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While parents are meant to be a child’s source of comfort, the children of narcissistic parents grow up feeling worthless, unloved and guilty without any reason.
“While growing up in a normal family means learning to share your toys and figuring out your own identity, being part of a narcissistic family means fighting for survival. Rather than spending their time working out what music they like, where their strengths are, and what they want to be in life, children of narcissistic parents are busy finding their ‘role’,” according to trauma therapist Shannon Thomas.
To understand the lifelong trauma experienced by narcissistic survivors, it is important to understand the definition of narcissism. According to Wikipedia, it is the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s idealised self image and attributes. This includes self-flattery, perfectionism, and arrogance.
When one lives with a parent who looks in the mirror and sees an angel or a saint, it can sometimes feel hard to measure up. Narcissistic abuse in childhood can leave you with mental scars as real and painful as any physical wound or bruise.
Unfortunately in our society, the concept of emotional abuse, let alone abusive parents, is considered non-existent and even if acknowledged, is swept under the rug of culture, tradition and societal expectations.
Children of narcissistic parents grow up feeling worthless, unloved and guilty without any reason. They get stuck in a constant cycle of people pleasing and self-effacement a result of their efforts since childhood to ‘keep the peace’, avoid their parents’ wrath and gain their approval. Many such children end up in abusive or manipulative relationships as adults due to the conditioning they underwent as children. More dangerously, some can even end up with serious mental problems such as anxiety, depression or even PTSD.
A child’s first love, first role model, first best friends are his or her parents. In a world that can sometimes be a scary and confusing place, they rely on their parents to help them, to guide them and protect them from harm. No matter how cruel the outside world can be, parents are meant to provide an oasis of comfort and unconditional love.
Unfortunately, the children of narcissistic parents are not afforded this privilege. They live on edge, walking on eggshells, afraid that one wrong word or move or even look could set off the narcissistic parent.
Those blessed with loving parents can never imagine how it feels – to be guilt tripped, manipulated, body shamed and humiliated constantly by their own mother.
To be told constantly that you would turn into a fat cow and nobody would ever marry you. To be constantly compared to your siblings and pitted against them. To never measure up to her expectations, no matter how hard you tried. To spend your childhood feeling guilty or ashamed for liking things she didn’t approve of. To repress your own personality hoping it will get you her love and approval. To spend the rest of your life wondering if you will ever be successful, if you will ever be worthy, if you even deserve a place in the world…
To love or value oneself is a normal healthy human instinct. Narcissism however goes beyond the bounds of healthy self-esteem to become something harmful, not as much to the narcissists themselves as to the victims of their abuse. And yes, it is abuse. Though it doesn’t leave any visible scars or bruises, it leaves a mark on the victim’s soul – sometimes permanently. It can feel impossible to think that those scars will ever heal but they will.
Today is Children’s Day. To the inner child who is still hurting, this is a reminder that what happened to you is real, you are not at fault. You deserve to feel sad, angry and hurt ,and most importantly you are better than whatever you were told you were.
You are not useless because your parent wanted to feel important, you are not ugly because your mother wanted to feel beautiful, you are not dumb because your father wanted to project his insecurities onto you.
You are worth it and you deserve a wonderful life and all the happiness in the world. And somewhere, someone believes you and believes in you.
Image via Unsplash
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