Why Family Scapegoats Become Lifelong Victims: Sharing My Truth So You Can Do Better

Growing up as the family scapegoat wasn’t a walk in the park.

The constant criticism, manipulation, and isolation at home left me with some deep scars that messed up my self-esteem, relationships, and overall well-being.

In fact, if it weren’t for therapy, I’d probably still be carrying that heavy baggage around.

If you’re going through the same thing and are wondering how to start the healing process, I’m happy to help.

Below, I’ll share my personal experiences, so you can unravel why family scapegoats become lifelong victims when they don’t change their mindset and seek the right kind of help.

  • Family scapegoats may suffer from low self-esteem, trust issues, anxiety, and depression and struggle to set boundaries due to their upbringing.
  • Scapegoats may face a self-identity crisis, questioning who they truly are, as they are boxed into a role within the family.
  • Reclaiming your life as a scapegoat involves recognizing the external judgments that have impacted you and seeking support to break free from their influence.

Why Family Scapegoats Become Lifelong Victims of Narcissists?

Family scapegoats often become victims well into adulthood due to the long-lasting emotional and psychological wounds inflicted during their formative years.

This role is typically assigned within dysfunctional family dynamics, where the scapegoat is blamed for family problems and becomes a target for criticism and manipulation.

While the golden child can do no wrong, often receiving constant adulation, the scapegoat gets blamed for anything and everything.

On the other hand, the other family members become the aging narcissistic parent’s flying monkeys or those who blindly support the agenda against the scapegoat.

The use of flying monkeys against the scapegoated adult child is a common tactic in the complex web of manipulation and control perpetuated throughout life by narcissistic parents.

These roles, established so early in life, often see the golden children become narcissists themselves, as they absorb and project the toxic behaviors they’ve learned.

But why does this victimization linger?

Well, part of it is that we start to believe the negative labels and expectations placed on us. It’s like we wear a “flawed” or “defective” sign on our foreheads.

This self-doubt can stick around, making it hard to stand up for ourselves, set boundaries, or form healthy relationships.

Breaking free from this cycle means taking back what has been projected onto the scapegoat, challenging the established roles, and reclaiming a life that’s no longer dictated by the narcissist.

5 Psychological Long-Term Impacts of Being the Family Scapegoat

The experience of being a family scapegoat leaves a trail of deep emotional scars that can last a lifetime.

As someone who’s walked this path, I understand firsthand the psychological toll it takes.

It’s not just about surviving the chaos within the family. It’s also about coping with the long-term impacts that seep into our adult lives.

Here are five of the most significant psychological challenges that the family scapegoat often faces:

1. Low Self-Esteem: The Lingering Self-Doubt

Growing up as the scapegoat, you’re bombarded with negativity, criticism, and blame every time you express your opinions.

These abusive tactics can have lifelong effects on an individual’s self-esteem.

Many family scapegoats find it challenging to believe in themselves or their abilities, which can hinder their personal and professional growth.

I certainly did.

The way I related to being a scapegoat was profoundly shaped by my role in the family.

My narcissistic mother’s unwavering belief in perfection and her insistence that I fell short of it had a profound impact on my self-esteem.

In her mind, the fact I’m “different” from my siblings meant I put shame to the family’s “good name.” Others also viewed me as the family’s black sheep.

That attitude of worthlessness was like carrying around a backpack filled with self-doubt well into adulthood.

I started doubting my own abilities. Because when you internalize the early message that you’re the problem, it becomes a constant battle to prove your worth, even to yourself.

Understanding how this dynamic affected me has been the first step in rebuilding my self-esteem and taking control of my life.

It’s difficult to unlearn the self-doubt that’s been ingrained from a young age, even when it’s rooted in someone else’s unrealistic expectations.

But the journey to rebuild your self-esteem starts with recognizing the impact of these external judgments and consciously working to break free from their influence.

When shame is carried into adult life, do the painful work of confronting the deeply ingrained beliefs that make you feel unworthy.

2. Trust Issues: Difficulty in Forming Healthy Relationships

Ah, trust. Now that’s a tricky one for us scapegoats.

When the people who are supposed to be your biggest supporters, your own family members, turn against you, it messes with your ability to trust others.

In my case, it was like my own mother constantly questioning my actions and motives, which left me wary of trusting anyone, even those who genuinely cared about me.

This mistrust began to infiltrate my friendships and romantic relationships. I was always on high alert, like a guard dog ready to pounce at the first sign of betrayal.

It’s tough to open up and connect with people on a deeper level when you’re constantly expecting the worst.

My strained relationship with my mother, driven by her unrealistic expectations and criticism, amplified these trust issues.

I felt like I could never meet her impossible standards, so I started to question whether I could ever truly be good enough for anyone.

Find a way to break the pattern of mistrust by seeking professional guidance or support from those who understand your experiences.

3. Anxiety and Depression: Lingering Emotional Struggles

Living under the shadow of an emotionally abusive environment can take a serious toll on your mental health.

The constant stress of being the family shock absorber, always the target of blame and criticism, can make you feel worthless and leave you emotionally drained.

All my life, I was made to feel like a victim. And this meant anxiety and depression became my unwelcome companions that followed me well into adulthood.

There was a time when attending family functions felt like I was walking on eggshells, never knowing when the next emotional storm would hit.

The weight of past emotional scars cast a dark cloud over my life. My role in the family made me feel ashamed to be alive.

