Growing up with a narcissistic father has a profound impact on the life of his daughter. From rigid expectations, to emotional manipulation and neglect, daughters of narcissistic fathers (DoNFs) suffer serious psychological damage, which result in them developing symptoms that plague them well into adulthood. In this post, we will explore the 10 most common symptoms that daughters of narcissistic fathers experience and how these can affect them in adulthood.
Understanding and acknowledging these symptoms is an important part of discovering ways to heal from your past, build resilience, and create healthier relationships with yourself and others.
Living with a Narcissistic Father
If you grew up with a narcissistic father, you may have experienced some of the following –
You Were Never Good Enough
No matter what you did, it was never good enough for your father.
You could have gotten straight A’s, been captain of the varsity team, and been elected student body president – and he would still have found something to criticize.
The negative message that you received from your father’s criticism took up residence in your mind, making it difficult to feel secure and valued.
The constant criticism destroyed your self-esteem and you grew up believing that you were somehow damaged or inferior to everyone else.
It is important to recognize that these underlying feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy were brought on by your experiences with your narcissistic father, and do not reflect the truth about who you are or the potential within you.
You Were Always Comparing Yourself to Others
Because your father constantly held you up against others (usually your siblings), you grew up comparing yourself to others.
These comparisons led to a sense of insecurity and an inability to accept yourself for who you are.
Your self-worth became tied up in how others perceive you, creating a cycle of comparison and judgement that can be difficult to break free from.
You may find yourself battling mixed emotions as you strive to both protect and better yourself, making it hard to know where to draw the line between healthy competition and toxic comparison.
You Always Felt Alone
Because your father was never there for you emotionally, you always felt alone- even when you were in a room full of people.
This loneliness was especially difficult to bear as it was closely intertwined with feelings of abandonment and an inner sense that something is missing in your life.
As a result you started to question yourself and your worth. The fear of being alone or unlove when they had good intentions.
Your Father was Never Proud of You
No matter what you accomplished, your father was never proud of you. This lack of approval led to a feeling of emptiness and a need for constant validation from others.
This need for validation left you feeling vulnerable, and made it difficult to develop a strong sense of self-worth.
It also led to feelings of hopelessness, as validation from outside sources was never enough to counter the beliefs that you internalized from your father’s lack of praise.
Your Father was Emotionally Abusive
Your father was emotionally abusive in two ways.
First, by constantly belittling and criticizing you.
And second, by withholding his love and approval.
This emotional abuse inevitably created a host of psychological problems, such as distorted thought patterns, ranging from excessive self-doubt to blaming yourself for situations that were out of your control.
You felt unimportant, invisible, and unheard.
As a daughter of a narcissistic father, you are likely to have felt unimportant, invisible, and unheard.
Your father would have made everything about himself and never really listened to you or paid attention to you.
Narcissistic fathers ignore their daughters’ feelings and desires. This can lead to feelings of low self-worth, isolation, and resentment.
The Impact on Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers
When the daughters of narcissistic fathers grow up, they are likely to struggle with a host of psychological problems, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
10 Symptoms of Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers – (1) Struggles with Building Deep Relationships
Daughters of narcissistic fathers often grapple with forming profound and lasting relationships in their adult lives, a challenge rooted in the lack of emotional nourishment during their formative years.
The absence of a nurturing father figure can lead to feelings of worthlessness and insecurity, coupled with an overwhelming fear of rejection.
This lack of validation and trust often instills a belief that they are inadequate and undeserving of love.
In an attempt to gain acceptance, as adults the daughters of narcissistic fathers will constantly push themselves, striving for perfection in all aspects of life.
Nevertheless, they continue to feel unappreciated and misunderstood in intimate relationships, creating a persistent sense of inadequacy.
Moreover, trust issues are common among daughters of narcissistic fathers, leading to difficulties in establishing meaningful connections.
This barrier often inhibits them from truly opening up to others, further perpetuating a toxic cycle of loneliness and isolation.
Sadly, this sense of solitude persists even when they are in the midst of people who genuinely care for them, highlighting the emotional damage caused by their upbringing.
