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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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 Characteristics
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
Children with narcissistic parents are not allowed to have personal boundaries. Their parents determine everything, and the rules often change without notice.
As a result, many daughters of narcissistic mothers 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.
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.
Daughters of narcissistic mothers 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.
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 Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers
Have Trouble With Male Relationships?
As mentioned, many daughters of narcissists 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.
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 mother’s narcissism 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 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.
Sources Used For This Article
- 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.
- 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
- 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/
- 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