Daughters of Narcissist Mothers: Do you suspect that your mother might be a narcissist? Are you looking back at an unpleasant encounter from the past weekend with your mom that left you rattled and frustrated? Are you wondering why this seems to happen every time you are together? Or perhaps you are revisiting events that occurred over 40 years ago and wondering why things were the way they were. Although the research on the impact and lasting effects of being raised by a parent, specifically a mother with narcissistic traits is newer, their existence is not and it is never too late to look back and process the impact that growing up with a narcissistic mother may have had, as difficult as that can sometimes be. Narcissistic mothers can have lasting impact on their daughters’ mental and emotional wellbeing, specifically related to how they are able to form healthy relationships with others including romantic partners, female friends, and their own children.
If you believe you or someone close to you may have grown up with a narcissistic mother, read on to learn more. This article will help you identify some traits and behaviors commonly exhibited by narcissistic mothers of daughters that you may be able to identify with in your own mom. This article will also touch on some traits commonly shared by individuals who identify as daughters of narcissistic mothers and what impact this has had on their personal lives in the long term. To provide a holistic processing guide, this article will also discuss some of the positive traits and experiences that are common with narcissistic mothers of daughters. If this article is triggering some negative and stressful emotions while reading, please see the “next steps'' section for recommendations on how to seek out support if needed.
Traits of Narcissistic Mothers of Daughters
1. Treating their Daughters as an Extension of Themselves.
Because narcissists frequently have a grandiose sense of self-importance and an excessive need for admiration, it is not uncommon for narcissistic mothers to treat the appearance, behavior, and accomplishments of their daughters as work of their own. This might look like the narcissistic mother taking credit for her daughters’ talents, hard earned feats, or merits. It can also manifest as the narcissistic mother obsessing about her daughter’s appearance to a degree that can be harmful and lead to lasting body image concerns for the daughter.
2. Viewing their Daughters as Competition.
Even though the narcissistic mother may view her daughter as an extension of herself, if she begins to feel that her daughter is stealing her spotlight, she may resort to tearing her down. Narcissists frequently struggle with jealousy and may also develop false beliefs that people around them are jealous of them if they detect a threat. This paired with narcissists' occasional lack of empathy can be a dangerous combination for mothers of daughters.
3. Limited Ability to Support their Daughters Emotional Needs.
The narcissistic mother may seem to have the ability to turn her maternal love and compassion on and off, depending on the situation. She may send a message that her love is conditional, and when the daughter fails in some way, then that means she is unworthy of it. She may have a lack of empathy and understanding of how her actions hurt her daughter and cause emotional pain, and if her daughter brings it up, she may resort to gaslighting and denial. Daughters of Narcissistic mothers frequently report feeling unworthy of receiving positive attention and support and may have difficulty forming secure relationships as adults.
4. Excessive Desire for Control over their Daughter’s Life
Narcissists usually have a need to control the narratives as well as the relationships in their life. This can show up as a lack of respect for her daughter’s privacy and invasion into her personal life. If the daughter is grown-up and has her own family, this is frequently disguised as concern for family wellbeing and simply “just wanting to be a good grandmother”. This can also present as the mother giving frequent gifts and using financial incentives to attempt to control her daughter and her new family.
5. She Frequently Plays the Victim or a Martyr Around her Daughter.
If the daughter does try to create some distance or establish boundaries with her narcissistic mother, she may be met with messages of guilt and shame. Even if these steps are modest, the narcissistic mother may see this as a direct attack and complete rejection of her as a person. The narcissistic mother may rebuke by mentioning how much she has sacrificed and how hard she worked to raise her daughter. She might suggest that the daughter is being ungrateful and inconsiderate. The narcissistic mother is also notorious for bringing up health problems or personal difficulties she is having in her life and insisting that you should feel sympathy and excuse her actions.
Some Positive Traits
Of course, no one is all bad and many daughters of narcissistic mothers have fond feelings for their moms. In addition to the negative traits listed above, narcissistic mothers often have their positive qualities, too. When trying to discern if your mother is narcissistic, keep the following positive traits in mind. This is not to say that the emotional abuse that can be caused by narcissistic mothers to their daughters should be negated or ignored. This is simply a tool to help identify and detect a potential narcissistic mother.
o Narcissistic mothers may appear extremely charismatic and supportive in the public eye. They are often individuals who are beloved and admired by many and may seem to have the ability to get what they want with little effort.
o Narcissistic mothers often take great pride and enjoyment helping their daughters with their physical appearance and manners.
o May devote a great amount of time helping their daughters to maximize their potential in areas such as athletics, academics, and social achievements.
o They may provide a sense of safety and security as a young child due to their overwhelming need to control their child’s life.
o Overall narcissistic mothers are generally all-knowing, confident, energetic, and exciting women to be around. This can easily overshadow their flaws and make their harmful behaviors insidious and difficult to detect.
