A good mother is someone who loves and nurtures her daughter. She also helps her to grow, mature, and become her own person. This is not, however, what a narcissistic mother does for her daughter. As with most relationships with a narcissist, the mother/daughter relationship involving a narcissistic mother is complicated. Instead of nurturing her daughter, the narcissistic mother often seeks to destroy her.
There are several reasons for this, but these are 11 of the most common reasons why a narcissistic mother wants to destroy her own daughter:
- She’s Jealous of Her Daughter;
- She Sees Her Daughter as Competition;
- Narcissist’s Pathological Need for Attention;
- Narcissistic Mother’s Failed Ambitions;
- Form of Negative Gender Projection;
- Her Self-Loathing;
- Wants Her Daughter to Be Dependent;
- Wants Credit for Daughter’s Accomplishments;
- Keep Daughter from Outshining Her;
- Daughter is an Extension of Herself;
- To Maintain Control Over Her Daughter.
The nature of narcissism is such that the narcissistic mother sees her children as extensions of herself. With her daughter, however, she has certain expectations that are difficult for anyone to meet. The narcissistic mother wants her daughter to be perfect, but she doesn’t want her to outshine her mother. When that inevitably begins to happen, the narcissistic mother seeks to destroy her own daughter. To fully understand this, it’s critical to look at each reason for this to gain more insight into narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and the devastating effects it has on relationships.
1. She’s Jealous of Her Daughter
Like any narcissist, the narcissistic mother wants all the attention to be on her. Though she demands that her children be perfect, she doesn’t want them – particularly her daughters – to outshine her.
The tale of Snow White is perhaps the best illustration of this toxic dynamic. In the original version of the story, the wicked queen was actually Snow White’s mother. She wished for a perfect, beautiful child, and in fact, that child was created from her blood.
But the queen was a narcissist and as her child grew into a younger, more beautiful version of herself, she grew jealous and sought to destroy her. This is exactly what happens between narcissistic mothers and their daughters.
The narcissistic mother becomes jealous of any attention that anyone pays to her children, but it’s particularly difficult for her when it’s her daughters. They are younger versions of her, and as happens with children, when they begin to steal her limelight, she becomes anxious and seeks to undermine her own offspring.
It can easily evolve into a particularly bitter relationship between mothers and daughters. Even in healthy relationships, tension between mothers and daughters is common, but when the mother is a narcissist, that tension is exacerbated.
My own mother would say terrible things out of her jealousy for my youth. I remember she often told me I was ugly and that I would never find someone to love me. This was her jealousy that caused her to try to destroy my confidence and keep me from achieving anything in life.
It’s particularly difficult for the aging narcissistic mother since she is facing not only the trials of old age but the loss of status in a society that places little value on elderly women. That makes the situation much worse.
2. She Sees Her Daughter as Competition
As the daughter of a narcissistic woman matures, she begins to develop her own personality and she starts to seek independence. In healthy relationships, the mother would encourage this, but the narcissistic mother sees this as competition.
To the narcissistic mother, her growing daughter represents competition for any number of reasons. Like Snow White and her narcissistic queen mother, the daughter may be more beautiful, or even if not, she is younger and stronger.
What’s more, the aging narcissistic mother sees her ‘value’ in society declining, she’s getting older and more fragile. At the same time, her daughter is blossoming. She is coming of age, beginning her life, and she has many good years left whereas the time left to her narcissistic mother is declining.
All of this comes together in the perfect storm since the narcissist has a pathological need for adulation. Even without children in the mix, aging is very difficult for the narcissistic woman.
When she sees the child she has groomed into her perfect mold maturing and pulling away from her, it makes it that much more difficult. It’s not unusual for the narcissistic mother to become ever more bitter and argumentative in her interactions with her daughter. It’s also not unusual for her to meddle in her daughter’s life and try to undermine and even ruin her.
The daughter doesn’t have to be competing with her mother for this to happen, and she usually struggles to understand why her mother is treating her that way. I know I did. It really has nothing to do with anything she has done to anger her mother.
It’s the nature of NPD for her mother to try to take back the attention from her daughter and to crave the adoration of the people in her daughter’s life.
3. Narcissist’s Pathological Need for Attention
What’s really behind a narcissistic mother’s desire to destroy her daughter is the narcissist’s pathological need for attention. The cause of narcissism is rooted in the failure to develop a healthy sense of self.
The narcissist buries their true self out of a deep-seated sense of shame and self-loathing. They construct a false image in its place, but they need external validation to prop up their self-esteem.
To get that external validation, they manipulate the people around them into giving them the constant flow of adulation their damaged ego demands. This flow of adulation is known as narcissistic supply, and narcissists live in fear it will be cut off.
They also live in fear that what they believe to be their worthless true self will be exposed to the world. To avoid that, they crave positive external validation and deflect or deny any kind of negative criticism.
