Do you have a difficult relationship with your maternal impactor or your mother?
Do you suspect your mother is a narcissist?
Then this episode is for you.
One of the most-watched videos on my YouTube channel is about how daughters of narcissistic mothers can survive and thrive. I thought it might be time to update this for those of you just discovering the term ‘narcissist’ and what it might mean to have a narcissistic mother.
We cover the common signs of narcissistic personality disorder and what it is, how having a narcissistic mother may impact your life and your relationships, and ways you can begin to heal.
Prefer the audio? Listen here.
Common Signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
Let’s first talk about narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) because many people are unaware it is a diagnosable disorder.
The common signs of NPD are:
- Lack of empathy
- Arrogance, inflated sense of self
- Entitlement (desire to get what they want or have things go their way)
- Being preoccupied with fantasies of beauty, wealth, and power
- Excessively seeking admiration from others
- Near-constant jealousy of others
- Taking advantage of other people
- Manipulating others for their own personal gain
- Constant comparisons of themselves, others, objects- it is about what is the best
- Exaggerating their accomplishments and attributes- they will say they can do more than they can, or lie about their credentials
The Impact of Having a Narcissistic Mother
If you think you have or had a narcissistic mother, go through the following experiences and see how many resonate.
Narcissists often seek to create a codependent dynamic because having someone dialed into their needs, wants, and desires fuels their narcissistic supply.
This dynamic is exhausting for the person creating the supply (you, as the daughter), and you may end up in other narcissistic relationships as an adult because this dynamic is familiar to you.
Anxiety and Depression
You may have anxiety and depression because narcissists often scapegoat or blame you to deflect blame from themselves.
Studies show scapegoating and being blamed can increase your anxiety as a child and as an adult.
Fear of Abandonment and Rejection
Narcissists are only capable of conditional love, and if we do not comply with their demands, they will typically reject or abandon us. There is a whole discard element to narcissistic personalities.
If your maternal impactor threatened to abandon or reject you when you were a child, then as an adult, you may still carry this fear of abandonment and rejection.
It is hard to develop a sense of trust when the person you are supposed to trust the most is someone you trust the least.
Women who have narcissistic mothers tend to get really good at people-pleasing. This looks like putting other people’s needs, wants, and desires above your own, to your detriment, because it is what was expected of you as a child.
In adulthood, you may find people who are manipulative in the same way your mother was because it is familiar to you. I call this experience a repeating relationship reality.
Hard to Identify Your Own Emotions
If you were raised by a narcissistic mother, you are often an expert at other people’s feelings but find it hard to identify your own. This is because you did not have a mother who helped you co-regulate.
When a parent is attuned to their child, the child feels seen, which is important when we are preverbal. For example, when you are in pain and your mother tends to you, you sense her attunement.
If you did not have an attuned parent, you did not get to identify your emotions the way we normally do when we have someone co-regulating with us, which can lead to confusion around your emotions.
Poor Self-Esteem and Self-Image
Narcissistic mothers see their children as an extension of them and often attempt to get their children to be like them.
Poor self-esteem can come from not being seen for who you actually are, and poor self-image can come from being a scapegoat as a narcissist’s conditional love can be very painful.
Narcissistic mothers are incredibly critical, and you may have felt pressured to try and do things perfectly to reduce the intensity or the frequency of their criticism.
Of course, this does not happen. No matter what you do, narcissistic mothers will find something to be critical of, which can lead to perfectionism.
Narcissistic mothers often have an excessive need for control and lack empathy. This makes them oblivious to what they are doing and how they are impacting other people.
Their obliviousness does not justify their behavior, but being driven by their own wants, needs, desires, and agenda causes them to trample on other people’s boundaries without a second thought.
They are the biggest boundary destroyers, and they don’t recognize it.
If you had a narcissistic mother, this may have been a big source of frustration. When someone rarely admits to doing or being wrong, there is a lack of satisfaction in the relationship.
The criticism from a narcissistic mother can set you up to be very self-critical. You can internalize the punitive voice and even if that parent is no longer in your life, your inner critic will pick up where they left off.
