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What do narcissists usually regret when they’re old?

It’s not uncommon for people to reflect back on their lives when they’re old, and get hung up on that thing they did or didn’t do, or said or didn’t say, way back when. 

As emotional, empathetic humans, we tend to dissect and dwell on the big decisions we’ve made, how we’ve treated others, ponder “what if” when imagining a different path than the one we’ve walked. All of which leads us to our regrets

But what if you’re a narcissist: a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves? Can such a person have the self-awareness to truly regret things late in their life?

One person online was curious about this, asking a crowd, “What do narcissists usually regret when they’re old?”

The answers were interesting and not all that varied, with a common thread holding them together: any regret a narcissist did admit was usually blamed on someone, or something, else, and was almost never the result of their own actions or behaviours. 

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Katie gives a prime example with her post:

“My mom is now 63 years old and is a covert narcissist. One night I was at her house and I heard her sobbing in her room… I go ask her what's wrong and she starts telling me how she has wasted her whole life. That she never should have married my dad, like it would have been so much better if she hadn't… My parents got married when my mom was 21 yrs old. My mom had no family no education and no money NOTHING. My dad became a school teacher, earned a good living, never laid a hand on her never cheated… I have never seen my dad even drink alcohol…but she is miserable and it has to be someone else's fault right? So she sits in her room drinking her wine every night feeling sorry for herself. Thinking about how special she is and how far she could have gone if my father hadn't ruined her life.”


Edward, a former psychologist, had much the same experience with his narcissistic mother. Any regrets she had boiled down to a classic narcissist’s traits: inflated self-importance, a sense of entitlement and craving attention. 

“[She] once told me she regretted having her children (all four) which was a bit of a downer, since we gave her no trouble at all. She regretted marrying my father- he was never rich or successful enough. I think she regretted her whole life- she should have been a star, and very rich (she did nothing and had no special talents) but it is always someone else’s fault when they don’t get the life they think they deserve- someone held them back, or was jealous of them and sabotaged them, or they were too unselfish (!) to look out for themselves.”

Janet Christy, author of Torture or Nurture, A Tale of Growing Up, has a narcissistic mother and a narcissistic ex-husband. She weighed in on the thread, explaining, “When most of us think of regret, we think of things that we miss, mourn or are sorry for. Narcissists see everything from a skewed point of view so for them, regret is usually another way to be a victim and place responsibility or blame for something on someone else.”


As such, Janet believes a narcissist’s list of regrets can often look like this:

  • That their children abandoned them. 
  • That they no longer have any friends.
  • That they never got the career breaks that they deserved.
  • That they do not have the riches they deserve because they were not given the positions and payment they deserved.
  • That they have had to endure years of marriage to a spouse who was never as smart, attractive or successful as them. They regret that they never got the spouse they deserved.

Reads like a pity party, or an all-out blame game, right? This is because “narcissistic defenses are designed to keep the narcissist’s flaws and mistakes out of awareness”, says Dr. Elinor Greenberg. 

She explains, “Narcissists do not focus on anything that contradicts their inflated view of themselves… they do not feel guilt, shame, or self-doubt so long as their narcissistic defenses hold. This means that they do not think there is anything for them to regret, no matter how hurt you feel.”

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Dr Greenberg adds that if they do feel regret, it’s not for the reasons most people would. And, you guessed it, that reason is a selfish one. “It is not because they hurt you – it is for losing something that they value,” she explains. 

Kelly knows this all too well. She writes that her mother regretted how badly she treated others, but purely because she needed something from the ones she had hurt. 

“My narcissistic mother regretted being so awful to be around. She never admitted to doing anything wrong. She only regretted being cruel to me and my 2 daughters when she got old and needed help with things… regretting not having an obedient group of caretakers eager to drive her to doctor's appointments, grocery shopping, the pharmacy.”

Feature Image: Getty

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