Narcissism in the Family: Rebuilding After Living with a Narcissist with Joy Larkin
Narcissism and Narcissist are buzz words that have been floating around the self-help and relationship internet space. I've noticed that more and more people are using this word to describe people they've been in relationship with. But is it valid?
On today's episode, I sit down with Joy Larkin to talk about her experience with Narcissistic Personality Disorder in her family and romantic partnerships. She shares with us what she was able to do to rebuild after living with her narcissistic aunt.
TODAY'S GUEST: JOY LARKIN
> What are some of the signs to start recognizing narcissist behavior around you (03:46)
> What's the biggest difference between dealing with a family member or friend that's a narcissist versus someone that's romantic (06:05)
> How criticism looks like when you're dealing with a family member (10:25)
> How do you know if someone is a Narcissist or a person that has those personality traits (16:10)
> What are some of the practices of dealing with narcissistic abuse, you can use today to start healing (19:54)
E011: Narcissism in the Family: Rebuilding After Living with a Narcissist w/ Joy Larkin
Narcissist and narcissism are buzzwords that have been floating around the internet. But is it a valid way to describe your last relationship or parents?
Amy: [00:00:29] Welcome back to this episode of What We’re Not Talking About! I am so thrilled to be chatting with today’s guest, Joy Larkin, who is the founder of Live Narc Free. And she and I are going to have a really hopefully juicy and in-depth conversation about Narcissism as well as what it is to live with one, deal with one, engage, have a relationship with one, and how to move forward from those relationships and really rebuild ourselves. So without further ado, I want to welcome Joy Larkin to the podcast.
Joy: [00:01:14] Thank you so much. Hi, everyone.
Amy: [00:01:17] Hey! So I'm so excited to talk to you today because narcissism, narcissists, those buzz words, have been everywhere. Elephant journal, Oh, my goodness. What's it called? Huff, not Huffington Posts, but the new, the new thing that Ariana Huffington does. Ugh. My mind doesn't even my mind's not working, but you guys know what I'm talking about.
So narcissism, it's popping up everywhere. I know that I have seen it in the self-help industry quite a lot too, because it is something that is... Maybe not brand new to the space, but it's something that's developing and we're starting to learn a lot more about it. Just like myself, I have a story of how I got to this point in time in my life.
And I imagine, Joy, you have a similar story about what brought you to be so passionate about educating other people on how to survive narcissist abuse.
So I'd love for you to share a little bit about what brought you here.
Joy: [00:02:22] Yes, absolutely. So, when I was 17 years old, I moved to California. and when I did that, I lived with my aunt at the time. She was a narcissist, which I think she still is, but I lived with her for five years. And also while I was living with her, I met a guy online through Twitter and, come to find out, he was actually a narcissist.
Now when I had those experiences, those relationships, it really hurt me. The betrayals and everything that occurred. And I was just devastated and not really knowing what to do, not really finding an outlet to heal. I started going on YouTube and sharing my story and yeah, it's just kind of been history ever since.
That's when I started helping people with education about narcissistic abuse, how to overcome it and what it entails, and how to cope.
Amy: [00:03:16] That's really beautiful. There's a lot of healing and helping others overcome something that you also have overcome.
Joy: [00:03:23] Yes, absolutely.
Amy: [00:03:26] Have you met? I imagine you've met a lot of different people of all walks of life in this. I use this term so much and it's so corny, but I'm gonna use it again, in this journey of yours.
Joy: [00:03:39] Yeah, no, I have.
It's just been, to be honest, like the amount of people that I've met that have gone through it, and gone through the same similar experience has been healing for me.
Cause I'm just like... Okay. I'm the only one that went through it because at first I felt so ashamed to even talk about it.
I was so embarrassed. I couldn't believe that this happened to me. So, just sharing my story and having other people say, "Oh, my god, you helped me heal. Thank you for that. You're so strong." That has really been helpful for me in this journey.
Amy: [00:04:12] Absolutely. And I think it's really interesting because you have a similar experience with narcissism and a narcissist as I do where it wasn't just in the romantic context, it was also in the familial context. And I find that something that isn't as widely talked about is the family.
How was that? How did you discover that she was a narcissist? Had you known what narcissism was before you moved in with your aunt?
