Narcissistic Mother Empath Daughter : 10 Signs of The Good Daughter Syndrome

narcissistic mother empath daughters

Narcissistic Mother Empath Daughter = The Good Daughter Syndrome.

( If you would rather listen- go to the end of the post for the audio version of this post)

Your mother has issues.

Boy, does she have issues..manipulative, intrusive, self-absorbed, and critical… hardly begins to cover it.

And you feel it all. Attuned and sensitive, you’ve always picked up if Mom was okay.- It’s like you have this radar, this 6th sense about Mom.

And to be honest, you aren’t sure if it’s a blessing or a curse because…

you can’t relax until Mom is okay and okay with you.

This isn’t unusual.

Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers show symptoms that can be mild to devastating. In this syndrome, the empathic daughter works to be good for mom, look good for mom, and make sure mom is good with her.

It’s an endless, thankless, and ultimately impossible quest.

( read to the end to get access to all the resources I have for you).

How does this happen?

Exhausted, daughters in this Good daughter role have been trained to place Mom’s needs ahead of their own.  After a while, it is second nature. They may be obedient, conflicted, or independent. (go here to find out which role you have taken on) yet have the same underlying dynamic with Mom.

How do I know?

After counseling daughters of difficult mothers for over 30 years, I started to notice a trend. As a former Good Daughter, I’ve lived it.

Daughters who were particularly compassionate and had mothers who were troubled, narcissistic, borderline, or histrionic frequently fell into what I call  The Good Daughter trap, a trap that sucked the life out of them and chained them to their mothers’ pathology.


Here are 10 signs of the good daughter syndrome- can you relate?  

1) No matter how hard you work for Mom’s approval, it’s never good enough.

Whether Mom criticizes you outright or her criticism is implied, you get the message it’s never good enough; you are never good enough.  With her constant comments, you get a distinct feeling there’s something wrong with you and that she’s trying to fix or better you.


narcissistic mother empath daughter

2) Mom gives you unsolicited advice.

She is always making suggestions about weight, hair, parenting; you name it, there isn’t an area she won’t weigh in on. What’s more, she expects you to answer to her and take her advice even when you haven’t asked for it.

The Effects of a Narcissistic Mother on Her Daughter

3) Mom is never wrong and never sorry.

You won’t hear, “I was wrong, and you were right.” Nope, she just can’t give it to you. By the same token, you won’t hear a genuine apology. Because of this you end up having some version or the same argument over and over without getting anywhere. Never one to concede a point, Mom keeps belaboring the same thing over and over. The whole affair would be comical if it weren’t tragic.

The Effects of a Narcissistic Mother on Her Daughter

4) She’s always crossing your boundaries

You have a hard time setting healthy boundaries with Mom and a harder time sticking to them.  Setting a boundary feels like you are breaking a rule you never knew existed. If you do manage to set that boundary- you would think you’ve done the most offensive thing a person could do.

The Effects of a Narcissistic Mother on Her Daughter

5) You feel responsible for Mom’s happiness.

You wish it were different, but if Mom isn’t happy, you fear if it’s, you’re your fault. This underlies many reasons you have such a hard time setting boundaries and standing up to mom. Deep down, you feel responsible for making your mother happy.

Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers Symptoms of The Good Daughter Syndrome

6) Mom takes any pushback as a rejection of her.

Shutting you down, she says something along the lines of, “I was just trying to help. I guess I’m just a horrible mother.” It is almost impossible to have a reasonable conversation with mom. She gets defensive and upset if you have a problem with anything she does. You end up feeling like it just isn’t worth it.


7) Mom thinks she knows what is best for you.

Always. It goes without question, at least in her mind. The unstated but heavily implied rule is” Mother knows best.” If you dare to challenge it, there is hell to pay.

The Effects of a Narcissistic Mother on Her Daughter

8) Although not explicitly stated, making Mom look good and feel good is your job.

