If you have a narcissistic mother, you are learning the many ways she affects your life. A mother is supposed to be a nurturing presence in her child’s life, but the narcissistic mother is anything but nurturing. The effects of a narcissistic mother’s abuse on her children are often lifelong, and they are extremely damaging.
Your narcissistic mother will scar you with her manipulation tactics and constant blaming and shaming. She will compete with you or turn you into her puppet. Her love is conditional, and she teaches you that you are never good enough. In short, she can easily destroy your future relationships.
I know only too well the effects of a mother’s narcissistic abuse. My mother is a narcissist, and when I discovered that she was the one who was ill, not me, it was like a bomb had exploded inside of me. I literally felt sick to my stomach. Until then, I had thought I had to be flawed because I could never please her. When I learned she was ill, not me, I was flooded with a whole new mix of emotions that included relief and rage, so much rage. As I began to explore the many ways a narcissistic mother destroys her own children, I gained a whole new level of understanding of my own mother’s abuse. That’s why it’s important for you to understand these 15 ways your narcissistic mother will destroy you.
Like all relationships with a narcissist, the relationship between a narcissistic mother and her child progresses through stages. The first stage usually happens before you’re really aware of it.
It’s the idealization stage, and it’s when your mother will proudly brag about her superior child. It’s not uncommon for narcissistic parents to tell other people their children are perfect. After all, they’re their children.
This often happens when you’re young and haven’t yet gained the awareness you need to truly displease her. As you grow and start to develop your own personality, then your mother starts to have unrealistic expectations of you.
She sees you as an extension of her own identity, and as such, you are not allowed to have your own personality. You exist to please her and to validate her. That’s why all the victims of narcissists exist.
As you continue to become your own self, you can’t help but disappoint your narcissistic mother. It’s impossible for anyone to fulfill the expectations a narcissist has for them.
When you do disappoint her, this is when the relationship enters the devaluation stage. She will begin to relentlessly criticize you to the point where it will seem like there’s nothing you can do right.
I remember my mother criticizing me to the point where I would cry myself to sleep at night. I could never please the one person I wanted to please the most. The damage to my self-confidence was extreme.
I suffered extensively from the depression and anxiety that researchers at several universities in Italy found to be associated with maternal narcissistic parenting styles.
It took me many years of painful personal growth work to overcome the damage she had done. It’s not how a mother is supposed to be.
Another way a narcissistic mother damages her children is by constantly invalidating their emotions and thoughts. Because she expects you to be an extension of her identity, your job is to reflect her perfection.
If you do anything less than that or if you dare to have your own thoughts and opinions, she dismisses them as invalid. She does the same thing with any emotions you might have.
This is in stark contrast to how she expects you to respond to her thoughts, opinions, and emotions. She considers herself perfect and important. You are little more than a product of that perfection.
You are supposed to be grateful to her for giving you life, and you are supposed to then dedicate your life to her. You must hold her up as the superior example of humanity she is while staying out of the limelight yourself.
She also expects you to do this for the rest of your life. This video explains how she will try to control you as an adult.
Anything you think, feel, or want to do with your life is not good enough, and it never will be. This is the conundrum faced by the children of a narcissistic mother.
No matter what you do to try and please her, it won’t be enough. The only time she will validate you, your actions, your thoughts, or your opinions is if she needs something from you or if they are exactly aligned with her own.
3. Insidious Triangulation
Triangulation is one of the most insidious manipulation tactics a narcissist uses against their own family. It undermines any close familial relationships a child might otherwise develop, which can hamper their emotional growth for the rest of their life.
Triangulation is pitting one side against the other. It’s when a narcissist tells one thing to one person and something contrary to another person. They do it to manipulate both into aligning with the narcissist while mistrusting the other person in the triangle.
Narcissistic parents do this to their own children and between a child and the other parent. It undermines the confidence both have in their family members. It leaves each feeling isolated, abandoned, and betrayed.
It can damage your relationships for the rest of your life as it leaves you constantly questioning the motives of people close to you. It’s a horrible tactic your narcissistic mother will use often to keep members of her family from joining together to defend against her emotional abuse.
4. Shame, Shame, Shame
Shame is one of the most devastating and useless emotions there are. It’s useless because it leaves you no recourse to resolve a problem. It just leaves you feeling bad about yourself.
It’s devastating because the resulting damage to your self-esteem can leave you emotionally crippled for the rest of your life. Shame is at the root of many dysfunctional family interactions.
A narcissistic mother uses it frequently to manipulate her children into doing what she wants and expects. Even when they do, she will use it to keep them feeling like they owe her or need her.
