Why does my Narcissistic mother lie to me?
While I can’t be sure, I have a pretty good idea. So let’s start with some observations.
Sooner or later, everyone tells a lie.
In fact, over a lifetime, we all tell many lies. The Narcissist, however, is a liar. It isn’t just what they do; it is who they are.
In my work with daughters of narcissistic mothers, daughters frequently can’t wrap their heads around why their mothers would lie. Needless to say, it hurts and confuses them.
What’s the difference between a person who tells a lie and a liar?
When confronted with the opportunity, to tell the truth or lie, most of us check in with our inner selves to see if our answer feels right. This gut check is a calculation that happens automatically, mainly at the unconscious level.
This is true even for liars… and if mom is Narcissistic, this is true for her.
Thus, we all act in accordance with our sense of… who we know ourselves to be.
The three-year-old, mouth rimmed with chocolate, who declares with impunity she was NOT the one who ate the half-eaten candy bar, is given a pass because we all know intuitively she doesn’t have a fully formed sense of self.
But Narcissism is a disorder of the self. It isn’t so much an undeveloped sense of self as an impaired/fragmented sense of self—a self-based on opportunism instead of values.
Life is a game, and they play to win.
What happens when otherwise reasonable people tell a lie?
As mentioned, somewhere, somehow, most people will lie. Given enough reason, fear, or perceived gain, most of us will violate our sense of integrity and our internalized values.
We calculate that an untruth is worth telling. Then, if we aren’t a liar, we feel bad, sometimes really bad.
We feel bad because who we know ourselves to be and our values don’t match up. This incongruence makes us uncomfortable.
In other words, it costs us to lie.
What happens when a Narcissist lies, and why is it a red flag.
The narcissistic calculation is a different algebraic equation.
A Narcissistic mothers’ lie also comes from her sense of self. The difference is that her life has become a lie.
When her life becomes a lie, her lying is different. Different because her sense of self is different. The lie is not inconsistent with her sense of self. For her, the lie is a necessity to preserve what she regards as a self.
That self, however, is a set of defenses, not internalized values.
That set of defenses stand as armed guards against a horrible cauldron of self-loathing of which she is mostly unaware. And, her defenses keep her unaware of the emotional pain that would otherwise swallow her up… or so she believes.
The secrets, the layers of lies, become a fragile house of cards. The self she has built from those lies can easily cave in on itself under the weight of truth.
Her lying is an act of desperation.
This is what makes it a red flag.
If Mom is fighting to the psychological death to preserve what she experiences as a self she will take you down with her.
The Narcissistic mother is operating from a place of defense… all of the time.
The lie is more a PR stunt, a marketing ploy rather than a cohesive integrated set of values. Mom’s narcissistic personality is more of a storefront designed to hide that there isn’t any there, there.
She doesn’t experience it as manipulation or lying, not exactly… she feels it is necessary for survival, psychological survival.
She can’t ever let down their guard and let anyone in.
Why the Narcissistic mother lies and why it is a red flag-
1) She can’t be close
Because she can’t let you get too close, there is no true capacity for intimacy.
She can’t invite you into the store because the store is full of empty, discarded garbage. She wants you to buy the fiction that the storefront is so dazzling you will buy her performative act and wouldn’t need to come inside. “Nothing to see here…move along”.
Thus, she may have tons of acquaintances and even be the life of the party, but no one knows the whole story.
There will be gaps in her stories and in her life. If you look too closely, you will see the cracks, the unrepaired ruptures, and they won’t be pretty.
2) She can’t be trusted
She is marketing a self she wants you ( and others) to believe.
She needs you to believe the storefront is the store and that she is who she pretends to be.
These days that can manifest as a carefully curated Facebook page or Instagram Feed or a host of “friends” and family that she keeps at a distance. She will gossip behind their backs and is always looking to put them down in order to get a narcissistic leg up.
3) She is not sorry
You don’t see true humility and remorse for the mistakes she makes. That takes self-reflection and honesty. Looking more closely, you will see she takes no ownership of her struggles.
4) She will use you
Instead of empathizing with you and caring for you, she will use you for her own gain. She will brag about you to her friends if she thinks it makes her look good, criticize you if she worries you are making her look bad, or take you down a notch if she worries that you will overshadow her.
5) She’s the victim, never the perpetrator.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing, her lies are more subtle, plausible, and manipulative rather than grandiose. You may have to look more closely to spot them. That’s what makes her harder to spot and so so much more dangerous.
It might not look like a male narcissist – she is more likely to exhibit the covert vulnerable variety of narcissism.
What she will say about her lies if she is confronted.
- “I had to lie.” You see, circumstances were such that it only made sense for me to lie. External conditions forced me to lie- “I would be stupid not to.”
- “The other person is so ridiculous/stupid/unreasonable that they left me with no choice. “ They put the responsibility for lying on the other person. “They made me do it.” Again you see the lack of accountability coupled with the denigration of the other.
- “I am protecting someone by lying to them.” If they knew the truth, it would hurt them. Not that everyone needs to know every thought or fact about our lives. However, the narcissistic mother will mislead, omit or outright lie about huge aspects of her life and tell herself she is protecting people, not hurting them.
All of these excuses reflect an impoverished and distorted sense of self and are red flags that she is not going to change.
You see…Paradoxically, she isn’t lying; she is speaking the truth of who she is.
It is confusing and damaging to have a mother who is distorting reality to you when she is the one you look to to interpret reality.
- It bears saying that the fractured abusive childhoods that create the need for this level of narcissistic defense imprison their victims in lives that are hard, if not near impossible, to heal from.
- When a person lies, as a matter of course, they not only do relational violence to others but tragically do it to themselves.
- It is not an excuse, but it is real.
However, you need to know what you are dealing with. A mother whose narcissism is so severe that she will lie easily and habitually can’t be close, trusted, or counted on – no matter what you do.
As hard as it is to accept, these red flags tell you something sobering and essential. If your mother lies chronically, she is unlikely to have the core personality traits to sustain a healthy relationship with you.
Because, despite all evidence to the contrary, daughters are prone to blaming themselves. Thinking if they were only good enough, sensitive enough, and caring enough, their mothers would be different.
If left unchallenged, this thinking only compounds the damage.
If this describes you, you are caught in the Good Daughter Trap. And if you are… I can help you get free.
Wondering if you are in the role of the Good Daughter of a narcissistic mother? Take the quiz – it’s free.
What are some lies you have been told? Let me know in the comments.