Whether you have been in a relationship with a narcissist, or were brought up by one, their behaviours pave the way to a life lacking in self-love, confidence, and stability.
The main feeling that narcissistic abuse survivors deal with is that of not being worthy. They don’t feel worthy of having a good life, of getting married to a wonderful person and living the life of their dreams.
Unfortunately, this nasty feeling has been instilled in us for so long that we don’t doubt it anymore. It is natural for us to feel unworthy all the damn time about everything. If you were raised by a narcissist, you understand what I’m talking about.
Bellow are few traits of a narcissistic abuse survivors that others can identify and hopefully accept in us. I know that, for those folks who were never around a narcissist, the concept of emotional abuse is foreign. What is troubling is being in a relationship with a narcissistic abuse victim and feeling like you can never do anything to help.
But you can do something: support them through the pain of discovering that their parents are narcissists. This realization is heartbreaking. They will need to go through the stages of grief and let the abusive parents go. If you can stay with them all the way through, you’ll strengthen your relationship and you two will become even closer.
Traits of narcissistic abuse victims
This trait has been with me all my life. It’s like a friend who pushes you to drink just a bit more until you get drunk, otherwise you can’t be totally satisfied. This is a toxic friend that one has learned to accept and deal with.
Perfectionism has been instilled in narcissistic abuse survivors by their mother or father because, at their turn, these parents were perfectionists. My mother never allowed me to have my room less than in tip top shape. I needed to clean it every weekend. And, whenever she’d ask me to help her cook or clean, she’d find a way to tell me how wrong I am doing it. Then, she’d tell me to leave her alone because I cannot do as she asked. Sometimes I think that she’d set me up for failing each time she gave me a task. This way, she’d win every time and satisfy a certain need for validation.
Her words are still hurtful even after years of hearing them. Because she was my mother and I believed everything she said, I must have taken her words at face value. So, I indeed believed nothing I did was good enough.
This led to taking mediocre grades at school, having body anxiety during classes, isolating myself from others and leading an overall, unhappy teenage life.
2. People-pleasing behavior
When you’re raised by a narcissist, you need to cater to their every need. People-pleasers learned early on that, unless they satisfy their parents by being there for them all the time and doing whatever they ask, they can’t get their approval.
3. Low self-esteem
You can imagine that a narcissistic abuse survivor doesn’t posses enough self-esteem to manage their own life and live it to its full potential. Their self-image has been mauled for so long that they can’t recognize themselves as being good anymore. They will believe what the abuser tell them to believe.
4. No sense of self (or poor sense of self)
A child who suffered from narcissistic abuse will have no sense of self. This is because they were never let to express themselves when they were growing up.
For example, as a child I used to stay indoors and either doodle or write for long periods of time. Instead of encouraging this introverted part of me and assuring me that it was OK to be like that, my mother forced me to socialize and go out often. I would hear her complaining how bad it was for me to stay all day indoors and not do anything (of course I did a lot of stuff but, for her, drawing and writing were ‘nothings’). See, a healthy parent lets the child discover themselves. She creates the emotional space for the child to discover their individuality.
5. Anxious mindset
Once someone gets in a relationship with an abusive person, they will develop a protective mechanism. This mechanism is anxiety which is triggered in interaction with a new partner, work mate or friend. See, if they were abused by an ex, for example, their anxiety will go sky high whenever they enter a new relationship.
However, one can learn to relax more around new people by going to therapy, practicing meditation and changing the inner critical voice.
An adult child of a narcissistic parent is constantly used as a source of satisfaction, love and accomplishment. Unfortunately, this person will continue to be used if the contact with the abuser is still going.
Being used for so long makes the narcissistic abuse survivor extremely angry. He will be angry at themselves for letting this happen to them.
7. An inability to express positive or negative emotions
In an abusive family environment, there is no space for children to express their emotions. Narcissists are skilled at stuffing their own emotions and others’ emotions as well. This makes them deny emotions in others. Thus, they brush off any vulnerability they might stumble upon.
Moreover, if the child cries or gets angry, he’ll be punished in such a harsh way that, the child would be afraid of getting emotional next time.
It is quite scary to become vulnerable around a parent who cut themselves emotionally from everyone around them. They hate themselves and their own emotions, so they need to attack and punish anyone who reminds them of this. It makes sense, doesn’t it?
8. Poor boundaries
Narcissistic abuse survivors experienced a lack of boundaries in their relationship. The narcissist does what they want when they want, and personal space never gets in their way. They won’t bother with the normal set boundaries most of us have in place, because to them, there is no such thing as “your space.”
9. No trust
After narcissistic abuse, it is normal not to trust people or to be suspicious of everyone around. Therapy can help dissipate these intense feelings like one needs to be on guard all the time. Just in case a narcissist jumps out of the bushes at night and scares us straight.
10. Narcissistic fleas
It is common for a narcissistic parent to pass his/her traits onto their children. These toxic traits are called ‘narcissistic fleas’. I think a majority of narcissistic abuse survivors have them. I have them as well and, thankfully, I am more aware of them now then I was in the past.
Being sensitive to criticism, impulsiveness, childishness, perfectionism and self-pity are some of my narcissistic fleas. I know that they can be overcome. But, in order to get over these fleas, one needs to acknowledge them no matter how shameful they might be.
All in all, going through narcissistic abuse is a tough thing and no one wants to be told to pull themselves together or hurried into recovery. Be patient with yourself and overall, know that you are worthy of love.