Do Narcissistic Mothers Know What They’re Doing?

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Narcissists are famously incapable of experiencing empathy in the same way a healthy person can. That means they can’t put themselves in the shoes of their victims, and they can’t, therefore, understand how their actions affect other people. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t consciously aware of their behavior. That begs the question of whether or not a narcissistic mother knows what she is doing to her family. 

A narcissistic mother has been manipulating people for her supply of adoration all of her life. Narcissism forms in childhood, and so the behavior has become automatic. On some level, they know what they’re doing, but they’ve been doing it for so long they are no longer consciously aware of it. 

It’s natural to wonder if a narcissistic mother is aware of how she is hurting her children. She isn’t anything like the stereotype of a nurturing mother that we’re accustomed to when we think of a mother. If you’re the child of a narcissistic mother, it’s very important that you understand that her behavior really has nothing to do with you. Read on to learn why she acts the way she does and if she is aware of what she is doing. 

Does Your Narcissistic Mother Know How She’s Hurting You?

Narcissists learn early in life that they have to manipulate other people to get what they need to prop up their self-esteem. They don’t have healthy identity mechanisms in place that allow them to self-soothe and maintain a sense of self-worth. 

Does Your Narcissistic Mother Know How She’s Hurting You

The narcissist is really filled with shame and self-loathing. They live in almost constant fear of having their true self revealed. They learned in childhood that they don’t have what it takes to be worthy of love. 

Because they came to believe that their true self was hopelessly flawed, they constructed a false self-image and infused it with child-like, grandiose ideas of superiority. They need this false self-image to interact with the world around them, but it can’t support their grandiose ideas of perfection. 

For that, they need other people to supply them with a steady flow of adoration. The narcissist learned at that young age how to manipulate other people to get that narcissistic supply. Since a narcissistic mother has been manipulating people for her entire life, it has become a kind of second nature for her. 

She can’t feel empathy for how her behavior affects other people, and she has no moral center to guide how she treats her family and friends. On one level she does know what she is doing, but she has been doing it for so long that it no longer registers as a premeditated act. 

As former mental health group facilitator Rachel Foster puts it, “When narcissists confront a situation where there is a discrepancy between their inner self and reality, they become desperate to protect their house of cards. They take their (real) feelings, and if reality doesn’t fit them, they change their perception of reality. This is why it is a personality disorder because they twist reality in their heads.”

Does Your Narcissistic Mother Love You?

This is a tricky question because we can’t know what someone is truly feeling inside. Narcissists are human, and they have feelings too, but they fear intimacy because it threatens to expose their true self. 

Does Your Narcissistic Mother Love You

They also fear being vulnerable, and of course, love by its nature makes you vulnerable. You have to trust that the other person loves you and won’t abandon you. You have to trust that they will love you despite your flaws. 

The narcissist has difficulty with this because they don’t feel they are worthy of love. They believe themselves to be worthless, and so they don’t believe that anyone can truly love them. But can they love you? 

Well, they likely feel they are showing you love, and they may feel a genuine attachment to you, particularly if you are their child. But they don’t know how to show someone that they love them, including their own children. 

Another problem for the narcissist is that their love is conditional. They learned that as a child when love from their own parents was conditioned on their behavior. That’s why if you don’t live up to the narcissist’s expectations, they withdraw their love. 

Many people have experienced the sudden, cold shoulder from a narcissist. Even a narcissistic mother may seem to withdraw her love. What’s more, this will almost inevitably occur because narcissists have unrealistic expectations for their loved ones. 

Narcissistic mothers expect their children to focus solely on their needs. As the child grows up and tries to become independent, they will not be able to live up to their mother’s unrealistic expectations. 

When that happens, as with all narcissists, the narcissistic mother will devalue even her own children. She may even discard them, although this is rarely permanent. 

Does a Narcissistic Mother Love One Child More Than Another?

Narcissistic mothers often pick a so-called ‘golden child,’ and while it does irreparable harm to her other children, it often does more harm to the favored child. A narcissistic mother will choose a golden child for a couple of reasons. 

