Is my Mom a Narcissist? Read/Watch/Listen
You’ve always known something was off about Mom.
Maybe you wondered if there were something legitimately wrong with her.
You might have noticed how she makes everything about her and goes off the rails if you challenge her. To say she’s touchy or bossy hardly covers it.
When your mother is narcissistic, especially a covert narcissist, you may wonder if it’s your fault. If only you were better somehow, less sensitive, not so much trouble…maybe she would treat you better.
You have friends who say their mother is their best friend, and you wonder how that works. Yours is barely supportive, at least not consistently supportive.
Lately, you’ve begun to wonder, “Is my Mom a Narcissist?”
Here is everything you need to know to decide for yourself.
I have to warn you that discovering your Mom is a Narcissist can be quite a shock. On the other hand, learning that something serious is wrong with your mother can be both a relief and unsettling at the same time.
So I’m going to take it slow and steady.
When you ask, ” Is my Mom a Narcissist?” I will show you-
- How Narcissism is diagnosed in the general population
- How to spot Narcissism in your mother
- Ways, a mother’s Narcissism affects her daughter.
- What happened to Mom to make her Narcissistic
- Can Mom ever change?
****Stay with me until the end of the article. Clue by clue, insight by insight; by the end of this article, you will know what makes your mother tick and how to deal with her.
Let your empowerment begin.
How Narcissism is diagnosed in the general population-
( Is my Mom a Narcissist?)
Let’s begin with the Diagnostic Statistical Manual that professionals use to diagnose mental illness.
If we consult the DSM-5 Narcissistic personality disorder is defined as comprising a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by the presence of at least 5 of the following nine criteria:
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements, expects to be recognized as superior without actually completing the achievements)
- It is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, brilliance, beauty, or perfect love.
- Believes that they are “special” and can only be understood by or should associate with other special people (or institutions).
- Requires excessive admiration.
- Has a sense of entitlement, such as an unreasonable expectation of favorable treatment or compliance with his or her expectations).
- It is exploitative and takes advantage of others to achieve their own ends.
- Lacks empathy and is unwilling to identify with the needs of others.
- Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of them.
- Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors and attitude
AT LEAST, that’s what the male ( and sometimes female) version looks like.
Lying, eye-rollingly self-absorbed, and self-promoting, … you can spot a male Narcissist from a mile away…
—a Narcissistic mother, not so much.
When it comes to women, it is estimated that 4.8% of women have NPD. Even though the same criteria apply, they may translate differently.
Women are socialized to cover these overt, braggadocious, self-aggrandizing, off-putting behaviors. Her Narcissism may be covert and fly right under the radar of social acceptability.
Often, only her daughter knows the truth of who Mom really is. (Also, many women have traits of Narcissism without having a full-blown personality disorder.)
But first, you need to know what you are dealing with.
How to spot Narcissism in your mother-
After 30 years of counseling women and seeing them struggle with not knowing why their mothers make them feel so crappy, I’ve identified a few clues that give her away- what it looks like and why she does it.
See if any or all apply to your mother.
Is my Mom a Narcissist?
Clue #1- She needs to look perfect? (Grandiosity)
This Mom’s life is one PR stunt, window dressing, and cover-up all rolled into one.
She needs to look perfect (or at least superior) to the outside world, and your job is to help her do just that. So your manners, grades, and anything you do that people can see must reflect well on Mom.
Because, underneath all that superiority, one inescapable fear drives your mother: What will people think?
This concern over what other people might think may override any concern about how her relationship with you feels.
Hiding any evidence of problems or struggle is even more important than looking good. There isn’t any room for missteps in Mom’s carefully constructed fantasy world, no visible margin for error.
This rigidity is the one element that separates the mother who is pleased when her children reflect well on her, from the Narcissistic mother, who absolutely cannot bear it to be otherwise. What makes her tick?
Why a Narcissistic mother does it-
Underneath her defensive veneer of superiority is a scared, lonely person who is terrified of being seen for who she truly is. And who she is (in her mind) is not good enough.
So she is directly transferring her own most dreaded fear onto you, giving you that burden to bear, as it were.
To defend herself against this fear, your mother needs to look unique. Her daughter must be a walking billboard, living evidence that Mom is indeed special, more special than anyone. This leads me to…
Is My Mom a Narcissist?
