The Effects of a Narcissistic Mother on her Daughter

Last Updated on April 12, 2021 by Alexander Burgemeester

What are the effects of a Narcissistic mother on her daughter? When you imagine a picturesque mother-daughter relationship, what do you see? The compassionate, warm mother who can make every problem seemingly disappear? The daughter who turns to her mother with every secret? The loving, respectful bond that morphs into a beautiful friendship? 

For daughters of narcissistic mothers, the relationship doesn’t resemble anything like traditional love. Instead, it often seems like a constant, losing battle. These daughters often spend their childhoods feeling confused, alone, and frightened. As they grow up, their feelings may become even more intensified. 

What Are the Signs of a Narcissistic Mother?

Narcissists have an inflated sense of ego and prioritize their needs and desires above anyone else’s. They consistently perceive themselves as important, superior, and entitled to have what they want.

Subsequently, they often have little disregard for emotion, and they can become quickly reactive and even hostile when things don’t go their way. Let’s review some of the other telltale signs of narcissistic mothers

Living Vicariously Through You

Rather than relate to their children as independent individuals, narcissists see them as mere extensions of themselves. Therefore, if you have unique thoughts or needs, you are more likely to be punished rather than celebrated. 

Narcissistic mothers may live vicariously through you by forcing certain ideals or expectations onto you. For example, they might make you dance if they loved to dance. They might dress you up in girly outfits even if you identify more tomboyish. 

How Do Narcissist Mothers Affect Their Daughters_

Superficial Praising

Because narcissists want others to admire them, they often love showing off their child’s attributes. Even though they might be critical of you at home, they tend to relish in other people’s approval of your skills, appearance, or accomplishments.

Many narcissists will turn to social media to brag about their children. However, this approach isn’t about praising you- it’s about showcasing their excellent job in raising you!

Lack of Empathy

Why are you so sad? There’s nothing to be upset about right now!

You shouldn’t get angry over that.

I don’t see what the big deal is. You’ll get over it.

Narcissists are not mindful of other people’s thoughts or feelings. Instead, they only reflect on themselves. They often perceive other people as objects, accessories, or competitors- not as whole people with varying needs and emotions. As a result, they are not able to validate you for your experiences. Instead, they often shame you for thinking or feeling differently from them. 

Excess Dependency

You can’t move there. It’s too far away!

I can’t live without you. I need you.

I sacrificed so much for you when you were a child. The least you can do is give me a little money now. 

Many narcissists want their children to take care of them emotionally, financially, or physically for the rest of their lives. As a result, they may attempt to manipulate you into making unrealistic sacrifices to meet their needs. 

Neglect

Some narcissistic mothers are so self-absorbed with their own lives that they have no emotional capacity for authentic child-raising. Instead of taking care of you, they may have devoted most of their time to their career, friends, hobbies, or intimate relationships. 

Smearing You

In some cases, narcissistic parents engage in smear campaigns when their children fail to meet their expectations. Smear campaigns are intentional plans to humiliate you in attempts to compromise your reputation. If your mother smears you, she might:

  • Try to convince other family members that you are the problem.
  • Test your partner or friends’ loyalty by making mean comments about you.
  • Attempt to sabotage your school or work.

Consistent Gaslighting

  • You know I was just being sarcastic! I don’t know why you have to be so sensitive.
  • I never said that! You’re imagining things.
  • I think you’re just looking into things too much.

Narcissists frequently gaslight their victims to maintain power and control over them. Gaslighting itself can be challenging to detect, as it makes you question your reality.

Do Narcissistic Mothers Hate Their Daughters?

Hate is a far-fetched, misguided term, and narcissists don’t usually hate their children. Instead, they often view them as either objects to control or competitors to beat. 

Unfortunately, narcissistic love is conditional, meaning there are strings attached to it. When you act favorably, they tend to internalize your positive behavior as a tribute to their successful parenting. They bask in your success and often take responsibility for it. 

The opposite effect is also true. When you disrespect or embarrass them, there are enormous consequences. They may become rageful, possessive, or completely dismissive. 

What Are Some Common Traits of Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers?

Each child internalizes their childhood experiences differently. That said, there are several traits daughters may develop due to her relationship with her mother. 

Lack of Boundaries

daughters of a narcissistic parent are not allowed to have personal boundaries. Their parents determine everything, and the rules often change without notice. 