First, she wants to create a situation of competition among her children. She wants them all to be vying for her attention and love. By choosing a golden child, she is trying to motivate her other children to try harder to please her. 

Another reason a narcissistic mother will choose a golden child is that she is grooming that child to be a lifelong source of narcissistic supply. Narcissistic mothers often turn to their sons to be a kind of replacement spouse as they get older. 

Narcissists learn early in life that they struggle to maintain relationships, and she is hoping the golden child can be manipulated into being a steady source of supply. This is incredibly damaging to the golden children because it harms their relationship with siblings and prevents them from developing into independent adults. 

One other reason that narcissists will do this is that they simply love drama. It makes them feel powerful to think they can manipulate the people around them in this manner. It doesn’t matter to them that these are people close to them. 

How Do You Know If Your Mother is a Narcissist?

How Do You Know If Your Mother is a Narcissist

There are two types of narcissism: grandiose, also known as exhibitionistic or overt narcissism, and vulnerable, also known as covert narcissism. Both types of narcissism involve the same underlying disorder. 

Both want to be viewed in an adoring manner and want to be recognized as superior. They just go about getting those needs met in different ways. 

Grandiose Narcissism

Grandiose narcissists are the stereotypical boastful, arrogant, and entitled narcissist that you think of when you hear the word narcissist. They seek the limelight and won’t hesitate to boast about their achievements. 

They also feel entitled to all the good things in life. They have convinced themselves that they deserve them, and they expect other people to recognize that. Like all narcissists, they lack empathy, and they need that steady flow of narcissistic supply. 

Vulnerable Narcissism

These narcissists are not as easily identified as grandiose narcissists. They cloak their need for admiration and their belief that they are superior behind a seemingly timid facade. To get their supply, they will often dedicate themselves to good deeds, but unfortunately, it’s for all the wrong reasons. 

Their strategy is often to do so much good that other people can’t help but admire them and call attention to them. This kind of narcissistic mother will often immerse herself in community projects and charity work even to the extent of ignoring her own family. They’re not really doing it because they care about other people, however. Their aim is to be noticed for their work. 

Common Characteristics

Both types of narcissists can’t handle negative feedback, and they are both extremely concerned about their image. They feed on compliments and expressions of love, and they make it clear that they are overworked and underappreciated. 

They also make it clear to their closest loved ones that they owe the narcissistic mother. She will also make it clear that you must perform in order to earn her love.

Can a Narcissistic Mother Change?

Can a Narcissistic Mother Change

The answer to this question is that it is unlikely. Therapy can help a narcissist reduce their narcissistic tendencies, but only if they realize they have a problem and seek help. 

Even then, the narcissist must commit to long-term, intensive therapy, and they have to really do the work. That’s hard for them to do because to admit they are flawed risks exposing their true self and revealing that they are not, in fact, perfect. 

If your narcissistic mother does recognize she has a problem, she might be willing to seek help. You won’t be the one to change her, however, as it is more likely that you will need to help yourself to heal your narcissistic abuse. 

Final Thoughts

While a narcissistic mother knows she is manipulating you, she is not capable of understanding on an emotional level how that affects you. She is focused on her own needs, and she doesn’t have the ability to understand or care how her actions cause you any harm. She also can’t acknowledge that she is doing any harm. 

One thing that can help you heal your mother’s narcissistic abuse and stop any further abuse is to get your emotional triggers under control. Your narcissistic mother knows exactly how to push your buttons, and when you’re triggered, she can more easily manipulate you. My  5 Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers can help you recognize those triggers and begin that healing journey. To get a free copy of this handy guide, just click on the link here. I’ll send a free copy directly to your inbox. 


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Narcissistic abuse takes a terrible toll on your life. I’m Patricia, and my mother is a narcissist, so I know what you’re going through. These blog posts will help you understand narcissism better and give you tips for dealing with the narcissists in your life. Healing starts here!

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