Clue#2 – She Needs to Win (Superiority)
Some mothers judge, micromanage, weigh in, comment, and critique because they need to be the person with all the answers. Mothers like this feel compelled to top you no matter what.
Whatever your opinion, they will counter with one of their own. If something bad happened to you, they had it worse.
In Mom’s mind, you need correcting, setting straight, fixing, bettering, and improving. And Mom is just the person to do it.
After all, who knows you better than your mother?
So, when it comes to who you need to be and what you’re doing wrong, she is always right (and never sorry).
It’s as if you’d only do as Mom says; life (and you) would be perfect.
Even on those rare occasions when you eke out what feels like a victory– when Mom seems happy with you-you, you know one false step, and you slip right off that pedestal.
You are always one conversation away from another piece of Mom’s advice, wanted or not.
You feel pressure to live out the myth that Mom knows best and is always looking out for you.
Yet, even after you have long outgrown that need, she can’t relinquish her role as the authority, the one with the power. What drives her?
Why a Narcissistic Mother Does It-
The mother who needs to win needs to feel special because, deep down, she is insecure.
She may look confident on the outside, but inside, her feelings of inadequacy can only be overcome by making you feel “less than.”
Mom isn’t worried about your self-esteem—she’s far more driven to elevate her own lest she falls into the abyss of unworthiness. It’s a slippery slope for her. Give you a leg up and down she goes.
Her need to defeat you or at least keep you in your place is a cruel consequence of her insecurity. Constantly one-upping you or putting you down allows Mom to feel superior and, more importantly, relevant.
The sad truth is, (she fears) if you could get along without her, why would you choose to be with her? And now for the final kind of Narcissistic mother.
Is My Mom a Narcissist?
Clue# 3 – She Project her Flaws Onto You (lacks empathy)
A mother who treats you like a project, always making suggestions about how you can improve, may be trying to make herself whole by making you better.
It goes without saying this does not work.
However, she sees you as her do-over—more an extension of her than an independent being.
Psychologists say she is relating to you as a narcissistic extension, whether she appropriates your life for correction or glory.
In real life, there is little daylight between the two of you. As her right arm, you are merely an extension of hers to trot out for show or examine for faults, while your purpose is to do her bidding and fight her fights as if they were your own. Which, of course, feels crappy.
That’s why she can criticize you without thinking about how that criticism lands with you or demand you “behave” (as she defines it) rather than give you the space and respect to decide for yourself.
This is because she over-identifies with your successes, feels wounded by your setbacks, and doesn’t experience you as a separate person with your own thoughts and feelings.
Mom can’t empathize with you; she is too busy overidentifying with you.
Why a Narcissistic mother does It-
The Mom who wants a do-over can’t face the truth about herself. There are scary things hidden away in her psyche that she can’t contain through the defense mechanism of repression alone. As a result, she needs a container to hold all the stuff she wants to discard—and guess who gets to play the role of a garbage can? “Here, hold this, will you?” “Sure, Mom.”
This defense is called projection—Mom projects the unwanted parts of herself onto you and then endeavors to fix them…in you. This unconscious dynamic makes you Mom’s psychological trashcan and recycling receptacle all in one.
Ways a mother’s narcissism, affects her daughter.
Throughout development, a child (that would be you) will exhibit a range of emotions—joy, anger, surprise, compassion, greed, happiness, sadness, and disgust—the full range.
Yet, when Mom sees (and sees) feelings in you that she can’t face in herself, she overreacts and tries to stamp out whatever emotion you dared to display.
Because it’s not you she’s trying to do over; it’s her.
A daughter’s response –
Depending on the severity of her need and how locked into this dynamic, you will try valiantly to look good for Mom.
Everyday life struggles—with your career, your relationships, anything really—can send you into an anxious tailspin if you worry you are not measuring up.
So you wear a mask of perfection even though you feel anything but.
You buy into the myth that exceptional is the only acceptable standard, and if you feel you are falling short somehow, you do your best to hide it.
As a consequence, you are prone to Imposter Syndrome.
You may look as though you don’t have a care in the world, but deep down inside, you may feel like a fraud just waiting for someone to find you out.