Reading Suggestions:

As a result, they struggle to identify or implement boundaries in their adult life. For one, they may not even recognize the benefits of having limits. They may be so accustomed to catering to other people that they don’t understand the importance of honoring their own needs. 

Moreover, a lack of boundaries also tends to come from an inherent desire to appease others through people-pleasing. Daughters spend so much time trying to satisfy their narcissistic mother. It often feels easier to just “give in” than try to compromise or stand up for yourself. 

Low Self-Esteem

Healthy parents validate and love their children unconditionally. Healthy parents also know that mistakes are an inherent part of childhood. Even if their child misbehaves, they discipline the behavior without shaming them. 

Narcissistic parents rarely- if ever- validate their children. Instead, they attempt to control, change, or suppress behavior that doesn’t fit within their belief system. Instead of exploring their own identity, their children grow up trying to cater to their parents. 

Indecisiveness 

The daughters of a narcissistic mother have little say in anything during childhood. They’re used to someone making all the executive decisions for them.

As an adult, you may struggle to even know what you want. You may have been criticized for having your own opinion or needs, so you learned to disregard your needs automatically. When you need to make a choice, you may require excess approval from others before proceeding.

Caution or Paranoia

Children in narcissistic homes are often gifted in interpreting body language and other nonverbal communication. After all, they had to grow up trying to understand their mother’s behavior and attune to her needs- rather than the other way around. 

As an adult, you may be overly prepared to anticipate danger. This can affect your interpersonal relationships. It’s often hard to trust other people because you fear being manipulated or hurt. 

Narcissism

Some children of narcissists become narcissistic themselves. Narcissistic mothers tend to be overly preoccupied with external accomplishments and status. They lack empathy and cannot attune to their child’s inherent needs. While many daughters struggle with low self-esteem due to their upbringing, others move in the opposite direction. 

Their narcissism almost acts as an act of rebellion- after an entire childhood spent submitting to their mothers, they become narcissistic as a way of covertly competing with them. 

Why Do They Have Trouble With Male Relationships?

As mentioned, many daughters struggle with issues related to low self-esteem, boundaries, and trust problems. Any of these variables can affect dating and intimacy.

Some daughters subconsciously seek partners similar to their mothers. They may find a partner who acts domineering and critical. Even though they may resent this person, it feels familiar- it allows them to safely recreate what they know.

Other daughters take the opposite approach. They may subconsciously seek submissive, weaker partners. Therefore, they tend to assume a more narcissistic position. Often, this dynamic is in response to the daughter’s need for power and control. If you spent your whole life feeling oppressed, it makes sense that you want a dynamic change.

Many times, the narcissistic mother still has a front-seat ticket to her adult daughter’s life. She may meddle in the relationship, try to pit both partners against each other, and seek endless attention. If you two have children together, she will often attempt to control how you raise your child. 

Finally, some women keep their guards up and avoid dating altogether. They may feel so traumatized by their childhood relationships that they don’t want to trust anyone else ever again.  

Why Are Narcissistic Mothers So Jealous of Their Daughters?

Narcissists thrive on power and control. They perceive anything that could potentially jeopardize power and control as an inherent threat. Therefore, when people give you attention, your mother might react by:

  • Putting you down directly.
  • Making sarcastic comments about you getting lucky.
  • Claiming your successes or accomplishments as her own.
  • Attempting to retaliate and replicate whatever you are doing.
  • Validating you in public and criticizing you later.

Reading Suggestions:

Your mother can be jealous of anything- your appearance, career, accomplishments, relationships (particularly if you have a good one with your father). Most jealousy stems from the conflicting message, make me look good, but don’t do better than me. 

While growing up, this jealousy can feel incredibly confusing. Children naturally want to please their parents- when they’re small, they tend to idolize them as god-like figures. They don’t feel like they are on equal footing as their mothers, so children can’t understand why their mothers want to compete. 

Because low self-esteem is so synonymous with daughters of narcissistic mothers, there’s a good possibility you don’t see your own worth. Therefore, you probably can’t imagine your mother would actually be jealous of you. Instead, you may just internalize that you aren’t good enough. 

Healing From a Narcissistic Mother

Acknowledging your Narcissistic Mother can be eye-opening, especially if you grew up unable to recognize why your relationship felt so troubled. At the same time, this realization can be upsetting and discouraging. You may feel angry or sad when you reflect on your childhood. You might also feel unsure about how to move forward.

