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It is the first time that I write so openly about my life as a daughter of narcissistic parents and it's not easy to write about it because it comes with many emotions and pain.
I was already 36 when I found out that both of my parents were narcissistic. Before I start with my personal story, I want to give you a short definition what narcissistic means. When you read my story, you will learn more about the different faces of narcissism.
First, I have to make clear that there is a difference between narcissism and a narcissistic personality disorder.
Maybe you know the story about Narcissus from the Greek mythology. He was a proud young man who one day looked into a pool of water and fell in love with his own reflection. Well, at this point it was nothing abnormal. We all take a quick check in the mirror every morning and may even say something “You look good today!” and then move on. This is called healthy narcissism. The story of Narcissus, however, ended tragically because he was so fascinated by his image in the water, that he couldn't leave it and starved to death.
Caravaggio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
His behavior went far beyond a healthy narcissism. Narcissism has many faces and goes from a healthy narcissism to a pathological form called Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Narcissus from the Greek mythology obviously had NPD.
Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultraconfidence lies a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism.
Healthy narcissism is the characteristic of possessing realistic self-esteem without being cut off from a shared emotional life, as the unhealthy narcissist tends to be.
I don't want to go into details about all the symptoms someone with NPD has since I'm not a doctor or psychologist/psychiatrist.
I would rather like to share my personal experience with Narcissism. Both of my parents suffer from an unhealthy narcissism. I don't want to use the term Narcissistic Personality Disorder in regard of my parents because only a doctor or psychologist/psychiatrist may use it.
I only found out that my parents were narcissistic in an unhealthy way in 2016. It was the time when my relationship with my parents got the worst ever. In 2016 I broke away from their narcissistic cage I had been living almost my whole life without really recognizing it and their narcissistic personality came to the surface.
Now let's go back to my childhood and unfold the story. In my childhood I seem to have everything – a good home, food, friends etc. but one thing was missing – love, particularly unconditional love. My parents have never been able to show me love, let alone unconditional love. Instead, they showed me their anger, frustration, aggression and all the negative emotions and feelings they had. You will read later in this blog post why my parents chose me to pass on all their negative emotions and feelings.
The biggest trait of a narcissist is their feeling of being superior than others and their extreme self-love. Until today, my parents have always seen themselves as better than other people and they have mostly talked negatively about others.
My childhood was characterized by emotional, mental and even physical abuse (no sexual abuse). They always gave me a feeling of being guilty and wrong. Whatever I did, was wrong. I could never please them. I have never met their expectations. “What have you done good for us? ” That's what my father asked me before I moved away.
When my sister was born, it got even worse. They treated us both differently. My sister became the so called “Golden Child”. In their eyes she was the best and smartest child. She did everything right.
I, on the other hand, was the “Scapegoat”, the child that was always wrong, bad and the one to blame for everything.
William Holman Hunt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The sad thing is, they have treated us this way our whole life. So why do narcissistic parents treat their children like that? Narcissists see themselves as perfect and the “Golden Child” is their perfect extension. Whenever they see this child they feel confirmed that they are perfect because this child also behaves perfectly in their eyes.
The “Scapegoat”, however, stands for everything that is not perfect in the family. He or she represents everything that is wrong and bad. Whenever things don't go well with the narcissistic parents, they blame it to this child.
Do you want to know why it often takes many years until parents (or any other people) are recognized as narcissistic? It is because most narcissists wear two masks. One is for the public and one is for home. I have experienced it myself.
In public, my parents have always been charming and friendly but at home, they have always shown their dark, narcissistic side. I have felt so bad whenever someone told me how “wonderful” my parents were. I have never been able to show other people that this was not the truth until now. My parents have had me under full control when it came to hiding their dark side.
Here are some of the ways my parents have abused and punished me and they haven't stopped doing it until I moved away from them.