In this way, you carry your narcissistic mother’s impossible dilemma: you are either worthless or spectacular. More often than not, leaves you feeling worthless and unspectacular.
Believing mother knows best.
You are prone to go along with the idea that Mom knows best and tell yourself that she only wants the best for you. Even though it irritates you on one level, it also seems normal that she is constantly correcting and “improving” you.
And, even if she doesn’t offer it, you seek out her input. That becomes the expectation. On a more unconscious level, you are careful not to outshine her.
In this way, you stay forever, her apprentice.
Thinking you are at fault and responsible for your mother’s happiness –
You keep falling for it—because of the unconscious pull to take care of Mom and ensure she’s okay.
Unconsciously, you think you will finally be Good Enough if you can just become whatever she wants you to be. But you can’t. So, the doing-over never ends.
“Looking back, mom never let me have my own life. She tried to take over every aspect of my life…for all of my life. Although I had no way of understanding why at the time, any independence on my part was taken as a rejection of her. I never wanted to hurt her; I just wanted to live my own life.”
Like most clients on my psychotherapy couch, Susan couldn’t understand (as a child) that her mother was operating out of deep insecurity.
No child can.
What makes Mom Narcissistic?
Narcissism or traits of the disorder all have, at their core, deep insecurity. And this disorder develops in an attempt to manage that insecurity.
A child can’t grasp that the person they depend on is empty. So empty; in fact, she doesn’t have much to give and is psychologically driven to take. The technical word for this is “appropriation.”
A Narcissistic mother psychologically appropriates her daughter’s life to meet her unmet needs.
Most vulnerable is her empathetic, attuned daughter, trapped in the role of the good daughter. Her life is quietly appropriated as she tries to make her narcissistic mother happy. She doesn’t know she has a choice.
It makes you wonder…
What happened to Mom to make her Narcissistic?
Your mother’s narcissism probably started in early childhood when she didn’t get the quality love and care she needed to get off to a good emotional start.
Just as you needed to see the delight in your mother’s eyes when you were a baby, she needed the same. Bringing joy to our caregivers is the origin of what psychologists call narcissistic supplies.
Narcissistic people get “that way” because they are low on those supplies.
This means that if your mother is Narcissistic, she didn’t feel special enough as a child for simply being herself. So when a person comes out of early childhood with a deficit in these supplies, she goes through life trying to fill up this internal emptiness.
That’s why your mother is likely very concerned about how she looks to the world and may exert a lot of effort in living up to cultural, religious, or familial ideals by constructing and maintaining a carefully curated façade. She acts as if she has something to prove. And that’s because…well…she does.
So, she spends a lifetime trying to convince both herself and everyone around her that she is, indeed, worth something.
For some mothers, these efforts to look perfect or important are grandiose and overt. However, a covert Narcissistic mother keeps her quest to look perfect more subtle and hidden. Disguising her need to be special by micromanaging her daughter’s every move, this covert Narcissism looks on the outside as if she is sacrificing for her children. In reality, she’s transferring her need to be special to her child.
Because the Narcissistic mother has a leak in the bucket of her self-esteem—no matter how she manages to fill the bucket, whatever she puts in, will keep leaking out.
As a daughter, you’ve likely spent your life on the front lines, hauling bucket after bucket back to refill Mom’s leaky one and, of course, failing because it is an impossible task.
Ironically, while you work overtime to make your narcissistic Mom happy because of her internal emptiness.
Mom has a difficult time empathizing with you. She may delight in you when you’re making her look good but feel unsettled and become critical when you struggle.
Can your Narcissistic Mom ever change?
Depending on the level of Narcissism, Mom may or may not be able to change. Two variables tell the tale- pervasiveness and persistence.
Pervasiveness– Moms who check every one of the boxes, grandiose, manipulative, entitled, and exploitive most… if not all of the time, are less likely to change.
Persistent– Moms who rarely show empathy, consideration of others, and even a willingness to play fair in some aspect of their life and lie freely and without remorse is less likely to change.
Here’s why a Narcissistic mother does what she does-
The defenses – a narcissistic mother uses grandiosity, entitlement, and exploitation to act as armed guards keeping the beast of shame and low self-esteem at the core of the Narcissist’s psyche out.
The full-blown narcissistic personality-disordered Mom will fight to the psychological death not to give them up. She can’t afford to give up any ground at all; at least, the whole construct of her false specialness crumbles.
Ironically the very defenses that she feels protect her doom her from allowing her to feel the vulnerability necessary to create and maintain intimate relationships.
To change or get better, the Narcissistic Mom would have to give up her defenses and be vulnerable. A mother who only brings out the big guns of superiority and entitlement some of the time has a greater capacity for change. This mother is more likely to have suffered specific trauma and has traits of narcissism instead of qualifying for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. The Mom who has traits of NPD might be able to change if you lead the way. Either way, changing the way you relate to her is the only way she will change.
You hold all the cards. You just need a strategy.
In summary – to answer your question, “Is my Mom a Narcissist?” there are several factors to consider.
- Does she need to look perfect and be superior to others? Does she show little remorse for breaking the rules and no genuine empathy for others? Is she always right and never genuinely sorry? Depending on how severe and persistent, you can be certain Narcissism is at play here.
- Narcissism can look different in women and mothers in particular. The underlying drives are still there; they show themselves in more covert ways.
- How your mother makes you feel is a significant clue about her style of relating and, thus, her. Do you feel trust and respected or used and appropriated?
- Whether Mom’s defenses are persistent and pervasive tells you whether or not she is likely to change.
Whether your Mom is a full-blown Narcissist or high in Narcissistic traits, knowing what drives your mother is the first step in learning how to deal with her and empower yourself.
Awareness is the key to your empowerment.
Listen to the audio of – Is My Mom a Narcissist?
Although they have the same underlying personality structure, the covert narcissist disguises their needs with manipulation, martyrdom, and victimhood. They frequently transfer their need to be special to their daughters whom they appropriate and engulf.
Someone who is self-absorbed believes they are superior to others. They feel entitled to special consideration by just being who they are, easily exploiting others for their own gain, and lack empathy. They exhibit these outward characteristics to hide from themselves and others deep feelings of emptiness and shame.
Beneath the defenses is a seething cauldron of self-loathing, shame, and emptiness the defenses that comprise her personality disorder are designed to cover up.
Lacking in substance and depth, coupled with her need to appear superior, the narcissistic mother puts all her emphasis on external measures of success.
Because underneath it all she is insecure. Not interested in furthering trust and mutuality, every personal exchange is reduced to a competition with a winner and a loser.
Lerner, Harriet. (1985). The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships. New York, N.Y: HarperCollins.
McBride, Karla. (2008). Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers. New York, N.Y.: Free Press.
Miller, Alice. (1997). The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self. revised edition New York, N.Y: Basic Books
Apter, Terri. (2013). Difficult Mothers: Understanding and Overcoming Their Power New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton and Company.
Gibson, Lindsay C. (2015). Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents. Oakland California: New Harbinger Publications.
Golomb, Elan Ph.D. (1992). Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists and Their Struggle for Self. New York, N.Y.: William Morrow.
Coleman, Joshua. Rules of Estrangement: Why Adult Children Cut Ties and How to Heal the Conflict. New York: Harmony Books, 2020.
Ainsworth, M. (1969, July). Individual Differences in Strange-Situational Behavior of One-Year-Olds. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED056742.pdf
Becker-Phelps, L. (2019, September 30). Is Your Attachment Style at the Root of Your Struggles? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/making-change/201909/is-your-at…
Do you see your mother here? Let me know in the comments.
Used, unseen, unheard, appropriated, engulfed, tired, wanting her to go away, just tired of the same interactions.
My heart just sinks as I read these words…so well put. Check out some suggestions in the post – Should I go no contact with my mother.” Life is too short to live it going around the same cul-de-sac of interactions.
My mother fits all of it. I started to mirror her i DO NOT want to be HER. I resent her for so many reasons but yet feel bad because she is my mother. I lean on my stepmother more. So on point
Thanks for writing. You articulate the mixed feelings many daughters have, resenting mom and at the same time feeling bad because she is your mom. Remember awareness is power; power not to follow her example, power to look to other maternal role models for guidance. It’s all-important.
Ultimately, you don’t get to choose your mother, but you can choose how to live and love.
