How to Avoid Becoming a Narcissist Like Your Parent

How to Avoid Becoming a Narcissist Like Your Parent | Hopeful Panda

If you were raised by a narcissist, it’s possible that you could become one. Or you might have tendencies. Unfortunately, just knowing you might be at risk is not enough. It’s important that you learn how to avoid becoming a narcissist like your parent and take action.

To avoid becoming a narcissist, you must first begin healing from the narcissistic abuse you faced. Healing is the only way to truly assure narcissism won’t be carried onto the next generation or even your next relationship.

Children of narcissists are at a higher risk of becoming narcissists themselves. However, other factors might contribute to it.

This post will help you explore narcissistic traits within your family and yourself, how narcissism was passed down in your family, how to acknowledge your own narcissistic tendencies, and the important elements needed to keep your narcissism in check.

1. Explore how narcissism was passed down in your family

Think about your narcissistic parent(s). Then, think about their parents – your grandparents. Likely, at least one of your grandparents was also narcissistic.

When you trace back the family tree, you’ll see that narcissism probably didn’t just start with your parent(s).

Tracing back the family tree and tracking narcissistic traits helps you realize how toxic and abusive patterns were well in effect long before you were born. It lets you know how none of what happened to you was your fault.

However, you must acknowledge the power of intergenerational patterns. So just being aware of the pattern is not enough to avoid becoming a narcissist. You have to take an active role to truly end the cycle with you.

Using a genogram to explore intergenerational patterns

A genogram is a diagram outlining the history of the behavior patterns of a family over several generations.

Creating a genogram can help you track how narcissism, other behavior patterns, and psychological traits have been passed down through generations.

When making your genogram, feel free to include as many people as you want. You can also go as far back into your family lineage as you’d like. The more people and generations you include, the more you can see how specific traits or behavioral tendencies were passed down.

And you don’t have to just do this with narcissism or abusiveness. You can do this for any behavioral patterns, psychological traits, medical issues, and even personality traits.

Please remember that creating this genogram is solely for your sake. It’s for you to better understand narcissism and abuse on an intergenerational level.

Please don’t distribute it or show it to members of the family, especially to narcissistic individuals. And rather than assign labels or diagnoses, try assigning traits and characteristics you’ve witnessed instead.

My Detailed Genogram

A genogram is usually complex, detailed, and informative in terms of patterns, traits, and relationships between different members of the family. For example, here’s one I made for my Family Psychology class back in college.

Please note that I am not a mental health professional and I am not diagnosing any of my relatives. This was a class project assigned to determine whether I see any intergenerational patterns in my family tree.

The information in this genogram is solely based on my observations.

Genogram | How to Avoid Becoming a Narcissist Like Your Parent | Hopeful Panda

Looking at this genogram, you can see how complicated, and frankly, chaotic, my mother’s side of the family seems compared to my father’s side. There is discord, hate, and other “negativity” in relationships involving my mother and grandfather.

Relationship issues like affairs and divorces also seem more common on that side of the family. You can also see how abusiveness is passed down and how it relates to emotional problems.

My Simplified Genogram

To better demonstrate how certain traits are passed down, I made a more simplified and straightforward genogram.

I also included my great-grandparents to better show how narcissism and abusiveness could be an intergenerational pattern.

Basic Genogram | How to Avoid Becoming a Narcissist Like Your Parent | Hopeful Panda

This simplified genogram shows how my maternal great-grandmother, maternal grandfather, and mother are abusive with narcissistic traits. This demonstrates a very obvious pattern, at least in my family, of children becoming narcissistic and abusive like their parents.

I learned about my great-grandmother from my grandmother who told me how scary her mother-in-law was. Apparently, my grandmother would literally hide when my great-grandmother was around.

I don’t know my grand uncle, aunt, or uncle well enough to determine if they’re abusive. But based on stories from other members of the family and interacting with them, I at least witnessed some narcissistic traits.

And as you can see from the genogram, I also consider myself as having some traits. I notice traits within myself that I am worried about.

And although I can’t confirm nor deny if I ever acted abusively towards my loved ones, I still try my best to keep my narcissism under control.

2. Acknowledge your own narcissistic tendencies

I don’t think any of us really come away from being raised by narcissists without picking up at least a few of their behaviors or tendencies.

