How Narcissistic Mothers Affect Their Daughters

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Our parents — they can nurture us as young children in so many healthy ways. On the flip side, they can also often unwittingly bequeath us with so many psychological problems. For example, women who had a narcissistic mother can find themselves dealing with variety of issues as an adult.  In relationships, they may find themselves constantly fearing abandonment. Looking to have their emotional needs met, they may often be left with a vague sense that something is missing. In seeking a partner, they may wonder why they’re continually entering controlling relationships, or struggling for power with their partner.

Mother and daughter at the beach

How do you spot the characteristics of a narcissistic mother, or recognize the effects of being raised by one?

Writing for Psychology Today, Darlene Lancer says, “A narcissistic mother who cannot empathize damages her children’s healthy psychological development. Like Narcissus in the Greek myth, she sees only a reflection of herself. There is no boundary of separateness between her and her children, whom she cannot see as unique individuals worthy of love.”

The behavioral characteristics of a narcissistic mother, Lancer says, may include and lead to the following:

Lack of boundaries: Narcissistic mothers tend to try to shape their daughters into idealized versions of themselves.

Narcissistic abuse: Having been overly controlled, a daughter in adulthood may not have learned how to stand up for herself.

Toxic shame: The narcissistic mother has rejected the daughter’s real self, which may lead the daughter to reject herself as unlovable.

Emotional unavailability: Because the narcissistic mother has not provided emotional comfort, the adult daughter may long for a connection that she does know how to achieve.

Control: Having been controlled as a child, the daughter may later in life may look for controlling relationships, possibly unaware of her tendency.

Competition: A narcissistic mother may believe she is superior in many ways. Or, conversely, she may actually fear that she is not. Either way, she ends up competing with her daughter or her husband or even her daughter’s boyfriends for attention.

Narcissism is a complex issue with far-ranging consequences for anyone who lives or has lived with a person with narcissistic tendencies. Read more of Lancer’s discussion about narcissistic mothers here.