10 Symptoms of Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers – (2) Fiercely Self-Critical and Prone to Negative Self-Talk
The psychological repercussions of being raised by a narcissistic father can significantly impact a daughter’s mental growth and self-perception.
As these daughters transition into adulthood, the echoes of their father’s relentless criticism and unattainable demands for perfection still linger in their minds.
They often internalize these harmful messages from their childhood, leading them to become excessively critical of themselves.
This self-scrutiny stems from trying to meet the unrealistic standards set by their narcissistic father, which can severely distort their self-image.
10 Symptoms of Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers – (3) Anxiety and Depression
Daughters of narcissistic fathers often grapple with mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
Their upbringing, marked by emotional neglect and manipulation, sets the stage for these psychological challenges in adulthood.
As they grow up, daughters of narcissistic fathers are prone to feeling emotions such as persistent sadness, feelings of hopelessness, and emotional numbness, which are indicative of depression.
In addition, they also often grow up to be anxious adults – the result of living in a constant state of vigilance during their formative years.
The lack of emotional validation from their narcissistic fathers leads to a pervasive sense of unworthiness in their daughters.
As a result, they often struggle with self-esteem and have difficulty trusting others, which can hinder them from forming meaningful relationships.
This chronic self-doubt can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and depression, creating a vicious cycle that is hard to break free from.
10 Symptoms of Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers – (4) Struggles With Emotional Expression
Raised in an environment of emotional deprivation, faced with a the constant pressure to be perfect and fear of disapproval, daughters of narcissistic fathers learn to suppress their emotions in order to survive.
These women internalize a message that their feelings are invalid or unwanted, which creates a barrier to expressing their emotions openly.
They may also develop a deep-seated fear of showing any perceived weaknesses or vulnerabilities, stemming from a fear of further criticism or rejection.
As adults, this emotional repression can make it challenging for them to communicate their needs and desires effectively.
They might find themselves habitually concealing their true feelings, driven by an ingrained fear of disapproval or humiliation.
This behavior pattern can lead to difficulties in interpersonal relationships, leading to them experiencing debilitating isolation and loneliness.
Moreover, they might struggle to identify and understand their own emotions, a phenomenon known as alexithymia.
This emotional blindness can further complicate their ability to express what they’re feeling, leading to increased frustration and emotional distress.
10 Symptoms of Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers – (5) Low Self-Esteem
Growing up with a narcissistic father can have a profound impact on a daughter’s self-worth.
The absence of validation and affection from such a significant figure in their lives often results in a shattered sense of self-esteem.
Daughters of narcissistic fathers commonly grapple with feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness.
These feelings stem from a lack of positive reinforcement during their formative years, which leaves them insecure about their inherent worth.
This insecurity often manifests as self-doubt in adulthood, causing them to question their decisions and doubt their abilities.
They may constantly seek approval from others, reflecting their unmet need for validation from their narcissistic father.
This constant quest for approval can further erode their self-esteem, perpetuating a cycle of self-doubt and self-devaluation.
Moreover, the absence of parental affirmation can lead them to feel undeserving of love or affection.
They may struggle to accept compliments or positive attention, and they may even sabotage potential relationships out of fear of rejection or abandonment.
10 Symptoms of Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers – (6) Fear of Abandonment and Rejection
Enduring a childhood with a narcissistic father often instills a deep-seated fear of abandonment and rejection in daughters.
The persistent criticism and belittlement they endure can make them feel perpetually inadequate, leading to doubts about their self-worth and acceptance.
Children of narcissistic parents are at risk of growing into adults who are persistently anxious about being abandoned or rejected.
This fear stems from the inconsistency and unpredictability of their narcissistic parent’s love and approval, which was often conditional and subject to sudden withdrawal.
This fear makes it challenging for them to trust themselves and others, as they are constantly on guard against potential hurt or disappointment.
Consequently, this can result in difficulties expressing their needs or forming meaningful relationships.
They may avoid opening up to others or showing their vulnerabilities, out of fear that doing so will lead to rejection or abandonment.
Additionally, they might find themselves drawn to unstable relationships, subconsciously seeking to recreate the tumultuous dynamics of their childhood.
