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Narcissistic parent

  • 23-02-2023 7:07am
    Registered Users Posts: 96 ✭✭

    I’ve recently realised, or allowed myself to recognise, that I have a very narcissistic mother.

    I have always known she wasn’t the mother she should be, the one I deserved. It hit home when I had my own kids.

    Ive never addressed it-as I just knew once the can was opened there was no closing it-but the lid came off at the weekend without my interference and I can’t tell you how relieved I am. I finally saw what’s been hiding in plain sight for decades and had the strength to confront it and call her out.

    Ive never connected her narcissism and my issues as I thought they were unrelated and my issues were my fault because I suck. While that may be partly true reading and listening to podcasts over the weekend clarified so much. It explained where my-

    Self doubt

    Never feeling good enough/worthy

    Tendancy to self sabotage

    Self loathing

    Inability to deal with my own emotions

    Fear of rejection


    No sense of self

    could stem from. It has explain so much to me that I feel ready to go to therapy.

    Has anyone else been down this path? How did you deal with it? What steps did you take on your recovery journey? I am so worried I’ll be the same and damage my children. I’ve been afraid and anxious for so long and I want to feel better and happy-for me and my kids. What advice do any of you children of narcissists have?


    Post edited by HildaOgdenx on



  • Registered Users Posts: 1,039 ✭✭✭jpfahy

    How do you conclude that she is a narcissist?

  • Registered Users Posts: 96 ✭✭Clara B


    she is self absorbed, has to be the center of attention, jealous, doesn’t respect boundaries, vain, never happy, her love is conditional, she uses my looks/success as currency. I feel huge pressure to look a certain way and be successful so she can brag about it. She never tells me she’s proud of me no matter what I achieve. She favours my sister-who’s a little like her. Status is everything…..need I go on?

  • Registered Users Posts: 267 ✭✭Dslatt

    It isnt a big deal. About 5% of people are narcissists. So heaps of people have a parent (or in some cases two) who are narcissists. It's a mental condition, ignore their nonsense and carry on with your life. I say this as the child of a narcissist who has spent their adult life dealing with it by either keeping them at arms length or ignoring them altogether. We get on fine. Except in times of crisis when they are worse than useless and do my head in altogether 😅

  • Moderators, Recreation & Hobbies Moderators Posts: 2,581 Mod ✭✭✭✭Mystery Egg

    You might be in the wrong forum Clara. I have a similar experience to you and can say for me it was a very big deal. I have had to go no-contact for my own mental health. I recommend the podcast In Sight and wish you the best of luck with your journey. Many people will not understand, as already demonstrated here, but you will develop your own resilience and sense of self over time and will have confidence to put whatever boundaries in place that you need to. Good luck.

  • Moderators, Recreation & Hobbies Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 6,899 Mod ✭✭✭✭shesty

    Mod Note
    Moved to Personal Issues as you will probably get more responses there.
    Please PM if any issues with the move OP.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 6,526 ✭✭✭Tombo2001

    I guess there is a debate over the use of labels in this instance and how they useful they are. Is somebody a narcissist? How is it defined? How can you can conclude they are or they arent....and does labelling them change anything.

    The label is subjective, the behaviour isnt however and that is the issue you are really dealing with and coping with.

    "I am so worried I’ll be the same."

    The sheer fact of saying this would imply you wont be the same.

  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 6,991 Mod ✭✭✭✭Hannibal_Smith

    I havent got the qualifications to assess my mother as a narcissist. Certainly when I look it up she'd tick a lot of the boxes, but I'd be in no position to diagnose her.

    So my take away is that she can be a very nasty self centered person. Over the years I would have challenged her on it, but challenging her just feeds the monster. She is a master at turning arguments around or picking something you said and twisting it into a dagger through her heart.

    I used to blame her behaviour for a lot I would have endured, but at the end of the day I can either keep looking back, or just change to looking forward. I probably have some similar personality traits, but I try my best to spot them and change them and to not become her. That's all I can really do. I am totally disengaged from her. I don't feed her appetite for destruction (hah! I just got that!).

    Its sh*t that a mother carries on like this but you cannot change it or make them see sense and there is absolutely no reasonjng wth her. All you can do is manage yourself and your own behaviour/reactions.

    I didn't realise your mother was involved the argument with your sister btw. I thought your mother understood why you were late.

  • Registered Users Posts: 28,981 ✭✭✭✭Wanderer78

    >>Mod snip<<

    As per the forum charter - do not post links to/embed videos.



