Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers

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Daughters of Narcissistic MothersOur mother is our first love. She’s our introduction to life and to ourselves. She’s our lifeline to security. We initially learn about ourselves and our world through interactions with her. We naturally long for her physical and emotional sustenance, her touch, her smile, and her protection. Her empathetic reflection of our feelings, wants, and needs informs us who we are and that we have value. A narcissistic mother who cannot empathize damages her children’s healthy psychological development. Like Narcissus in the Greek myth, she sees only a reflection of herself. There is no boundary of separateness between her and her children, whom she cannot see as unique individuals worthy of love. Symptoms of narcissism that make up narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) vary in severity, but they inevitably compromise a narcissist’s ability to parent.

The following are some of the characteristics and consequences of having a narcissistic mother. Notice that they unwittingly get repeated in adult abusive relationships, including relationships with narcissists, because they’re familiar – it feels like family.

Lack of Boundaries

Some of the effects on daughters are different than on sons, because girls usually spend more time with their mother and look to her as a role model. Due to lack of boundaries, narcissistic mothers tend to see their daughters both as threats and as annexed to their own egos. Through direction and criticism, they try to shape their daughter into a version of themselves or their idealized self. At the same time, they project onto their daughter not only unwanted and denied aspects of themselves, such as self-centeredness, obstinance, selfishness, and coldness, but also disliked traits of their own mothers. They may prefer their son, although they can harm him in other ways, such as through emotional incest.

Emotional Unavailability

Emotional comfort and closeness that normal maternal tenderness and caring provide are absent. Narcissistic mothers may tend to their daughter’s physical needs, but leave her emotionally bereft. The daughter may not realize what’s lacking, but longs for warmth and understanding from her mother that she may have experienced with friends or relatives or witnessed in other mother-daughter relationships. She yearns for an elusive connection, felt fleetingly or never. She doesn’t learn to identify and value her emotional needs, nor know how to meet them. What remains is emptiness and/or anxiety, a sense that something is missing, and an inability to nurture and comfort herself. She may look to fill it in other relationships, but often the pattern of emotional unavailability is repeated.

Narcissistic abuse

Narcissistic abuse, including repeated shaming and control, undermine the developing identity of a young girl, creating insecurity and low self-esteem. She cannot trust her own feelings and impulses and concludes that it’s her fault that her mother is displeased with her. She’s unaware that her mother will never be satisfied. In severe cases of emotional or physical abuse or neglect, a daughter may feel she has no right to exist, is a burden to her mother, and should never have been born. If not also abusive, often husbands of narcissistic women are passive and don’t protect their daughters from maternal abuse. Some mothers lie and hide their abuse. A daughter doesn’t learn to protect and stand up for herself. She may feel defenseless or not even recognize mistreatment later in adult abusive relationships.

Toxic shame

She rarely, if ever, feels accepted for just being herself. She must choose between sacrificing herself and losing her mother’s love–a pattern of self-denial and accommodation is replayed as codependency in adult relationships. Her real self is rejected, first by her mother, and then by herself. The consequence is internalized, toxic shame, based on the belief that her real self is unlovable. How could she be worthy of love when her own mother didn’t love and accept her? Children are supposed to love their mothers and vice versa! A daughter’s shame is compounded by anger or hatred toward her mother that she doesn’t understand. She believes it’s further evidence of her badness, and that all her mother’s criticisms must be true. Never feeling good enough her life is one of continual striving and lack of fulfillment. Since love must be earned, her adult relationships may repeat a cycle of abandonment.

Control

People with NPD are myopic. The world revolves around them. They control and manipulate their children’s needs, feelings, and choices when they can, and take it as a personal affront deserving of punishment when they can’t. Parenting is often, “My way or the highway.” Self-involvement leads some narcissistic mothers to focus only on themselves or their sons, and neglect or deprive their daughters.

Other mothers want their daughter to look and be her best “according to them,” but cripple their daughters in the process through criticism and control. Such mothers attempt to live through their daughter, who they see as an extension of themselves. They want her to dress and behave just as they do, and to choose boyfriends, hobbies, and work that they would choose. “For her own good,” they might forbid or criticize whatever their daughter likes or wants, undermine her ability to think for herself, to know what she wants, to choose for herself, and to pursue it. Their attention on their daughter is accompanied by their envy and expectations of gratitude, and compliance.