As unpleasant as it is to hear, it’s important to acknowledge that being a child of a narcissist means possibly having acquired some traits.

But don’t panic. Many people have narcissistic traits. It’s just a matter of how severe it is.

Just because you have some traits doesn’t mean you’re not a good person or that you’re not good enough. And it definitely doesn’t mean you’re a narcissist. It only means you’re human with issues originating from a difficult childhood.

However, it’s still important to acknowledge these traits within yourself and keep them in check to truly avoid becoming a narcissist like your parent.

To understand and learn more about your own narcissistic tendencies, ask yourself these questions.

  • Which narcissistic traits do I check off?
  • What seems to trigger my narcissistic self?
  • How do I react when I’m triggered?
  • And what can I do to stop it?

Narcissistic Traits and Signs

First, be honest with yourself and really think about whether you display any signs. Here are some common signs of narcissism.

  • An exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • A sense of entitlement
  • Requires constant, excessive admiration
  • Exaggerates achievements and talents
  • Expects to be recognized as superior without reason
  • Preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, or beauty
  • Believes self to be superior and belittles others perceived as inferior
  • Monopolizes conversations
  • Expects special treatment and compliance with expectations
  • Takes advantage of others for personal benefit
  • Inability to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Envious of others and believes others envy them
  • Comes across as conceited, boastful, and pretentious
  • Becomes angry, unhappy, or impatient when criticized or don’t get what they want
  • Often have interpersonal problems
  • Feels easily attacked
  • Feeling depressed or moody when falling short of perfection
  • Secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability, and humiliation

So, are you a narcissist?

Perhaps you’re very defensive, fantasize a lot about success or beauty, think about yourself more than normal, or are unable to tolerate any criticism. (I’m guilty of all of these)

However, when you think more about it, it makes sense doesn’t it? Of course, you’re going to be highly defensive and super sensitive to criticisms. Your parents spent your whole childhood attacking your every vulnerability and insecurity.

And of course, you’ll think about yourself a lot or fantasize about doing well or being beautiful.

Your parent probably pointed out your every flaw and mistake too many times to count. It’s no wonder if you’re obsessed with yourself and how you look. You might constantly hope that you can do better or look better.

Whichever sign you check off, there’s probably a reason for how they manifested based on your upbringing.

However, while your narcissistic traits can be rationalized by the abuse you faced, it is still your responsibility to address them.

Learn your triggers

Triggers are anything that causes your narcissistic self to appear and in a way, “take over”.

Many narcissists are triggered by criticisms, rejection, disobedience, and disagreements. And they’d react by lashing out, throwing a tantrum, insulting and screaming at others, or might even resort to violence.

Your parents’ mistreatment of you back then had nothing to do with you but everything to do with their own unresolved trauma. Whenever they lashed out at you – verbally or physically – they were likely triggered by something.

Perhaps, you disobeyed their requests, said “no” to them, disagreed with them, or pointed out their abusive behavior.

You likely have similar triggers. Maybe you feel humiliated or attacked by any criticism. Maybe you feel upset or angry when someone disagrees with you or disobeys you. I know I do.

To avoid becoming a narcissist like your parents, you have to get to the bottom of this. Try to learn what causes you to feel certain ways and how you tend to react when it happens.

Do you get angry and curse at whoever disagrees with you? Do you throw a tantrum whenever you don’t get what you want?

Once you have a clearer understanding of what triggers your narcissism, you can better learn to control your reactions toward them.

So rather than act out and say or do something that could be manipulative or abusive, you can learn to cope with it healthily.

Instead of becoming aggressive, try to take a breath and calm down before acting impulsively.

And instead of acting passive-aggressive or guilt trip whoever disobeyed or said “no” to you, learn to accept it and move on. And most importantly, learn to communicate and express your feelings effectively and maturely.

You’re allowed to feel whatever you feel. It’s okay to be upset, angry, disappointed, or frustrated. But it isn’t okay to hurt other people because you’re feeling a certain way.

It’s your job to healthily work through your emotions.

Focus on empathy

After everything, the most important trait you should focus on in yourself is empathy.

Empathy is basically the antithesis of narcissism. If you can show empathy and kindness, then you’re likely not a narcissist and not on your way to becoming one like your parent.

And if empathy seems like a foreign idea to you, it is something you can practice.