  • Registered Users Posts: 13 oldfriend213sf

    My therapist told me that having children is when a lot of people start coming to him to work through their own family trauma. Something about seeing the innocence of a baby and how vulnerable and dependent they are, reminds them of themselves as children and the penny drops. How much you needed. How little you got.

    There's so many things you could read and listen to here. I'd recommend The Body Keeps the Score, Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents, anything by Gabor Mate, I even find the Holistic Psychologist's instagram content very healing and relatable. Insight podcast as someone else mentioned.

    The one thing I'd warn though, is that a lot of us that had dysfunctional / toxic parents tend to over-analyse and live in our heads as a coping mechanism. For me, there was no emotional support and I was always over-shadowed by two very needy siblings so I learned to say nothing, feel nothing, sit back and over-analyse and become hypervigilant. Become "good" at any cost and get lumped with a total lack of self outside of that mould of what is "good" according to the toxic parent. At first I went down a rabbit hole of books and podcasts and then met a somatic healing therapist who told me that it was time to stop "working on healing" and to just grieve it all. You don't work your way out of trauma. You start to feel the feelings that you've been repressing for decades and boy is that HARD.

    There's a lot of pain in having a parent that never saw you, understood you, or loved you unconditionally. I call mine emotionally immature, because so much of my pain has come from her inability to understand me or anyone emotionally. And that's a really common trait to a person born in Ireland in the 40s/50s, and I forgive her for it because she tried her best. But I only reached that stage was by grieving the mother I never had, reconciling the fact that she will never change (that's a really really hard one, because I started this journey DEMANDING that she acknowledge her failures as a mother - big mistake), reflecting on how I've been abandoning myself for decades through her example of parenting and changing that relationship with myself. (In other words, a LOT of therapy!)

  • Registered Users Posts: 18,255 ✭✭✭✭Strazdas

    The words 'narcissist' and 'sociopath' get thrown around a lot on social media these days, but a narcissistic mother wouldn't be too hard to identify - usually emotionally cold and physically unaffectionate, harsh, critical and lacking in any empathy and often seeing themselves almost in competition with the child.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 6,526 ✭✭✭Tombo2001

    Thats interesting - probably for me a key differential is self awareness; people who can reflect on what they themselves are like, and people on the other hand who can never be wrong, everyone else is the problem.

    On the other hand, as a child you obviously learn more from your parents than from anyone else, and in particular you learn how to behave (or one does, not specifically you) from them. So quite possibly on the one hand, one is not narcisstic or whatever label you want to put on it, but on the other hand those norms are what one grows up with and so your own behaviour can also reflect that.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,526 ✭✭✭Tombo2001


  • Registered Users Posts: 96 ✭✭Clara B

    Really appreciate your comments-very helpful. Although I’ve just put a name on “what“ my mum and sister are, I have known for a long time that I was dancing around them to avoid confrontation and conflict. Being in a space with a therapist where I have license to be open with no repercussions is huge for me-as I’ve never had the freedom to express myself openly with them and I haven’t dared confront the Legacy my childhood left. In starting to even the small realisation that I am not responsible for their emotions or feelings has felt like a weight has been lifted. I get to for us on my own. Removing contact for a while will also allow we some space.

    I don’t blame them for who they are. There are reasons, very valid ones, that they are this way. I do t expect them to change-its not about that for me-it’s about how I manage them within my life and my family’s.

    I have, albeit unconsciously, kept my husband and oldest daughter, somewhat removed from them over the past few years. They are not show ponies and if they want to show up or visit they do, if they don’t then they don’t. I try and insulate them. The younger ones are still

    young enough that visits are short. If for 1 second it begins to negatively affect them I’ll pull

    contact back too.

    My greatest fear was becoming a parent like them. With my eldest I was until she was around 5. I think I realised when I was pushing her into swimming, horse riding, gymnastics, ballet and one evening she cried because she said she didn’t want to go horse riding. The penny dropped and instead of saying “I’ve paid €100 and your finishing “out of nowhere I said”ok, we will stop it all and you can choose to do what makes you happy”. Now I do that with them all. The choice is there for them to make and I consciously try and parent each one of them as the individuals they are. I hope I’ll keep growing and learning.

  • Registered Users Posts: 96 ✭✭Clara B

    I am not qualified either to diagnose my mum and sibling-but recognising behaviours and traits that i developed to cope with those behaviours is important for me to accept what was and cope with moving forward in a healthier way in my life and relationships. Having those difficult discussions in therapy with the space to allow myself feel emotions and express them in a healthy way instead of suppressing them and poisoning myself and continuing the cycle is what I need to do. It will help me find who I really am instead of living by the blueprint I was assigned.