Joy: [00:04:40] I had no idea. I noticed it was towards when I was kind of like trying to move out on my own. That was when I noticed that she was starting to be abusive and very critical of me, judging me and not really supporting what it was that I was trying to do. That's when I started to notice, because previously when I was living with her, it was fine. But still from time to time, she would be very critical of me, almost belittling me and comparing herself to me.
But as soon as I started to try to be independent, she was like, “No, you're going to stay right where I have you. I have full control over you.” That's when I started to notice the signs.
Amy: [00:05:26] Yeah, and that's super hard. I don't know the financial makeup of that situation, but like for me, the narcissist in my family was my father. So there, that power dynamic was already established because obviously he's my dad. But adding that level of like narcissist personality traits and disorder or whatever, cause he's not technically diagnosed as one or wasn’t, because he's now passed away.
But it was something for me that was so ingrained in my identity that it was so hard to unpack. And I know it's very different because then I also moved out, moved away from where I was born because I needed to get the heck away from here. I now live back where I was born, but I met many men that were very similar in characteristic traits to my father in the narcissist area, not necessarily the other area.
So, you've also had that experience where you've had your aunt and then you've also had partners. What is the biggest difference of dealing with a family member or a close friend that is a narcissist or has those personality traits versus someone that's romantic?
Joy: [00:06:49] Yeah, no. To be honest, it's just similar. The fact that one person is just like your family member, or if it's a romantic interest, they're still doing the same thing. They're still trying to control you and trying to exploit you at their own self-interests. I don't really feel like there's a difference.
To be honest, I feel like you would feel more obligated to your family though.
So, I guess it's easier for you to fall into the trap versus like a relationship where you're just like, “Well, I don't really owe you anything. I mean, I'm trying to love you, but if I have to do all these things just to please you,” then it may be easier to let go of a romantic partner. But versus your family, that's like your foundation, you feel like you owe them something or...
That's your family. You don't let them go. Or you don't turn your back on family. So it's a little bit harder to deal with them in that case.
Amy: [00:07:46] Okay. So, I really liked how you talked about how family is everything, because that's something that was really ingrained in my life from my mother who was also experiencing the narcissist abuse from my father. And I'm an only child. So, it was the two of us versus him basically. Us versus a narcissist.
It's for me, like I want to share my standpoint with the difference between the two. I agree with you. It's very similar. It's just in my own experience, so much harder to let go of the family because my father was very good at hiding it. So everyone was always like, "Oh, he loves you so much. You're so lucky."
You have all these people telling you what they believe to be true.
But behind closed doors, something completely different is happening, narcissist abuse.
It's hard because I was not in a position where I could just be like, "Okay, dad, bye." I couldn't just cut him out of my life. I've been able to, after a long struggle of doing that with the narcissist, and then, luckily letting me do that because sometimes they hang on.
Right. So I know that we love to self-diagnose. We love to know if we have anxiety and all these crazy... And I do believe that there's a lot of power in that. However, it can cause issues. But for yourself and what you suggest to your clients and through your educational videos, what are some signs that you need to look out for from family members that demonstrate potentially a narcissistic personality?
Joy: [00:9:30] I think a narcissist feels very entitled to you as an individual. They're very controlling and manipulative. With my aunt, what I noticed with her as a narcissist, she was very critical of me. Like overly critical, hypersensitive to me. She felt almost entitled to me, my life, and everything that I did, my decisions and everything. She was very self absorbed, very focused on herself.
Her outer appearance was everything. And she would always be comparing herself to me constantly. And she felt that she was better than other people. She had this grandiosity image of herself, where she just felt like, “Oh, I'm great. I'm successful. I'm powerful.” And she felt like everyone else was beneath her and that she deserves better than everyone else. And those are narcissist traits.
So, I mean, that was what I usually saw in her, in how she acted towards me. And she didn't really have any love or empathy for me.
Amy: [00:10:33] That's one of the biggest indicators in my experience is lack of empathy or apathy towards other people. And also towards themselves.
Joy: [00:10:43] Right.
Amy: [00:10:45] Maybe they have that grandiose like inflated personal image, but in my experience, deep down, they just hate themselves.
Joy: [00:10:54] Yeah, they do. Absolutely.
Amy: [00:10:56] So you, you mentioned how she was obsessed with you. So what did that look like? Was she just asking questions? Or was she like always in your business? Was she Facebook stalking you?