This pattern of behavior can further reinforce their fears and insecurities around abandonment and rejection.
10 Symptoms of Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers – (7) Excessive Sensitivity to Criticism
Growing up with a narcissistic father often results in an intensified sensitivity to criticism, a trait that can persist well into adulthood.
The continuous exposure to harsh judgments and criticisms can make these daughters hyper-alert to any form of critique, even when it’s intended to be constructive.
Furthermore, the constant belittlement experienced during their childhood can skew their perspective of criticism, making it difficult for them to view it as anything other than negative.
Consequently, they may struggle with accepting feedback or implementing changes based on others’ advice, viewing such suggestions as confirmations of their perceived inadequacies.
This heightened sensitivity can also lead to self-doubt and a lack of confidence in their abilities.
They may overanalyze their actions and decisions, anticipating criticism and rejection even before it happens.
This fear of judgment can limit their personal growth and potential, as they may avoid taking risks or pursuing opportunities out of fear of failure or criticism.
10 Symptoms of Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers – (8) People Pleasers and Doormats
Daughters of narcissistic fathers often develop into chronic people-pleasers, driven by a deep-seated need for the validation and acceptance they were denied during their formative years.
They constantly seek to satisfy others’ needs and preferences, even when it means compromising their own well-being, beliefs, or values.
This inclination to please others can lead to codependent relationships, as they habitually prioritize the needs of others over their own, often at the expense of their personal boundaries and self-respect.
This pattern of behavior can make them susceptible to manipulation or exploitation, reinforcing their feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy.
Regrettably, this chronic people-pleasing often translates into submissiveness in situations where self-assertion is warranted.
Daughters of narcissistic fathers often struggle to stand their ground or express disagreement, fearing that doing so would lead to conflict or rejection.
This fear prevents them from advocating for their rights, voicing their needs, or setting healthy boundaries, further undermining their self-esteem and personal autonomy.
10 Symptoms of Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers – (9) Perfectionism
The daughters of narcissistic fathers often develop a deep-rooted sense of perfectionism.
From an early age, they are conditioned to strive for impossibly high standards, instilled by the unrealistic expectations set by their fathers.
Such parenting can significantly influence children’s self-concept and worldview, leading them to become excessively self-critical.
They may internalize the notion that their worth is contingent upon their ability to meet these unattainable standards, fostering an unhealthy obsession with perfection.
This compulsion to achieve perfection can manifest in various aspects of their lives – from academic performance and professional achievements to personal relationships and physical appearance.
They relentlessly push themselves to excel, driven by a fear of disappointing their father or confirming his criticisms.
However, this pursuit of perfection is often counterproductive, leading to stress, anxiety, burnout, and feelings of inadequacy when they inevitably fall short of their unreachable goals.
It can also hinder their ability to appreciate their accomplishments, as they may constantly scrutinize their performance for any perceived flaws or shortcomings.
10 Symptoms of Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers – (10) Struggling with boundaries
Growing up with a narcissistic father can significantly impact a daughter’s ability to establish and maintain healthy boundaries in her relationships.
This is due to the lack of opportunity to practice boundary-setting during her formative years.
Narcissistic parents disregard their children’s personal boundaries, expecting them to cater to their demands unquestioningly.
As a result, these daughters may find it challenging to assert their boundaries as adults, struggling to say no or to create safe emotional and physical spaces for themselves.
This inability to set boundaries can be detrimental to their mental and emotional health, as it can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed, exploited, or disrespected by others.
It can also contribute to the development of codependent relationships, where they continuously put others’ needs before their own at the expense of their well-being.
Healing from the Damage Caused by Your Narcissistic Father
The scars left by a narcissistic father can run deep, often manifesting in self-doubt, perfectionism, boundary issues, and a constant yearning for validation.
However, it’s important to remember that these experiences do not define you.
Healing is possible, as you embark an empowering journey of self-discovery, resilience, and growth.
In this section, we will explore strategies and resources to help you navigate the healing process.
The path to healing may be challenging, but the destination is absolutely worth the journey
Recognizing and Understanding Narcissistic Behavior
The initial step towards healing from the damage caused by a narcissistic father is to acknowledge and understand this unhealthy behavior and its profound impact on your life.