  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 6,991 Mod ✭✭✭✭Hannibal_Smith

    Absolutely recognising their behaviour is important, but in the same way as you wouldn't diagnose a medical condition, its unfair to put a psychological label on some one.

    It's good you're going to therapy and also that you are making behavioural changes when you spot yourself doing something. The only thing I would say is be careful not to go too much the other way and letting the kids or your husband have too much leeway at your own cost, for fear that standing up for what you want might turn you into your mother/sister. There's a happy medium where what you want lives and that's ok.

  • Registered Users Posts: 925 ✭✭✭TheadoreT

    The Internet would lead you to believe every 2nd person in the world is a narcissist. Nothing you've written here would particularly raise massive alarms to be honest.

    Obvioulsy our parents play a large role in our conditioning. But people ruminate on these things ad nauseum and blame all their issues on other people while often neglecting fundamental mental health habits like healthy eating and exercise. Getting control of those things will improve your list of issues no end. And you'll probably be in a healthier mental space to view your family less harshly.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,319 ✭✭✭Tork

    The first time I ever heard the word narcissist was in relation to a friend's mother over 10 years ago. I remember her explaining what it was to me because I'd no idea. Move along a few years and suddenly the condition was everywhere. Like others on the thread, I'd be slow to put a label on your mother without a professional assessment. Having said that, it's good that you recognise that she's not the parent you'd like her to be. My friend and her siblings now keep their mother at arm's length and that works for them. It's not always easy to cut a parent completely out of your life but being realistic helps. You can restrict what she knows about your life and you can keep your relationship pleasant but superficial.

    Going to therapy and trying not to be like your mother are signs that you're not going to put your own kids through the same experiences you went through. But I wholeheartedly agree with Hannibal Smith. You sound like you could be over-compensating in the other direction, such is your desire not to be like your mother. It'd be helpful to chat to your husband and see how he sees things.

  • Registered Users Posts: 18,255 ✭✭✭✭Strazdas

    I think the word 'narcissist' is totally misused on social media. But a mother for example who shows no physical affection to a child, never tells them they love them and is emotionally unavailable and unsupportive would not be a "normal" situation by any stretch of the imagination....there are clearly personality disorder issues going on with such a mother, that can't simply be explained away by her not being a perfect mother.

    Keep in mind too that a narcissist would not be defined as being mentally ill and are usually able to function reasonably well in society (they are often obsessed with with their public image and how they are coming across to others outside the family, making them the opposite of a person with mental health problems).

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,526 ✭✭✭Tombo2001

    Ah look..... its not just narcissist that gets thrown around. Loads of labels get thrown around - how often do you hear someone described as a 'schizo' for example. Thats not a label or term that should be thrown around lightly, but it is....

    The thing, as I understand it, with narcissism - is that on the one hand, you cant form that opinion without a professional assessment (as mentioned above) but on the other hand, there is a chicken and egg because a narcissist will not accept any situation where they might be judged or exposed or criticised. They wont allow that to happen.

    Anyway, to be honest it sounds like OP is on a journey in dealing with this; which is a good thing (the alternative being, not dealing with it).

  • Registered Users Posts: 13 oldfriend213sf

    I don't think the labels and diagnoses are necessary for healing and moving forwards towards a better life and better sense of self either.

    It's simply about understanding yourself now, what your needs are, what your values are, how you were impacted by not really getting the emotional understanding or support that you needed by your primary caregivers for most of your early life. What helps you to feel safe now, and how you can build the necessary boundaries and support system to stay in that safety zone that you might not have had when you were younger. Those early years are critical, critical developmental years and falling into a family role that requires you to suppress your feelings at that stage is literally life-changing - it informs your core beliefs, your sense of identity, your ability to self-regulate, your attachment style, the way you manage your relationships.

    As an example: I wasn't really emotionally nurtured, my parents were busy and traumatised themselves; then they had three children and I was the only one that gave them a minute's peace in their lives. I became the "good, quiet child": I excelled at school and any hobbies I did and was expected to parent those siblings in addition to staying quiet and compliant and not voicing anything that didn't help my stressed parents out. But I really fell between the gaps emotionally and was taught that my emotions weren't welcome or to be trusted, my needs weren't as important as other peoples', I had to be the best at whatever I tried my hand at in order to be lovable or worthy, and that I couldn't trust my own instinct and had to rely on the world to tell me what was best for me.