As a narcissistic mother’s daughter grows up and begins to become her own person, she often rebels against the constant criticism and control of her toxic mother. That causes a narcissistic injury and her narcissistic mother will frequently explode in rage.
This further damages their relationship, and it drives the narcissist’s desire to destroy her daughter. She wants to crush her daughter for stealing her much-needed attention and for daring to rebel against her.
4. Narcissistic Mother’s Failed Ambitions
It’s not uncommon for narcissists to change jobs frequently and fail to reach goals they set for themselves. They still will brag about their ambitions and blame any failures on other people. It can never be their fault.
For the narcissistic mother, failure may come in many forms. She may never have fully realized her professional dreams because of motherhood. Of course, narcissistic mothers see that as their children’s fault rather than any flaw in their own character. As retired clinical psychologist Phyllis Antebi says, “They see themselves through the prism of martyrdom. Seeing themselves as having been deprived, they become invested with toxic envy.”
A narcissistic mother’s daughter is often the face of those failed ambitions. She may see everything she had hoped to do with her life in the ambitions of her daughter. Her daughter, in fact, represents another opportunity for her to achieve her ambitions vicariously through her daughter.
Even if her daughter accepts and allows that, her daughter will never do it the way the narcissistic mother would have it done. It will never be enough, and it will never give her the satisfaction she so desperately seeks.
She ultimately comes to resent her daughter either because she refuses to do what her narcissistic mother tells her to do or because she does it wrong. Her rage turns to a desire to destroy her daughter. She has to so that no one will blame her for her daughter’s failings.
Her daughter also represents all the things she will never again have. As her youth and beauty slips away, her daughter is blossoming into the fullness of her life. The narcissist’s resentment drives her to try and destroy that constant reminder of her own failures.
5. Form of Negative Gender Projection
Though both the sons and the daughters of narcissistic mothers suffer from their toxic abuse, the daughters often bear the brunt of her toxic abuse. She is the same gender, and she represents a direct threat to the superiority of her narcissistic mother.
There are also cultural factors that come into play here. Women often learn that they should compete with other women for the attention of men as well as for professional advancement and even social status. Women are often more concerned about what other women will think about them than what men think.
The narcissistic mother truly embodies this cultural message, and her daughter is a direct threat to her own superiority. She is extremely envious of her youth and vigor, and she fears that her daughter will eventually destroy her.
That’s a big part of why the narcissistic mother is hyper-critical of her daughter, and it’s why she may seek to destroy her. She may interfere in her daughter’s relationships with men, and in fact, she may even try to seduce her daughter’s boyfriend or her husband.
She might also undermine her daughter’s professional progress. She can be proud of or acknowledge her daughter’s success because, in her mind, it would take away from her own achievements. She must ensure her daughter is seen as less than her in every way.
6. Her Self-Loathing
A big part of what drives narcissists of any kind is self-loathing. They may seem as though they are overly confident, but that is simply masking a deep-seated self-loathing and sense of shame. This gets back to that buried true self the narcissist buried long ago.
For the narcissistic mother, it’s common for her to project her self-loathing onto her daughter. Daughters are the favored target precisely because they are the same gender and remind the narcissist of her own lost youth.
The narcissistic mother cannot accept her own lack of self-confidence because that would mean admitting a flaw. Narcissists risk a mental breakdown if they were to ever face the truth about what they feel inside.
To avoid having to face her own self-loathing, the narcissistic mother will often project it onto her daughter. It is her daughter’s problem for a plethora of valid reasons, but it has nothing to do with her.
In the process of projecting self-loathing onto her daughter, she destroys her child’s self-esteem. She becomes constantly critical of the young girl under the guise of trying to help her.
The reality is that she wants to both make into the ‘perfect child’ while simultaneously keeping her from ever being able to ‘outshine’ her fragile mother. If she can completely destroy her daughter’s ego, she can control her for the rest of her life.
7. Wants Her Daughter to Be Dependent
Healthy mothers want their children to become independent and fully-functioning members of society. This is not, however, what the narcissistic mother wants. She strives to keep her children under her thumb, and this is particularly true of her daughter.
The narcissistic parent sees her children as extensions of herself, and as such, they should remain dependent on and tied to their mother for their entire lives. She doesn’t want her daughters in particular to move out and have their own lives.
If they do that, they will no longer be available to prop up their toxic mother’s ego when she needs them to do so. They also might reveal uncomfortable truths about their mother.
It’s too dangerous for the narcissistic mother to allow her daughters to become independent. Even if they move out of the house as would be expected in many cultures, she still wants them to turn to her for approval of every decision they make.
If the narcissistic mother can accomplish this, in her mind, it shows everyone how beloved and needed she truly is. Her daughter needs her advice before she can do anything because she knows how wise and superior her mother is. It’s really another form of narcissistic supply.