I’ve never imagined my mom being a narcissist, however, her attitude and treatment of me fit your description perfectly. I’m still expected to do whatever she tells me, just because she said so. And if I disobey, I’m punished. For a long, long time, I believed that she not only knew best, but loved me and had my best interest at heart. I now know it wasn’t like that at all. What makes me feel even worse are the double standards, there’s always an excuse for my brother’s behaviour. If I’d done only half of what he did, I’d be locked away forever.
Thanks for writing. I’m so sorry this has happened to you.
You know it isn’t all that unusual for a sibling (usually male) to have another set of standards.
Some of this may be cultural and some individual to the psychology of the mother. Either way, it doesn’t make it right.
OMG! Wow..I read what you wrote and thought right away…thats me. I’m 48 years YOUNG, no kids(just 4 legged babies), I had to move back in with my mother after she had heart attack a few years ago. We’ve always butted heads but since I met “Dr Google” I’m beginning to understand why it happens. Bible says I need to honor thy mother and thy father BUT how can you respect a parent when she has ZERO respect for me? How can I respect when all I feel is resentment towards her? I’m independent I will stand up for myself or for what I believe. I try to see both sides of a situation but if I don’t agree with her then its “You always take everyone else’s side, you don’t care, you constantly put me done, criticize me, You’ll be happy one day soon, Your brother wouldn’t think that way but you put it in his head, Of course you blab to your brother cuz You got a big mouth..” ON & ON & ON! If we argue, she won’t listen or hear what I say, she interrupts me, talks over me, then I end up getting louder & louder because I’m not being heard. I want this to end so I clamp my mouth shut, say nothing, and walk away. She will follow me, keep egging me on, keep pushing my buttons, I ask her to PLEASE LEAVE MY ROOM. She refuses, she thinks she’s doing nothing wrong, she can go where she pleases, it’s HER house. One night I was on the verge of a panic attack, I was scrolling thru pictures of my nephews..trying to calm myself. She walks in my room, plunks herself down, starts talking to me about something I’m pretty sure was unimportant to me. I could feel my blood beginning to boil so I nicely asked her to leave a few times. She refused. “MOM PLEASE GET OUT..I FEEL A PANIC ATTACK COMING. PLEASE LEAVE” she started to belittle me, brushed off my feelings, kept talking, FINALLY I couldn’t take it, I snapped! I started to cry, I screamed GET OUT GET OUT LEAVE ME ALONE GO. She did leave after her dumb snarky comments. About 90 minutes later, I was calm & feeling better. I walk into the kitchen, she’s sitting in her room, door open, watching TV, asked her simple question.. She starts screaming at me, saying everything I said before, mocking my mental health, slams her bedroom door LEAVE ME ALONE. All I said was how immature for a 70 yr old woman. Since she suffers from anxiety & depression, I thought she would be more understanding & empathetic to my issues. I don’t know why I ever expect anything different from her.; I’m me, I’m not my brother…
My brother is different… She always has treated him differently. My brother stops over, in Mom’s eyes…rainbows, butterflies, and unicorns are all around him! Everyone can see he’s the favorite but If anyone points this out or especially if I say anything then I’m accused of being jealous! Besides the way Mom trys to pit us against each other, my brother & I have a good relationship. We can talk about anything & everything, he keeps my secrets and vice versa. If my brother talks to me about his problems or comes to me for advice, she gets pissed! She blames me, it’s MY FAULT. (guess my brother can’t make decisions for himself) “Children are suppose to talk with their parents about life issues & problems”. She asks me almost every day If he or his girlfriend called me, I have to lie. Because if I say yea, she will say “Must be nice they call you & not me!” then proceed to tell me how many days its been since she talked to them. To avoid conflict, my brother and I always lie about speaking with each other. If I’m on the phone with him and she walks in my room, I pretend I’m talking with someone else and hang up fast. Walking on eggshells every day…
Moral of the story….I’m the asshole child!
