Is My Mother a Narcissist?

7 telltale signs that she might be.

Posted Dec 02, 2020

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels
Source: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

I grew up with a narcissistic mother. It was a challenging journey and I could have ended up crumbled, insecure, and unhappy. But after decades of trying to work out what was going on and discovering that my mother is a narcissist has helped me to make choices that are supporting my happiness and well-being.

One friend challenged me on my process: ‘How can it be that someone intelligent like you didn’t find out earlier that your mother was intoxicating your life?’ That could be my darling friend, exactly because I was intoxicated, blinded by the constant accusations it was my fault that the relationship wasn’t working and not able to objectively look at the situation. Plus, admitting that your mother doesn’t love you is a big step for any child.

I always knew that something wasn’t right, but couldn’t put my finger on it. Are you struggling with the relationship with your mother? Could it be she has strong narcissistic tendencies? Find below some important signals of a narcissistic mother.

1. She is more important than you are. A little story to illustrate it: the little girl jumped on her little red bike. It was going to be the start of a new life. She was going to the big school. The first day today. When she arrived at the school she was surprised by all the parents that were there….’Why are they all here?’, she thought. Her own mother was having breakfast in bed and let her 6-year-old daughter find her way to school on that very first day.

There would never be a moment when her children’s needs were prioritized over hers.

2. She wants you to run errands for her and takes your efforts for granted. My mother expected me to make breakfast in bed for her on the days that my school started later. I cooked for the family on Saturdays. She always told me how much she did for me and therefore I didn’t have a choice but to pay her back in services, whenever she told me to.

This is part of the strategy to make you feel guilty and bad about yourself.

3. She doesn’t want you to look prettier or be "better" in any way. Whenever I had clothes that looked really nice on me and got me compliments, she managed to ruin them in the wash. Whenever she gave me a compliment it meant my outfit actually didn’t suit me, but it took me years to discover that.

She never had a career, which was part of the era she grew up in, but she never asked about mine. My corporate career was quite successful in PR for IT companies. The only question she regularly asked with a dismissive tone of voice: ‘What is it again that you are doing?’

4. She is very negative and critical about your friends. You might think no one is good enough for you, but this attitude is inspired by ensuring you don’t have trusted people in your life, who might see what is going on for you, who would gang up with you against her. Her focus is on alienating you not only from friends but also from siblings and family members. There is power in the numbers and as long as you are by yourself it is easier to control you.

5. She controls your activities. She controlled how my school holidays were spent: cleaning, clothes shopping with her for her, playing tennis with her. When I left home to go to university she forced me to go back each weekend. Otherwise, I wouldn’t get money to live on. FOG is a concept that was applied: Fear – for her reaction if I didn’t adhere; O – feeling obliged to ‘pay back’ for all the things she had been doing for me; Gguilt and feeling bad and selfish if I choose to live my own life, apart from her.

6. She punishes you when you don’t obey her. Punishment could be the silent treatment, put-downs, withholding money or any other treatment that would upset you. My mother was a star at ignoring my needs. There would be no food, no money, no clean clothes, no attention. And it would make me so desperately upset that I almost fell over myself to get her approval back.

7. You can’t emotionally connect with her. Emotions and empathy are alien territories for a narcissist. They simply don’t get it. When I was upset about the break-up with my first boyfriend, she just told me that the world was a big pond with loads of fish in it. When our 14-year old dog died I was in bits. But 3 hours later, she had bought and brought into the house a new puppy to replace our Skippie.

Trying to explain how you feel and wanting to work out how your relationship could change for the better is like hitting your head against a brick wall. No matter in what way you present the issue, she doesn’t understand it and will call you hysterical, over the top, ridiculous, or even worse.

There are a lot of other indications that your mother is a narcissist, but if you recognize those above, the chances are she is.

It is very difficult to come to terms with it and the best thing to do is to give up hope that you will ever have a healthy relationship with her. It is the hope that kept me going for 40 years. Ever since I left home, 18 years old, I tried to create something that could never be. When I was 58 I cut the cords and became free.

Part of my story is presented in my self-help book From Victim to Victor - Narcissism Survival Guide, and received a lot of comments along the lines of ‘Now I understand what doesn’t work in my life.’ Unfortunately, it is more common than I ever thought it was.


Find out if you have a narcissist in your life by taking this short quiz.

Learn more about narcissism and understand better how you are affected.  From Victim to Victor - Narcissism Survival Guide an easy self-help book for victims of narcissistic abuse.

Read this helpful article on the thinking patterns of narcissists.