13 Tiny Ways Being Raised By A Narcissist Will Affect You

You live your whole life based on the way your parents treated you as a child.

Last updated on Jun 26, 2024

Girl raised by a narcissistic parents realizes the ways it can affect her. J Meza Photography | Canva

If you were raised by a narcissistic parent, that legacy may affect you in multiple ways. The following list contains behaviors common among narcissistic parents. As you read through this list, you may identify which one of these applied to your childhood. When you were growing up, did one or both of your parents:

  • Criticize or second-guess your choices?
  • Ruin happy times with their selfish behavior?
  • Give you gifts with strings attached?
  • Forbid you to disagree with them or punish you for doing so?
  • Use guilt or pressure to make you put their needs first.
  • Have a "come here"/"go away" style that was confusing and unsafe?
  • Behave unpredictably?
  • Over-scrutinize you?
  • Create drama, scapegoated, and disharmonized in your family?
  • Seem never satisfied with you?
  • Play the martyr?
  • Become unhinged by your questions or independence?
  • Tell you that you could trust them, then disappoint or use you?
  • Minimize or ridicule your feelings and desires?
  • Need to be the center of attention or dominate conversations?
  • Leave you feeling trapped, unloved, hopeless, or helpless?

RELATED: 8 Long-Lasting Effects Of Having Narcissistic Parents, According To A Harvard Psychologist


Each of these parental behaviors can leave lasting, negative legacies. A key step in moving on from a negative legacy is to recognize any connections between your upbringing and present-day unwanted behaviors. The following shows possible connections between unhealthy patterns in your adult life and narcissistic parental behaviors in your childhood. 

Here are 13 tiny ways being raised by a narcissist will affect you:

1. You have difficulty making decisions

Possible connection: Your parents criticized or second-guessed your choices.

2. You get uncomfortable when good things happen

Possible connection: Your parents ruined good times with selfish behavior or gave gifts with strings attached.

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3. You worry or ruminate over confrontations with others

Possible connection: Your parents forbade you to disagree with them or punished you for doing so.

4. You often please others at your own expense.

Possible connection: Your parents used guilt or pressure to make you put their needs first.

5. You feel unable to get close to others even when you want to

Possible connection: Your parents had a "come here"/"go away" style that was confusing and unsafe.


RELATED: The Narcissistically Disordered Family

6. You find it difficult to relax, laugh, or be spontaneous

Possible connection: Your parents behaved unpredictably or over-scrutinized you.

7. You feel inexplicably drawn to turmoil rather than harmony in your relationships

Possible connection: Your parents created drama, scapegoated, and disharmonized in your family.

8. You expect too much of yourself

Possible connection: Your parents never seemed satisfied with you.

9. You view others as fragile or view yourself as too much for others to handle

Possible connection: Your parents played the martyr or became unhinged by your questions or independence.


10. You trust others unwisely or conversely find it hard to trust, even when you want to

Possible connection: Your parents told you that you could trust them, then disappointed or used you.

RELATED: Woman Cries After Realizing Her Narcissistic Parents Gave Her Gifts They Knew Would Purposely Make Her Sad

11. You feel numb or have difficulty knowing what you are feeling

Possible connection: Your parents minimized or ridiculed your feelings and desires.


12. You feel extra-sensitive around bossy, entitled, or manipulative people

Possible connection: Your parents needed to be the center of attention or dominate most conversations.

13. You self-soothe through excessive food, drink, shopping, or other addictive behaviors

Possible connection: Your parents’ behavior left you feeling trapped, unloved, hopeless, or helpless.

Human behavior is complex and it would be a simplification to say that if your parent did X, you will automatically do Y. But narcissistic parenting is a powerful influence on children and it is important to take stock of your past. As a child, acknowledging the truth about your narcissistic parent when you had little power or resources to do anything about it could have been devastating. As a result, you may have learned to ignore the dysfunction, acted as if it was normal, blamed yourself for it, or counted the days until you could leave home.

Such coping strategies may have helped you emotionally survive a difficult childhood — and it is important to honor whatever helped you survive in childhood — but those coping strategies may manifest later in life in self-defeating ways like some of the 13 patterns listed above. As an adult, making connections such as these may bring up emotions such as anger, sadness, or dismay. But if you had a difficult upbringing, it does not mean you are irreparably damaged or that your life will always be difficult. None of the 13 patterns are life sentences. Everybody has challenges in life; some of the above tendencies may be your challenges.


In addition, you may have received good things from your upbringing, no matter how dysfunctional your parenting. Even the most narcissistic of parents can contribute positive qualities and gifts to their children. The adversities of your childhood may have increased your resilience, empathy, awareness, and growth. You are not a victim nor are you powerless. The opportunity to recognize unhealthy legacies is to break the connections. Each time you notice yourself falling into one of the patterns listed above, remind yourself: "This may have been my history but it doesn’t have to be my destiny." Then ask yourself empowering questions such as: "What is the best way to take care of me and meet my needs in this situation? Is this how I want to treat myself or others? Who do I want to be in the world right now?"

If you think you may be experiencing depression or anxiety as a result of ongoing emotional abuse at the hands of a narcissist, you are not alone.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone and is not a reflection of who you are or anything you've done wrong.

If you feel as though you may be in danger, there is support available 24/7/365 through the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233. If you’re unable to speak safely, text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474.

RELATED: How I (Barely) Survived My Narcissist Mother


Dan Neuharth, Ph.D., has more than 25 years of experience in private practice as a licensed marriage and family therapist. He is the author of Secrets You Keep From Yourself: How to Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness.