10 Signs You Had a Narcissistic Father

Dealing with a narcissist in any fashion is challenging, but growing up with a narcissistic parent is especially traumatizing. 

Being raised by a narcissist means being exposed to abusive behavior, which can take a significant toll on your psychological development. 

The problem with growing up with a narcissistic parent is that you may question whether you actually experienced abuse. Narcissists are gaslighters, so they love to make you feel as if you’re insane or imagining things.

This means you might have a feeling a narcissistic father raised you, but you’re not always sure. If you’re looking for confirmation, some key signs suggest a narcissist raised you.

We’ll discuss them below. 

How do you identify a narcissistic father?

Having a narcissistic father can significantly impact your upbringing and psychological development. If you’re looking for validation that your father was a narcissist, the following ten signs paint a pretty clear picture. 

Lack of empathy 

People with narcissistic personality disorder tend to have a profound lack of empathy. Unfortunately, narcissistic fathers are no different.

If you grew up with a narcissistic father, he didn’t have any ability to understand your feelings and experiences. This probably left you feeling emotionally neglected. 

It also meant that your father could be quite demanding and hurtful, with no regard for the impact his behavior had on you.

Use of manipulative tactics

A narcissistic father is more than willing to use manipulative tactics, even with his own children. This can involve using guilt and shame to control others’ behavior and get his way.

Narcissistic fathers are also prone to gaslighting. This means when they were abusive, they probably accused you of being too sensitive. Or, perhaps they told you that you were remembering things incorrectly. 

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Love that was conditional 

Narcissists view relationships as transactional, and relationships with their children are no different. This means a narcissistic father’s love is entirely conditional, based upon what you can provide for him.

If your father gave love and affection only when you met certain conditions, such as achieving certain goals or making him look good in public, he was probably a narcissist. 

For narcissistic fathers, approval is tied to achievements, personal appearance or other superficial criteria. The children of these fathers feel that they are loved on only a conditional basis. 

Constant need for control

Narcissists need to remain in control of others to feel superior. This means they exert dominance over their children, entirely dismissing their children’s autonomy. 

Narcissistic fathers have no regard for their children’s opinions. They see themselves as being in control, and they have no room for anyone who feels otherwise.

If you grew up with a narcissistic father, he probably continued this controlling behavior, even after you reached adulthood. 

Excessive criticism 

It’s normal for parents to correct their children from time to time, but for narcissistic fathers, correction and discipline take on an entirely different meaning.

A narcissistic father doesn’t care about encouraging and supporting his children.  Instead, he believes children should cater to him and meet his every need.

When children inevitably make mistakes, narcissistic fathers are overly critical. If you grew up with a father like this, he tended to belittle, devalue, and demean you. He focused on your faults and mistakes, punishing you for every imperfection. 

Competing with you

Narcissists view life as a competition, and they must win against everyone around them, including their own children. Growing up with a narcissistic father, you were likely to feel more like his rival than his child.

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For instance, any time you achieved career or academic success, he probably tried to undermine your successes or prove why he was even more successful than you. This is all part of his need to feel superior to others to fuel his ego. 

Constant need for admiration 

Narcissists rely on external validation to maintain their self-esteem. This means they need constant admiration.

They expect their children to shower them with praise and acknowledgment for their accomplishments. If you had a narcissistic father, you were probably punished harshly if you ever failed to recognize how wonderful he was.

At the same time, he probably downplayed or ignored your achievements because he was too absorbed in seeking out his own validation. Remember, it is all about him! 

Emotional unpredictability 

If your father showed extreme mood swings and volatile emotions, he might have been a narcissist. Narcissists are known for erratic behavior, which can create a stressful, unstable home environment for children.

Narcissists tend to be overly emotionally reactive when things don’t go their way or when they experience rejection. In interactions with their children, this can result in outbursts of anger if children aren’t behaving exactly as expected. 

As a child of a narcissistic father, his behavior was probably quite confusing for you, as he could go from affectionate to angry with little warning. 

Grandiose behavior 

When growing up with a narcissistic father, you’re likely to observe grandiose behavior in his interactions with others. This means he’ll expect special treatment, and he will demand to be recognized as important in every setting.

You might have noticed him demanding special treatment in social settings and then becoming enraged when he didn’t get it. Or, he might have exaggerated his talents and accomplishments to appear superior.

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All of this reflects the narcissist’s grandiose behavior and inflated sense of self-importance. 

Inability to tolerate criticism 

Narcissists are unable to tolerate any form of criticism. Negative comments from others, no matter how slight, trigger the narcissist’s deepest feelings of insecurity. They need to maintain a facade of being perfect, and anything that threatens this facade is too much for them to handle.

One clear sign your father was a narcissist is that he couldn’t tolerate even the smallest piece of criticism. Certainly, he could dish it out to you, but if you ever fought back, he’d become enraged. 

You might have also observed him lashing out in response to any negative feedback he received from others, such as a boss, friend, or other family member. 

The validation you need

Unfortunately, a narcissistic father is unlikely to validate your emotions or apologize for behavior you endured as a child. However, if you noticed some or many of the behaviors above, you can be pretty certain you had a narcissistic father. 

Regardless of what he tried to make you believe, his bad behavior was never your fault. Furthermore, any mistreatment you experienced was real and valid, and it’s understandable if you were negatively impacted. 

You’re worthy of being treated with love and respect, and there is no shame if you need to seek counseling to help you begin your healing journey. You couldn’t control the father you had, but you can decide what behavior you’ll tolerate now as an adult. 

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