The Narcissistic Father: Everything You Need to Know (2023)

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You used to believe that you’d have your life together by the time you were in your twenties and most definitely by the time you were in your thirties: You’d be starting a successful career, owning a home, being in a committed relationship, going to the gym regularly enough to have the body you’ve always wanted, and having a vibrant social life.

However, you’re not where you expected to be, and the small boxes next to the list of accomplishments you had intended to make are still blank.

You reflect on your background and remember your father, Mr. Self-Assured, as your confidence wanes. He had a reputation for success, charisma, and popularity. Unlike you, he never appeared to suffer from self-doubt. He knew everyone, was the party’s life and made things happen. You were infatuated with him.

How Kids Experience Narcissistic Traits

Did his confidence, in retrospect, verge on conceit? Is it conceivable that a narcissist brought you up? If so, why is it significant?

We naturally take our family for granted; it’s only normal. Every family is a little sociological experiment with its unspoken laws, dark secrets, and complex behavioral patterns. We assume that our parents’ behavior will be the same for everyone and take their care for granted. While it’s possible that your father was narcissistic, you just thought that all dads were the same.

Here are several indicators that your father may have been a narcissist in whole or part.

  • Dad was very egotistical and arrogant. He believed he was great and deserving of nothing but the finest because of his overinflated sense of self-importance.
  • Dad manipulated others for his gain. When it suited him, he would take advantage of others to the point of exploiting them. Everyone seemed to cater to him, or at least that’s what he anticipated.
  • Dad had a lot of charm. He was the center of attention and enjoyed receiving praise from others.
  • No one had a better imagination than Dad; he liked being the focus of attention and the affirmation that came with it. His delusions of fame, fortune, and brilliance were tempting, much like bragging. His aims and objectives sometimes bordered on the irrational, and he often exaggerated his accomplishments.
  • Dad wasn’t a good criticizer. Nothing wounded him more than criticism, and he often sought to harm or exclude such individuals from his life.
  • Dad’s fury was quite terrifying. Some folks shout a lot when they’re angry. Dad could get angry and harm you. To the bone, it sliced.
  • Dad could be distant and insensitive. Narcissists often struggle with empathy; they frequently discount and reject what other people are feeling. He was, of course, quite sensitive to how he felt.
  • Dad wasn’t always present. He found a lot of satisfaction outside except in the family. Many more dads than I spent time with their families. Additionally, he appeared more preoccupied with what other people thought of him than how his children felt about him. He also needed excitement.
  • When it came to you, Dad treated you as he wanted to. Narcissists seldom put themselves in another person’s position. He engaged in activities with you that he found enjoyable; maybe you did too.
  • Dad wanted his friends and coworkers to think well of you. It’s sad but true that he valued you best when he could boast about you.
  • He wasn’t able to meet your needs. Dad supplied materially, yet you still felt deprived on a deeper level. For instance, even if you want his love and attention, he only gives it to you sometimes and only when it is convenient for him.

Some of these attributes may resonate with you, while others may not. While others may ring less true, others may be quite true. Because of this, narcissistic characteristics and personality disorders are not the same.

The Heuristic Problem of Personality Classification

Narcissism is not a negative term; in fact, the majority of us exhibit narcissistic qualities. That is not disturbing in any way. A narcissistic personality disorder is an opposite extreme; it is a contentious but often useful diagnosis. For the record, our diagnostic classifications lack the validity of more difficult medical diagnostic terms like a shattered femur or glaucoma. They are also fairly arbitrary. These illnesses are simpler to research and record. Personality disorders assist us in organizing our thoughts about a person, but they may fall well short of a realistic representation of a whole, complicated person.

It might be difficult to determine if someone is selfish or has a positive view of themselves. Narcissism is a love of oneself that has turned into an obsession rather than a high level of self-confidence. The phrase is based on the Greek legendary figure Narcissus, whose fatalistic obsession with himself inspired the phrase.

Narcissism may become so pathological, even when it isn’t truly lethal, that it meets the erroneous criteria for a personality disorder. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is described as “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts… as indicated…. by the following” in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV-TR):

  • desiring admiration; feeling entitled; being exploitative; lacking empathy; being jealous; arrogance

A disdain for personal boundaries is another trait common to narcissists. The need for limits is something that narcissists often fail to accept, along with the fact that other people are not only there to serve their wants. A narcissist often treats others, particularly those close to him, as if they exist to satisfy his wants and expectations.

Let’s look at how a narcissistic parent could impact his children now that you clearly understand what he might be like. (Narcissistic moms will be discussed at a later time.)

