Did you grow up with a narcissistic mother?

Our relationship with our mother is probably the most important relationship we will ever have in forming who we are. Some parents make their children feel safe and loved and like they are the most amazing person in the world. For you, perhaps that relationship may have been a lot more complicated.

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What are the signs of a narcissistic mother?

A narcissistic mother may feel or do the following:

  • Entitled or self-important.
  • Seek admiration from others.
  • Believe she is above others.
  • Lack empathy.
  • Exploiting her children.
  • Puts others down to make herself feel better.
  • Is hypersensitive to criticism.
  • Believes she deserves special treatment.
  • May be completely naïve to the damage she is causing.

The trauma of growing up with a narcissistic mother can bleed into every area of your life.

It could be that you are really successful in your career – you learned being good and making others happy keeps you out of trouble. On the outside, you might be earning good money and keep getting promoted, but you may be plagued with panic attacks. Perhaps you are too anxious to ever switch off your phone, have no work-life balance, constantly feel burnt out, and rely on others’ approval because you never feel good enough.

It could be that you have low self-esteem – you feel like your mum wasn’t able to love you and you constantly compare your relationship to other people and feel there must be something wrong with you. In relationships, you may be constantly trying to please other people and ignore red flags because you haven’t ever been taught right and wrong and you just assume bad behaviour is your fault.

It could be that you are constantly trying to work on the relationship with your mum and just don’t understand why everyone thinks she is so wonderful. She treats you so differently and knows how to be a nice person but so you can’t understand why she treats you badly. You may be desperate for people to see what she is really like and it's making you feel like there must be something wrong with you.

It could be that you are the eternal people pleaser and have so much guilt about letting people down. Perhaps you are constantly trying to do things to make others happy and feel split in a million different directions. You feel like you can only just keep your head above water and you neglect the people you truly care about. No one really knows how you feel as you have to keep that happy persona up as you don’t want to be a burden to others.

If this sounds like you, I promise you are not the problem and I want to help you to really believe that. 

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. 

Carl Jung

If your mother wasn’t able to love you unconditionally, she is the problem and not you. As mothers, we imagine we will have that instant magical bond with our child but not everyone has that. Nowadays, we are more aware of things like postnatal depression and mothers not bonding and it’s still largely not treated.

Imagine 20-30 years ago when that wasn’t even a word. Going to the doctor and saying "I don’t love my child in the way I should" just didn’t happen. There was no Google or Instagram to check these things out. Very likely your mother wouldn’t have the great support system around her she needed to address the growing issues around her relationship with you.

From birth to age 18 months, it has been calculated that connections in the brain are created at a rate of a million per second! The earliest experiences shape a baby’s brain development and have a lifelong impact on that baby’s mental and emotional health. If your mother wasn’t able to be there in the way you needed then, it’s very unlikely she is now.

In my client work, we start with parent work to really help you try and understand why your mother hasn’t been able to be there for you in the way you needed. How they were parented, whom they grew up with, and what trauma they experienced.

What I do want to make very clear to you is you do not need a relationship with your parents regardless of what they have been through. If the relationship is continuing to bring you pain and suffering, it’s OK to make the decision that is right for you. That is often very difficult for other people to understand, which is why people going through this often seek professional help.

It's important to remember being a parent is the only job you will ever have where there is no job application, training, holidays, or breaks. If your mental health is already poor and your support network is minimal, this might be the job that breaks you. Sadly, you may be the victim of a broken system where generational trauma is not recognised and you may have suffered abuse and neglect you didn’t deserve.

Helping clients find their own sense of self-work and break those people-pleasing patterns that have kept them stuck in cycles of anxiety, depression, and self-loathing is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. If you need support in creating boundaries or accepting your new life without your parent, therapy really can help.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Brighton, BN42
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Written by Natasha Nyeke, MBACP, Couples, Fertility, Maternal mental health,Attachment
Brighton, BN42

Natasha Nyeke is a Person Centred Counsellor who specialises in working with anxiety, Maternal mental health and Loss.

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