Whether you are picking out an outfit for a holiday meal or choosing a profession or mate, you know mom will regard your choice as a reflection on her.

Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers Symptoms of The Good Daughter Syndrome

9) Standing up to Mom is hard for you.

You don’t want to rock the boat. Yep, more than hard, it’s almost impossible. You know the phrase all too well, ” If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Your mother’s mood sets the tone. You don’t want to mess with that.

The Effects of a Narcissistic Mother on Her Daughter

10) Plagued by self-doubt, you constantly second-guess yourself.

It is hard for you to make decisions and feel confident about them. Mom’s taught you that you can’t solely rely on your own judgment.

Do you see yourself in 7 out of the 10 statements?

As a psychotherapist of over 30 years, I keep seeing the Narcissistic mother and her empath daughter, result in the Good Daughter Syndrome.

These are the daughters who care too much and get too little.

I see my clients giving too much and getting too little in their intimate relationships, striving for unattainable perfection, or feeling like a fraud in their professional lives.

Their real selves are hidden underneath a mask of faux perfection. When I dig further, I find insecure-anxious daughters taking care of or being good for their Mom instead of looking out for themselves.

It’s a trap that keeps the Narcissistic mother empath daughter; being “good” for mom when it is bad for them.  The truth is, it doesn’t really help anyone. It just keeps the dysfunction going.

If you relate, I’ve been where you are, and I know the way out. There is a way to break free of the guilt, self-doubt, and feelings of never good enough. A way to escape and take control of your life.

Here are 2 free chapters of a book I’ve written on the subject.

Your best life is waiting for you.

Here’s the audio version of this post

Find out if you are the Good Daughter – go here to take the quiz- It’s quick, and it’s free.

How are you good for mom in ways that might be bad for you?

Let me know in the comments.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Yes, Good Daughters erroneously feel like it is their job to make sure mom is happy.

Suffocated, appropriated, trapped, guilty, stifled,

The dynamic that can result from an empathetic, sensitive, attuned daughter has a narcissistic, borderline difficult mother, and the daughter attends to her mother’s needs instead of her own.

Individuated, separate, differentiated, sovereign.

Instead of differentiating and separating, a good daughter bases her happiness on if her mother if okay with her.

Because boundaries reinforce the fact that you are separate from Mom, and Mom is used to eradicating your boundaries or pretending they don’t exist in the first place.


Do you relate?
If so, here are some ways I can help on your journey from Good Daughter to Empowered Woman:

Do you have The Good Daughter Syndrome? Take the Quiz (It’s Free)

Read the first two chapters of The 4 Good Daughter Traps- Break Free of Your Difficult Mother and Take control of Your Life …for Free- Go here! 

Watch & Learn Video Course Practical Strategies for Dealing with a Narcissistic, Borderline, or Difficult Mother That Work Tips honed from working with daughters of difficult mothers for 30 years, as a psychotherapist.

What Kind of Good Daughter Are You? Conflicted? Independent? Obedient? Take this (Free) Quiz

Consult with Katherine- Private Coaching – When it’s time to tell your story.

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  1. Julie

    Your articles on toxic mother daughter relationships and narcissism has been so helpful and right on the money. I just wanted to extend my gratitude to you for sharing your fantastic clear and concise work.

    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Hi Julie- Thank you so very much for this comment. I am thrilled you have gained value from my content.

      I’m writing a book on the empathetic daughter and the difficult mother, and how to escape the Good Daughter Trap. This will go into even more detail- so stay turned.
      Take care,

  2. michelle

    Phew, thank goodness you are doing this! Sincere thanks for wake up call and way out…

    • Katherine Fabrizio

      Hi Michelle,
      Thank you for writing in. I am so glad to bring this information to those who can use it. It took me decades to first wake up and then to find a way out… and finally to bring it to my psychotherapy clients adjusting for all the variations of this Good Daughter theme. I hope to shorten the learning curve for you.
      Take care,


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