This requires a deep dive into your past, identifying instances of manipulation, control, belittlement, or any other form of emotional abuse that were prevalent in your childhood home.
Narcissistic behaviors can be subtle and deeply ingrained, making them challenging to identify.
They may include constant criticism, excessive control, lack of empathy, or a persistent need for admiration.
It’s important to remember that the narcissistic behavior was a manifestation of your father’s issues, not a reflection of your character or value.
Acknowledging this abuse you endured as a child will inevitably be a painful process, as it often involves revisiting traumatic memories.
However, it’s a crucial part of the healing journey, as it enables you to separate yourself from the toxic patterns of the past and reclaim control over your narrative.
Embracing Therapy: A Guided Path to Healing
Seeking professional help can be a powerful step in your healing journey.
Therapists and counselors are trained to guide you through the process of understanding and processing your past experiences, helping you navigate the complex emotions and patterns associated with having a narcissistic father.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one therapeutic approach that can be particularly beneficial.
CBT focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions and behaviors, improving emotional regulation, and developing personal coping strategies.
This therapy can help you identify negative thought patterns that may have stemmed from your upbringing and replace them with healthier, more positive ways of thinking and behaving.
In addition to CBT, other forms of therapy such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), trauma-focused therapy, or psychodynamic therapy might also help, depending on your specific circumstances and needs.
These therapies can provide you with a safe space to express your feelings, understand your triggers, and learn effective strategies for managing stress and maintaining healthy relationships.
Moreover, a mental health professional can also facilitate group therapy sessions or recommend support groups where you can connect with others who’ve had similar experiences.
Sharing your journey with people who understand can provide comfort, reduce feelings of isolation, and offer practical advice to overcome challenges.
Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to healing. It’s okay to explore different therapeutic approaches and professionals until you find what works best for you.
The key is to reach out, ask for help, and take control of your healing process.
Embracing Self-Care: Nourishing Body, Mind, and Soul
Self-care is an essential component of the healing process.
Often, we focus on the emotional and mental aspects of healing, overlooking the powerful influence that physical well-being can have on our overall health.
Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep are not just good for your body, but they also significantly impact your mental health, helping to reduce stress and improve mood.
Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural mood lifters, and can also serve as a healthy distraction from negative thoughts.
A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains provides the necessary nutrients for brain function and can help stabilize energy levels and mood.
Sufficient sleep, on the other hand, is crucial for cognitive functions such as memory, attention, and emotional regulation.
In addition to these physical self-care practices, mindfulness exercises like meditation and yoga can be incredibly beneficial in managing stress and promoting emotional well-being.
These practices encourage you to stay present, focus on your breath, and let go of negative thoughts.
Over time, they can help increase self-awareness, enhance emotional resilience, and promote a sense of peace and balance.
Self-care also involves setting aside time for activities that you enjoy and that nourish your soul.
This could be reading, painting, listening to music, spending time in nature, or connecting with loved ones.
These activities can serve as a reminder that you are more than your past experiences and that joy and fulfillment are within your reach.
Remember, self-care is not a luxury, but a necessity. It’s about taking care of yourself in a holistic way, honoring both your physical and emotional needs
Fostering Healthy Relationships: Breaking the Cycle of Toxic Dynamics
Daughters of narcissistic fathers often carry the emotional baggage of their past into their adult relationships.
Unconsciously, they may find themselves drawn towards partners who reflect the dynamics of their childhood home, perpetuating a cycle of toxic relationships.
Recognizing and breaking these patterns is a crucial step towards healing and building healthier, more fulfilling relationships.
The first step in this process is self-awareness.
Understand that your early experiences with your father may have skewed your perception of what a healthy relationship looks like.
You may have come to accept manipulation, control, or a lack of empathy as normal, but it’s important to realize that these are not healthy behaviors.
A healthy relationship is characterized by mutual respect, understanding, empathy, and support.
It involves open and honest communication, where both parties feel heard and valued.
It’s a relationship where you can be your authentic self without fear of criticism or rejection.
Actively seeking such relationships involves setting boundaries and asserting your needs and rights within a relationship.
