Is Mom a Covert Narcissist ? A Fool-Proof Way To Tell

Find out if you are a Good Daughter!

Is Mom a helicopter, overly involved mother…or does is she a covert Narcissist?

Mom knows best! Mom to the rescue! Mom is always right! Right? Humm.. the culture stands back and cheers, loudly! But where does good intention end and overreach begin? A closer look at the Covert Narcissistic mother would show you this mother micromanages her daughter’s every move.  She pushes for perfection in her relentless pursuit to orchestrate her daughter’s successes and her parenting glory.

What’s wrong with that you might ask? Doesn’t every mother want what’s best for her daughter?

The problem is…this level of involvement isn’t necessarily best for her daughter. While the culture sees her as a saint, the perfect mom, the psychological truth is … this Mom is appropriating her daughter. Mom is living through her daughter rather than letting her daughter live. 

Unlike the braggadocious narcissistic male counterpart, the covert Narcissist gathers up her narcissistic supplies in more underground, covert ways. Attuned to social expectations, she uses her position as a doting mother & supermom as cover.

These mothers involve themselves in their daughter’s every decision—so involved, in fact, that their daughters are not allowed to make decisions on their own. This level of intimacy between mother and daughter may be seen by many as, “all good.”

“Look, they are so close. She tells her mother everything. They are just alike. “

However, a more careful look reveals a destructive dynamic.

Mom’s needs for relevance is met at the expense of her daughter’s need for independence and self-sufficiency. The apparent closeness of the mother-daughter relationship can obscure the reality of the situation—Mom is relying on her daughter in ways that are unhealthy.

Does the covert narcissist know what she is doing?

I would say, rarely, if ever. It depends on the level of narcissism.  On the extreme end, (enough to qualify for NPD) Mom feels compelled, driven in fact, to pour herself into her daughter’s life without possessing the reflective capacity to see the negative effects of doing so.

The narcissistic defense renders her emotionally blind to what she is doing to her daughter.  In this case, the needs of the mother, not the daughter, are the central driving force in the relationship.

If, on the other hand, she only has traits of a covert narcissist (and what mother doesn’t, hand raised) mom can step back and consider if her involvement benefits her daughter. She enjoys her daughter’s successes and her part in them, but she doesn’t need it for emotional survival.

 One thing is for certain. The daughter feels it, especially the daughter trapped in the role of the “good” daughter. The daughter feels the difference between having a mother who is a bit over-involved and a mother who is a covert narcissist. She can feel it on a gut level.

If you are the daughter, try this exercise-

 Imagine telling your mother “No”.

“No, it isn’t a good time to talk.”

“No, I don’t like the dress you picked out for me. It isn’t my style.”

No, I won’t be spending Thanksgiving day with you. We will be at my in-laws. “

Does this feel mildly awkward or do you respond with, “OMG I could never say that”? Why? What makes the difference in how you respond? The daughter of the covert narcissist bumps up against an unconscious taboo she didn’t know was there. The taboo has such force; she will do anything to avoid it-including sabotaging her own happiness.

And, what is this taboo? She can’t, mustn’t, shouldn’t… reject Mom. Why? Mom’s psyche can’t handle it.

 What’s going on here- 

Mom’s insecurity is the central reason for her narcissism. The narcissistic defense is standing guard at the edge of a bottomless pit of mom’s need and feelings of worthlessness. That’s why mom can’t withstand rejection. Rejection threatens to push her over the psychological edge. Any hint of rejection is met with a steely look, tone of voice, or a stony silence that can last for days.

The attuned empathetic daughter in the role of the “good daughter”  carries this burdensome knowledge around in her psyche and her body. She can’t unknow what she knows.

Her attunement to mom locks her into an impossible dilemma. She is faced with the choice, take care of Mom or take care of herself. In this way, what’s good for Mom can be very bad for her daughter. Many mothers today feel enormous pressure to over-involve themselves in their daughters’ lives. This involvement doesn’t have to end in dysfunction. However, the mothers who can’t let go when the time comes are at risk of hurting their daughtersThe daughters most attuned to mom and her needs are at risk of getting stuck in the “good” daughter role and suffering from what I call the Good daughter Syndrome.

