Many adults look at past and present behavior they witness in their mothers and wonder whether the behavior is normal or cause for concern.
It’s not uncommon to think, “why does my mother behave this way,” or “was my mother out of line with me?”
If you have recently learned details about parental narcissism or Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you might be asking yourself, “is my mother a narcissist?”
Let us explore different narcissistic traits, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and ways to recover from being raised by a narcissistic mother.
Narcissism vs Narcissistic Personality Disorder
To begin, there is a significant difference between narcissism as a personality trait and having Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
The narcissistic personality trait can manifest in a number of ways, but the key component is having an unusual level of interest in oneself.
Narcissism can be mild to severe and can affect people of all races, classes, cultures, faiths, and lifestyles.
NPD is pervasive and can manifest through negative behaviors your mother displays, for example:
- Having no empathy or interest in the feelings of others
- Having an unreasonable sense of entitlement
- Having a highly exaggerated sense of self-importance
- Acting in ways that exploit others
- Requiring herself to constantly be the center of attention
NPD is diagnosed most often in men, but between 30 and 50% of the NPD population are women, so it’s entirely possible to have a mother with NPD.
What Does Narcissism Look Like?
Narcissism is complicated, being that a narcissistic mother can behave in ways that make her behaviors seem justified.
A narcissist is a master manipulator and can make you feel like her negative behaviors are your fault rather than hers.
Some signs of living with a narcissistic mother are subtle, but the following examples can help make sense of previously unrecognized abuse.
- Narcissistic mothers are obsessed with image.
She’s preoccupied with how people view her and her family, meaning that everything in her life has to be a perfect extension of her success (at least, as long as people are watching).
Behind closed doors, your feelings and sense of well-being matter very little to her, so long as you’re able to make her look good.
- Narcissistic mothers lack boundaries.
Everything is her business and everything you do requires her blessing or advice on the matter.
Even if you’re an adult with your own life, a narcissistic mother will force her way into your business and demand to have a say in all of your decisions.
- Narcissistic mothers manipulate the people in their lives.
This can take the form of invalidating your feelings, blaming you for her misfortunes, shaming you over things she believes you’ve done wrong, and accusing you of being ungrateful if you disagree with her in any way.
- Narcissistic mothers are possessive and may force dependency.
She believes that her children are her property and that it’s her right to treat them with cruelty because of all the sacrifices she claims to make for them.
She may be very rigid, and will not allow her children privacy, or ways to escape from her (ex: not letting her adult children work or forcing them to attend full-time college at her expense).
The Impact of Narcissism on Children
If you were raised by a narcissistic mother, you may be wondering about how her behaviors have impacted your adult life.
Because narcissism is a complicated issue, it can play many negative roles in the lives of a narcissist’s child, but below are a few signs that your mother’s narcissism is preventing you from living a healthy life.
- You constantly second-guess yourself.
- You have low self-esteem.
- You struggle with your appearance.
- You constantly feel like you’re not as good as others.
- You worry about being ‘in trouble’ at work when your boss speaks to you.
- You’re afraid of being abandoned by those around you.
- You may have become involved in abusive romantic relationships.
- You feel emotionally stunted or neglected.
In addition to these negative manifestations in your life, one very clear sign that your mother’s narcissism continues to impact your life is her ability to still maintain control.
In many cases, narcissistic mothers can guilt or shame their adult children into remaining close to them, so that they still play an active role (or try to) in all of your decision-making.
What Can I Do?
A mother’s narcissism can weigh heavily on your sense of self and well-being, leaving you exhausted, confused, and wondering whether you’re correct in feeling this way.
Speaking with a licensed therapist can help you determine the ways your mother’s narcissism has affected you and can help you make sense of your past in order to learn healthy habits and behaviors.
Evergreen Counseling is relational trauma-informed, meaning that we have extensive experience in working with adult children affected by mood and personality-disordered parents.
If you’d like support in working through your feelings brought on by your mother’s narcissism, you’re welcome to contact our offices as soon as you’re ready. We’ve helped many people struggling with the effects of narcissistic parenting and we would be honored to help you, too.
Please feel free to book a complimentary 20-minute personalized matching consultation with our clinical intake coordinator to find the best clinical match for you.