If you grew up with a narcissist mother, then you already know that the effects they have on their children as they grow up are profound and life-altering. The truth is that living with a narcissist can be difficult for anyone, but growing up in the care of one can affect your life in some pretty surprising ways. For example, most narcissists use a really pervasive sort of manipulation called gaslighting. You probably already know that it’s the worst kind because it messes with your mind in ways you’d never expect. This is especially true for the children of narcissistic mothers, who can’t get away from it and have no concept of what “normal” actually looks like from the inside.
If your mother was a narcissist, you probably spent most of your childhood thinking you weren’t good enough and you probably assumed that your mom was right about everything she said about you. You might have spent most of your childhood trying to get her approval, desperately seeking her validation, and failing miserably. For me, and for many of us, this would continue into adulthood.
Of course, many of us actually internalize the toxic mother’s image of ourselves. And often, we do our best to attempt to become the person she wants to be, even when that person isn’t who we really are – and when we fail, we begin to think we’re worthless.
Like all narcissists, these women have two faces – the one they show the public, and the one they show you at home behind closed doors. And very few people outside of your family will have any idea of what you’re dealing with. Most people will either not be aware of her, or they’ll think she’s amazing and hung the moon.
This can really mess with your sense of self, to put it mildly. Worst of all, as the child of a narcissistic mother, you are forced to pretend in public that all is well–all the while knowing that when you get home, things will be different. In some cases, you literally dread going home because the difference is so significant. And if you’re a little rebellious, you might not pretend all the time. And then people will ask questions. They won’t get why you’re not happy, and they’ll believe her lies when she tells them there’s something just not right about you (or whatever excuse she makes). Alternatively, you’ll spend your life living up to an impossible standard trying to keep her happy.
And also like other narcissists, she will not have the ability to tune into you emotionally, and she has no empathy. The concept of unconditional love is foreign to her – she ONLY loves conditionally and makes sure you know it. She is critical and she is judgmental. But what exactly drives her crazy? Well, that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about today (see video here) – 9 things that drive narcissistic mothers crazy.
9 Things That Drive a Narcissistic Mother Crazy
1. When you have an independent thought or opinion on literally anything that differs from her own.
Narcissistic mothers are very opinionated, and no matter what their stance is on any given subject, they absolutely hate it when you have the nerve to think anything other than what they told you to think. Since a narcissistic mother sees you as an extension of herself rather than a whole person, she cannot imagine that you could possibly have a thought or opinion that doesn’t mirror her own. The fact is that your thoughts, feelings and opinions are rarely, if ever, validated by a narcissistic mother – and when they are, it’s only when you happen to feel the same way your narcissist does. This continues into adulthood for most children of narcissists. Once you realize that, you might even start to tell yourself that your opinion is, in fact, always consistent with hers, at least on some level. It causes so much less trouble, and you’re treated to the illusion of approval if you comply. For example, each of my children has two middle names. Why? Because my mother HATED the names I’d chosen and insisted that I add in names from her family. And when I got pregnant for the first time, I really felt the need to be connected to her. It’s something that seems to happen, I guess. But when I finally told her, she literally called me an asshole and didn’t speak to me for the next 8 months. She said I’d done it to hurt her and felt personally offended by it, apparently. (But of course, she showed up for the big day and pretended to be the doting grandma – it got her lots of attention. And in my clueless and desperate state, I took it. All I ever wanted was her approval and that’s one thing I’d never end up getting).
2. When you know something she doesn’t know.
Narcissistic mothers hate it when you have a skill they don’t have or you know something they don’t know. For example, my own mother once had a complete meltdown when I used a word she didn’t know during a counseling session. She said nothing during the session, but as we drove home, she called me every name in the book and I had no idea why. The 45-minute drive felt like it lasted hours as she raged on and on, and I remained in the dark on what I’d done wrong – until we got home and she pulled out the dictionary to look up the word I had said. (For the record, the word was “pensive,” as in thinking about stuff.) And one of my viewers recently commented that she speaks Spanish, and her mother would rage about it, telling her she thought she was so great because she speaks Spanish, but that she wasn’t, and I quote, “all that.”
3. When you don’t like something she wants you to like.
This could be the food they’ve cooked or purchased, the clothing they buy or even something like their choice in a scented candle or a paint color. Narcissistic mothers have decided who you are and what you like (hint: think some version of themselves), and you better not go outside those lines, or else. After all, she sees you as a possession, an extension of herself, so why would you have the nerve to be anything else? For example, my mother always forced me to eat things I hated, and I was required to pretend I liked them. And if I didn’t, she would punish me in various ways. One year on my birthday, she invited a few of my friends to her favorite pizza place and proceeded to order a pizza “with everything,” which was her preference. She knew very well that I seriously disliked that kind of pizza and would’ve preferred something simple like pepperoni only, or even just plain cheese. When I asked her why she did this (because of course, she included olives and mushrooms on the pizza – two things she KNEW I hated), she literally told me, “Well, I didn’t know what everyone liked.” And when I told her she knew what I liked (and reminded her that it was MY birthday), she pulled out the poor me act, AKA narcissistic injury, and acted like I was being completely unreasonable about it. Oh, did I mention that I was 12 when this happened? Yep. Anyhoo, this brings me to number 4.
