Some of us eventually become aware that we were victims of a dysfunctional family in which our parents, for some reason, prioritized one child above the rest. The ‘golden’ boy or girl. They end up as narcissistic siblings, with whom we’re almost always at war.
Arguments, selfish and abusive behavior, excessive demands, criticism… On these occasions, having a sibling most certainly doesn’t mean having a friend for life. In fact, in these cases, we grow up with a clearly harmful presence, deliberately shaped by parents with similarly narcissistic traits.
Almost without knowing, we find ourselves involved in exhausting dynamics that mark our childhood and even adulthood. On the one hand, we have a father or mother who places all their attention, hope, and affection on only one of their offspring. On the other, we must deal with a tyrannical, spoiled, competitive, and sometimes even verbally or physically aggressive sibling.
These are silenced and highly complex realities that are well worth talking about.
Selective education and prioritizing love and care over one child and not over others equally, always leaves serious consequences.
Narcissistic siblings, victims of a selective education
‘Manufacturing’ a narcissist is easier than you might think. In fact, it’s enough to simply reinforce the child’s egocentrism and deactivate their empathy. They just need to be indoctrinated with an inflated and disproportionate view of themselves, with messages such as: “You’re the most handsome”, “You’re the one who loves mom best” etc.
Narcissistic siblings are the result of an unequal and discriminatory upbringing that built a distorted identity in them. This identity was nurtured by the internalization of narratives that allowed them to assume, from a really early age that they, and only they, were worthy of all the love and attention.
Gradually, they built their harmful personality, one that became more pronounced and harmful over the years. A study conducted by the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands) confirms that narcissism is, in part, rooted in early socialization experiences. Therefore, education is the first factor capable of modeling this personality profile.
Narcissistic siblings assume early on that they’re much more important than the rest of us. They consider that their achievements, and not ours, deserve to be recognized by the family.
The characteristics, traits, and behaviors of narcissistic siblings
Whoever grows up with a narcissistic brother or sister retains in their memory many childhood memories that aren’t pleasant. Later, over the years, the relationship becomes even more tense, damaging, and complex. To the point that, in adulthood, it’s common for siblings to keep their distance or have only occasional meetings, simply to comply with family commitments.
Here are some signs that define them:
- From a really young age, they needed excessive attention and recognition.
- They only take into account their own needs.
- Even as children, they frequently resorted to lies and blackmail.
- They’ve always demonstrated an obsessive need to compete for almost anything.
- They blame their siblings for any disagreement or family problems.
- They love to show off their accomplishments to the family.
- They’re clearly antagonistic toward their siblings.
- They’re reactive, argumentative, don’t empathize, and seldom listen when spoken to by a sibling.
- They don’t usually show any interest in how their siblings’ lives are going.
- When siblings defend themselves or reproach them for their attitude, they claim that they’re over-sensitive.
- They’re skilled at getting parents to always favor them.
When parents prioritize a child over others and they develop a narcissistic personality, it’s extremely difficult for others to maintain a healthy bond with them.
Narcissistic siblings sometimes make others distance themselves from the family
Narcissistic siblings are a bone of contention. They’re the disruptive element, the trigger of any argument, and the figure that always picks a fight that the other siblings don’t want to start. If they were the apple of their parent’s eyes as children, in adulthood this becomes even more evident. However, it all comes at a cost.
As a matter of fact, it’s quite common that siblings of narcissists end up distancing themselves from their clearly dysfunctional family. Indeed, it’s only natural to want to avoid contact with parents who deliberately created that division and deference. When the love of the family isn’t unconditional, every bond creates suffering.
How should you treat a narcissistic sibling?
The complex thing about having to deal with narcissistic siblings is that you also have to deal with a family hierarchy. The one in which you’re at the bottom of the ladder and the golden child is at the top. However, sometimes, you can’t distance yourself from one or the other. In these cases, you should bear the following in mind:
- Don’t expect anything from them. You must accept reality. That’s the fact that neither your sibling nor your family values you, nor will they consider your needs. Therefore, you must avoid depending on them in any aspect, and stop hoping for a miraculous change.
- Reaffirm your boundaries. If you’re forced to maintain contact with your narcissistic sibling, make it clear what they can and can’t expect from you. Not everything is acceptable and you must clarify this as soon as possible.
- Heal your past wounds. You’ve grown up in a dysfunctional family that only focused affection on one child. You may well have many memories and experiences to heal. Don’t hesitate to ask for expert help.
Last but not least, focus on the figures that really bring you affection, validation, and understanding in your day-to-day life. They’re your real family; those relationships you’ve chosen and built for yourself.
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- Kacel, E. L., Ennis, N., & Pereira, D. B. (2017). Narcissistic Personality Disorder in Clinical Health Psychology Practice: Case Studies of Comorbid Psychological Distress and Life-Limiting Illness. Behavioral medicine (Washington, D.C.), 43(3), 156–164. https://doi.org/10.1080/08964289.2017.1301875