Life After a Narcissistic Mother: The Long-term Impact on Daughters
1. Difficulty with Boundaries.
It can be hard to figure out how to establish healthy and appropriate boundaries as an adult if you were never allowed to have them as a child. Daughters of narcissists may have formed the association of conflict with self-protection. Narcissists also are known for exploiting others for their own benefit, which is just another reason why daughters of narcissists may have trouble detecting harmful and dangerous situations as an adult.
2. Difficulty Advocating for Own Needs/Interests.
Because Narcissistic Mothers spend so much time critiquing and controlling their daughters’ lives, daughters of Narcissistic Mothers may grow up to have a very difficult time advocating for their own needs as an adult. They may also have a difficult time engaging in hobbies and pursuits that their mother once deemed as unacceptable or against her own wishes.
3. Struggle with Low-Self Esteem and Self-Acceptance.
Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers often grow up receiving so many messages scrutinizing and critiquing their appearance throughout their life, it is no surprise that many of these messages get internalized and lead to persistent self-loathing or low self-esteem. Eating disorders and body dysmorphia are not uncommon problems for Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers.
4. Difficulty with Forming Secure-Attachment Relationships.
Because daughters of narcissistic mothers are often raised to believe that love is conditional and must be earned, they may have a difficult time accepting unconditional love and support when it is given to them. They may report feeling unworthy of love or unable to reciprocate the feelings without some emotional distress. This insecure attachment style can present with both romantic/intimate partners or platonic friendships.
5. May Experience a Persistent Urge to Obtain Maternal Connection Elsewhere.
Because daughters of narcissistic mothers frequently lack consistent empathy and unconditional love and support, they may notice patterns where they are seeking maternal connection in other relationships. This can sometimes show up as the daughter forming close bonds with women close in age to their own mothers, often friends’ mothers, neighbors, teachers, or other female relatives in the daughter’s family such as an aunt or older cousin.
Next Steps: Processing your Relationship and Getting Help
Because mothers are often central figures in our lives, it can be difficult to distance oneself enough to process your relationship comfortably, let alone set boundaries or potentially cut off communication. If you have identified with any part of this article and feel that you may be a daughter of a Narcissistic mother and you are finding yourself struggling, please know that you are not alone. Consider reaching out to an experienced therapist that can help you identify if the person in your life might have narcissistic traits and what that means for your own wellbeing. You may also benefit from joining the Life After the Narcissist Support Group
You can self schedule an in-person or virtual couples therapy session at the Center for Growth by calling (215) 922-5683 x 100.
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Daughters of Narcissist Mothers
Daughters of narcissist mothers may have a difficult time growing up, as they may be constantly exposed to unrealistic expectations, criticism, and manipulation. Narcissistic mothers often prioritize their own needs and desires above those of their children, and may be emotionally unavailable or critical of their daughters. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and difficulty trusting others.
Daughters of narcissist mothers may also struggle with boundaries, as they may be expected to put the needs of their mother above their own. They may also find themselves in a "parentified" role, where they are expected to take on responsibilities typically held by adults, such as caretaking for their mother or siblings.
It is important for daughters of narcissist mothers to seek out therapy or support groups where they can process their experiences and learn to set healthy boundaries and build self-esteem. It can be difficult to break free from the patterns of behavior learned from a narcissistic mother, but with support, it is possible to overcome these challenges and create a more fulfilling life for oneself.
Individual and Couples Counseling
Individual counseling, also known as individual therapy or psychotherapy, is a process in which a person meets with a therapist one-on-one to discuss their personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The therapist will help the individual explore their thoughts and emotions, identify patterns of behavior, and develop new coping strategies and problem-solving skills.
Couples counseling, also called couples therapy or marriage counseling, is a process in which a couple meets with a therapist to discuss their relationship issues and work on improving their communication and problem-solving skills. The therapist will help the couple identify patterns of behavior and communication that are causing difficulties in the relationship and work with them to develop new ways of interacting that are healthier and more constructive.
Both individual and couples counseling can be beneficial for people struggling with mental health issues, relationship problems, or life transitions. A therapist can provide a safe and confidential space for individuals and couples to explore their thoughts and feelings, and develop new ways of coping and improving their relationships. It's important for the individuals/couples to find a therapist who is a good fit for them and their needs, and that both parties are willing to participate and engage in the process.