How Narcissistic Parents Create Boundary Deficiencies

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Ask any child of a narcissistic parent if they felt loved by their parent and you will get a resounding, “NO!” Narcissistic parents are focused on getting their own needs met and are heavily invested in their image of themselves as a parent and the positive feedback that mirroring a “golden” child gives them, but they are NOT invested in that child as a person in our own right.

Boundaries don’t exist to a narcissist. The narcissistic parent feels entitled to transgress the boundaries of their children because they feel that they “own” us. They do not recognize that their children (or anyone else) are separate from themselves.

Here are some of the common ways narcissistic parents cross our boundaries as children:

a) Physical boundaries: The childs physical space and person.

How we’re violated: Our right to be protected from unwanted touch or unwelcome hugs are ignored, negative comments about our physical appearance are given without being asked, our  personal space is violated, or they exert power over our physical movements, bodily functions, sexuality, sexual preference or how a child dresses and presents themselves. Narcissistic parents idolize children who are physically talented or gifted in sports. Narcissistic parents focus on appearances. If you were a cute kid, your narcissistic parent likely gave you a lot of praise and attention for your looks – giving you the feeling that you are only lovable based on how cute or good looking you are.

One example from my childhood, where my narcissistic mother repeatedly crossed my physical boundaries was when I would be using the bathroom. She often would barge in without knocking or if the door was locked would stand outside and threaten to leave me if I didn’t stop what I was doing in the bathroom and leave immediately. I recall many times, we’d take trips to the library, a time I looked forward to spending with my mother. She’d often interrupt me while I was in the bathroom, so I’d spend the first 15 minutes in the library in the restroom finishing my bathroom time, due to my mother’s interruption. To this day, I cannot walk into a library or book store, without first stopping to use the bathroom.

How we’re affected: 

We put up with uncomfortable touching, unwanted sexual attention or focus, people getting too close, too fast or pushing us to begin a physical relationship before we’re ready or comfortable. We put up with people judging our exterior. We place too much emphasis on getting attention through superficial means; the type of appearance attention our parents gave us.  We are left with the feeling that we’re not allowed to say, “No!” Or that we are not suppose to feel uncomfortable when someone encroaches on our physical territory. It sets us up to be used and exploited both sexually and physically without telling those around us we’ve been violated because we internally believe we either deserve it or didn’t have the right to say NO!

b) Mental Boundaries:

Our ability to be in control of our own thinking, opinions and beliefs.

How we’re violated: Narcissists cannot tolerate disagreement. For the child who expresses their own thoughts freely, we will be met with much friction from a narcissistic parent. “You don’t think that!” “That is NOT what we think in this family!” Defectors from the narcissists delusional reality of perfection and being the perfect parent or family, will cause the narcissist to act out, typically with rage, to squash the independent thoughts of their children. The child will be called names, ostracized, shut down, shut out, and/or ignored. The resulting feelings will be that the child is not safe to freely share their opinions or thoughts about any topic that goes against the narcissist’s reality. The child is not allowed to experience or express their own reality. To take it a step further, it is typically the child who won’t stop thinking for themselves and expressing the truth they witness, that will become the “scapegoat” in the family; the person on whom all the problems and dysfunction of the family will be blamed for or deemed the cause of.

Scapegoating within the narcissistic family is in effect an innerfamilial smear campaign. The child who’s got the courage to face down the narcissist’s attempts to squash the truth of the child, is bullied by the group to bring the child under compliance with the group’s (the narcissist’s) mentality lest the child face the ostracism of their family unit.

How we’re affected: 

We doubt our own thoughts. We need validation of our thoughts from others we perceive as “stronger”. We fear our independent thinking. This can set us up for abusive relationships or to acquiesce to narcissistic and domineering individuals because they seem “more sure” of themselves and seem to “know better” for us than we do for ourselves. We learn to be meek and take the passenger seat in our own lives which leads us to feeling powerless. We become people pleasers. It sets us up to choose people who want power over us, because we’re accustomed to that and we doubt ourselves. We give our power away and this sets us up for disastrous results because allowing a narcissist to control us, will run our lives right into the ground.

c) Emotional Boundaries

Our ability to have and be in control of our own feelings, opinions and beliefs.

How we’re violated: Narcissists are out of touch with their own emotional state. They’re only driven by their wants and desires. The people around them are there with the sole purpose of meeting the narcissists wants and desires; NOT to be a separate person with their own feelings. Feelings of others conflict with the narcissists desire to be the focus and be in control. Children who express feelings of sadness or other feelings of “needing” the narcissistic parent causes great frustration; because the narcissist views the child as serving the parent’s feelings not the other way around. The child’s needs are competing with the narcissist getting their own needs met. The narcissist tries to downplay the feelings of the child if they are in direct conflict with their own needs. The child will be told they “don’t really feel that” or to “Get over it” or to “stop being such a baby!” – Any means which gets the child to stop being so “needy” and requiring the narcissist to put the child first will be the narcissists goal.

