Can A Narcissistic Mother Have Low Self-Esteem?

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Most narcissists appear outwardly to be extremely confident people. If you listen to what they say, they seem to have very high levels of self-esteem. In fact, many narcissists would make you believe they are superior to everyone else in their life. This is equally true of a narcissistic mother, but does she really have high self-esteem?

Like any narcissist, narcissistic mothers have constructed a false self-image and infused it with grandiose ideas of superiority and entitlement. Her false-self image, however, is really masking a damaged identity and low self-esteem. The answer is yes; narcissistic mothers have low self-esteem. 

It’s easy to be confused by the bluster of a narcissist. They seem to be extremely arrogant and full of themselves. The reality, however, is much more complex because they are trying to prop up a damaged sense of identity. Read on to learn more about why narcissistic mothers behave in the toxic ways they do and why it’s important to understand that they are truly masking low self-esteem. 

What Causes a Narcissistic Mother’s Low Self-Esteem?

Narcissism forms when a child comes to believe their true self is worthless. This usually happens because of abuse, but there are a number of factors involved in how it develops. Whatever causes the failure of the child to develop a sense of self, the child comes to be filled with shame and self-loathing.

What Causes a Narcissistic Mother’s Low Self-Esteem

They see their true self as being worthless, and they bury it deep inside. Their shame makes them fearful that others will discover their true nature. To deal with the outside world and prevent that from happening, they construct a false self-image. 

They infuse their false self-image with grandiose ideas of superiority and entitlement. That’s why they behave in such an arrogant way. A narcissistic mother may constantly call attention to her superior mothering and expect others, including her children, to affirm that. 

The problem the narcissist has, however, is that the false image they have constructed is not able to support their self-esteem. They need other people to do that on an almost constant basis. They need praise and love and affirmation of their superiority. 

Narcissistic mothers will manipulate their own children into giving this adulation which is called narcissistic supply. They see their children as extensions of themselves, and they will use every trick in the book to manipulate and control them. 

They need their children to reflect their superiority by being well-behaved and by adoring their mother. They idealize their children initially, but when they put them on a pedestal, they also create unrealistically high expectations for them. 

When their children fail to live up to those expectations, as inevitably happens, the narcissistic mother begins to devalue and demean her children. Her abuse often results in the children becoming narcissistic themselves or codependent. Either way, it can cripple them for life. 

What are Children of Narcissistic Mothers Like?

Needless to say, the children of a narcissistic mother have a complicated relationship with her and with other family members. Their mother’s need for narcissistic supply dramatically affects their life. How it specifically affects a particular child depends on numerous factors, but there are some general trends that hold true for any child of a narcissistic mother

What are Children of Narcissistic Mothers Like

Narcissistic parents often choose their favorite children and put them on a pedestal. The other children are compared to that child in a negative way, and though they vie for their mother’s attention, they are rarely praised or shown love from their toxic mother. 

It’s not uncommon for a narcissistic mother to choose a son as her favorite. That’s also part of why it’s more common for sons of narcissistic mothers to become narcissists themselves. This is one consequence of her abuse. She tells her favorite child that they are special like her, and she assures them they are entitled to everything good in life. 

She constantly compares her other children to her favorite in a critical way. The favorite child, usually a son, strives to live up to her idealization. Inevitably, they will fail, but not before significant damage is done both to them and the other children. 

While the favored child may themselves become a narcissist, the other children often become codependent. They try so hard to please their mother, but it’s something they can’t achieve. She will never be happy, and they can never do enough. They will often put aside their own personal needs in the pursuit of their mother’s approval. This is something known as codependence, and it will affect their relationships as adults too. 

What are the Long-Term Effects of a Narcissistic Mother’s Abuse?

No matter if the children become narcissists or codependents, the abuse they suffer at the hands of their narcissistic mother often causes them to be emotionally dependent and fearful of intimate relationships.

What are the Long-Term Effects of a Narcissistic Mother’s Abuse

They learn early on that they can’t trust even the people closest to them. It breeds resentment, shame, self-loathing, and, yes, low self-esteem that can devastate a narcissistic mother’s children for the rest of their lives. As psychologist and narcissism expert Elinor Greenberg points out, “Low self-esteem is a trait that can be transmitted from parent to child.” 

These children have trouble forming long-term attachments to romantic partners. When they do, the relationships are typically full of conflict. They have learned to manipulate the people they love with techniques like lying, gaslighting, and projection. 

This is what they learned from their narcissistic mother, and how could they know anything different? Children born into abusive homes don’t know that other people don’t experience the same thing, at least not until it’s too late. 

Having a narcissistic mother is really a tragedy in the making. Our culture tells us that mothers are supposed to be nurturing and loving, but the narcissistic mother is exactly the opposite. A young child doesn’t have the coping strategies to deal with her abuse and frequently concludes that the fault must lie with them. 

They can suffer depression, anxiety, and other serious mental health problems. Those can also lead to physical health problems. If they are lucky, they will recognize their mother is the source of the problems when they begin to see how other people’s mothers treat them. If not, they are likely to suffer over the course of their entire life. 

How Can an Adult Child of a Narcissistic Mother Deal with Her?

How Can an Adult Child of a Narcissistic Mother Deal with Her

For adult children of narcissistic mothers who recognize she has a mental health problem, they must establish firm boundaries to prevent further abuse. This may mean cutting off all contact with her if they can’t set and maintain those boundaries. 

If they do stay in contact with her, they need to be the ones who choose when and for how long they will be in contact with her. They will also need to set boundaries about what subjects are acceptable conversation topics. 

They also need to be clear with her about the consequences they will enforce if she violates the boundaries they set. Additionally, they need to implement those consequences for every violation. It’s the only way she will take them seriously. 

Finally, it’s probably a good idea for children of narcissistic mothers to work with a therapist. They need to identify their emotional triggers and get them under control so they can stop any future narcissistic abuse. They also need to heal any negative core beliefs their mother helped create. That will help them heal their inner child and move into a much brighter future. 

Final Thoughts

Children of narcissistic mothers are in a particularly toxic environment. In reality, it’s their mother’s low self-esteem that causes her to emotionally abuse her children in the futile attempt to heal her own trauma. It’s a tragic situation for the children, and without proper healing, it can have lifelong negative consequences. 

If you have a narcissistic mother, you might reasonably be wondering why your father didn’t protect you from her abuse. This article about why fathers don’t protect their children from narcissistic abuse can help you understand and heal from his enabling behavior. 


If you want more tips for dealing with narcissists, setting boundaries, and managing emotional triggers, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel


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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