Joy: [00:11:07] Well, since I've lived with her, she was always just curious about what I was doing, or like who I was hanging out with, and what I was doing with my career. And how I looked. Whenever we go out I would wear my hair in different hairstyles and she'd be like, “Oh, Joy, You're getting a lot of attention. What's that about?”
You know? Or she - I remember I had turned vegetarian, back in 2010, which I'm still a vegetarian, but anyway - she’d be like, “Oh, so what kind of vegetables are you eating?” Then she questioned me about this one vegetable. She was like, “You don't even know the name of that vegetable. How do you know? You're even here? Eating the right foods, what's going on?” You know?
She really criticized me about everything that I was trying to do.
And then the other thing is, she was obsessed with how she looked like her face. Cause she was, I guess in her eyes, getting old.
So, she was like, “Joy, should I get surgery? On my neck, it's kind of sagging.” She was like, you see this, you'd be looking in the mirror. She was like, “You don't. You don't have that. You're so lucky. It's like, you're, you're still young, you know?” And she'd be like, “Should I get it? Like, what do you think? What do you think?”
You know? So in that aspect, just always comparing herself to me. And mind you, I'm only 17 years old and she's a grown woman living in Southern California, with a husband, kids, full life, she should be happy. But she was literally miserable. She was like this pharmaceutical salesperson. So, she had a really good job, but she was miserable.
Amy: [00:12:38] Yeah. I know a few people that have done that job and I would argue that they all pretty much have a fairly similar personality, by the sound of it, as your aunt.
So, I didn't realize that her immediate family was living there as well. Did she also act those narcissistic situations out with her kids and her husband? Or was it solely you?
Joy: [00:13:03] Yeah, it was actually with everyone. But for some reason, I think she kind of focused on me because I think that she seen herself in me. She thought I was like the younger version of herself. I think a lot of narcs, they look at their children.
I guess she saw me as her daughter, like as extensions of herself.
And also she wanted me to perform well so that it looked good on the outside for others. You know what I mean? She really didn't care about how I was doing with my life. She was only interested in how it could benefit her and how it looked on the outside to others.
Amy: [00:13:37] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I get that. Yeah. My dad was so focused on, “You have to make all this money, you have to do this, you have to go and get a really high status job.” And I was like, “But what if I'm unhappy? What then?” And he was like, “Well, it doesn't matter.” And I was like, “Oh, okay, cool.”
In fairness, I think it's the exact same thing, which with my father was that he saw so much of himself in me. I am quite the rebellion. I'm an anarchist, like, fuck the government. And he has, I mean, it's 2020. I feel like a lot of people are like that right now.
Joy: [00:14:14] Oh, yeah, absolutely. I'm with you on that.
Amy: [00:14:17] Yeah. So, he used to be like that. But he kind of, from my perception is, he kind of sold out.
He kind of was like, “Well, like let's go into this capitalism game.”Like, hardcore. Because he was an entrepreneur before entrepreneurship was cool. So, I never told him this, but in my head I was like, “You kind of sold out and that's kind of not cool.” But I was very forced, like not forceful, but I was very strong in my standpoint.
And he would always be like, “You'll change your mind. You'll do this. You'll do that.”
Telling me what I was going to do in the future.
And out of spite, “I was like, nuh-uh. No, sir, I am not doing that.”
Joy: [00:14:54] Yeah. For some reason, I think parents feel like if they influence you or tell you what to do, it's like the kid is automatically gonna rebel. Like, that's just how it is, you
Amy: [00:15:05] Yeah, absolutely. For me, it's been really hard because I mentioned, he, my father, passed away about a year ago. December, it will be a year.
Joy: [00:15:16] Sorry to hear that.
Amy: [00:15:17] Thank you. And it was very traumatic. He actually died of a heart attack, but he was in front of me when it happened. And I was with him. We were on the side of the road in the subdivision that he lived in. It was a little dramatic.
Joy: [00:15:27] Oh, wow.
Amy: [00:15:30] It was a lot. I was in extensive therapy to try to fix, I don't want to say fix myself because we're not broken, but I've suffered from depression, anxiety, borderline personality, like everything from a very young age.
And the healing process was unpacking the story, understanding the relationships that I was in and why certain things happen the way they did, because there was a lot of like, “How could I have let this happen to me?”
Joy: [00:15:58] Yes.