The child learns that their feelings are:
1) Not important and dont matter (insignificant)
2) Can’t be trusted or relied on by the child (untrustworthy)
3) Are not cared about by their parent  (dishonored)
4) Of secondary importance to the narcissist’s feelings (come last)

How we’re affected: 

This sets us up to feel comfortable in the presence of another narcissist who minimizes, denies, belittles and ignores our feelings. We put ourselves, our feelings and needs last, because of the constant messages that our feelings don’t matter.  It’s why we don’t listen to and trust our intuition (our feelings) about narcissists in our adult lives who are taking advantage of us. It’s why we extend benefit of doubt to a predator who is attacking us rather than respond to our feelings and escape them.  We learn to put selfish people, like the narcissist, who demands their needs be met, first to ourselves. We spend most of our time in adulthood catering to the needs and feelings of others while ignoring our own. We don’t learn to trust ourselves and we don’t learn how to protect ourselves because we were punished for doing so by our caregivers. We become out of touch with our own feelings and thus remain stuck, depressed and hopeless. We’re at a loss for how to get out and think and feel for ourselves because we’ve been so accustomed to a narcissist doing it for us. Getting back in touch with our own feelings becomes a scary endeavor that we feel overwhelmed by. We feel desperate for validation.

Here’s the good news:

With hard work and honestly exploring each area of your personal boundaries and how your internal beliefs were shaped by a person who was heavily invested in serving themselves, you can begin to take your power back for rewriting the messages from your narcissistic parents.

Ask yourself how your boundaries were violated by your narcissistic parents. You will likely find that the way your narcissistic parent violated your boundaries are areas in your life now, where you are a target for exploitation by another narcissist. Learning about your own vulnerabilities will teach you where you need to shore up the holes to prevent further abuse.

Re learning the proper boundaries for ourselves is liberating to our identities. The more we identify and assert our limits in each of the areas mentioned above, we will begin to feel that the new boundaries are protecting someone of WORTH: OURSELVES!

Posted on October 18, 2015, in Narcissism. Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. I am a woman aged 49, I am happily married to a great man and I am a mother to two very well adjusted teens, I am constantly amazed that I have managed to achieve this along with a successful career in teaching. My childhood and teenage years and adulthood have been hostaged by my parents non stop abuse of one another, infecting my life and those of my three siblings. Strangely it seems to have happened lately that now we are all in our 40s there is a collective rejection of their behaviour and a distancing from them in order to allow for self awareness. The saddest part is now having to ‘re assess truths and relationships with my brothers and sisters, nobody really wants to acknowledge that home was messed up. It was never allowed to be spoken of. However in sadness there is healing. The relationships I shared with my siblings were based on protectiveness and could be often influenced by my ignorant parents. It feels as if we all need to begin again. It is too painful to discuss the past with them however there is an understanding now, how did it take us until our 40 to stand in the light?


  2. Sadly I have watched my two step-children grow up under the influence of their narcissistic mother and with her having the majority of custody instead of my husband (who had every other weekend so 4 days out of a month) throughout the year…we had little time to attempt to un-do some damage before returning them back to her. I had to do research because I was so frustrated with these two that I felt were always ‘graveling back’ to their mother whom they felt ‘hated them’ only to realize there is also a Stockholm Syndrome effect taking place here. They are both early twenties now and struggling so much in their lives and both STILL try to move back in with her every chance they get when things are ‘going good’ and they crave that small window of ‘happy times’ until she unravels again within a few weeks after they move back in. Being a step-parent on the side lines to a narc mother determined to build a wall between me and ‘her property’ is so difficult to live with. I keep hoping that with the small chance of positive influence my husband and I have we can just wait and be ready for the day when they take back their lives and are done with her. I feel with her having such a strong position of matriarch we may never see that day and I fear what this will do to potential grand kids in the future.

    I hope everyone dealing with this, whether personally or someone you love is affected, keeps reaching out and learning more and more. It really does help.


  3. thanks for sharing this…it helps to see..and validate what I went through


  4. Thank you.


  5. How do I cope and protect my young daughter when I currently don’t have the option of cutting off contact with the narcissistic abuser? I left my daughter’s abusive father when she was 4 months old. I’ve worked so hard to move forward and keep her safe. I moved in with my mother after I was accepted into graduate school. Now as an adult I realize that she was my original source of abuse. Very covert emotional abuse and a lot of gas lighting. I am in the midst of it now and without financial means to move out of her home. As everything unravels, I see more of how she is breaking me down and it impacts my ability to be a mom. My 3 year old daughter is suffering for this. How do I keep us healthy until I can move out?


  6. Thank you so much. I have been to 12 step programs- in and outpatent programs. I accepted all the labels. Enabler, co dependant, etc. These are but only symptoms. It is the language that we were taught from birth.
    To understand- not for self pity but to be able to be the authentic you. You were abused in the worst kind of way. For one it is so covert .silent. For another the narcissist recruits others in the friend\family circle to abuse as well.