In adult relationships, these daughters often are in controlling relationships or get into unnecessary power struggles.

Competition

Believing she is “the fairest one of all” or fearing that she’s not, motivates narcissistic mothers to not only criticize her daughter, but to compete with her daughter for her husband’s and sons’ love. Such mothers may deny or not protect their daughter if they abuse her. They may restrict or disparage her boyfriends because they’re “not good enough,” yet nevertheless compete for their attention and flirt with them. To be in control and number one in their daughter’s life, they may invade their daughter’s privacy and undermine her relationships with friends and other relatives.

Recovery

Recovery from the trauma of growing up with feelings of rejection and shame takes time and effort. (See Conquering Shame and Codependency.) Ultimately, it means recovery from codependency. It starts with identifying and understanding that the shaming messages and beliefs transmitted from mother to daughter are untrue. Replacing the internalized, negative, maternal voice – the internal critic – with self-nurturing is an important step. (See 10 Steps to Self-Esteem: The Ultimate Guide to Stop Self-Criticism and webinar How to Raise Your Self-Esteem.) Recovery entails both healing the past and learning new skills to overcome codependency. (See Codependency for Dummies.)

To learn how to deal with a narcissist in your life, whether your partner or parent, follow the steps in Dealing with a Narcissist: 8 Steps to Raise Self-Esteem and Set Boundaries with Difficult People.

Read about “Sons of Narcissistic Mothers” and “Sons of Narcissistic Fathers.”

©Darlene Lancer 2017

 

Help for Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers provided by Darlene Lancer, MFT, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Santa Monica, CA, and author of Codependency for Dummies

 

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Janet Lee York
Janet Lee York
7 months ago

She smoked a lot and my earliest memory is a bad smell on my mommy. She didn’t want kids so she’d leave me alone in my crib or playpen a lot. Relatives have told me stories. She also was a day drinker. As I grew up she picked on me about my looks. On one hand she was proud to say I could be a model to her friends or anybody who would listen, but at home tell me my eyes are too far apart & other critical observations. I’ve always hated my life, never found a friend who could relate, most kids loved their Moms. I was repulsed from day one and the feeling was mutual

Darlene Lancer
Darlene Lancer
7 months ago
Reply to  Janet Lee York

What a sad fate, but you can get help with therapy. Also do the exercises in Conquering Shame and Codependency. Get the Self-Love Meditation, also.

Janet Lee York
Janet Lee York
7 months ago

I always wondered why I never loved my Mom. These words solved the mystery for me. Thank you. “Our mother is our first love. She’s our introduction to life and to ourselves. She’s our lifeline to security. We initially learn about ourselves and our world through interactions with her. We naturally long for her physical and emotional sustenance, her touch, her smile, & her protection”

Didn’t have that. I was an accident she was going to abort, but my father said no, marry me. He didn’t even know if I was his or not. Now I’m 60 & we finally know he is my real Dad. She had many abortions b4 me

Anna
Anna
1 year ago

I’m 23 and have known for some time that my maternal grandmother is a narcissist but have only recently come to realise the impact that has had on my own mum’s ability to form a healthy relationship with me. My mum is desperate to maintain their relationship as she can’t get over what she never had but she’s now oblivious to the fact that she repeats this cycle with me. She cares for my brothers and is often overbearing but makes me feel that my needs are unreasonable and would never admit it but seems jealous of my relationships and friendships with others, telling me that I must be ‘hard work’ for these people.

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
Reply to  Anna

Your knowledge can give you compassion, but she does not have to be aware for you to set boundaries and make changes in your relationship with her. See my blog on Toxic Parents and others on abuse. Do attend Coda, get counseling, and study and do the exercises in my ebooks Dealing with a Narcissist: 8 Steps to Raise Self-Esteem and Set Boundaries with Difficult People and
How To Speak Your Mind – Become Assertive and Set Limits and webinar How to Be Assertive

Empithy
Empithy
1 year ago

My whole life I thought I was the problem – now 38 years old & I am seeing her for who she is and always was. The proverbial light bulb has gone on in my head. My mother hides behind her religion & shames anyone if they do not see the world exactly as she does. She competes with me – if I am going thru something devastating – she will have to “one-up” me with an experience of her own. Everything happens to her, because of her or in spite of her. All of her own siblings do not speak to her yet, they are the issue, not her. I truly believe this blog has saved my life in a way. Thank you, Darlene for this forum. Now on to recovery…