Amy: [00:16:03] And I have always called my father and narcissist. It's hard because I know that's not necessarily what he actually was. He might've not been, because I think you can go to a psychologist and they can go through all these checklists and you can see yes or no.
But he did have a lot of personality traits that narcissists embody.
And the one thing that I'm noticing in the self-help industry and online. I see this very quickly. I don't know how to word this, but basically people are very quick to jump on the labeling of someone as a narcissist.
And how do you know for sure? Do you know for sure? And do you think there's any damage in that being done when these people might not necessarily be like a full blown narcissist?
Joy: [00:16:55] Yeah, I do. I think what would help determine it is the intensity of however they're interacting with you or the frequency of whatever it is that they're doing. Meaning if they are being egotistical or if they are like belittling people or maybe if they feel like self-absorbed or conceited or showing off in any way. I think that is what makes it different. A narcissist will have relationships and connections with people and it's like they are hurting people and harming them and exploiting them for their own gain and self-interest.
Now, for a person that may just have the characteristics of a narc, they may do it from time to time, but it's not like their lifestyle. It's not like how they live. You know, it's not pathological like how a narc is, you know what I mean? So, to be honest with you living in LA, I would say they have to have those kind of arrogant or confident types of personality styles.
But then you have people that take it to the extreme where they're manipulating people, they're hurting them and abusing them for their own self gain.
And I think that could be the difference between a narcissist versus a person maybe having those personality traits.
Amy: [00:18:17] Yeah, that's a really good way to divide it. I think that's the one thing, for me, I was very quick to be like this person's a narcissist, this person’s a narcissist, everybody’s a narcissist. Except me, of course, except me.
And that's the one thing like my father. And now it's a habit to say that he was a narcissist. He wasn't, he just had a lot of narcissistic personality traits. And that was something that I did learn. I did unpack before he passed away, luckily. And we were in the process of kind of trying to heal together because he was one stubborn person, but...
I do have a lot of (and I feel like this is very stereotypical, like someone who has been abused by a narcissist) guilt of how I put that identity on to him. That being said in my romantic relationships, they were definitely narcissists because they would just tell me everything I wanted to hear and immediately just go out and do the opposite, with absolutely no care in the world.
And it's crazy. For me, it was just like, "Why? Is it me?" Because I had three relationships back to back who would be considered like an actual narc. And it took a long time for me to rebuild that confidence because that's something that people who have experienced that abuse have to really deal with.
And that is one of the hardest things we think it might be the actual getting out of that relationship with the narcissist.
But, least for myself, I don't know that many people personally that have dealt with it. I just kept being like, "How did I let this happen to me? How did I let this happen to me?" Over and over again. And I'd love for you to share what practices that have helped you heal and continue to heal. And then also the people that you help.
Joy: [00:20:30] Yeah. That's a great question. I remember I started my healing process. This was around 2014. And I remember I was really obsessed. I started educating myself on narcissistic abuse. I remember I would type words and phrases that the narcissist would say to me, I would like type it on my phone.
And I remember seeing it said narcissist personality disorder. I was like, "Oh my God, this was a narcissist." I could not believe that, you know? So I educated myself. I started reading books about codependencies, childhood traumas. self-love, and self-esteem because I realized like my self-esteem was so low after that experience. Not only with the narc guy that I dated, but also my aunt.
Also, I went to a little counselor. I saw her for like a year. The only thing with her was that she didn't really know much about narcissistic abuse. So I still found myself still hurting and still needing to heal, but it was comforting to talk to her for that year, during that time period.
Also I did a lot of crying, a lot of grieving.
I remember I would wake up every day for like six months and I would cry. I'd just be in bed and I just start crying for like 30 minutes every day for six months after I stopped dealing with a narcissist. I'd be in the coffee shop and I would just start crying, just thinking about what happened. I also did yoga that was very, very healing for me, plus a lot of meditation. Also, I spent time alone.
I also spent time with people that I knew really loved me and cared about me. And I didn't date for a while. I had to give myself time to heal.
But I'm not gonna lie, I did go on a few dates. From time to time just to get my confidence back up just a little bit. But, for the most part, I was single. It was a hard time for me, honestly. I am still healing, but I feel like I've healed that part of me during that time.
It was a lot, honestly. I did it.