  7. Thank you for making this blog, and it’s dead-on in so many ways. I’ve learned a lot from it, and I wish you the best of luck in your journey of healing.


  8. “How we’re affected:

    We doubt our own thoughts. We need validation of our thoughts from others we perceive as “stronger”. We fear our independent thinking. This can set us up for abusive relationships or to acquiesce to narcissistic and domineering individuals because they seem “more sure” of themselves and seem to “know better” for us than we do for ourselves. We learn to be meek and take the passenger seat in our own lives which leads us to feeling powerless. We become people pleasers. It sets us up to choose people who want power over us, because we’re accustomed to that and we doubt ourselves. We give our power away and this sets us up for disastrous results because allowing a narcissist to control us, will run our lives right into the ground.”

    Wow. Ive never seen this articulated so well. This is exactly how I live. every day, every decision, every commitment, every relationship, every task… I need to check to make sure that its ok. I need to verify with someone who knows better than me before Im sure that my feelings are accurate. It is so confusing and I am suffering pretty bad health (digestive) issues and emotional issues (Comlex PTSD) from a lifetime of swallowing my thoughts and feelings and acquiesce to everyone else’s preferences. My marriage, my parenting, my job, my friendships… And i have a current narc in my life who is more than willing to prey upon this weakness in me. I’m so scared of what will come next with the Narc in my life. And I don’t trust myself to deal with it in a healthy and assertive way to make sure the chaos doesn’t happen again. I know what I should do- speak up- but I don’t know if I can.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Reblogged this on lasenoritagrande and commented:
    This resonated with me so much. Thank you to the author for publishing this.


  10. This was my life. It is exactly right.


  11. thank you so much for this explanation, it is nice to see I am not alone in experiencing this…. parents who were only interested in themselves, ignored their children and only thought of their own needs…. and in later life only narcissistic men because this is the only way I know how to handle other people and myself; by pleasing, going on my knees, doing all to be helpful to the other..and forgetting about myself.
    I am now 46 years old and looking back, seeing it has made my life hell up untill now and feeling my sadness is very painful and very difficult… but… I will survive… tips on how to move forward are very helpful please….


  12. Damn. “I” exhibit, not “I’ve” exhibit.


  13. Ugh. You just punched me in the stomach. I have very few memories of specific situations when my parents acted like this, but I’ve exhibit every single symptom you list. This is a hard truth to face.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. So glad to have found your blog.
    I honestly never thought of my mom as narcissistic, but yes, severely disfunctional. I always felt I raised myself more than she raised me… But I am learning form this new ways of taking back my inner life, exploring my emotions and boundaries, as you suggest.
    Thank you.


  15. Absolutely spot on. I love your posts, the information validates exactly what I’ve been thru and how it has affected me. You are able to put so clearly the very things I struggle to explain. Thank you.


  16. Dear ANA.

    The following is an except from a post from a victim of narcissitic abuse and emotional abandonment. There are many such stories on the sites about narcissistic abuse.

    “I was married for twenty years three kids. Man home every night with zero compliments, hand holds affection or hugs. … He couldn’t think of one reason he wanted to get married twenty years prior with counselor, I cried and divorced. I still miss him he was family. But it was too lonely of a way to live. He will not speak to me ever and sees me as the blame. …. People like you help. I understand your story first hand it’s mine. He stiffened like a board if I wanted to hug him, never hugged me back. My ex was severe passive aggressive, the more I wanted the less he gave. I’m free and looking for one that wants to hug and love me well….

    When you said “How we’re violated: Our right to be protected from unwanted touch or unwelcome hugs are ignored….” I had to begin to wonder, “just who is the victim and who is the narcissistic abuser in the excerpt above?” It seems like a person who is a rabid narcissistic abuser who emotionally neglects his or her partner could use your statement as a completely self-centered narcissistic excuse:”This is an unwanted hug and I am just honoring MY boundaries.” Can a narc really learn the impact of emotional neglect?


  17. Thank you so much for this. Its extremely helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. This has been the story of my life and terribly difficult to dig yourself out of. I think the first step is recognition and wanting change for yourself. It is a process.


  19. I have been told scapegoating could be triggered/happen to the same sex child. My son was born second. I did not see anything different until he was about 3. Then at 5 dad started screaming at him he was going to be drugged for his bad behavior; at the time there was none except for dad’s. Later I have learned that dad wasn’t only medicated for his ADHD as a child – there were other problems with dad needing an intense 10 years of a pychiatrist, behaviorist, social worker and then military school instead of juvenile hall. No one in the N family said a thing to me- and they also kept far away from him. Not having any experience in that, I thought it was because N had been falsely labelled as the “black sheep” – nothing false about it.

    One other thing that has happened with my children is N makes sure if they like something or want something, to use it to get what he wants (emotionally) or to threaten them with not getting it or being taken away, so they will do what he wants. How do you combat the N as a parent, being the other parent that is trying to protect them?


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