If you have experienced any of these things in your own life, it could be an indication of having a narcissistic mother.
How to Handle Having a Narcissistic Mother + Heal
The question is, what can you do? The good news is there are a few options.
Become an Expert
First, become an expert on narcissism, narcissistic mothers, and how daughters can survive. I have done a lot of work on this (and also have a course called No No Narc, which is all about empowering you to feel safe, loved, and respected), but there are lots of resources out there for you. I will list a few I recommend in the guide, which you can download here.
To heal and protect yourself, you have to draw boundaries.
This might mean going low or no contact with your maternal impactor. I do not necessarily recommend going no contact immediately, but be honest with yourself: how much damage has this relationship done to you and your self-esteem?
It is hard to heal if you are in a relationship with someone who is actively harming you. It is as though you get new cuts every time you talk to them, and these cuts have no time to heal.
If we continue getting metaphorically stabbed by someone, it is difficult to go back and heal the old pain we need to heal.
Focus on You
When you are raised by a narcissistic mother, you are probably comfortable focusing on other people, but not comfortable focusing on yourself.
This is because you were indoctrinated into a world where your job was to focus on your maternal impactor and make sure she had what she needed and was okay. It was not really about you.
Some of you may think making yourself a priority is unhealthy, but I promise you: how you feel, what you think, and what you want matters. And it needs to matter to you more than what anyone else feels, thinks, and wants (besides minor children).
Yes, relationships involve compromise, but if you were raised by a narcissistic mother, you are probably not even in the mix because you are busy focusing on and managing other people. (How do they feel? What are they thinking? Are they okay?)
It is time to put the focus on you.
Honor Your Anger
As women, many of us were raised to believe being angry is bad. But being the daughter of a narcissistic mother is painful.
Because anger is not an emotion many of us can readily accept, we often stuff it down, and it turns into depression. It is almost like we transmute our anger into something more palatable. This can be confusing because anger and depression are not the same thing. However, depression in daughters of narcissistic mothers is often repressed anger.
It is important to honor this anger. Allow yourself to be mad because you got a raw deal. There is nothing wrong with you and you are not a bad daughter for admitting this and knowing it.
Have compassion for yourself, and be aware of your inner dialogue. If you have a punitive, caustic, mean inner voice, I promise you, it is not your voice. It is probably the internalized voice of a critical mother.
It might feel uncomfortable, but I invite you to turn the volume down on this mean inner voice, focus on yourself, and take the time to develop a solid sense of self.
How Much Do You ‘Owe’ Your Narcissistic Mother?
Many of you have written in wondering what you owe your narcissistic mother, especially as they age.
This is for you, and you alone, to decide.
You do not owe anything to someone who abused you. I know it is painful and difficult to acknowledge, but it is true.
You do not need to, and I do not want you to, let a narcissistic parent abuse you. You do not owe that to them or anyone.
Ask yourself: how much contact do you want with your maternal impactor (if they are still alive)? What can you do without self-abandoning? How much time do you currently spend with them? How do you feel after you’ve spent time with them?
I have seen my therapy clients try to ‘work it out’ with their narcissistic mothers, but if their desire for their mother’s approval is still present, it is usually a losing battle because a narc mother cannot ever really be “pleased”.
I am not saying it can’t get better, but you need boundaries to get there. I have seen therapy clients go no contact with their maternal impactor and return years later to better behavior because their mother realized they were willing to walk away.
Many of you are also concerned about your narcissistic mother having a relationship with your children because the moment she can no longer control them, she will turn on them the same way she turned on you.
You need to create boundaries with your mother and your children. Your job as a parent is to protect your children from their grandmother if she becomes abusive. But you have to heal the child within you to protect your children.
You did not deserve this lot in life, but there are things you can do to make it better for yourself. You do not deserve this treatment. You have suffered enough. It is time to heal from having a narcissistic mother, and you absolutely can. I am here cheering you on.
To start, download the guide where I give you all of the ideas mentioned above, resources, and more. 💕
I hope you have an amazing week and as always, take care of you.