Your relationship with your mother is one of the most important relationships you’ll ever have in your life because it sets the stage for all other relationships to come. If you’re the daughter of a narcissistic mother, you’ll need to know how her abuse has wounded you.
Your mother is your very first experience with love. She introduces you to life and to yourself, and she is your security lifeline. It is through your interactions with her that you learn about the world around you.
If she smiles when she looks at you, you learn that you are loved and wanted, and her empathetic reflections of your feelings teaches you about compassion and true love. The problem with a narcissistic mother is that she can’t do those things for you.
She has no empathy, and in you, she only sees a reflection of herself. To her, you are not an independent being, but merely an extension of her own needs and desires. There is no boundary between you and her, and she sees nothing unique in you that is worthy of love.
How Does She Damage Her Daughters?
The daughters of a narcissistic mother learn that they have no self-worth, and they come to understand that they are deserving of any bad behavior they receive. This damage carries on into adulthood and it sets the stage for more abuse to come. Here are five ways that a narcissistic mother damages her daughter.
1. No Boundaries
Narcissistic mothers view their daughters both as threats and as extensions of their own ego, and as such, the mother sees no separation, no boundaries between the two. The daughters have little choice but to accept this as their reality; they simply learn that’s how life is.
Because daughters tend to spend more time with their mother than sons do, they are subjected to more narcissistic abuse from her. Moreover, they look to their mother as a role model for their own womanhood, but they’re getting a very distorted view.
Because the narcissistic mother often sees her daughter as competition, it’s not uncommon for them to direct and criticize every aspect of their life. Since she sees her daughter only as an extension of herself, she is trying to shape her into an idealized version of her own self-image.
At the same time, the narcissistic mother is projecting the unwanted parts of herself — her selfishness, obstinance and coldness — onto her daughter. She will often voice a preference for the son as part of her criticism. This chips away at any sense of self-worth her daughter may try to establish. Instead, she learns she deserves nothing and has no boundaries, lessons she takes with her into her adult relationships.
2. Toxic Shame
The daughter of a narcissistic mother learns quickly that she’s shameful and must be controlled. This undermining of her independent identity creates insecurity, and leaves her in doubt of her own feelings and impulses.
She has no choice but to conclude that she’s to blame for her mother’s displeasure. As a young child, she doesn’t know that her mother cannot be satisfied. She only understands that she is seen as the cause of all problems, and she never feels accepted for just being herself.
She has to choose between sacrificing herself or losing the love of her mother, and this pattern turns into codependency in her adult relationships. Her mother rejects her and then she rejects herself. How can she not internalize that shame? How can she not believe she is unlovable?
She experiences anger and even hatred of her mother for reasons she can’t understand, and so, she sees it as more evidence of her inherent badness. Her mother must be right about her. This is another pattern she carries into her adult relationships, and it’s one that sets the stage for abusive life partners.
3. Emotional Unavailability
The one thing a mother is supposed to be is emotionally available, but a narcissistic mother is not capable of the normal maternal tenderness and demonstrations of love. She will tend to the physical needs of her daughter, but not much else.
Of course, the daughter has never experienced anything different, and so, she doesn’t know what’s missing. She longs for the warmth and understanding that a mother is supposed to give and that she may learn about from other relatives, but she will not get it from her mother.
Without those loving connections, she can’t learn to identify or even value her own emotional needs, and she certainly will not know how to meet them. She only knows she has no way to nurture or comfort herself, and she looks to fill that void in other relationships.
Unfortunately, the narcissistic mother sets her daughter up to look for the same emotional unavailability in her life partners. If she doesn’t recognize the problem and seek help, she’ll be doomed to repeating the same patterns over and over again.
Since the narcissistic mother sees her daughter as merely an extension of herself, she seeks to control her every mood so as to preserve her precious, fragile self-image. Toward that end, she will seek to both control and manipulate her daughter.
She will attempt to manipulate her feelings and choices, and if that fails, she takes it as a personal affront and punishes her daughter. It’s a “my way or the highway” way of living for her daughter.
Some narcissistic mothers will focus only on themselves or their sons, and as a result, they will neglect their daughters. This is a way of controlling the daughter who they see a reflection of themselves.
Other mothers may exert control in different ways. They may want them to behave and look exactly as they think they should. They will criticize any attempt at self-expression their daughter might try. This level of control cripples their daughter into adulthood. She is left incapable of making decisions for herself.
That sets their daughter up for future relationships where their partners will seek to exercise control over their lives.
Many narcissistic mothers see their daughters are a source of competition for their husband’s and sons’ love. This kind of mother may not protect their daughter from abuse in the home.
Additionally, while the narcissistic mother will criticize her daughter’s choice of a boyfriend or husband, she is not above flirting with either in order to prove herself superior to her daughter.
As part of this competition, the narcissistic mother will invade her daughter’s privacy and seek to undermine any relationships she might have with friends, other relatives or love interests.
The toxic effects of a narcissistic mother on her daughter are incredibly damaging. Recovery is possible if she can identify the source of her codependency. That’s what recovery ultimately looks like, and it means identifying and understanding the shaming beliefs that her mother conveyed to her in her childhood.
She must come to understand the lies her narcissistic mother told her. She also needs to replace the internalized negative judgments that her mother created with her positive, independent voice.
You can learn more about the ways your narcissistic mother abuses you in this article, “Five Toxic Ways Your Narcissistic Mother Abuses You.”
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