Ever felt like the odd one out in your own family? Like you’re the designated problem, the black sheep? That was my life as the narcissist family scapegoat.
I grew up with a narcissistic mother obsessed with appearance and success, a sister who manipulated instead of supported, and a brother living off everyone else’s success.
Breaking free from this dysfunctional family system isn’t easy, but my experiences prove that it is possible.
If you’re wondering how I survived the chaos that is my family, join me as I explore the tragedy of being the scapegoat child and how, against all odds, I managed to overcome it.
- If you’re the family scapegoat, understand that it’s not because of your actions but rather a projection of your narcissistic parent’s insecurities.
- Being a scapegoat can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, and difficulty forming healthy relationships.
- By acknowledging your worth and the love you have for yourself, you will start prioritizing your mental well-being.
Table of Contents
What Is a Narcissist Family Scapegoat?
A scapegoat is someone who is unfairly blamed or punished for others’ misdeeds. In narcissistic family systems, the scapegoat is often a child who is viewed as a threat to the narcissistic parent’s fragile ego.
This child becomes the recipient of all the pent-up anger, resentment, and blame that the narcissistic parent cannot or will not own.
Unlike a general family scapegoat, who may be scapegoated due to specific actions or behaviors, a scapegoat in a narcissistic family is targeted solely because they represents something the narc parent does not want to see in themselves.
They may be outspoken, independent, or simply different from the other children in the family. This makes them a threat to the narcissist’s sense of superiority and control.
It is important to note that not all children in narcissistic families are scapegoated.
Some may be favored by the narcissist and become the “golden child,” while others may be ignored altogether.
Why Is a Scapegaoat Needed in a Narcissistic Family?
A scapegoat is needed in a narcissistic family because it allows the narcissist to maintain a delusion of control and avoid taking any responsibility for their own shortcomings.
You see, the child’s role as the scapegoat is to absorb all negativity, blame, and shame that the narcissists cannot handle themselves.
This dynamic serves the need of the person with narcissistic personality disorder to maintain a facade of perfection and superiority.
By projecting their own negative traits and feelings onto the scapegoat, the narcissist can blamelessly navigate any conflict within the family.
What’s It Like Being the Narcissistic Family Scapegoat?
Being the narcissistic family scapegoat is a painful and isolating experience that can have lasting effects on a person’s life. I know that quite well.
From my own experiences, here are some of the specific challenges that scapegoat survivors may face:
- Low self-esteem: The constant criticism and negative messages that scapegoats receive can damage their self-esteem. They may believe that they are worthless and unlovable.
- Anxiety and depression: The stress of being a scapegoat can lead to anxiety and depression. The scapegoat may feel constantly on edge and may have difficulty relaxing and enjoying life.
- Difficulty forming healthy relationships: The scapegoat’s experience of being isolated and misunderstood can make it difficult for them to form healthy relationships. They may be distrustful of others, and they may have difficulty setting boundaries.
- An inner critic: The scapegoat’s internalized negative messages can develop into an inner critic that constantly berates and criticizes them. This can make it difficult for the scapegoat to feel good about themselves and to make positive changes in their life.
The scapegoat may also experience symptoms of PTSD, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and hypervigilance.
They may be easily triggered by criticism or conflict, and they may avoid situations that remind them of their past trauma.
How Does the Narcissist Family Pick the Scapegoat Victim?
Children of narcissists are often given roles in the narcissistic family.
The golden child, typically the eldest or most successful sibling, receives the narcissist’s affection and praise, while the scapegoat bears the brunt of their abuse and blame.
How does the narcissist decide which is which?
While the reasons for scapegoating are complex and multifaceted, certain characteristics in children make them more susceptible to this harmful role.
1. Sensitive and Empathetic Children
Children who are naturally sensitive and empathetic tend to be more attuned to the emotions of others, including the negative emotions of their narcissistic parents.
This sensitivity can make them easier targets for projection, as the narcissistic parent may perceive their empathy as a weakness.
2. Independent and Spirited Children
Children who are independent and spirited may pose a threat to the narcissist parent’s need for control.
Their autonomy and individuality can clash with the narc’s desire to maintain a facade of perfection, making them more likely to be targeted as the scapegoat.