    Every emotional, relational, social and professional challenge I've had in my life is rooted in this. Never mind loving myself: in order to stop actively LOATHING myself and completely self-sabotaging and learn how to live a life of my own choosing and not just exist in survival mode trying to meet everyone else's expectations of me, I had to go back to that abandoned kid and figure out what she needed and work my way from there.

    That might sound woo-woo to some people, but no amount of eating well and exercising was going to change this fundamental brain wiring that dictated the direction and quality of my life. I had to start by looking at my family of origin and the family role that was assigned to me. I'd never call my mother or father a narcissist. Who knows what they are, the only things I do know are that A. they did the best they could with the resources and knowledge available to them and B. it was no-where near the parenting and nurturing I needed.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 18,255 ✭✭✭✭Strazdas

    I'm not sure though that the affected person even needs to be 'right' in their assessment of the person who has caused emotional problems for them. The only concrete knowledge they have is that the other person's behaviour impacted on them badly. If they decide that the other person was a narcissist, that seems fair enough - even if they are wrong, their belief that the person was a narcissist will allow them to take steps to recover.

    It is unlikely that the affected person would ever actually accuse the other person of being a narcissist face to face - it would be pointless and the other individual would always flatly deny it anyway.

  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 6,991 Mod ✭✭✭✭Hannibal_Smith

    @Tombo2001 and @Strazdas PI is an advice forum. If you wish to discuss Narcissism there are other areas on boards where you can do that. As per the PI Charter, please offer advice to the OP when replying to their thread.



  • Registered Users Posts: 13,505 ✭✭✭✭Mad_maxx

    My dad ( deceased twenty years plus ) was a narcissist , he exhibited all of the traits you list , a narcissist is completely and totally self absorbed, they believe other people’s interests should align perfectly with theirs , as if other people are props in their life

    they expect you to always be at their beck and call but will not only not want to know if you need help, they will outright pile on you in your darkest hour

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,314 ✭✭✭phormium

    I'm not going to derail by going on about my mother, suffice to say I did my best not to be like her but with age I have certainly realised that had she been born in this era of birth control instead of in the 1930s and married in the 60s I am fairly sure she would have chosen not to have children. That's fair enough, it wasn't for her, unfortunately the times she was in there wasn't a lot of options!

    I think it's important to remember too that children of that era had a very different upbringing, larger families, less money, there is no doubt her own mother was not of the nurturing type either but then again she had 7 kids and widowed fairly early so a hard enough life in general.

    Now obviously if you're talking about a much younger parent then those reasons don't work as part explanation for a lot of things!

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,358 ✭✭✭raclle

    This looks vaguely familiar. OP did you post something similar about your sister recently? If it was I think you mentioned your mother sided with your sister a lot.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,213 ✭✭✭Mic 1972

    Parents are not perfect. Becoming an adult also means accepting parents as people and reasses our expectations over them.

    Forgive your mum while she's still around, you'll miss her when she's gone

  • Registered Users Posts: 745 ✭✭✭dontmindme

    Now obviously if you're talking about a much younger parent then those reasons don't work as part explanation for a lot of things!

    Ah they do...they had parents didn't they?

  • Registered Users Posts: 526 ✭✭✭Kurooi


    I had the experience, reaching adulthood I started noticing and getting annoyed with character shortcomings. Some pretty awful. Bottled it up at first, over the years then came to understand everyone is just human. You can't expect more from your parents because they're parents, or because they're older. Life made them who they are and you don't have to like or accept everything about them.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,211 ✭✭✭Sunrise_Sunset

    I do not agree with this at all.

    Society for the most part has a toxic attitude towards these situations. Telling us to keep people like this in our lives because they are family.

    I had a narcissistic Dad. I went semi-no contact at first, but then went no contact. It was the only thing that got me through.

    OP, look up Josh Connolly on Instagram, and he has podcasts too. He has helped me a lot.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 8 NoWayOutNow

    Hello OP, yes I know what it's like for you, had the same parents, everything revolving around them and your life and feelings meant nothing to them.

    Sorry I didn't read the rest of the posts by everyone else but I will later. Just want to say that you not imagined it all, there's lots of parents like this and as another poster said you should accept her for what she us- I disagree, your mother is definitely self aware of her actions and the people saying that circumstances created her, well that's a cop out too.

    Sorry I don't have any advice but you need to put yourself first and realise that you can't change your mother she's in her own world and your life means nothing to her. Sorry for this but I'm speaking from experience too. No I'm not going to get caught up in the correct description of your mother's condition like others here but you know what she is.

    Good luck

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