They have emotionally blackmailed me. My parents have found many ways to make me do whatever they want me to do by using a sentence that always started with “If you do … “or “If you don't do ...”. It has always been about conditions I have had to fulfill. If not, they have treated me worse than before. I have always been under pressure and stress because of that.
They have had me under control. They have completely controlled most parts of my life since childhood. They have always felt that I couldn't do anything right without them which is not true.
They have told me that I will never be successful. My parents have never believed in me and my talents. Whenever I have achieved something, they have either said that my sister was better or that I have only achieved it because of them. It has never been my own success in their eyes.
They have never been able to show me love, let alone unconditional love. This is by far the most painful one because we all know that parents should love their child unconditionally and if the parents are not able to do that, it will have a negative effect on the child's life forever.
As I have already mentioned above, in 2016 I broke away from my parents and moved to my husband's home country Georgia (Caucasus) together with him and our children. Not only did I suffer from my parents but also my husband and my children. When we told my parents that we want to move to Georgia, they were of course totally against it but they couldn't stop us because I had a spiritual awakening at that time and I recognized their unhealthy narcissism and how it has impacted not only my life but also the life of my own family. With the help of my husband and children, we were able to get out of the narcissistic cage which has made me sick for many years including getting cancer (fortunately, at an early stage).
We have had no contact with my parents for almost one year because they have broken up their relationship with us and they have never replied to our calls and e-mails. This is typically narcissistic. If you don't do what a narcissist wants you to do and you see through their game, they will drop you like a hot potato and ban you from their life. At least, this is what my parents have done with me and my own family.
Since moving away from my parents, we all feel better now. We are finally free and can live our life the way we want. No negativity, no excessive control, no blackmailing. Instead, we have a life full of unconditional love, joy and happy events.
How do I feel about my parents? I'm feeling deeply sorry for their condition but I can't change it. I wished we could find a way to have a “healthy” relationship with them but currently, it's not possible (yet). I'm not resentful for what they have done to me because I know that they are sick. I can't change them. I can only change my own life and that's what I did. I'm not the “Scapegoat” anymore. I know that I'm worthy and I know that I'm good and not wrong because I'm God's child and we are all worthy and good in his eyes. I'm so blessed that I have a loving and supporting husband and two lovable children whom I love unconditionally, the way it should be. They all have helped me get out of the narcissistic cage and deal with all the pain and emotions.
I pray for my parents. I hope they will stay happy and healthy and maybe find a way to let me into their life again.
What happened to the “Golden Child”? The “Golden Child”, my sister, has suffered way more than I. Unfortunately, she got mentally sick and has struggled her whole life. She is not alone. There are people around her who help her. When I still lived in Germany, I was always there for her. She has also broken away from our parents and has tried to live her own life. I hope and pray that she finds a way to get out of the darkness she has been living in for so many years and finally see the light, the silver lining.
I think I could write a whole book about it but since this is a blog post, I don't want to write endlessly about it. However, I'm planning to write more about this topic in the future because it is very important and there are still many questions I want to answer like:
I have read many information and books about narcissism and one book I really liked is the one you can see below because it shows a range of narcissistic personalities, not only one side. I find this book very useful and straightforward. It's easy to read and understand.
The Everything Guide to Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Professional, reassuring advice for coping with the disorder - at work, at home, and in your family (Everything Series)Narcissistic Parents.: 10 Tips on How to Not Hate Your Parents (Narcissistic personality disorder) (Volume 2)Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic MothersBecoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself
Thank you for reading this emotional piece which is part of my life story. It's a sad and disturbing story but in 2016, a new story began. I'm looking forward to living this new story.
My thoughts and prayers are with those who have gone through a similar experience than mine. You are not alone.
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Lots of love,
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My name is Janet Giessl. I'm a wife, mom, educator, author, artist, spiritual creative, multi-passionate and highly-sensitive person.
On this blog I share my creative work, creative work tutorials and courses and information about creativity, spirituality, self-development, multipotentiality and how to make money online with your creative work.