Educate Yourself on Narcissism 

A narcissistic personality disorder is a mental illness. The symptoms are chronic and pervasive. Your mother isn’t choosing to act this way- experts agree that genetics and neurobiology likely play a role in narcissistic traits. 

Awareness is an essential part of your recovery process. You should educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of narcissism and consider how your mother’s personality impacted you- both in childhood and in adulthood.

Establish Appropriate Boundaries

Narcissists don’t readily change their ways. They do what they need to do to meet their needs- even if their behavior may seem downright appalling to you.

That’s why boundaries are so critical. You need to consider your physical, emotional, and financial boundaries when it comes to your mother. 

Suggested Reading: Low Contact With Your Narcissistic Mother

For example, let’s say your mother criticizes your house every time she comes over. As a boundary, you may require that she leave if she engages in this behavior again. Or, let’s say your mother bombards you with text messages when she doesn’t hear from you after a few days. As a boundary, you might respond with a simple, I’m busy right now, but I will call you this weekend, and leave it at that.

Remember that your boundaries are only as powerful as your ability to implement them. If you don’t reinforce what you say, you send incongruent messages about your intentions. As a result, your mother will likely continue to manipulate you. 

Consider a No-Contact Approach 

If your mother continues to disrespect you and your boundaries, you may need to step away from the relationship altogether. Of course, this is a personal decision, and you should consider this option carefully. 

Taking the no-contact approach means avoiding any interaction or engagement with your mother. No-contact means you’re saying no more Narcissistic Abuse, no more enabling, and no more toxic energy. This option is always available to you, and it might be necessary for preserving your mental health. 

daughters of narcissistic mothers

Sources Used For This Article

  1. Narcissistic personality disorder – Symptoms and causes. (2017). Mayo Clinic;   https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20366662#:~:text=Although%20the%20cause%20of%20narcissistic,development%20of%20narcissistic%20personality%20disorder.
  2. Valashjardi, A., MacLean, R., & Charles, K. (2020). Recollections of parenting styles in the development of narcissism: The role of gender. Personality and Individual Differences, 167, 110246. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2020.110246
  3. Caprino, K. (2018, January 3). How Being Raised By A Narcissist Damages Your Life And Self-Esteem. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2016/07/09/how-being-raised-by-a-narcissist-damages-your-life-and-self-esteem/
  4. ‌Rappoport, A. (n.d.). Co-Narcissism: How We Accommodate to Narcissistic Parents. Retrieved September 30, 2020, from http://www.alanrappoport.com/pdf/Co-Narcissism%20Article.pdf
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Alexander Burgemeester

Alexander Burgemeester has a Master in Neuropsychology. He studied at the University of Amsterdam and has a bachelor's in Clinical Psychology. Want to know more?

10 thoughts on “The Effects of a Narcissistic Mother on her Daughter”

  1. My mothers abuse of me in the aftermath of my fathers death caused me major depression.
    Which then made me have this verbal outburst of rage at her as I couldn’t believe that even after he died her emotional abuse was still happening.

    So what help is there for a daughter who is lumped with all the blame and shame from confronting such a narcissistic mother?

    Reply
    • Exactly how I’m feeling this week (Dad passed 2 years ago). My mom was trying to manipulate my siblings and me, into throwing her a 90th BD party (in reality, she wants to do all of the planning, insisting things are her way, including needing to have the party on her actual BD, which happens to be a weekday when all of the kids and grandkids are working or in school). She wants to do all of that planning but wants to tell everyone that her kids “want” to throw her a party… of course she also wants us to pay for it. I have been the sibling who has hosted the majority of family gatherings for over 40 years… my mom is the woman who has been sabotaging every family event that I have planned in those 40+ years. In my mind, I thought, “Oh, Hell no. Kharma! You don’t tell us to throw you a party just so you can brag!” I had this burst of unexpected, deep-seated, rage at her. I said something similar in not so nice tone of voice. It was only for a moment because my 38yo son whisked me out of the house. I was stunned by the depth of my anger.

      Reply
  2. This summary and evaluation of the affects of daughters of mothers with Narcissistic Personality Disorders was so thorough & accurate & helped me realise how much I have suffered at her hands right up to now at age 51.

    I may need to go No Contact or Low Contact as her abuse caused me to be clinically depressed after I confronted her angrily then suffered shame and more depression after there was no improvement or change from her.

