Relationship Between Childhood Narcissistic Abuse and Adult Overachieving


Chronic Overachieving and Narcissistic Personality Disorder Abuse

Written by Randi Fine, Author of Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing and Recovery

See column on the right side of this website labeled Narcissistic Personality Disorder  for a complete  list of all NPD related articles and videos.

Under-nurtured children often become overgivers and overachievers in adulthood. While the gifts they  give to everyone else are enormous, true joy can only happen when they finally give themselves unconditional love for who they are, not just for what they do. ~Doe Zantamata~

Are you an adult survivor of NPD abuse who is a chronic overachiever? Are you never satisfied with your accomplishments or fear failure? Do you suffer from the “Nothing I Do is Ever Good Enough” syndrome?

Adults who were raised by a parent or parents with Narcissistic Personality Disorder suffer a great deal of collateral damage. They are left with open emotional wounds that impact many areas of their lives; wounds that will not heal until they understand what happened to them in their childhoods. Many of the wounds they have carried with them since childhood stem from skewed internal belief systems that remain deeply ingrained in them.

All NPD abuse survivors do not suffer in exactly the same way, though because of the commonalities in the way Narcissists abuse and the convoluted messages they convey to their children, survivors are similarly impacted.

Many ACONS’s (Adult Children of Narcissists) are left with a chronically unfulfilled need for external approval and validation, irrespective to the level of competency or success they achieve in their personal and/or professional lives. There is an underlying belief that they must look, act or perform certain ways to get approval, acceptance and love from others. This approval seeking pattern creates a great deal of stress in their lives. They sacrifice their own happiness and well-being at the expense of it.

Children are highly impressionable. Growing up under the control of an NPD parent, children become conditioned to put their own needs aside and wait to see what the parent expects of them. These expectations are never predictable – the children jump through ever changing hoops in an effort to keep their parents happy and to get a crumb of “love” or acknowledgment. They live in an environment where the feelings of the parent, the person they rely on to take care of them, take priority over their own feelings. In order to fulfill the child’s basic need to thrive – to be loved and cared for – and their need to live in a peaceful, harmonious environment, they must learn to play the game the way the parent wants it played.

Having always based their feelings on the feelings of the NPD parent, these children grow up not knowing what their own feelings are. Having always gauged their successes and failures on the approval or disapproval of the NPD parent, they have no inner guidance system. Having been conditioned to keep the peace through “pleasing” or “playing it safe,” they fear disapproval and failure. All considered it is understandable why as adults they do not trust their own judgment, why they rely on external validation, and why they never feel “good enough.”

Karyl McBride Ph.D. said in her article Do You Not Feel Good Enough, “Just because a child grows up and may begin to see the dysfunction in their family of origin, it does not mean that the internalized message is cleared away. We parent ourselves in the same manner we were parented. So the negative message of “I couldn’t fix it, so I am not good enough,” remains strong. The parent does not have to say these words directly to the child, the child is internalizing it as he or she is developing. ‘I will clean the whole house tonight and then my parents won’t fight.’ But, they do fight and they don’t even notice. ‘It didn’t work.’ ‘I am not good enough, or powerful enough, or worthy.”

Understanding where the negative self-talk comes from is the first step toward changing your life. Vanessa, author of the article How To Stop Seeking Approval From Others & Get On With Your Life!, suggests the following ways to change approval seeking patterns:

  • Get to know who YOU are. Dive into your being by embarking on a quest to know who you are by establishing your core values, getting clear on your basic needs and wants in life. By knowing these things about yourself you will have less fear from separating from the pack and following your bliss. You will also be able to distinguish if you are living by other people’s desires instead of your own.
  • Ask yourself, “Why are other people’s opinions of me so important?” “Why do I seek the approval of others?” When you can answer these questions you will have a much better idea of the attachment you have to these beliefs. It will become easier to let go of the fear associated to living by others opinions and judgments of you because you will get to the root of why it is there. This belief actually doesn’t have anything to do with anyone’s opinions or judgments, but from a fear that you will not be accepted or loved by others if what you do is unaligned with those around you. Acceptance and love first start with you, not with the outside world. If you are looking to be valued and validated by the outside world first, you will end up suffering immensely in life.
  • Play the, “what if,” game. “What if….I don’t do what my parents want me to do with my life??” “What if my choices and ideas about my life are different than those around me?” When you play out the worst case scenarios, it doesn’t seem so scary anymore to venture off on your own path and to start living out your own dreams and goals. Most of the time the worst case scenario doesn’t actually play out in the end, but if it does you’re already somewhat prepared for a possible outcome and how to handle it.
  • Let go of those who don’t support or accept you for who you are. Although this is probably one of the toughest and most challenging choices to make it can be the wisest and the healthiest. You are here to live an authentic life that is yours, not simply live to abide by and please others. Sometimes we have to release unsupportive and toxic relationships in order to get on with our lives.
  • Affirming that you do deserve to be happy and to have a life that is in purpose and full of passion and zest is key. This is YOUR life and no one else’s. Find ways to self-talk in a positive and loving manner to reprogram your mind chatter from that of fear and limitation to one of love and joy.
  • Remind yourself that no matter what choices or decisions you make or don’t make, no matter what your dreams and goals are there will always be differing points of view and opinions of them. The most important thing is how you feel about yourself and your choices. Do they feel good? Are your decisions congruent in mind-body and soul? Are you feeling fulfilled? Are you living a life that is full of joy and ease? Are you accepting and approving of yourself? Remember in the end this is YOUR life and no one else’s to live. Your path and journey may very well differentiate to what others think it should be and that’s O-K. Get on with your life and start living it!

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