Drophammer77
Drophammer77
1 year ago

This is my first time seeing your Blog. Thank you. I didn’t know what a Narcissist was back then. But I definitely got the slap in the face and realized my whole life was in the center of it. Had been with my girl and boy every day since the day they were born. My ex (at the time) got bored and lived in her Fantasy Land. I took care of our children. I’m not complaining..This my Job! Nothing more I love than being a Dad. After going through a 2yr vicious divorce, Her mother, is changing the past. My daughter is believing it. It started because I told her she wasn’t going to see her boyfriend every time she home with me, because she is only 14 and she shouldn’t have a boyfriend. Now that she always at her Mom’s, …Mom lets her go to this boy’s house basically every night so Mom can do what she wants and not physically be there…like before. My son loves being with me. My girl and I used to have a Strong Bond.. I’m lost and broken.

Deborah Gonzales
Deborah Gonzales
1 year ago

Wow I am so glad I came across this article. I have known for sometime there was something wrong but could never figure it out. This article sounds like my entire childhood between my mother and I. I wish 100x I could turn and walk away but now she is in an assisted living home and dependent on me to get her diapers, meds, money, pay her bills… I dread going there every week…

It has been extremely stressful and am going to seeking counseling. I have so much anger and resentment towards her, and on top of it all I am adopted. I think that this makes it even worse then had I been her biological daughter.

Lori
Lori
1 year ago

Deborah. I could relate to this article too. I give you credit for taking care of your mom while she is in an assisted living facility. I moved hours away from my toxic biological mom. I forgive my Mom for being so mean and vindictive towards me, but I have no intention of taking care of her. God would not expect me to put myself in a situation where I am emotionally abused/coerced to do what my Mom wants. My Mom loathes my independence. Good luck to you.

Evita Carrasco
Evita Carrasco
2 years ago

My narcissistic mother was very abusive and her controlling behaviors and cruel criticisms led me down a very tough path as an adult woman. It is no surprise to me that I ended up in controlling relationships and engage in toxic shaming of myself. I surprised myself as a mother though. I was very conscious of not repeating the cycle with my own daughter. However, the issue I continually face is feeling horrible guilt and shame for wanting happiness. I know it is healthy to want happiness but at the same time feel it is selfish. My daughter even saw it an a young age. In the end, no contact with my mother has been the best result for me.

Melody
Melody
3 years ago

Thank you for posting the article above. I believe that my mother is either NPD or BPD. I am not sure. The only thing that I am sure of is that she lacks respect for personal boundaries. She uses religion to justify her actions. If you refuse to bow to her wishes, she completely loses control and becomes extremely passive aggressive with her words and actions. If you do not act in a way that suits her needs and wants, you are considered the bad person, and you must pay for your sins against her…All the while she will say things like…God is going to take care of you/her/it. Very vindictive behavior. I am struggling to understand.

Paula
Paula
3 years ago

The reason your friend behaves this way is because of fear of abandonment. Someone with bpd will throw you out with yesterday’s trash faster than you can say Jack. The reason being a person with borderline issues is so terrified of abandonment that they would rather dump you before you dump them. They believe that eventually you will find out their secret, that they are unworthy, and then you will abandon them.

Paula
Paula
3 years ago
Reply to  Paula

My comment was supposed to be a reply to Hebikiah. Don’t know why it is here

Meredith
Meredith
3 years ago

This is so incredibly helpful. My mother is definitely either NPD or BPD, or maybe both – is that possible? I struggle to this day with feeling unworthy, like a fake, a bad person because of how my mother treated me as a child. When I want no contact with her, she and my dad both tried to make me feel like my relationship difficulties with my mother are entirely my fault and that I was a bad daughter. My dad said to me, “I think your mother is just tired of all the fighting.” I.e., why don’t you just let go once and for all of trying to be your own person and standing up for yourself. Which I will never do 🙂

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
3 years ago
Reply to  Meredith

Having a narcissistic mother – I know from my own experience – is very painful. There are effective ways to stop verbal abuse, aside from no contact, as described in Dealing with a Narcissist: 8 Steps to Raise Self-Esteem and Set Boundaries with Difficult People and How to Speak Your Mind (and the webinar, How to Be Assertive. For example, saying, “I guess I’ll never be the daughter you wanted,” which is usually show-stopper, but that requires first detaching.