    These mother-daughter relationships are incredibly complicated because there is a lot of enmeshment and love there also.

    Reply
  3. Yes I agree with you. They are very enmeshed. From being a baby.

    On the phone, responding to an out of the blue “command”, I finally said “No,” to my mother, “I am not going to do that.”

    It felt fantastic. I felt free and without anxiety. I no longer cared what she thought and nor did I feel I needed to “look after her needs.” It felt liberating.

    She then wrote to me that she didn’t what to hear from or see me again and wished me a good life. I am fortunate she made that move and I have stuck to it. We are safe from each other which is best.

    I am late 50’s. Don’t wait until you are my age. Get out. You can’t save her. The pain will keep recurring. More incidents. More history to manage. She can’t and won’t change. Sadly. Save yourself; be brave; take courage and “go and get yourself a life.”

    Step into your future and don’t look back. I have had no contact for 18 months and my sister, similarly, no contact for 6.0 years.

    It’s okay. We no longer need to be our mother’s keeper and take her abuse for crumbs.

    She will survive and create a world around herself. She will be fine. Let her go!

    Reply
  4. I have read through many of your articles. I am 52, female. I have a twin brother. I was the permanent scapegoat, he was the permanent golden child. I went no contact with my mom when I was 42. She died 6 years later.

    The thing is, my brother wasn’t the typical golden child…it was as if he was raised by a mother without NPD at all! So the things you write about daughters of NPD mothers all seem right on target or close but not the stuff you write about sons of NPD mothers. oh…more background…my father was sane and loving but he died when my brother and I were about to turn 13. I have both internalized and externalized symptoms.

    Anyway, I wish I could find info on NPD mothers raising boy/girl twins. To be fair, my mother was also diagnosed psychotic who believed girls were evil and she hated me from the moment I was born. I know of her diagnosis cause I called her old psychiatrist after she died and found out more about her.

    I know she (mom) hated me because after her death while cleaning out her house, we found 30 file boxes filled with her diaries/journals and tons of entries where she wrote of her hatred of me…and yes, she used the word hate along with despising and other synonyms. TO make matters worse..she had told me all my life, from when I was a young girl and onwards ” I will leave you my diaries when I die. You can publish them and make millions!” She would say this during times when she was being nice to me.

    I always assumed her diaries held some salacious secrets of family drama or something. When I actually did read them and realized she KNEW I would read them after she died….my mind exploded. I mean…WOW. And no, she is not anyone famous like Joan Crawford so why she thought her diaries would be publishable and make money? Just another narcissist’s fantasy. I kept a handful of the entries just for “proof” but the rest was all thrown out.

    Reply
  5. I am 66 years old, and only a week ago realized what my mother is. It has just blown me away, why and how i did not see it before now I don’t know.. my life is very complicated because of things i have let her do . She is now in a nursing home, 87 years old and all i do is run around doing things for her, Still trying to keep her happy ..
    Now i have to find a way to heal myself and have a life !
    Don’t know if i can…

    Reply
  6. Thank you so much for this article. Well written and started to give me hope there might be a way out of this, so I can finally create a life I desire, where I feel I am in control, and not living in fear all the time.
    Namaste <3

    Reply
  7. Absolutely wonderful insight on understanding my narcissistic mom. At age 60 I finally understand!! Thanks so much!!! I suffered emotionally all my life. At first I thought I was talking about my ex husband but now it turns out I had 2 narcissistic people in my life!! Thanks for the article

    Reply
  8. Scapegoat here-
    I also am in my 60’s and learned of my mother’s Narcissism just a couple of years ago. Although I recognized peculiarities in her many years ago, I always thought it was Paranoia or some other mental problem.
    I was affected from the bad upbringing, so it was really tough sledding my whole life, especially when I was younger. I somehow managed to retire young and graduated college right before she completely went off the rails (I think it was because of envy). I do not credit her with any of my success, there was a lot of outside intervention. For any other victims of a Narc mother, realize that they screw with your thinking in subtle ways that you don’t recognize. They sabotage every positive thing in your life because they want to keep you down. You end up self-sabotaging, but you can’t see it. The best way to proceed in any situation is to do the opposite of how you picture that Narcmom would do it. Oh, and if you have a sibling that is her pet, you might as well just accept that there won’t be any inheritance for you. If she wants your services, get a cash “gift” up front. If she isn’t willing to do that, you know where you stand.

    Reply

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