How a Narcissistic Father Can Hurt His Son or Daughter

Children of narcissistic parents often experience damage. For instance, they could disregard rules, manipulate their kids by withholding love (until they behave), and fail to provide for their needs since they come first. Narcissists may expect perfection from their children because they place so much value on their appearance. The offspring of a narcissist parent may feel pressure to improve their skills, charm, intelligence, or appearance. If they carry out Dad’s desires, it might cost them; if not, it could cost them. No victory here.

Here is how a narcissistic parent may often impact a daughter or son.

When it comes to receiving the attention they need from their dads, daughters of narcissistic fathers often speak of feeling “unsatiated.” They had to fight with siblings for time with their father since they could never get enough. Dad used to tell you that you were so pretty when you were a little kid. But as you got older, dad seldom avoided making remarks about your weight and attitude. Even if you were successful, these worries are undoubtedly still present in your adult life. It’s never enough when you have a dad like him. With guys (or women), you often feel exposed and fear being passed over by someone else. It’s normal and self-protective to avoid commitment out of anxiety or adopt a narcissistic persona to keep relationships secure. However, you fail.

A daughter needs her father’s admiration because it affirms her and enables her to see her uniqueness. That gift is given to daughters by wholesome dads. Because you are unique, you merit love.

Being the son of a narcissistic parent, you always feel inadequate. Dad was so competitive that he pitted you against one another. (Or didn’t pay any attention to you in any case.) You may have conceded defeat; your father will always be the best. You could have worked hard to defeat him at his own game to attract Dad’s attention and at least a little bit of fatherly pride. You never feel as if you are good enough, and even when you do accomplish, you still feel inferior.

Boys also need their fathers to believe in them, as girls do, to feel loved and acknowledged.

What is the best way to deal with a narcissistic father?

  • Find a quality therapist. You want to accept your father for who he is and how he damaged you. After all, he is your father, and you must set yourself apart from him to appreciate his presence without feeling undercut. It’s a difficult job.
  • Be tolerant of Dad as he is. It may be irritating to deal with his conceit and ongoing ego-stroking. If you picture him in your head, he could just come off as a kind but irritating parent. Take the finest, provided he isn’t still capable of harming you.
  • Keep Dad from hurting you. You could choose to jump in the vehicle and go if he has a fury fit. Limits are often beneficial. “Dad, this isn’t helpful.”
  • If it’s too poisonous or risky, cut connections. Some narcissistic parents are aggressive or abusive. It supports their sense of righteousness. You are now of legal age. Be careful.
  • Keep your hopes and expectations in check. Expecting mutuality or reciprocity in a relationship with a narcissist is unrealistic. Narcissists are egotistical and unable to prioritize your needs above their own. If you date or marry a narcissist, it may tire you out. As an adult, you may keep these arguments with your father at a distance.
  • To get what you want from a narcissist, make them believe it will be advantageous to them. Although I don’t like lying so much, certain narcissistic individuals may be influenced. When asking such a person to perform anything for you, you must frame your request such that it seems to be in their best interest. With your father and other people, this may be effective.
  • Never allow a narcissist to decide how valuable you are. Be cautious when confiding in narcissists with sensitive information or revealing significant accomplishments since they won’t treat it with the respect it deserves. Narcissists lack empathy and the capacity to validate others. This has often backfired in my experience.
  • Sometimes dealing with a narcissistic parent is as easy as complying. Even if it seems cheap, you may not want to cut your narcissistic father out of your life. He is, after all, your father. Sometimes, it’s simpler and takes less work to follow most of his instructions. The battle may not be worthwhile. Now that you are an adult, you are not living with him anymore.
  • As an alternative, you might oppose his authority and state your own. Because others (passively) consent to their actions, narcissists may get away with it. Sometimes you may need to take a commanding position and make it clear to him that his disrespectful attitude is intolerable. As a result, you are less susceptible to his wrath or rejection now that you are an adult. Be ready for resistance. Narcissists hate critics.
  • Be kind to the narcissist. Arrogance seldom ever elicits pity or compassion. But when you give it some thought, you can start to feel sorry for someone who always needs affirmation, attention, and approval. It liberates you.

Appreciate the Healthy Adults Out There

It might be hard to grow up without being impacted by a narcissistic parent, but perhaps others supported you along the road. When you reflect on your life, you could name a grandparent, grandmother, coach, teacher, therapist, or religious leader who valued you. Perhaps your mother came to the rescue.

Take in the Good

I’m hoping you can see the positive. Your narcissistic father could have had some redeeming qualities. Accept it while keeping your distance from the others. Additionally, you could have grown up with some exceptional men and women; absorb their virtue. There are also excellent individuals nowadays that you should care about; bring in this good.

Finally, acknowledge your worth. You don’t have to be exceptional to be effective.

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