Amy: [00:22:32] Well, that's amazing. And I think it's really beautiful that you allowed yourself to grieve and cry for as long as you did, because I've always had a hard time crying. When I started, I wasn't crying every single day, but I was crying like maybe three times a month, which is a lot for me.
And that it was so cathartic.
I felt like there was a release of shame and sadness and hurt. That was bottled up in my body. That was just coming out through the tears.
Joy: [00:23:55] Yes. Oh, and then the other thing was, I had a conversation with my mom and my dad because I felt like there was a reason why I met that narc and why I was in contact with my aunt. But, I learned that I had to forgive my parents because I felt like I was taught certain things in my childhood that maybe...
I didn't feel seen when I was a kid or I didn't feel like my parents got to know me for who I really was emotionally. Because, your parents, they could be there for you. They could buy you things, they take care of you. But if they don't really know you then it still hurts because you're just kinda like, “Whoa, well, what happened?”
Like, “You didn't get to know me for Joy or for Amy.” You know what I mean? It feels like they didn't know me. So, I was also grieving that part of me knowing that I may never have that relationship with them where they... They may say that they love me, but they never really took time to get to know me for who I really was emotionally, if that makes sense.
I think I cried about that a lot too.
There were feelings of, “Well, why didn't they get to know me? What was it? Why didn't they spend time with me?”
That was hurtful.
Amy: [00:24:22] Yeah. And I think that is something really beautiful that you brought up because a lot of us need to grieve the relationship with our parents that we want or wanted. And we just can't have based on either death or their emotional maturity levels or just their abilities. That was actually something that was the beginning of, I would say, the shit show that was my life.
It was having that realization that my parents were actually not perfect. They didn't have my best interests... I mean, deep down they did, but on the surface they didn't, and that was... I mean, also I'm an only child, so I knew it wasn't all about me. They had their own stuff.
And that was something that I have dealt with for a very long time. It was grieving that relationship that just could never be, and it's hard. And it's beautiful that you are able to have that insight because I think a lot of us default. I've been at fault many times for just blaming our parents.
Just being like, “Well, it's their fault.” In theory it is, but they also had parents and…
Joy: [00:25:34] Oh yeah. Yeah, exactly.
Amy: [00:25:35] They had parents and they had parents.
Joy: [00:28:38] Right, right. Exactly.
Amy: [00:25:42] Thank you so much for sharing all these amazing, amazing insights and stories from your past.
I have one question I'd love to leave you with.
I'm going to throw you a curve ball because I didn't share this ahead of time, but it's been a little bit since you've been healing and you're helping other people.
How has it been for you to re-enter the dating pool, or have you?
Joy: [00:26:11] I have. It’s been interesting to say the least. I feel like I am more on guard when I'm meeting people. Based off of the past experience that I've had, I listen to my intuition now. Honestly, I just try to make sure that I'm seeing them for who they really are and I'm listening to my gut. If I feel like something is off, then I just move on to the next.
But at this point in time in my life, I'm really just focusing on myself. I feel like, you know, when the time is right, I will meet someone. But as far as the dating scene is concerned, it's okay. I hope I answered the question!
Amy: [00:26:53] Yeah. Not that’s great!
Joy: [00:26:55] I just feel like people... Most people aren't really looking for love. I think a lot of people are just looking for a good time. Not true love. You do have some that are like that, but you have to really wait. I pray to God about it. I say, “God, just bring me someone that will love me for me.” And I know he's going to bring that person.
So yeah, I’m looking forward to it!
Amy: [00:27:23] Oh, that's so great.
I really want to highlight that you're trusting your intuition.
And for me, there were so many times that my intuition told me to leave. You just didn't because you try to see the good in them, plus you also have all the other murky, confusing stuff wrapped up into it.
But I think it's so wonderful and I'm so happy that we were able to connect and have this conversation.
Joy: [00:27:46] Yes. Amazing.
Amy: [00:27:50] Yes, it was so great! So thank you so much, Joy. It's been wonderful. And I always like to ask the guests, is there any bit of advice or words of wisdom you'd like to leave the audience with?
Joy: [00:28:08] Yeah. It's good to know that your past doesn't define you. Nobody is perfect. You know, it's okay to make mistakes in life. And that no one, not everybody is like you and that's okay.
Amy: [00:28:22] Oh, I love that. Well, thank you so much.
Joy: [00:28:25] Thank you. I appreciate you for having me.