3. Academically or Athletically Gifted Children
Children who excel academically or athletically may draw attention and admiration from others, which can trigger feelings of envy and resentment in the narcissist.
The scapegoat role can serve as a way for the parent to diminish their child’s achievements and maintain their own sense of superiority.
4. Firstborn or Only Child
In some cases, the scapegoat role may be assigned to the firstborn or only child, as they often bear the brunt of the narcissistic parent’s expectations and pressures.
The scapegoat may be held responsible for the parent’s own unmet dreams and aspirations, leading to a cycle of blame and criticism.
5. Quiet and Reserved Children
Children who are introverted or reserved may be less likely to challenge or contradict the narcissistic parent, making them easier targets for manipulation and control.
Their quiet demeanor may be misinterpreted as weakness or a lack of spirit, further increasing their vulnerability to scapegoating.
6. Children From Previous Relationships
In blended families, children from previous relationships may be more susceptible to scapegoating.
The narcissistic parent may view these children as outsiders or threats to their new family unit, leading to preferential treatment for their own biological children.
7. Children With Physical or Mental Health Challenges
Children with physical or mental health challenges may be perceived as a burden or a source of shame for the narcissistic parent.
The scapegoat role can serve as a way for the narcissist to deflect attention from their own shortcomings and project their negative feelings onto their child.
8. Children With Different Personalities or Interests
Children who have different personalities or interests from their narcissistic parents may be seen as a challenge to their parent’s sense of identity.
The scapegoat role can be used to reinforce the narcissist’s own beliefs and values while suppressing their child’s individuality.
Healing After Being the Narcissist Family Scapegoat
Recovery from narcissistic abuse is a journey of self-discovery and personal growth. It can be challenging, but it is also a process filled with hope and possibility.
Here are 11 things you can do to start your healing:
1. Engaging With a Therapist Who Specializes in Family Dynamics
As the family scapegoat myself, my therapist played an important role in my recovery from growing up in a destructive family dynamics.
Therapy provided a safe space where I could unravel the layers of family bullying and understand the intricate web of child roles enforced by my narcissistic mother.
With a skilled therapist, you can understand the complexities of family dysfunction and learn techniques to rebuild your emotional well-being.
2. Learning to Set and Maintain Healthy Boundaries With My Family Members
Boundaries serve as protective barriers that define what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior in relationships.
In a narcissistic family, these are particularly important because narcissists often lack respect for personal space and boundaries.
As my family’s scapegoat, I know that learning to set and maintain healthy boundaries is challenging but necessary for healing.
A narcissist may react react negatively, but assert yourself.
Create physical distance from the narcissistic abuser, limit contact, and establish clear expectations regarding communications and interactions.
3. Incorporating Self-Care Routines Into My Daily Life
Prioritizing self-care is essential for healing from the emotional and psychological impact of being the scapegoat in a narcissistic family.
Much of my life had been shaped by meeting my narcissistic parent’s needs at the expense of my own well-being.
For years, the relentless focus on fulfilling her expectations left little room for self-care.
When I realized I didn’t deserve to be treated this way, I began incorporating daily self-care practices into my daily routine, whether through journaling, meditation or simply taking moments for myself.
This shift allowed me to prioritize my mental and emotional health.
4. Understanding Narcissism and Its Effects
By gaining insight into the characteristics of the narcissist in your life, you can begin to make sense of your experiences and develop strategies for coping with their influence.
In my experience, when I recognized the effects of growing up in a narcissistic family on my emotional well-being, I was able to separate the learned behaviors from my authentic self.
This paved the way for a more informed and empowered approach to healing from scapegoat narcissism abuse.
When you recognize the patterns of behavior and the underlying motivations, you can learn to protect yourself from further harm and cultivate resilience.
5. Surrounding Myself With Understanding Friends
I intentionally sought out a person or group who offered unwavering support and empathy.
With my supportive friends around me, I found the support needed to counter the isolation that many scapegoats suffer.
A scapegoat’s support system outside the family dynamic is instrumental in rebuilding trust in others.
Understanding friends can provide a non-judgmental space where you could share your experiences and emotions.
