The relationship between a mother and her daughter is often portrayed as idyllic, but what about the daughters who have narcissistic mothers? There is a specific sort of pain that comes from not having your needs met by the primary person or people who were meant to fill that role. Being raised by emotionally unavailable, abusive, and neglectful parents certainly takes a toll, no matter who you are. 

In today’s blog, we’re exploring the common experiences and feelings amongst daughters who have experienced narcissistic abuse and providing insight into the healing process. 

The Mother-Daughter Narcissistic Dynamic

Even though all children who experience narcissistic abuse from a parental figure will experience long-lasting effects, the actions taken by narcissistic parents are often gendered. 

For example, while most narcissistic parents see their children as extensions of themselves, the dynamic between a mother and her daughter poses a unique threat. Often seen as her “best friend,” mothers can over-share personal information because she refuses to set and teach about the importance of healthy boundaries. Further, daughters of narcissists may be ridiculed and criticized throughout their lives due to their mother’s jealousy of their youthful appearance, age, and various life opportunities. At the same time, the mother assumes all responsibility for her daughter’s beauty, talent, and intelligence. 

As a result of growing up in a secretive, lying, gaslighting environment, you may suffer from a deep sense of confusion, loneliness, anger, and fear. Often, these emotions cannot be understood until well into adulthood, when you realize that they directly stem from your upbringing. Considering the loneliness experienced during this time, we hope that sharing a few of the feelings and experiences commonly associated with being the daughter of a narcissist will provide a sense of belonging and legitimacy between those who share these experiences and those who suspect they were raised by a narcissist.

I’m Not Good Enough

  • No matter what you do, you’re never good enough. Your parent (in this case, your mother) keeps moving the goalposts. No matter how perfect you try to be, nothing satisfies her. 
  • Feeling ashamed for falling short of your mother’s unrealistic expectations
  • Feeling shame because you might not feel love or like toward your mother.
  • Realizing that your mother’s love is unashamedly tied to you doing something for her, and only when she maintains control.
  • Sacrificing your self-esteem and frequently blaming yourself for your mother’s problems merely to obtain her respect.

Isolation

  • Isolating yourself because you are so afraid of failure that you become scared of trying.
  • Lacking skills in developing friendship because as a child, she disapproved of you making new friends or showing any sign of independence
  • Feeling isolated because none of your friends have parents like yours. You don’t have anyone to talk to who will understand. It isn’t helpful to hear that you should try and talk to your mom. You might even hear a friend or relative say that you should try and work it out. They just don’t get it and create even more feelings of isolation. They aren’t listening to you.a mother and daughter lying in bed together. The mother has her hands pushed to her temple, feeling frustrated about what it's like to be the daughter of a narcissist.

Worry

  • Having an ingrained sense of self-doubt and constantly worrying over what others think of you. Especially other family members and friends of the family. The narcissist in your life controls the narrative, and you worry about how you will be perceived.
  • Feeling overly anxious about making mistakes
  • Experiencing an excessive fear of abandonment and being left all alone
  • The constant rumination—the continuous ticker tape of thoughts and fears that quietly and constantly cross your mind in the background.

It Was Always About Them

  • Whenever you achieved something, she needed to one-up you
  • Every little thing became personal, even when it had nothing to do with her
  • The discussions you had with your mother always seemed to revolve around her, and somehow you always ended up discussing her problems

Becoming a People Pleaser 

  • Feeling obligated to say yes to everyone
  • Actively avoiding conflict by trying to please people, even if they are toxic 
  • You don’t speak up for yourself because you are accustomed to being punished for doing so


Conditional Love

  • Feeling indebted to someone when they are kind to you
  • Blaming yourself for feeling unloved because you didn’t do anything right 
  • You feel like you must perform for love; you must do something if you want to feel accepted and visible to your mother

Shame

  • Feeling rejected by your mother leads you to internalize toxic shame and believe that you are unlovable 
  • Your mother used shame as an intimidation tool to control you
  • Your mother made you feel ashamed for dating / not dating, having children / not having children, and for not being “normal.”

Visceral Sadness

  • Having a deep feeling of sadness when you realize that your mother is not someone you can count on and trust, even though all you have done is love her
  • You feel emotionally empty as if you are malnourished 
  • Constantly feeling unworthy and unlovable due to not being loved or accepted by your mother
  • A deep sense of loss about not being able to live the life you were meant to live, what you lost out on, including a relationship with your mom and family that will never happen.
  • Realizing that the words and sentiment I love you is merely a way to control or manipulate you.
  • The pain of feeling alone

Life as the Daughter of a Narcissist…What Now?

Facing challenges, suffering, and loneliness in the past is nothing short of challenging. It may take some time to remember that being the daughter of a narcissist does not mean you are unworthy of living a healthy, productive, and happy life or of being respected and loved. Your pain and adversity in life do not define you, nor do they have the power to deny your right to live a better life. 

The fact that you didn’t receive the love and happiness you deserved in the past does not mean that you don’t deserve it now. It is never too late to recognize how narcissistic abuse has affected your personal development and how it manifests as an adult while at work, school, or in your relationships.

Woman speaking to a therapist about the narcissistic abuse suffered in her life. Healing After Narcissistic Abuse

Learning how to set and maintain healthy boundaries safely, develop, and identify healthy relationships, raise your self-esteem, and accept your worth is always possible. The first step begins with educating yourself on what narcissism looks like and what the effects are, which you’re already doing! 

Additionally, we recommend you find a therapist who understands what you have been through and won’t judge you for your past. Our goal at West Hartford Counseling & Coaching, LLC is to provide patients with counseling and coaching solutions that will assist them in stopping narcissism’s cycle, regardless of where they are in their recovery process. You can find out more about our services on our website or schedule a free 15-minute call to discuss your specific needs.