The best way to practice empathy is to put yourself in the shoes of someone else. If you’re treating someone a certain way, think about it from their perspective. Would you be okay with someone treating you the same way?

It’s a telling sign if you’re worried about being narcissistic or worried about hurting people with your behavior. The last person to suspect they’re a narcissist is, well, usually a narcissist.

However, it’s still important to recognize your own narcissistic traits and get control of them. Even if you are capable of empathy, it’s still possible for your narcissistic tendencies to creep up and possibly reach toxic levels.

Sometimes, when triggered, it can be easy to forego all senses and act on impulse. Therefore, it’s important to keep your narcissism in check.

3. Learn how to keep your narcissism in check

Not keeping your narcissism in check means it will only get worse over time. Not only will this affect your relationships and everyone around you, but it will also affect you.

You know how much your parents hurt you. And you know how much it has affected you. Do you want to end up like them? Do you want to end up hurting your significant other or children the same way? I hope not.

Stop seeing yourself as a victim

The very first step to keeping your narcissism in check is to acknowledge and admit that you have a problem. Don’t try to justify your toxic behavior or blame other things or people for your actions.

You WERE a victim of narcissistic abuse and that’s not your fault. I’m not telling you to deny that you were a legitimate victim of abuse or anything like that. However, it’s also important not to get stuck with a victim mentality.

So although what happened in your childhood wasn’t your fault, what happens now is on you. Some children of narcissists end up being narcissists themselves because they get stuck in that “I’m a victim” mindset.

When you approach everything with the victim mentality, you become entitled. You end up feeling like the world owes you. You end up feeling like everything you do is justified, even if it hurts others. So it’s crucial to stop seeing yourself as a victim.

Try to take responsibility for yourself and your actions.

You had a tough past, but that doesn’t give you the right to expect special treatment or to treat other people badly. That’s what makes you a narcissist. Be accountable for yourself and strive to be a better person than your parent.

Learn signs of playing the victim and how to stop playing the victim if you notice yourself doing it.

Think before you act and be accountable

Once you no longer see yourself as a victim, you will be able to see things more objectively. You will start thinking before you act and learn to be accountable for yourself.

During moments of conflict, arguments, and intense emotions, it can be easy to slip up and say something hurtful or even physically lash out at someone.

Certain things, people, or events could trigger emotions and memories from your past, causing you to fly off the handle or act irrationally.

During times like that, it’s important to think before you act. Take a breath, calm down, and walk away from the situation before doing something you’ll regret.

You can learn techniques to calm yourself. Then, take the time to process what just happened and learn to work through your emotions.

Finally, once you and the other person have calmed down, it’s important to have a conversation to talk about what happened, how you are both feeling, and how you can move past it.

If you did or said something hurtful or something you didn’t mean to, you must acknowledge what you did, admit you’re wrong, apologize, and genuinely try not to do it again.

Being accountable for yourself is a crucial skill many abusers lack.

Awareness is crucial

One huge thing narcissists and other abusers lack is awareness of themselves and awareness of their environment and how it affects them. So to be able to end the cycle of abuse, you must remain environmentally and self-aware.

Continue to notice traits within yourself that you might share with your abusive parent.

Notice unexplored parts of yourself that might’ve resulted from the abuse you endured in your childhood. Then, try your best to address them.

Continue to build your self-awareness and understand how the abuse you faced shaped who you are. This is crucial to avoid becoming a narcissist like your parent.

It also helps you build a better future for yourself and your current and future relationships.

How to Avoid Becoming a Narcissist Like Your Parent | Hopeful Panda


In the end, whether you can avoid becoming a narcissist like your parent really just depends on you. No one else can do it for you.

However, it’s incredibly helpful to have a support network to help you along the healing process.

It can also be beneficial to have someone you trust help point out when you’re being narcissistic, manipulative, or abusive. And when they do, try your best to pause and process before acting out and deflecting.

It won’t be easy to avoid becoming a narcissist like your parent. But I hope the benefits it’ll give you and anyone you care about can provide the motivation you need to make it happen.

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Hi there, I’m Estee. Having grown up with an abusive mother, I know how isolating, frustrating, and hopeless everything could feel – back then as a child and even now as an adult.

I am always trying to better understand and manage the effects of the abuse I experienced. And this journey I’m on inspired me to create Hopeful Panda. Learn more here.

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