P.S. 2 days ago, I mentioned I’m going on vacation in October. Right away her ears perked up and it was time for questions..WHO WHAT WHERE WHY. I told her I was going with my best friend of over 30 years but I didn’t tell her where. Her response “THANKS ALOT! I SHOULD’VE LEFT YOU HOME AS A YOUNG CHILD! SHOULD’VE NEVER TAKEN YOU ALONG! YOU NEVER DO ANYTHING WITH ME, IT’S ALWAYS __! THANKS! THANKS ALOT FOR THAT!” I said I’m telling you now I’m going on vacation so your welcome! I can’t tell her where I’m going! She will flip out & make me miserable. All I can do is lie….then she gets mad if we lie! We wouldn’t have to lie if you would just stop your guilt trips, manipulation tears, stop blaming everyone else for your unhappiness, no silent treatments, allow forgiveness to enter your heart, respect boundaries, get rid of the sense of entitlement….let us live our ADULT lives! Maybe we would be happy to spend time with you if you just stopped all the negativity. It’s not too late to seek help or change. No one wants to be around people who always trys to bring the another person down…Positivity and Respect go a long way Mom!
My mother is toxic to the core. She’s extremely narcissistic, she refuses to see or fix the problem. She’s been diagnosed as bipolar and a bunch of other crap.. I use to wish for her to simply just pass away.. because she’s just extremely hurtful in all types of way. She’s self destructive and refuses to see that she’s the problem as to why EVERYONE in her life has left her. She thinks they’re the problem not her, and now that I want to move away and live my life (23y/o) she’s doing all she can to hold me back. From restricting me from seeing my brothers to not answering my phone calls etc.. she’s married… and I’m the piggy bank… I just wish I could fix this but I can’t and I’m tired I’m drained… I just wish I couldn’t feel this way about her.
I can certainly hear the pain in your reply. You can’t see this now…. but you have your whole life ahead of you and the chance to make any move, no matter how small can set you on the trajectory of a life- free and clear of this oppression. Continue to educate yourself and make the right move when you are ready. It’s far from too late.
Best of luck
Thank you for these articles. Just helpful to read that I am not alone. My mother needs to win. I am almost forty years old. I haven’t spoken to my mother (and father) in almost two years since she stormed out of my house over a fight about where my garbage can was located. We live across the country from each other. She has a great relationship with my brother and sister and their children. Her last words to me were that I can talk to my dogs for all she cares. I often feel like an orphan. I think not speaking is best after years of fights like these, but I think about my mom and dad everyday and just kind of wonder how I could be shut out like that. It’s just me on my own, they all have each other. I have a wonderful husband and love our family of animals. But I don’t feel like I have my own family and I know it will always affect me.
Thanks for writing and sharing your story Eva. I think many here will understand the pain of being estranged from your family… even when you feel it’s best. It might look like all is well for everyone else but -it rarely is as rosy as it may seem from the outside.
Peace to you and your lovely family of animals,
I always knew growing up that something was off about my mom. As a child I would always try and portray everything was normal to the outside because I was almost embarrassed of not having a relationship with my mom like I saw my friends had with theirs. I even envy’d my cousins thinking if only I had this mom. My mom was I hate to even call her evil but she 98% of the time. She would physically abuse me but the emotional toll she took on my was far worse. My mom battled drug addiction which only made everything worse. I have so much trauma from her and yet all I ever wanted was a good relationship with her and tried over and over just to be let down every time. I craved that relationship only a healthy mother can give and I never got it . She passed last year the week before my 20th birthday and I have so many mixed feelings. She was never going to change I know that , though I still have guilt about how are relationship was thinking maybe if I would have been a better daughter she would want that relationship with me as much as I want it with her. The only thing that has given me some sense of closure is realizing that she was deep down she was just an extremely hurt individual deep down. I struggle though because I never got an apology from her for any of the things she had done to me and i wonder if she even felt any type of remorse. I can’t express how much a true apology would have meant from her. I felt like she never even cared how much she was hurting me and all the trauma she caused me and I think that’s what hurts the most.
I am very touched by what you have written. What a lot of pain you have endured and how… without the kind of closure an apology would bring, you have to pick up the pieces and go on.
That can be both a blessing and a curse.
To be left motherless at such a young age without any hope of it getting any better must make you feel abandoned.
At 20 you have so much life ahead of you and so many chances to make good choices in your life. I hope you will find people who can support you for who you are and give you the kind of encouragement that lifts you up rather than tears you down. That is what matters now. So many who have been abused gravitate towards similar people (as their abuser) trying to work out what they couldn’t get from a parental figure. Know that you are worthy of love.