Seek therapy or counseling to address the emotional scars that were unfairly projected onto you by the family bully. When you regain control of your mental well-being, you can truly find peace and happiness.

4. Boundary Challenges: Struggling to Advocate for Yourself

A scapegoated adult child often grapples with a significant hurdle: setting and enforcing personal boundaries.

When you’re often targeted for things you didn’t do, it can be tough to find your voice and stand up for yourself. You become a pushover and a magnet for abuse.

I remember moments when I tried to express my feelings or assert my needs, only to be met with resistance or dismissal.

It’s like your boundaries are paper-thin, easily bulldozed by the expectations and demands of others.

And the truth is, this struggle to establish boundaries can seep into all aspects of your life.

Unhealthy relationships can become the norm, as you are often seen as an easy target for manipulation or mistreatment.

It is a vicious cycle, and it took me a while to realize that I needed to learn how to set boundaries. It was a crucial step in breaking free from my role as the scapegoat’s daughter.

I had to remind myself that if my family members believed I was undeserving of their respect, it was a reflection of their own judgments and expectations, not my true worth.

5. Self-Identity Crisis: Who Am I Really?

As a family scapegoat, I know what it’s like to be assigned a specific role within the family dynamic, and it’s not one you get to choose.

In my case, it felt like I was pigeonholed into the role of the problem child, the one who could never quite meet my mother’s expectations.

And when you’re constantly boxed into a role like that, it can make it incredibly challenging to develop a strong and stable sense of self.

I found myself questioning who I really was and what I truly wanted out of life. It’s like wearing a mask for so long that you forget what’s underneath.

This identity crisis is often carried into adult life, leaving you feeling lost and disconnected from your true self.

But let me tell you this. The journey to rediscover your true self is entirely worth it.

It’s very hard, but the path of self-discovery can lead to profound personal growth and transformation.

Through self-reflection, I learned to accept that God gave me these challenges and this life to teach me valuable things about myself.

What Happens to the Scapegoat Child in a Narcissistic Family?

As the scapegoat child in a narcissistic family, I felt like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. I was the one blamed for every discord, the outlet for my mother’s frustrations and insecurities.

This role was confusing and painful; I grew up feeling fundamentally flawed, believing that there must be something inherently wrong with me to deserve such treatment.

My self-esteem was almost non-existent. I second-guessed every decision, overwhelmed by anxiety that was born from years of being told I was the problem.

Socially, I was timid, expecting rejection and criticism at every turn. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy: I’d act awkwardly because I expected to be shunned, and then I often was, which in turn reinforced my belief in my own unworthiness.

Despite the hardships, or perhaps because of them, I developed a resilience that surprised even me. I read a lot of books that help me cope better with my difficulties, in learning, in any small space where I can be myself without judgment.

And when I was old enough, I decided to seek therapy, which was transformative. It gave me the tools to understand that the role I was given in my family wasn’t an accurate reflection of who I am.

The most difficult yet liberating moment came when I decided to distance myself from my family. It wasn’t an easy choice; it came with a heavy dose of guilt and a grieving process for the family connection I never truly had.

But in that space, I found room to heal, to build a life that was mine, filled with people who appreciated me not as a scapegoat but as a person worthy of love and respect.

The scars from my childhood remain, but they no longer define me. I’ve learned to set boundaries, recognize my values, and surround myself with a chosen family that supports and uplifts me.

The journey from being the scapegoat child to becoming an autonomous, self-assured adult was challenging, but it taught me the most valuable lesson: that the narratives we are given as children need not dictate the course of our lives.

Break Free From the Scapegoat Role and Rediscover Your Self-Worth

When you look into why family scapegoats become lifelong victims, you find a complex web of emotional scars, self-doubt, and strained relationships.

Yet, understanding the reasons behind this pattern is the key to breaking free and reclaiming your self-worth.

The good news is that we can choose to step out of the scapegoat role, rediscover our self-worth, and regain control of our lives.

Today, I don’t speak to my mother. You could even say I’ve been disinherited, but it is a choice I made to protect my well-being and find peace and happiness on my own terms.

And you can do the same, too!

It’s going to be hard, and it will take time, but with self-awareness, support, and a commitment to healing, you can redefine your identity and embrace the possibilities that life has to offer.

Remember, you’re worth it!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do you become the family scapegoat?

You become the family scapegoat due to a range of factors. This can include being perceived as different, challenging the status quo, or not conforming to the narcissistic parent’s expectations.

What happens to the scapegoat when they grow up?

When the scapegoat grows up, they often continue to be a target for abuse and criticism within the family. It can result in low self-esteem, trust issues, and ongoing emotional struggles.

What type of person becomes a scapegoat in the family?

The type of person who becomes scapegoated by siblings or parents is often someone who challenges or questions the family’s established dynamics. They may be perceived as different or resistant to conforming to the family’s expectations.

What happens when the scapegoat heals?

When the scapegoat heals, they typically demand fair treatment from their family, setting boundaries and maintaining low contact with those who continue to mistreat them.

How do people benefit from scapegoating?

People benefit from scapegoating as a defense mechanism to divert blame and responsibility away from themselves, creating a false sense of security. By making one individual the target of blame, they avoid facing their own fear and shame.

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1 thought on “Why Family Scapegoats Become Lifelong Victims: Sharing My Truth So You Can Do Better”

  1. What does the family scapegoat do when they are disabled and can’t qualify for disability because the family supports them financially?


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