Find out if you are suffering from the “Good” daughter Syndrome here.

There is a way out and a way home to yourself.

But first, you need to know what you are dealing with. Awareness is power. Get yours. 

Is your mother a Covert Narcissist? Let me know in the comments.





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  1. Dessy

    My mother is a covert narcissist. Her endless psychological and financial abuse have dominated my entire life. Her moves are always behind my back. Her usual weapon is to gather every possible person including my friends, neighbours and my own kids and manipulate their minds to take her stance about anything she wants me to do for her. It’s usually to secure her financially. It’s very sickening that I have fallen for the traps she has set for me. I view her as a monster, a rapist of my soul, and I wish she wasn’t living close by. She even manipulated me to bring her to live close to me and at the time I had a terrible but accurate gut feeling to NOT allow that to happen but somehow I went along with her demand … it’s for mom, right? Can’t be selfish! I left home when I was 20 years old because I couldn’t live with her draining energy! Every move she made in her life using me was to ensure her pathetic vampiric survival. Now this monster is draining the life out of me along with my finances because I was naive enough to fall for her many well thought out and carefully designed traps. I’m in my 50s now and need to see freedom from this toxic psychological entrapment. The thought that she tricked me to bring her around me is very unsettling. I need to live my life free of this woman

    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Hi Dessy,
      Thank you for writing in. I hear how sucked dry and betrayed you feel. And on top of it- a nagging feeling in your gut to resist her manipulations pitted against a feeling that it is selfish to put yourself first.

      It’s so hard when you have been programmed to put mom’s needs ahead of your own. The feeling is real. It’s also wrong.

      I would like to say, it’s not too late to break free. When you realize the battle is within yourself and give yourself permission to live your own life you have what it takes to take your leave.
      Living for your mother is no way to live.
      To your freedom,

  2. Sixmilliondots

    Do you have any information for mothers who feel they rate high in narcissistic traits? There’s so much info on damaged kids but very little on what to do if you are the toxic parent, how do I fix this? How do I help heal my children from the damage already done?

    I was diagnosed with BPD years ago and I definitely see traits in myself I hate but in the heat of the moment I don’t see the errors in my thoughts and actions . I DO apologize to my kids when I am wrong and I am often wrong and I do not make excuses or try to blame them.

    They know that I love them but they know mom has issues and it is because I feel absolutely worthless and empty. I just want to be ok so that I don’t hurt my children emotionally..

    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Dear Sixmilliondots,
      First of all, congratulations on taking ownership of your impact on your kids. That is a HUGE step in the right direction. As a mother to two grown children myself, I can say without a doubt, I didn’t always act in ways I was proud of in the heat of the moment.

      And this is how you break a cycle when one person takes ownership of behavior that isn’t originally their fault.

      Okay, I am going to go out on a limb and be straight forward assuming you can take some straight talk and possibly tough love.

      How can you help your children-

      1) Don’t wait to be okay yourself before you curb your destructive behavior. Take responsibility. Your children have one childhood and one mother.
      2) Be very strict with your commitment to self-care. Go to therapy even when you don’t feel like it. Get regular vigorous exercise to regulate yourself. If it applies- stop excessive drinking or addictive behavior that feed the mood swings.
      3) (only if this applies to you) If you can’t stop by yourself, join AA, NA, Alanon, or other XAnonymous. They are free and help many, many people.
      4) Go further than making a blanket apology. Ask your children how they feel when you have lost it. Listen to them without defending yourself. Make repair your priority.
      5) If you are unpartnered, don’t bring casual relationships into the family. Make family stability your motto. A series of broken relationships hurt them. Even when you feel empty and lost inside do your best to give them consistency and stability.
      6) Have a meditation practice. This is a cornerstone of many treatments for BPD.
      7) Lastly and most importantly do not make taking care of you, their responsibility. They will try but do not let them.

      What I have laid out here is a road map. It will be extremely hard but it is worth it. You have taken the first step- you can take the others.

      I am rooting for you and your children. Be their heroine in their life, the one who broke the cycle. I know of no better calling.
      Take care,


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