As I write this… I am so aware of how hollow this might sound at this time. You should have had a sober mother who could cherish you and care for you. You didn’t and it was not your fault. However, the path you set for yourself now will determine the next 50, 60, 70 years. If you choose to have children of your own you can be a different kind of mom. You can start today mothering yourself the way you should have been mothered.
Understandably, you have many feelings to sort through. Take the time you need and get help with the task. As you do this deep healing work know that you are creating a future a future that is informed by, not dictated from your past.
My blessings go with you,
I mean, I don’t know if mine is or not. I’m just now researching. But every time she doesn’t get her way or I try to set boundaries, she won’t speak to me for a week to three weeks. She also tries to use the, “I’ve done so much for you and you treat me this way?!” approach on me as well. I also feel like she’s jealous of the life I have now. If you could just hear her compare herself to my situation with my husband, she always has to be better and make things a competition. I’m a stay at home mother, my husband makes enough for me to stay home and have a nice house, and she always makes comments about how she went to college and he didn’t, yet we’re still able to do this. Does that sound narcissistic to you? I’m not sure. But growing up, she also didn’t really act like a mother. She wanted to be like me, a teenager. She wanted “in” with what the teens were doing etc etc never set boundaries for my friends or for me having boyfriends, she wanted to be “cool”. She never beat me or physically abused me. I don’t really remember much from my childhood, unless it was my father actually being abusive to me and my brother. Parents were divorced around two years old (me) so I lived with my mom and my brother lived with my father. My brother can do no wrong in her eyes, even though he’s literally cursed me out in public because I didn’t want to speak to our father, embarrassing me, she chases him to make sure HE is okay even though he cursed me out, and it’s always my fault.
She does tend to make everything about herself, too. If I say something about my children, she’s like “Well you can’t cut me out just because so and so did this. Don’t punish ME for that” When I never ever mentioned anything like that. She has to be the perfect grandmother and tries to show my kids off when I tell her I don’t want any pictures of my kids on social media. She wouldn’t speak to me for a week because I never told her I went into labor with my third kid and told me how selfish it was that I didn’t think about HER when I was in pain giving birth to a watermelon. Then messaged me a week later and wanted to hold my baby. Does that sound like NPD or just narcissistic behaviors?
I’m having my fourth baby in a couple weeks, maybe. You never know when you’ll go into labor! And I know for a fact that she scheduled my grandmother to be here within weeks for this just so she could try to see my baby even though I told people no one is seeing my newborn for up to 6 weeks after. My grandmother was supposed to come last week and only stay two weeks, but I having this *feeling* that she told my grandmother to go to my uncles house first for two weeks, THEN Come here so she may be here for MY babies birth. My grandmother was supposed to come here first for two weeks, THEN go to my uncles for two weeks. I just know my mother is going to make a big deal if I do go into labor while my grandmother is here, “your grandma is here! She should be able to see baby, she won’t be here much longer.” And of course, mother will be with her because my grandmother can’t drive. So she’s ACTUALLY inviting herself.
You know… it is more useful to understand the underlying reasons, dynamics, or patterns behind your mother’s behaviors than it is so much to know if she meets the criteria for a personality disorder.
So let’s break it down- here is your experience of her-
1) She uses the silent treatment when you set boundaries instead of respecting them or entering into a peer-to-peer adult conversation.
2) She uses guilt as a way to try and get you back into line instead of trying to understand why you might need boundaries and adjusting her behavior.
3) She Compares herself to you and your husband and seems to be jealous of your good fortune instead of feeling good that her daughter is cared for.
4) Sees and focuses only on her pain rather than considering the pain of others.
5) Appropriates your children ( by posting their photos on the internet) for her own self-aggrandizement despite your wishes to the contrary.
6) Acted as a peer when you needed a parent during your adolescence.
7) You can’t trust that she is acting in good faith and suspect manipulation instead of straightforward communication.