This might feel uncomfortable at first, especially if you’re used to putting others’ needs before your own.
However, remember that your feelings and needs are valid and deserving of respect.
Boundaries: Building a Fortress of Self-Respect and Self-Care
Establishing personal boundaries is a vital component of self-care and mental well-being.
It’s about recognizing your needs, establishing limits, and communicating these limits to others.
This practice can be particularly important for those who have experienced narcissistic relationships, as they may have been conditioned to ignore their own needs or to tolerate unacceptable behavior.
Boundaries are essentially guidelines for how you want to be treated. They reflect your values, expectations, and what you consider acceptable behavior from others.
This might involve defining what kind of behavior you will not tolerate, such as disrespect, manipulation, or control.
By setting boundaries, you assert your right to be treated with kindness, respect, and dignity.
Learning to say “no” is an integral part of boundary setting.
Often, children of narcissistic parents may struggle with this, as they may have been punished or criticized for asserting their needs.
However, saying no is a powerful affirmation of your self-worth and your right to prioritize your needs.
It’s okay to decline requests or obligations that infringe upon your boundaries or cause you unnecessary stress.
It’s also essential to enforce your boundaries once they’re set.
If someone crosses a boundary, communicate clearly and assertively about the violation.
Remember, it’s not enough to set boundaries; they must also be respected and upheld.
Establishing boundaries takes practice and courage, and it’s okay if you don’t get it right immediately.
Seek support from trusted friends, family, or a mental health professional as you navigate this process.
With time and practice, setting boundaries can become a powerful tool for promoting self-respect and emotional well-being.
Nurturing Self-Esteem: Embracing Self-Love and Self-Respect
Fostering self-esteem is a crucial step towards healing and empowerment.
Self-esteem is essentially the opinion we have about ourselves.
When we have healthy self-esteem, we appreciate and like ourselves, acknowledging both our strengths and weaknesses.
Fostering self-esteem involves shifting focus from external validation to self-acceptance and self-love.
Celebrating personal achievements, no matter how small, is a powerful way to boost self-esteem.
Each achievement is a testament to your abilities, resilience, and hard work.
It could be as simple as completing a task at work, sticking to a workout routine, or mastering a new skill.
Take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate these victories, and allow yourself to feel proud.
Spending time on hobbies and interests is another effective way to foster self-esteem.
Engaging in activities that you enjoy not only brings joy and fulfillment but also provides opportunities for self-expression and skill development.
Whether it’s painting, hiking, playing an instrument, or reading, these activities can serve as reminders of your talents, passions, and uniqueness.
Affirming personal worth is just as crucial. This involves challenging and replacing negative self-talk with positive affirmations.
Instead of focusing on perceived flaws or mistakes, remind yourself of your strengths, accomplishments, and qualities that make you unique.
You could even create a list of positive affirmations and repeat them daily, such as “I am worthy,” “I am enough,” or “I am resilient.”
Remember, fostering self-esteem is a journey, not a destination.
It may take time to unlearn the negative beliefs instilled by a narcissistic parent and to embrace self-love and self-respect.
Be patient and gentle with yourself during this process, and seek support from trusted friends, family, or a mental health professional if needed.
Embracing Forgiveness: A Pathway to Healing and Personal Freedom
Growing up with a narcissistic parent, you may have made mistakes or developed unhealthy coping mechanisms as a result of the trauma you endured.
Recognize that these were survival strategies in response to your circumstances, not indicators of your worth or character.
Forgive yourself for these perceived missteps, understanding that they were part of your journey and learning experience.
Practicing forgiveness can be a deeply personal and varied journey.
Some might find solace in journaling their feelings, while others might prefer therapy or mindfulness practices.
There is no right or wrong way to forgive; what matters is finding a method that resonates with you and aids in your healing process.
Finally, remember that forgiveness is not a one-time act but a continuous process.
There may be days when the anger and resentment resurface, and that’s okay.
Be patient and gentle with yourself during these times, and seek support from trusted friends, family, or a mental health professional if needed.
