work to do in order to weed out these narcissistic traits we all use on a daily basis. Yes, I said it. We’re all narcissists, we all fall along the spectrum of narcissism at one point or the other. I think it’s time we discovered where that is, and work to become better people. Our children depend on it, wouldn’t you say?
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