8. Wants Credit for Daughter’s Accomplishments
Because the narcissistic mother sees her daughter as a mere extension of herself, she can genuinely convince herself that she is responsible for any accomplishments her daughter achieves. It feeds her ego to believe that she is the person responsible for giving her daughter any talents or abilities she has to excel.
In her mind, it’s really all due to her mothering that her daughter is able to do anything well. What’s more, she expects to get the credit, and if that doesn’t happen, she may seek to destroy her daughter for failing to be sufficiently grateful.
In a narcissist’s mind, you are either with her or against her. There is no in-between, and there are no neutral parties. If you’re with her, you’re all in which means you put yourself second after her. You see that her needs are met first, and only then can you attend to yourself.
The narcissistic mother expects her narcissistic daughter to credit her with every success she might achieve in life. If she doesn’t do that, she becomes the enemy who must be destroyed.
9. Keep Daughter from Outshining Her
Because the narcissistic mother sees her daughter as a threat in every way, she must never outshine her. This is almost impossible for her daughter not to do because even just her younger age is a way of outshining her mother.
If, on top of that, she turns out to be prettier and more accomplished, the narcissistic mother feels as though she is less than nothing. No one will see her, and no one will adore her.
That means that her precocious daughter must be destroyed. She has to be put in her proper place which is always second to and less than her mother. The nature of narcissistic personality disorder demands it.
When the narcissist buried their true self in childhood and created that false image, they also imbued it with grandiose ideas of superiority. They created an image of themselves that is almost superhuman in its superiority. They are a kind of Superman or Wonder Woman.
If that’s the case, no one can outshine them. Even people the narcissist admires often become their targets. They believe that if they can ‘take down’ someone they think is good, it will show everyone just how superior they are.
It doesn’t matter if that person is their own flesh and blood. That’s how needy NPD is and how dysfunctional.
10. Her Daughter is an Extension of Herself
For the narcissist, everyone in their life is an extension of their own identity. They need external validation to prop up their self-esteem, and so, people in their life become part of their identity.
Because of the close relationship between a mother and daughter, this is particularly true for the daughter of a narcissistic mother. If her daughter doesn’t completely submit to being an extension of her mother, however, her mother comes to see her as an enemy.
It’s almost like you might see a cancerous growth as an enemy that must be cut out of your body. That’s how the narcissistic mother sees her rebellious daughter. What’s more, she’s envious of her youth and the opportunities she has in front of her.
The narcissistic mother’s opportunities are starting to be a reality of her past rather than her future, and that causes further resentment. It’s part of why she projects her self-loathing onto her daughter, and why she may desire to destroy her.
If you’re thinking that’s a harsh thing for a mother to desire, you’re right, but you have to remember that a narcissistic mother doesn’t express love like a healthy person. Most narcissists are never exposed to healthy love, and though they might feel love, they don’t act much like they love the people close to them.
Moreover, love makes you vulnerable and narcissists never want to feel vulnerable. They often lash out in a rageful way if they feel as though they are exposed.
11. To Maintain Control Over Her Daughter
Almost all of a narcissist’s actions are related to control. They need to have control over everyone in their life in order to both get their narcissistic supply and avoid the exposure of their true self.
They also fear abandonment and being seen as inferior. This makes them manipulative and controlling in every relationship. Narcissistic mothers have a distinct advantage. They can raise their children with that constant control.
They can ensure their children see that level of control as normal, or at least, they can ensure that is true up to a point. When their children begin to go out into the world, maintaining control gets significantly more difficult.
They can’t control what their children will learn when they are not in their toxic mother’s presence. They can, however, destroy their confidence when they return home and strive to make them dependent on their mother’s approval.
This is exactly what the narcissistic mother seeks to do with her daughters in particular. Her daughters represent competition more so than her sons. That makes them more of a threat, and she feels an added need to squelch any form of independence or rebellion.
Of course, this doesn’t always work, and in that case, she comes to view her daughter as the enemy who must be destroyed. In the mind of a narcissist, enemies must not just be corrected or their mistakes highlighted, they must be completely destroyed.
Mother/daughter relationships are often difficult as the child grows up and develops her own personality. Daughters want to become independent and create their own lives. For healthy relationships, that’s normal and any tensions are forgotten as the child becomes successful and independent. For the narcissistic mother, however, her daughter is like Snow White in the fairy tale – someone who will ultimately expose her mother for the wicked queen she knows herself to be. That is not something a toxic mother can allow.
Toxic mothers make good use of emotional triggers – usually triggers they helped create – to control and manipulate their daughters. If you’re the daughter of a narcissistic mother, you need this free copy of my 5 Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers. It can help you heal those emotional triggers so you can stop the manipulation. Just click on the link and I’ll send it directly to your inbox for free!
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