Through forgiveness, you can reclaim your power, heal from your past, and open the door to a future filled with peace, self-love, and personal growth
Evaluating Contact: Limiting or Severing Ties for Personal Well-being
Dealing with a narcissistic parent can be emotionally draining and psychologically damaging.
Depending on the severity of the narcissistic behavior and its impact on your mental health, it might become necessary to consider limiting contact or, in some cases, severing ties completely.
This decision, while challenging, can sometimes be a crucial step towards preserving personal well-being and fostering healing.
Limited contact involves setting strict boundaries about when and how you interact with the narcissistic parent.
This might mean restricting conversations to certain topics, keeping interactions brief, or only communicating through specific mediums like email or text messages.
The aim here is to protect yourself from potential emotional harm while maintaining some level of connection.
On the other hand, no contact means completely cutting off all forms of communication and interaction with your narcissistic father.
This is often considered a last resort, typically employed when the parent’s behavior is extremely harmful, and all attempts at establishing boundaries or improving the relationship have failed.
Deciding to limit or sever contact is a deeply personal and often difficult decision. It can bring up feelings of guilt, grief, and fear.
It’s essential to remember that prioritizing your mental health and well-being does not make you selfish or ungrateful.
You have the right to protect yourself from toxic relationships, even if they involve close family members.
Before making this decision, it’s recommended to seek the guidance of a mental health professional.
A therapist or counselor can provide objective insights, help you weigh the pros and cons, and support you through the process.
They can also provide coping strategies and resources to deal with the emotional fallout of this decision
Final Thoughts on the Symptoms of Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers
Growing up in a narcissistic household can have serious consequences on your emotional, mental, and physical well-being.
Daughters of narcissistic fathers grow up feeling powerless and invisible, unable to voice their true feelings or express their opinion.
This creates feelings of low self-esteem, as well as an inability to set healthy boundaries for themselves.
Additionally, daughters of narcissistic fathers usually experience a number of the abovementioned 10 symptoms, including anxiety and fear of abandonment due to lack of trust in relationships or a lack of emotional validation.
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, it is important to reach out for help from a professional who can provide specialized guidance and support specifically tailored for victims of narcissistic abuse.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Symptoms of Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers
What are some common symptoms experienced by daughters of narcissistic fathers?
Daughters of narcissistic fathers often struggle with low self-esteem, difficulties in relationships, feelings of inadequacy, and a constant need for external validation. They may also have problems setting boundaries, experience anxiety or depression, and often second-guess their decisions.
How does a narcissistic father impact a daughter’s self-esteem?
Narcissistic fathers often belittle, criticize, or ignore their daughters, leading to a deep-seated sense of worthlessness and low self-esteem. These daughters may grow up believing they’re never good enough, no matter their achievements.
Can a narcissistic father affect his daughter’s future relationships?
Yes, daughters of narcissistic fathers may find it difficult to form healthy relationships in adulthood. They might unconsciously seek out partners who exhibit narcissistic traits, repeating the cycle of emotional abuse. Alternatively, they might struggle with trust issues, fearing vulnerability due to past manipulation or emotional neglect.
How might a narcissistic father influence his daughter’s decision-making abilities?
Narcissistic fathers often exert control over their daughters, discrediting their thoughts, feelings, or decisions. This can lead to chronic self-doubt in their daughters, making it hard for them to trust their own judgment or make decisions confidently in adulthood.
Can these symptoms be treated or managed?
Absolutely. Therapy, specifically cognitive-behavioral therapy, can be incredibly useful in addressing these symptoms. Self-care practices, setting healthy boundaries, and building a supportive network can also aid in healing and recovery.
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Carla Corelli is an author, advocate, and survivor of narcissistic abuse. Having grown up with a narcissistic father, Carla experienced firsthand the profound impact of psychological and emotional abuse. Fueled by her personal journey, she pursued a degree in psychology and has dedicated herself to shedding light on the complexities of narcissistic abuse.
With over fifteen years of experience in writing and advocating for survivors, Carla is deeply committed to providing support, education, and empowerment to those who have endured similar trauma. Through her articles, Carla aims to offer a compassionate space for healing and growth, while advocating for greater awareness and understanding of narcissistic abuse.
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