She has no empathy, and for that reason, she can’t understand the damage she is doing to her own children. She doesn’t realize that filling them with shame can damage their self-esteem for the rest of their life.
It’s so difficult to get rid of feelings associated with shame, and that’s why narcissistic mothers who use shame can do lifelong damage.
5. Blame, Blame, Blame
Narcissists are incapable of taking responsibility for their actions. They can’t admit they made a mistake, let alone apologize for it. The only time a narcissist apologizes is when they believe it will get them what they want.
Because their fragile and false self-image won’t let them admit having made a mistake, the narcissist will shift the blame from themselves to anyone around, including their own children. A narcissistic mother easily blames her children for anything she might have done wrong.
She doesn’t think about the damage it might do to them, nor does she really care. She is completely self-absorbed.
I remember my mother blamed me for everything. If she had a bad day at work, it was my fault for keeping her up late thinking about a problem I had. If she made a mistake balancing her budget, it was because I had distracted her.
The children of narcissistic mothers take on a lot of responsibility from a very young age. They find themselves being blamed for literally everything.
6. Think Like Me
Another way a narcissistic mother damages her children is by never letting them think for themselves. She doesn’t allow divergent opinions in her household.
Everything you think needs to align perfectly with what she thinks. You are, after all, a reflection of her perfection.
If you have your own ideas about something and they are different from hers, that is an indicator she is not the all-knowing, perfect, and superior being she has told everyone she is. That’s why she will devalue anything you say that is different from her own ideas.
You must think like her because you are a part of her. In her mind, you should want this because she is perfect.
7. Competition, Competition, and More Competition!
Narcissistic mothers also encourage competition between their children and their siblings, other parents, and friends. She feels so empowered by the ability to manipulate everyone with her ideas.
What’s more, when her own children are competing for her attention, it makes it seem like she is just such a great mother. She doesn’t care about the damage that may do to their relationship with one another.
Not only will a narcissistic mother encourage competition between her children and other people, but she will also compete with her own children, particularly her daughters. Daughters, to a narcissistic mother, are younger, better versions of themselves.
They represent the ultimate competitors because they will always be younger, stronger, and more beautiful. That is unless the narcissistic mother can destroy their self-esteem. Unfortunately, that is exactly what a narcissistic mother tries to do.
8. Dr. Perfect and Ms. Anthrope
A narcissistic mother is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, though we’ll call her Dr. Perfect and Ms. Anthrope. She presents a perfect image to the world and often strives to do good for everyone around her. Everyone, that is, except for her own family.
For them, she is Ms. Anthrope (misanthropic) or someone who hates other people. She terrorizes her own family as she strives to protect her perfect image.
To the world around her, she is sweet, giving, and seems like such a great person and an even better mother. To her family, she is nothing short of monstrous.
She makes constant demands, criticizes them harshly, and belittles them mercilessly in front of their friends. It’s a nightmare to grow up with, I can assure you.
9. Unsafe Environment
Mothers are supposed to create a safe home environment for their children. It’s supposed to be a place where you can get away from the hardness you find in the outside world.
For the children of a narcissistic mother, however, the hardness of the outside world is right inside their home. They can’t feel like their home is a safe place, a refuge from the cold world, because their mother is the cold world.
Her home is a place of criticism and ridicule. You can’t safely speak your mind, have your own ideas, or express your emotions. Your narcissistic mother will dismiss them and devalue or invalidate everything you say or think.
There is no refuge for the children of a narcissistic mother. There is no warm, inviting home to come into when the world has been unkind. The unkindness (like the call in that thriller) is coming from inside the house.
10. No Boundaries
The children of narcissistic mothers never learn what a personal boundary is because their mother won’t allow them in her house. She will be in every part of your business, from the moment you’re born until the day you die if you let her.
I remember my mother would routinely check the contents of my purse when I came home from school. She would also go through my bathroom trashcan and read any diary I ever thought of keeping.
She would listen to my conversations with friends and never allow me to close my door when I was in my bedroom. The only way I could escape her watchful eye was to leave the house, and then, on more than one occasion, she followed me.
There are no boundaries where a narcissistic mother is concerned, so their children often grow up not understanding that they have a right to insist on certain respectful behavior from other people around them.
11. No-Fault Mom
The children of a narcissistic mother can never expect an apology from her. If she does apologize, it’s only to get something she wants.
As mentioned previously, narcissists can’t accept responsibility for any mistakes they make. Their fragile false self-image would collapse if they actually did admit to making a mistake.