This external support will play a pivotal role in reshaping your perspective and reinforcing your sense of self-worth.
6. Writing Down My Thoughts and Feelings
Journaling became my therapeutic outlet for making sense of what happened.
It’s where I can untangle the complexities of my emotions, allowing me to process the impact of the scapegoat role and the narcissist’s behavior.
This introspective practice served as a tool for self-discovery and healing.
I was able to gain clarity on my experiences and gradually liberate myself from the emotional burden imposed by the narcissistic family structure.
7. Reminding Myself That I Deserve Kindness and Empathy
Speaking from experience, being an adult child of a narcissist can leave you feeling devalued and unworthy of love and respect.
But you have to remind yourself that you deserve to be treated with kindness and empathy.
By consciously affirming that you deserve kindness and surrounding yourself with empathetic individuals, you can begin to challenge the distorted narratives of your narcissistic relative.
If all they can offer you is emotional abuse, be your own friend and validate your worth.
Recognize the strength within you to set boundaries, break free from toxic cycles, and nurture your well-being.
8. Engaging in New Activities to Bright up My Life
Finding new interests and passions is a transformative step in breaking free from the shackles of anger and blame from a narcissistic parent’s abuse.
These new hobbies can help you rediscover your passions, boost low self-esteem, and create a sense of fulfillment that may have been lacking in your past experiences.
They can give you the much-needed escape from your narcissistic family’s negativity and allow you to discover new things about yourself.
9. Practicing 5 Minutes of Daily Meditation
As a scapegoat, you may have internalized feelings of guilt, shame, and anger towards your narcissistic parent.
Over time, these pent-up negative emotions can make you struggle with anxiety.
Practicing daily meditation, even for five minutes, can significantly impact your healing journey. It can help you build self-awareness, manage anxiety, and develop self-compassion.
With meditation, you can learn to quiet the inner critic and negative thoughts that may stem from your past experiences.
Instead, it can help you focus on the present moment and let go of harmful patterns of thinking.
Remember, meditation is not about emptying your mind. It’s about observing your thoughts and emotions without judgment.
10. Limiting Contact With All My Toxic Family Members
To heal from the emotional abuse you endured as a scapegoat, you need to be around people who support your healing.
Continuing to engage with toxic members of the family can trigger negative emotions, reinforce unhealthy patterns, and hinder your personal growth.
You don’t have to cut off the entire family. Some reduce contact, while others disown only certain family members.
11. Understanding That I’m Not to Blame for What Happened
While healing is possible, scapegoats must first learn to break free from the burden of believing they are defective or unworthy.
When you truly understand what happened, you can make sense of your experiences and break free from the negative patterns of thinking that have held you back.
Remember, the abuse you experienced was not your fault. It was the result of your narcissistic parent’s own insecurities and emotional issues.
They projected their problems onto you and used you as a scapegoat to maintain their fragile sense of self-worth.
You Do Have a Chance to Move On and Live a Normal Life
As a former narcissist family scapegoat, my journey of overcoming the clutches of my parents’ narcissistic traits unveils a powerful truth.
You have a chance to move on and live a normal life. You are not defined by the role bestowed upon you.
With self-compassion, setting firm boundaries, and seeking professional help, you can transform your narrative.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a family scapegoat become a narcissist?
Yes, a family scapegoat can become narcissistic if they do not heal from the trauma of their childhood. They may learn to adopt the same narcissistic behaviors as their parents to protect themselves from further abuse.
What happens to the scapegoat in a narcissistic family?
A scapegoated child may have difficulty forming healthy relationships and trusting others. They also often suffer from low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
What is the strength of the scapegoat in the narcissist family?
Since the scapegoat experiences family abuse, they may develop resilience, independence, and a strong sense of empathy. They may also be more likely to speak up for themselves and others.
What does a narcissist do when they lose their scapegoat?
When a narcissist loses their scapegoat, they may feel lost, angry, and unloved. They may lash out at other family members or try to find a new scapegoat.
Can an only child be the scapegoat and the golden child?
An only child cannot be both the scapegoat and the golden child simultaneously. However, they may experience shifting roles throughout their childhood.