Last Updated on April 16, 2021 by Alexander Burgemeester
“I’m sorry.” Those are two of the most difficult words for most people to be able to honestly say. When we are genuinely sorry, we have to admit that we hurt someone and it also means that we are taking responsibility for the pain we have caused.
A narcissist is never sorry because he (or she) perceives himself as perfect. He can’t be wrong. He views himself as superior to everyone and, thus, always right.
How did he get this way?
A narcissist grew up believing from his earliest years that he is special and was most likely treated that way even as a small child. A narcissist develops a pathological sense of self-entitlement very early.
Truth is a foreign concept to the narcissist. His personality is built on a “false self”, believing that he is a superior, perfect being without flaws. As a child, he was not held accountable for his mistakes, lies or cruelties. His parents did not provide a sense of limits or respect for other human beings. He learned as a child to exploit and manipulate other human beings- to win at any cost.
The damage to another person’s life was just collateral and necessary to his own immediate goals. This “golden child” learned very early that he had free rein over others. If someone got in his way, he would simply push him aside or knock him down.
The parents defended their child’s inconsiderate, cruel behavior; they believed that their extraordinary child did not have to follow common social rules that apply only to others- not to their child.
What does he do when he does make a mistake?
The narcissist is never, ever wrong, and he likes to present “proof” that he is correct. The narcissist cannot accept responsibility for making a mistake and he is expert at diverting the blame to others – (“It’s not my fault. I lost that promotion because my team let me down”, “You were acting so stupid-you made me hit you.”, “If you weren’t so cold, I wouldn’t have had that affair”).
A narcissist will never admit even horrendous mistakes and when confronted, he will deflect, delay, and tell more lies. He believes he is invincible and perfect.
When we look deeply into ourselves and know we have been wrong, we are able to say “I make mistakes”. We apologize to the hurt party and continue to have a healthy, solid sense of ourselves as positive human beings. A narcissist is unable to do this as that would require acknowledging that he is not perfect. .
What effect does this have on children?
Narcissistic mothers can be especially detrimental to a child. This is more than just ‘crazy-making’—it can be devastating to a young child’s ability to learn to think critically and make accurate assessments of the world around him or her.
Having a mother who will tell a child he/she is always wrong in order to make herself right skews a child’s perceptions and sets up a “cognitive dissonance” in the child. Cognitive dissonance makes people uncomfortable, even children, and so the child has to find a way to resolve that uncomfortable conflict.
His choices are limited; he can either stick with his own perception or adopt his parent’s perception. When this perception comes from the person upon whom you depend for your food, shelter and protection, a young child most often accepts the parent’s “reality” over his own.
The child begins to doubt his or her own perceptions and over time loses confidence in her ability to make decisions or accurately perceive what goes on around her. She becomes accustomed to adopting her narcissistic mother’s beliefs, perceptions, and opinions as reality. Whenever dissonance arises she automatically resolves it by discounting anything that runs contrary to her narcissistic mother’s reality.
Some children don’t succumb. They either outwardly dispute the difference in perceptions or they pretend to accept their narcissistic mother’s views while silently holding their own. Either way, they don’t learn that their mothers are rational, trustworthy people, nor do they have a model for rational observation and thinking.
No matter what she’s done, she won’t ever genuinely apologize for anything. Instead, any time she feels she is being made to apologize she will sulk and pout, issue an insulting apology or negate the apology she has just made with justifications, qualifications or self pity: “I’m sorry you felt that I humiliated you” “I’m sorry if I made you feel bad” “If I did that it was wrong” “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do about it” “I’m sorry but it was just a joke. You’re so over-sensitive” “I’m sorry I made you feel clumsy, stupid and disgusting”…
Some daughters of narcissistic mothers have called this a “fauxpology.” And that is exactly what it is: a false apology.
One daughter, writing in a blog, gave a wonderful summary of the thinking and behavior of a classic narcissist as it relates to never being wrong:
“My own Narcissistic Mother went to her death having convinced herself that her lies, from little ones to whoppers that changed the lives of other people, were true. By rationalizing and justifying her lies and her nefarious deeds, she could believe herself right and justified in everything she did, even reversing herself and remaining right both in her original deed and in the undoing of it—a neat trick, if you ask me.
For example, she married my father and later divorced him…but she would never say that marrying my father was a mistake because she was always right—she didn’t make mistakes. Her rationalization was that marrying him was the only way she could get away from her oppressive Old World father, therefore it was the right thing to do.
That she was 16 and her father was no more oppressive than the fathers of other 16-year-old girl of that era was not material: she wanted to run her own life and marrying my father was an immediate and certain way to do that.
So, even though she divorced him later, she did not consider marrying my father a mistake: it was merely a means to an end, he served his purpose and then she got rid of him. Without remorse, without regret, without any thought for the feelings of the people who would be hurt by her actions.
And not an apology in sight because you only apologize when you are wrong and, of course, she was never, ever that!”