Meredith
Meredith
3 years ago

I have to say your comment really baffles me. Going no contact was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
3 years ago
Reply to  Meredith

My comments are only generic suggestions, as I am not familiar with your situation. You are the best judge of what’s best for you. Only you know your mother, yourself and your relationship. There are all sorts of narcissistic mothers and degrees of narcissism. Congratulations on listening to your inner guidance and having the courage to follow it!

SUE FINNERTY
SUE FINNERTY
1 year ago
Reply to  Meredith

Going no contact is only part of the issue. We have to learn then to get what we didn’t get from our mothers [reparent ourselves]. We need to grieve for the loss of the relationship. We have to rid ourselves of the toxic shame which was projected onto us. We have to heal ourselves.

Cours
Cours
3 years ago

How do you let go when there’s been no accountability on the part of your narcissistic parent?

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
3 years ago
Reply to  Cours

I’m not sure what you mean by “let go.” If you mean anger, it’s a process that includes self-compassion and grieving. Therapy is the best approach.

SUE FINNERTY
SUE FINNERTY
1 year ago
Reply to  Cours

Often there is no awareness on behalf of the mother that she has caused so much harm. For me it was accepting my mother for who she was but I had to set boundaries for myself, Confronting my mother about what had happened would only result in her crying and arguing and we would get nowhere. I would be called ungrateful and selfish. She would continue to shame me and I’ve had enough of that. We have a better relationship now that I have set boundaries and have made myself aware of the traits of her behavior. It’s about protecting myself.

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
Reply to  SUE FINNERTY

I recall when I made my 9th Step amends to my mother, and she didn’t hesitate to remind me of things I didn’t mention. As my boundaries improved, she complained that she had to be careful and watch what she said with me. That was a sign of success!

Molly
Molly
3 years ago

I left my narcissistic dad years ago and very glad I did. Alot of the points in the article fits with my relationship with him even if hes my dad (im the daughter).
It has left me feeling alot less trustful of men (vs women.) I am still not able to be in a romantic relationship with a man even though many have shown interest. I have been working on it for a long time. One thing that helped alot: having male friends. Finally men who like me for who I am.
Im very self aware not to become like him.. a little too much sometimes; being too ‘pleasing.’
This site really helped me finally ‘understand’ my dad (even though I dont really).

Alle
Alle
1 year ago
Reply to  Molly

I am so great full to have found this site. I relate to your stories, I to knew there had to be an explanation for how my younger sister and I were feeling when it comes to the relationship with our mother. On top of a narcissistic mother, we are also adult children of alcoholic parents. I literally read through every blog topic and all its info, I can apply each and every thing to our lives passed and now present. I know my sister could benefit from this site as well as our children who now have been forced to become adult children of alcoholics themselves, a narcissistic father, I’m the people pleaser, my sister like our narcissistic mom

Hebekiah
Hebekiah
3 years ago

Thanks for this. I have a friend (female) with narcissist dad, very similar themes. It’s easier to go on believing him the evil one and not see her own behavior that’s not so far off. Interesting that she’s long been treated for cutting and bi-polar but the more she stops demonizing him (on several things she lied to make him look worse and her the “innocent” victim) and looks to her own actions the less the self-destructive behavior. Addressing codependency in general is good but at the heart is false pride, always less than or better than others. As long as NDP dad is always worse, non-human, unworthy of love, she hasn’t found peace.

Molly
3 years ago
Reply to  Hebekiah

I left my narcissistic dad years ago and very glad I did. Alot of the points in the article fits with my relationship with him even if hes my dad (im the daughter).
It has left me feeling alot less trustful of men (vs women.) I am still not able to be in a romantic relationship with a man even though many have shown interest. I have been working on it for a long time. One thing that helped alot: having male friends. Finally men who like me for who I am.
Im very self aware not to become like him.. a little too much sometimes; being too ‘pleasing.’
This site really helped me finally ‘understand’ my dad (even though I dont really).

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