They fear that doing so would reveal their truly flawed self. That’s why they feel threatened any time you confront them. They suffer what is called a narcissistic injury because of the fear their imperfect true nature will be exposed.
12. Love is Conditional
Another sad way that narcissistic mothers destroy you is they teach you that love is conditional. A mother’s love is supposed to be unconditional.
But a narcissist’s love is not. It is conditioned on how you behave. If you don’t do exactly what your narcissistic mother wants, she withdraws her warmth and affection.
This is because narcissists think in binary terms. That means they think in terms of black and white. There are no shades of grey.
They also lack object constancy. That means that they can’t hold a positive thought about someone when they’re angry at that person. A healthy mother can be upset with her child but still know that her child is a good person and that she loves them.
A narcissistic mother can’t do that. If she is angry at you, there is nothing good about you, and she can’t feel affectionate emotions for you. This video offers more explanation about whether or not a narcissistic mother even realizes she is hurting you.
13. Mirror, Mirror
Another thing the children of a narcissistic mother are expected to do is mirror her perfection to the world. You are supposed to be the perfect grateful, loving child because that reflects her perfect mothering skills.
If you act up, as almost every child who has ever lived has done at one point in time or another, you are saying to the world that she is a flawed mother. Your errors are not simply the result of a child learning about the world; rather, your errors are a statement about her as a mother.
Thus, she is a rigid authoritarian in the household. She can ruthlessly punish her children for even the slightest mistake. This is perhaps most poignantly portrayed in the movie Mommie Dearest.
It’s a movie about the actress Joan Crawford who was a pathological narcissist. One of the most compelling scenes was when she beat her children with a coat hanger when they misbehaved, at least in her eyes.
This is the kind of thing a narcissistic mother might do because she sees the misbehavior of her children as a statement about her own abilities. It’s horrific, and the children of a narcissistic mother are left with all kinds of emotional scars because of her maltreatment.
Even if she never physically abuses her children, she will emotionally abuse them, and that can leave just as many scars as a coat hanger.
Narcissistic mothers also project their own flaws and fears onto their children. If they lie, which they do all the time, they will accuse their children of lying.
If they do other bad things, they will accuse their children of doing them. They can’t stand the idea of any kind of self-reflection. So they take what they might sense is a flaw of their own and project it outward.
They also do this to distract from their own mistakes. A narcissistic mother will call out her own children for forgetting to tell her that she was supposed to bake cookies for the school meeting instead of admitting she forgot, for example.
Imagine a child’s confusion when they know they told her. I remember the first time something like that happened with my own mother. I was shocked and tried to state the truth.
I said something like, “No, I told you, Mom. Remember when I came home after school yesterday?” She then went on to tell the other parent how I had a vivid imagination before saying to me, “I’m sure you told me in your mind, but you didn’t tell me with your mouth.”
The gaslighting and projection were so confusing to me. I really started to doubt myself. That was something that lasted for years. Also, when we got home, she told me, “You had better never contradict me in front of someone like that ever again, or you’ll live to regret it.”
It was the first time I was genuinely frightened by my own mother. I was only 7 years old at the time.
15. Rage On
Finally, a narcissistic mother destroys you with her narcissistic rage. She will humiliate you, demean you, and make you feel generally unsafe.
A narcissist’s rage is a sudden, explosive outburst of anger designed to distract and prevent you from ever standing up to them again. It’s fearsome to witness, and often, it’s very effective.
You’re so frightened by those sudden outbursts that you find yourself walking on eggshells around your mother all the time. Because she rarely gives you any privacy, you spend the majority of your life living with anxiety and fear.
It’s no way for any child to grow up. It doesn’t help to build a confident, proactive adult. Rather, you become frightened of your own shadow.
It’s a terrible way for a mother to behave, and it’s a large part of why many people opt to go no contact with their mother when they reach adulthood.
A narcissistic mother has many tools she uses to completely destroy you. She doesn’t want you to be an independent, healthy adult. She wants you to need her and to stay around and give her a constant supply of adoration that she so desperately needs. Perhaps the worst thing she does to her own children is to use their emotions against them. She knows all about you since she doesn’t permit you to have any personal boundaries, and she is particularly effective at triggering emotional wounds.
I had my mother in mind when I created my 5-Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers. I was thinking of how she used the very emotional wounds she created to trigger me so she could manipulate me when I created this handy guide. The steps I outline in this free roadmap are what I used to identify, defuse, and heal those emotional triggers. They helped me, and I want to share them with you so they can help you too. Just click here, and I’ll send a copy directly to your inbox.
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