Last Updated on August 15, 2022 by Alexander Burgemeester
Q: I was raised by a narcissistic mother. She exhibited all the traits you discuss here. I am 36 and I have not spoken to her in 7 years. However I find that her treatment still affects me.
She was very disapproving of every choice I ever made. I got married young, that was bad and therefore I was bad.
I dropped out of college and went to work instead and that was bad. I was a working mom and that was bad. Then I was a stay at home mom and that was also bad.
I went back to college and the college I chose was bad. The list goes on.
I bought a house, but it didn’t have a yard -so it was bad. And even though, as I got older and more mature,
I realized that her dissatisfaction with her own life drove her need to find fault in me and my siblings and everything we did, it didn’t stop me from feeling like a loser.
I understand on an intellectual level, that my mother never really accomplished much with her own life.
She has no relationships to speak of, except for my father, who is basically a shell of a man, as a result of her abuse. And yet, for some reason, I feel like nothing I do is enough.
Success doesn’t exist. My mother has had this effect, in varying capacity- on all four of her children.
She has been out of my life for years. And I have gone through therapy numerous times.
I understand how she affected me. But it doesn’t change how I feel. Will I ever be free of this?
A: Your mother’s treatment is going to affect you for a long time- it has shaped your whole childhood and your core self-image.
You describe yourself and your choices as “bad”, and although you said it sarcastically, it seems there may be a part of you that believes that this is true.
You feel “like a loser”; at some level you still feel like a “bad” person. You understand intellectually and that is a terrific start. Next you have to understand and accept emotionally.
You need to work specifically on rebuilding your self image and re-framing yourself as a “good” person who makes good choices. Perhaps your prior therapies focused on getting you through the separation from your mother and understanding what happened.
Now it is time to find a therapist who will help you see yourself and truly accept yourself as a good person.
I would suggest a different type of therapy from before; it is called “cognitive behavioral therapy” and is practiced commonly although you will need to call around and find a therapist who practices this.
Most therapists recognize it as an effective tool (especially for specific goals like yours) although they don’t all practice it.