4. When you’ve accomplished something – especially when it’s bigger than or more recently than anything she’s accomplished.
Narcissistic mothers love to brag about your accomplishments to others, don’t get me wrong. But they also secretly (and sometimes, not so secretly) hate it when you win. Whether it’s your graduation, or you got a book published or you won an award, beware of the wrath of the jealous narcissistic mother. And yet ironically, being raised by this time of mother might lead you to spend your life trying to prove something–maybe that you have value. The day I got my first book published, for example, I called my mother all excited, telling her I couldn’t believe that I was finally seeing my name on the cover of a book. She brushed it off and told me she was very busy and had to go. And then never mentioned it again. And a client tells me that her mother is insanely jealous of her career in high-tech. It seems her mother never went to college and while she pressured my client to do so, she has always tried to get her to stop working such a stressful job and go get a job at Starbucks or some such thing.
5. When you are the center of attention.
When you’re raised by a narcissistic mother, you know the rules. She is the center of EVERYTHING – and that includes your life. In fact, she’d prefer to be at the center of everything that happens, all the time. Even if they’re more covert, they want to make everything about them. This includes your wedding day, the birth of your children and even your birthday. On any day that is supposed to be “your day,” you can count on a narcissistic mother to ruin it, if you allow it. My mother, for example, made all three of those events all about her, each time – and when it wasn’t about her, she wasn’t interested.
6. When you grow up.
In some cases, narcissistic mothers can seem great when their kids are small. But especially for female children, when they start to show physical signs of becoming an adult, the narcissistic mother will feel literally jealous of them. This can even lead to her attempting to compete for the attention of other men, and in some cases, can result in the mother creating an uncomfortable situation in the home by pushing the child away from the father out of actual jealousy – she feels like she’s competing with her daughter for her husband’s attention. This can, in some cases, get even worse when the man she’s married to isn’t the father. For example, I had a client who told me her mother refused to buy her a bra when she began to develop. This left her feeling very self-conscious, so she’d wear big sweatshirts and overalls as often as possible. The mother was jealous of the daughter’s youth and her developing body. It’s horrific when you consider the implications – and in this case, there were lifelong struggles that took years for my client to resolve.
7. When you don’t take her advice.
Narcissistic mothers are full of something they claim is “advice,” but in reality, their advice is more like an order. As in, do it, or else. When you make a decision that she doesn’t agree with, whether it’s as simple as a haircut (or as complicated as what college to attend or who you should marry), she will make your life difficult. She will play the narcissistic injury card and throw out the poor me act, and if that doesn’t work, she may rage at you or even do sneaky things to try to “take you down a couple of notches.” For example, my own mother once called CPS on me and tried to have my children taken from me for not following her orders. (I won’t go into it here, but you are welcome to read the full story at QueenBeeing.com/Story if you are interested).
8. When you do what she wants.
Say your narcissistic mother complained about your grades not being high enough. So, you’d work super hard and pull your grades up – maybe you even get straight A’s. Rather than be happy for you, she might say something like, “Oh, great. Now let’s see if you can keep it up,” or “Oh, you think just getting these grades once makes you perfect? Let’s see what happens next semester.” Or maybe you search for weeks to find the perfect gift for her, and when you give it to her, you expect her to finally be grateful for once. But when she opens it, she rolls her eyes and tosses it aside. She might say something like, “Oh, I guess you know I already have one of these,” or she might just say nothing. Either way, she’s invalidating you. For example, one of my clients told me a story where her mother got angry with her for not defending her when the mother argued with my client’s brother. The next time they started to argue, my client dutifully jumped in to defend her mother – and then she was chastised for getting in the middle of something that had nothing to do with her and trying to “censor” their discussion. No joke.
9. When you’re not perfect, as far as she’s concerned.
Narcissistic mothers have a very specific idea of what their children are supposed to be, and when they don’t “measure up,” as in, when they choose to be who they want to be instead of who she tells them to be, it’s a big problem And in many cases, this can be the case with stuff that isn’t your choice as well. For example, she might be upset that you have a physical or mental disability, or that you’re overweight or underweight, or that you were born with blue eyes instead of brown. And in some cases, such as in the case of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, the girl whose mother pretended she was very ill and required constant medical procedures and a wheelchair, they might even get mad at you for being healthy. What it all comes down to is whether you choose to become “perfect” or you go to the other extreme, your narcissistic mother will likely actively discredit everything you do, say or feel. You might start to think you don’t matter–and that you’re not even all that “real.” Like I’ve mentioned, I remember believing that nothing I felt or wanted was as real as whatever my mother felt or wanted.
Question of the day: were you raised by a narcissistic mother and if so, could you relate to any of the points I made today? And what would you add to my list? Share your thoughts, share your ideas, share your experiences in the comments section below this video, and let’s talk about it.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.