8) Doesn’t protect you from harm and chooses to see your brother in a positive light no matter his behavior
If nothing else, and there may well be a lot else- it seems that you experience your mother as incredibly immature and selfish. You don’t feel assured that she will protect you from harm, see you in the best light or respect your wishes and choices is concerning in and of itself. Narcissism exists on a spectrum. The main thing you would look for is- does she act this way most of the time and across relationships? If so, she might qualify for a dx of narcissism, but wether or not she does you would benefit from some strategies to deal with her.
There are plenty of resources on this site. Take your time and learn all you can.
I’m about to turn 28 and have two kids of my own. I’ve been noticing that something wasn’t right with my mom but more so as time goes on and the more boundaries I set(as a mom, myself). I’ve been doing research for the past week and now know that my mom is a narcissist. That’s why I have BPD. That’s why I have depression and ptsd. I feel like my whole life is a lie. I thought my mom was perfect and that I was the biggest problem in the world. Now I know that I was never the problem and I don’t even know how to start processing it.
Thanks for writing. I know it can be quite a shock to learn your mother has a pattern of defenses that might culminate in a personality disorder. Take your time with the information and let it sink in slowly- if it truly fits.
Once you do have the time and space to process it ( hopefully with a therapist), all of this information can be the key to your liberation and healing.
As you say- you erroneously thought you were the problem. Of course, it is unsettling (to say the least) that finding out your mother wasn’t acting in good faith as she told you untruths. (Check out my article Why a Narcissist lies and what it says about them).
A child is so dependent on her mom, that she can’t psychologically afford to see her mother is lying- in real time. It takes time, maturity and distance to take that in. It is normal that you might feel your whole world has been turned upside down upon learning about narcissism and seeing that the material you are encountering seems to explain so much.
But as I say, this might be the key to breaking the cycle. Knowing the truth, no matter how much it hurts in the moment, will eventually set you free.
I wish you the best on your journey,
I honestly reread these articles all the time. Every time I feel like I am rediscovering the truth, it sucks. It’s painful, the thought my mother fits this so well. I have to ask if she ever love me and have a I don’t know come back. It sucks, but I have my husband and he truly loves me in a non selfish way. My brother though he’s codependent and crippled, I don’t know if he will ever be okay. My dad has he never been loved? Does she only value him for his success? Don’t they deserve love. If I pop that bubble for them, would it kill them?
I want her to love me. I never saw it as a kid how selfless mothers are toward their children. My mom cut off all family at a young age. Me and my brother were the only kids in their friend groups. I couldn’t play with some kids because their mothers were “cliquey” And didn’t like her. In high school she acted like a friend not a mother and if I had friends come over she would cut me out and sideline me. I was jealous of a girl in high school and my mother would put me down and use them as examples. One girl in particular i disliked so much it made me sick but I didn’t know why I felt this way towards her. She even pick out my now husband for me. He just ended up being someone other than his reputation and pushed to become my own person. He became the scapegoat and it became impossible to not see the narcissism and manipulation. I was worried that my brother had depression so I told her, I’m younger than my brother by a few years, and she told me that our family doesn’t do therapy and if I felt that strongly I should talk to him. I didn’t know what to do that is why I told them. I still feel at fault for my brother never getting help. I tried, but he started drowning me too.
Thank you for sharing your story. Although it is painful to recall, I’ll bet you’ve helped someone else know that they aren’t alone. And maybe it was helpful for you to put it down in “black and white.” The more you can put your experience in story form, the more distance you can feel from it ….eventually.
This is actually part of what helps in therapy- being able to tell your story- the whole of it from your perspective. It literally helps with integrating what happened to you. When the feelings and memories just rumble around in your head, they can do much more damage. Giving them voice helps you deal with them.
It sounds like your mother just didn’t have it in her- to give as a mother. It seems like you were just left on your own to sort through friendships and the like without any support from her- far from it.
It certainly isn’t your fault or your lack of lovability- that is so important for you to understand. The damage that your mother inevitably sustained happened long before you came onto the scene.
You were just there to endure the aftermath.
But what a beautiful thing that you found your husband and are able to experience a new kind of attachment.
And about your brother- you can only suggest therapy to another person. They have to be ready to do the work themselves. Perhaps he will look into it in the future.
Never underestimate your example can have on the rest of the family. Seek out help for yourself and perhaps they will follow.
Best of luck to you,