What is a narcissist?
Narcissism is defined as “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration and lack of empathy.” It usually begins in early adulthood, and it presents in a variety of ways, including:
- Having a grandiose sense of self-importance
- Being preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success
- Believing he or she is “special” and can only be understood by other “special” people
- Requires excessive admiration
- Has a sense of entitlement, like unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
- Is interpersonally exploitative. They take advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
- Lacks empathy and is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
- Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
- Shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes
In order for someone to be diagnosed with NPD, they must meet a minimum of five or more of these patterns. However, these criteria aren’t always that black and white, says Stanton. “We’re all a little narcissistic to various degrees, but it’s when it becomes pathological that you need to worry,” he says.
Signs you have a narcissistic mother or father
So what are the signs unique to parent-child relationships that begin bordering on pathological? We asked Stanton to explain a few.
Their standards are unrealistically high
Those with NPD often have high standards for others. “That could potentially extend to their children and could mean thinking their child is the best and deserves recognition or seeing the child as an extension of him or herself,” says Stanton.
Narcissism can also manifest as thinking their child needs to be a superstar in their career, or very good looking—beyond a reasonable standard. It really becomes a problem when it affects others, like a parent contacting a child’s coach or professors, which creates more issues for the child, who might be viewed more negatively.
They don’t seem to care about what’s happening in your life
Does your parent frequently tell you everything going on in their lives without ever asking you what’s going on in yours? Or, do they tell you just to put on a happy face, despite what you’re really feeling? If you find yourself sweeping your feelings under a carpet, this could be a red flag that you have a narcissistic parent. The parent is too preoccupied with their own needs to tend to yours.
Sometimes, you feel like you’re the parent
If you’ve been acting more like a caretaker than a child since you were young, this is just one way your parent could be taking advantage of you. Other ways could include borrowing money from you without repaying. Sometimes, a parent will also do something nice for their child, like praising, complimenting or helping with chores, but they expect their children to return this favour with a lot of praise, explains Stanton.
They expect you to worship them
A parent who is domineering or authoritarian often needs a lot of attention and praise. An example is a parent expecting whatever they say or do to be followed or respected without question from others.
They truly believe you are perfect
Every parent believes that about their kids, but narcissists take it to an extreme. Another common trait of narcissistic parents is projecting their own narcissism on their children by seeing them as perfect or special—beyond reproach.