Do You Have a Narcissistic Mother? Signs and How to Cope

Published July 9, 2021
girl embarrassed of mother taking selfies with cell phone

If you're wondering whether your mother is narcissistic, some attributes of a narcissist include being self-absorbed, controlling, and oblivious to how their negative behaviors affect your life. Having a narcissistic mother can be a very heavy burden to bear throughout childhood and adulthood. Here are the signs of a narcissistic mother; and how to cope if you are the child of a mother who has this personality disorder.

Signs of a Narcissistic Mother

Does your mother think she's perfect? Does she always need admiration and praise? Does she lack the ability to empathize with you and other people?

If you're the child of a narcissistic mother, you have probably experienced certain behaviors from her on a regular basis. Signs that she is narcissistic are that she's often:

  • Self-absorbed, always focused on herself
  • Controlling and blaming
  • Intolerant of your views
  • Unaware of your needs
  • Oblivious to how she affects you
  • Outwardly angry
  • Emotionally withdrawn
  • Heavily critical of you and disparaging toward you

People with narcissistic personality disorder demonstrate these characteristics most of the time. Some might worry that they are a narcissist because they sometimes act a bit self-absorbed. However, the key difference between the two is that a person who has the actual clinical disorder acts in most of the above ways the vast majority of the time, with almost everyone in their lives.

Your Mother's Impact on You

Even if your mother isn't actually diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, if she behaves in a few of the above ways on a regular basis, that can have a significant impact on you. As a result of her beahvior, your relationship with her is scary, frustrating and exhausting.

It's not uncommon for children to wonder why their father or stepfather doesn't come to their rescue. This may be due to the fact that he has learned it's easier to keep the peace by supporting the narcissist he's co-parting with. Or he might feel a lack of control of the situation as well.

As the child of a narcissistic mother, you likely feel helpless, because you cannot control your mother, or her rules and consequences. You might have found yourself responding to your mother in one, or a combination, of the following ways:

Trying to Please Her

You try to please your mom in order to get her approval or to curb her anger. Perhaps you joined the cheerleading team because she wanted you to, when what you really wanted to do was play basketball. Or, if she is a mathematician and wanted you to be one as well, you majored in math in college even if you didn't like it.

Rebelling Against Her

You may have opted to handle your mother's narcissism by rebelling against her. If she demanded straight A's from you in school, you purposely did poorly academically, even though you're a great student.

Praising Her

Perhaps you tried to give your mother the attention and approval that she demanded. You may have thought you could make her happy by always complimenting her, but concluded that didn't work in the long-term.

Why Some People are Narcissistic

Underneath the persona of grandiosity, deep down, narcissists have very low self-esteem. This could be the case for various reasons. They may have dealt with significant physical and emotional abuse as children, they had narcissistic parents themselves, or they grew up in a condition such as extreme poverty, that caused them to feel inferior to others.

As a result, a narcissist is afraid they will not be highly valued by others. Thus, they try to avoid that by preemptively trying to control other people and their viewpoints. Or, they try to deal with their low self-esteem by saying they are perfect or by trying to appear perfect, in an effort to convince themselves and other people that they are flawless.

Mother and daughter arguing in kitchen

How to Deal With a Narcissistic Mother

Your mother's behavior has understandably been hurtful to you. It is natural for you to want a better relationship with her, and to desire that she make reparations to you. These goals may not be realistic. However, there are things you can do to control your responses to her, to protect yourself from exacerbating the hurt you've already experienced.

Know You are Not at Fault

Your mother behaves the way she does because it is a big part of her personality. You have not done anything wrong to lead her to behave the way she does.

Let Go of Responsibility

It is not your responsibility to validate your mother or make her happy. You are the child in the relationship, not her. Though she may not be able to be a nurturing mother for you, that does not mean that you have to mother her.

Stay Calm

Staying calm when your mother is yelling at you or disparaging you is important, because narcissists try to bring out emotional reactions from others. That is how they know they are in control. When she is yelling, try to remember that it is her problem. You've done nothing wrong, and responding emotionally will only encourage her to continue to be disparaging.

Set Limits

As an adult, you don't have to continue inter-relational patterns with your mother. Without realizing it, you might think that if you see her on holidays, you have to stay at her home the entire time because she's your mother. However, this is no longer the case. You can set healthy boundaries. If you are at her house over Thanksgiving, you don't have to tolerate abuse. Simply say "I do not have to listen to this," and leave.

Do Not Expect an Apology

In order for someone to apologize, they need to have some awareness of how their behavior impacts others. Because narcissists are not able to empathize with others, your mother probably has no awareness of how she has affected you.

Understand That Your Mother's Narcissism Has a Cause

It is probably very hard to be understanding toward your mother when your needs have not been met. At the same time, acknowledging that her own adverse experiences contributed to her personality may help you understand her better and attain more inner peace with the way things are.

Reach Out for Help

Reach out to someone you trust to get moral and emotional support, whether it be a school guidance counselor, therapist, or close friend. Many struggle with their relationship with their mother, so by reaching out you may feel less alone.

Take Back Control

You can't choose your parents. However, you can take a step back and see a clearer picture of your mother and your relationship with her. Though it may never be the ideal mother-child relationship, you can start to accept it for what it is, know that your identity and personality are separate from hers, and move forward with your own life.

Do You Have a Narcissistic Mother? Signs and How to Cope