Nothing I Do Is Good Enough: My Narcissistic Mother

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 it was her dissatisfaction with her own life that 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 your self 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.

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  • Wow reading that was just like reading about my own life. Except I have been no contact for 4 years now. NMothers do so much damage to their children. I know its really hard and I feel often the same way you do. I have been trying to change the way I talk to myself about myself! I know what you are going through. I can’t communicate with anyone in my family because they all still worship n.mother. its sickening. I know that narcissistic mothers are like vampires. How as a baby and child were we to know that everything in our world was whack. Its a hard adjustment to make esp after so so long. Good luck and hugs!

  • I found this, it helped me.

    bigotry (n.)
    1. stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.
    2. the actions, beliefs, prejudices, etc., of a bigot.

    There is no need to argue for yourself. There is no need to be defensive.
    Know that you are dealing with a bigot. Save your breath. Save your energy. There is no convincing them, and it’s not necessary to try. It’s like arguing with a loudspeaker. A loudspeaker has no ears! No way of hearing you. And all it wants is power. If she can upset you, or hurt you, that is her getting power. Give as much attention as you would a loudspeaker. Ignore it. Turn off the listening if she even gets close to hurting or upsetting you. Put your equanimity first. Keep it in all circumstances. Then, no matter what she throws at you, you are ok.

  • I am 45 and have recently discovered that my mother is a narcissist, through the therapy that she insisted I attend because she had declared me mentally unstable, schizophrenic, psychotic, delusional and paranoid. Always in response to my refusal to comply with all of her ludicrous expectations or when defending myself or any one of my four children against her foul and degrading insults.

    I have foolishly been sucked in to renting a huge house with her and have found myself paying for pretty much everything. During therapy my psychologist has raised my awareness of the fact that at my age I am not required to meet all of her demands and neither are my children. Since telling her that we were leaving and she should find alternate living arrangements she has become increasingly aggressive and last week actually hit me in the face with a cup in front of my 12 year old daughter.

    She is in such a narcissistic rage that she is talking in psycho babble or engaging in extreme silent treatment, she has began her smear campaign and has got many of our family friends fooled, however my father and my aunts see right through her as do my three daughters aged 7,8 & 12. my 17 yr old son, who is her golden favorite is usually spared her rottenness. I have been sucked in so many times, only for it all to go sour again when she feels powerful enough and she thinks she has cornered me. I want to go NO CONTACT as we are in the packing process of moving, everyone who is fooled by her is telling me that itb will all settle down when we move. These people have no idea how much damage and hurt her cruelty has done in my life and she has ruined the first 45 years of it, no way is she taking anymore, she took my confidence, self esteem, my ability to trust, and my concepts of family and love, I cringe when my children tell me I am behaving like her, at least I have the ability to change.
    Some have advised me not to expect my children to choose no contact, but I need to protect them from her as I know how manipulative she is, and if she hasn’t got me to bully then she will switch to one of them, and the cycle of abuse will continue, I have already seen her starting the insults to my 12 year old, in a jealous rage. No one will ever be good enough for these monsters and they know exactly what they are doing to their victims.

    Only someone who has had dealings with a narcissist can really relate to the extent of the damage. Thank you for this site.

  • Reading this was extremely hard, yet I realized that I wasn’t alone and there are people out there that experienced the same emotion abuse that I have. How did you find the courage to end your relationship? I’m still currently receiving this emotion abuse. Mainly because my father is still married to my mother and him and I have always had a very close relationship. She has literally made attempts to destroy me. Nothing I’ve ever done has matched her expectations. It’s strange.. she has high expectations, yet prays I fail. In the past few years, I’ve finally learned that this isn’t about me, it’s about her. It’s gotten worse the older she’s gotten, and I have become more distant. I’m working hard on fully separating myself from her and one day.. I will. Thank you for sharing your story. It truly helped me.

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