Daughters of narcissistic mothers
- Hidden wounds, in a narcissistic culture, of never feeling good enough.
Written by Oenone Thomas and Vajralila.
Uploading a picture of what you had for lunch to your Facebook page each day, taking a selfie at every street corner, responding to each Tweeted thought of a favourite celebrity to be 'part of the conversation'... the growth of social media has given us more and more ways of seeing our own reflections.
This rise in a sense of self as unique, important, special and above all visible, has contributed to greater *narcissism in our society and culture. When a unique selling point is the goal, and at every turn we are being reassured that we are worth it, it is easy to accept self-interest and self-promotion as the new normal.
And while greater autonomy, variety and democracy is undoubtedly the upside of making individual faces seen, there is one way in which the increased narcissism across our society is acting to mask a deeper problem.
This is when narcissism is not just about cultural fashion or even character traits but when an individual takes an entrenched narcissistic view of the world and relationships - when the world and those in it are seen as being for that person's own use.
This is someone who unconsciously denies their intolerably poor self-image by inflating themselves, deceiving themselves and others to guard against the external criticism that would feel devastating to them. Because of this they fail to achieve intimacy in their relationships, believing others are there to serve their own needs.
When a mother sees the world this way, the effect on her children is dramatic and can be crippling, especially when that child is a girl, identifying with her mother as her female role model, culturally pressured to conform to the wishes of others and to please them.
Daughters of narcissistic mothers in particular suffer emotional pain that is hard to validate as, against a background of cultural narcissism, it may have never been recognised and questioned. Narcissistic mothers teach daughters that love is conditional and only given when certain expectations from mother are met. This kind of parenting is harsh and relentlessly critical. As adults, daughters of such mothers report feelings of inadequacy, emptiness, fear of abandonment, a weak sense of self and often a tendency towards perfectionism.
However, by recognising experiences of maternal narcissism and its effects, a journey of recovery is possible. The journey of recovery includes:
- Recognising the internalised messages of conditional love and the effects in your life and relationships, both with others and yourself.
- Speaking of your experiences and having others validate them.
- Grieving for the lack of unconditional love.
- Acceptance of your mother's limitations.
- Separating from your mother psychologically and developing your own identity.
* In the myth Narcissus is punished by the gods with an eternal fascination for his own reflection in revenge for his treatment of Echo, who he despised for loving him. This was not just self-love but emotionally monogamous self-love.