When many people hear the word narcissism, they think of the legend of Narcissus who was so vain he worshiped his image in a pond until he fell in and drowned. I once saw a cartoon of a father staring at his own reflection in a lake while his daughter kept calling out, “Daddy?!” The image suggested she was neglected while he adored himself. This cartoonist understood the neglect that comes from a narcissistic parent, but he only got it half right–because for many narcissistic parents, their child is the mirror.
Like many ACONs, you may have been used like a mirror for your narcissistic parent. Such parents are not satisfied unless they can see their own values and choices displayed in their child. Narcissistic parents see their children as an extension of themselves, they use mind control to shape their children at a young age to become mini versions of themselves. If this is true, you may have been robbed of your ability to shine.
This mirroring pattern continues into adulthood and is manifested by parents quizzing their adult children on their religious beliefs, politics and spending habits. Appearances are everything to these narcissistic minds. They want all of their children to be in the church and vote as they would vote and eat what they would eat on holiday dinners. They want us to do as they would do so they can feel satisfied they have raised us to reflect them in the way they want to be portrayed in the world.
By refusing to acknowledge their child’s individuality, such parents are selfish to begin with and nothing you can do will fix this. As you pull away to become yourself, they will become more controlling, then disillusioned and bitter when you fail to live up to their expectations. As you begin to vote differently or leave the church or form your own holiday traditions, the war will intensify.
The battles are subtle at first, a glance of disappointment, the suggestion you might be letting down the whole family because you have chosen differently. But as most ACONs know, the failure to reflect our parents–to vote, marry and worship as they would have us live our lives eventually brings on a cascade of narcissistic behavior from gaslighting and scapegoating to the silent treatment.
There is no better time to reclaim your individuality than now. There is no better way to reclaim your boundaries by standing up to let your voice be heard, but beware the narc parent will accuse you of everything from ruining the party to being ungrateful or disloyal or not honoring your parents. They might use everything from scripture and flying monkeys to lawyers to straighten you out.
When this happens it’s important to ground yourself in these truths–
1. No one–not even a parent owns the choices of another human being. Slavery is defined as controlling another person’s choices.
2. God created you to be yourself–not an extension of your parents. Look in the mirror and recognize your own face.
3. You will never feel at peace until you live authentically.
As you listen to your own voice and the voice of your Maker, you will begin to shine. It might seem a little scary at first, but you can forge a new path from your family of origin. When you reach that fork in the road where the sign reads narc parent vs. your own choices, don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled, step into your individuality and shine.