When You’re Raised By Narcissists, You Have To Learn To Reparent Yourself


Dear Self,

Yesterday, you made a stupid, stupid mistake that cost you more than you can afford, and I’m obviously super mad at you. I’ve been making you all kinds of miserable since then, and you totally deserve it.

Having said that, I just watched another one of those videos on dealing with narcissistic parental abuse, and your therapist reminded me that while having one is bad enough, having two narcissistic parents means that you’re royally fucked—it’s a much steeper climb to healing and recovery.

One of the crucial steps involves figuring out how to REPARENT yourself, since you haven’t received any healthy parenting.

What does a healthy parent do? Well, the internet tells me that a healthy parent loves unconditionally. They keep you safe. They are compassionate and empathetic. They authentically mirror their child’s emotions, supporting them and encouraging their aspirations. They compromise and learn to put their own stuff aside for their child’s needs. Sounds foreign, I know, but now this is what you need to learn to do for yourself if you wish to ever lead an emotionally healthy life.

If your parents were in the picture now, they’d still react the same way they’ve reacted to your past stupid mistakes. First they put you on a pedestal, and then they’d resent you for falling down. Your father would let your mother take the lead, since her drama is less subtle. She would yell at you in a way that says that not only is she angry at you for making the mistake, but also for making her angry, forcing her to abdicate her role of the “perfect understanding mother”. She’d extrapolate the careless mistake to you having a generally careless attitude (except when it comes to academics, of course), which can only surface from and amount to the extreme disregard you must have for all the sacrifices she’s made for you to give you everything she thinks you should ever want; she’d chide you for believing that money grows on trees, for belittling her upbringing, and then switch to consoling you for the guilt and shame that you should obviously be feeling. She’d play the role of the supportive confidante who you should be grateful to for the never-ending support you receive, even if you may sometimes fail to deserve it. Could anyone ever love you more? Of course not.

And then the man would step in. Depending on his mood, he’d be gracious and dismissive or angry and ranting, but always reserving the right to cruelly taunt you with this careless episode upon any discussion in the the future that isn’t going in his favor. As you well know, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

So, having reviewed (and partly re-lived) these reactions, I demand a do-over. Please.

I’m sorry I was so harsh on you yesterday. I’m sorry I viewed your mistake only against the context of my generalized anxiety without sparing any kindness. You did make a mistake, and you were careless. But I don’t want to be the kind of parent who keeps holding it over your head, like I have been doing. Not every mistake warrants a penance or a purgatory. Sometimes making it feels like lesson enough. Not that I’m saying that every mistake needs a lesson.

Sorry. It’s my first time. I’m going to make mistakes, but I promise I won’t do what I did yesterday—default to treating you (inside my head) the way your parents would have. There’s no point in wanting their voices to die down if I’m going to replace them with a similar one of my own.

I love you. And I’m going to try to earn your trust in the promises I make to you. And I hope you don’t repeat the mistake, but it’s only a hope, not a condition. You have my love, trust, and support. Unconditionally. Let’s learn what that means. Let’s push the boundaries of self-love and add-in some “reparenting love” too, okay?

I will do my best by you.