Breaking Free from Your Narcissistic Mother: A Journey Towards Independence and Self-Discovery

Navigating a Narcissistic Mother Tips for Coping and Healing

How to Handle a Narcissistic Mom

Narcissistic Mother

Anju Chandy was just a teenager when she made the courageous decision to leave her Bakersfield, CA home and embark on a journey to college far away. Why did she choose such a drastic path? Because her mother, a textbook narcissist, had made her life a living nightmare.

“I knew I didn’t want to be anywhere near my mother. I needed to forge a path of my own away from her influence and control,” says Chandy, who’s now a successful musician living in Indianapolis.

Living with a narcissistic mother can be nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. With their highly self-absorbed nature, narcissists often view their children as mere extensions of themselves. Kimberly Perlin, a licensed clinical social worker, describes the experience as feeling “unheard, unknown, and used” by the narcissistic parent.

The “Self-Sacrificing” Illusion

On the surface, a narcissistic mother may appear selfless in her actions, always seen as the doting parent who sacrifices everything for her children. She might be the class parent, PTO president, or soccer coach, but her involvement is never purely altruistic. It all boils down to her insatiable need for attention and control. She thrives on being involved in every decision, making everything about her.

As an adult, you might find that she is excessively intrusive in your life. Every action revolves around her, not you. Planning a wedding? She refuses to come if you invite your father. Engaging in a heartfelt conversation? She effortlessly shifts the focus back to herself. And if you have children, she will stop at nothing to become the dominant figure in your parenting journey, regardless of the collateral damage caused to the other parent.

Dr. Mark Ettensohn, author of “Unmasking Narcissism: A Guide to Understanding the Narcissist in Your Life,” explains that narcissistic parents often give unrealistically positive feedback that can abruptly transform into overly harsh criticism. They fail to see their children as independent entities with their own thoughts and emotions. Instead, they view them solely as extensions of themselves, incapable of valid emotions or opinions. Any rejection or criticism is met with anxiety and anger.

Unmasking the Narcissist: Recognizing the Traits

Narcissist Traits

Perlin highlights that narcissistic traits exist on a spectrum, ranging from mild self-absorption and entitlement to full-blown narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). To determine if your mother fits the bill, look for these signs:

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance
  • Arrogant attitude or behavior
  • Exploitation of others to meet their needs
  • Belief in their own uniqueness
  • Exaggeration of achievements and talents
  • Constant need for admiration
  • Envy towards others and a belief that others envy them
  • Lack of empathy
  • Fantasies of power, brilliance, or success
  • Sense of entitlement, demanding special treatment

Perlin advises posing a series of questions to assess your mother’s behavior:

  • Can she handle negative feedback?
  • Does she obsess over her appearance?
  • Does she constantly seek praise and validation?
  • Is she always striving to be seen as the most burdened or giving mother?
  • Does she make it crystal clear that you owe her?
  • Do you feel the need to meet specific expectations to gain her love and approval?
  • Does she crave attention in ways that make you uncomfortable?

If her behavior consistently aligns with many of these characteristics, it’s safe to say you have a narcissistic mother on your hands.

Taking Back Control: Managing Your Relationship

Setting Boundaries

So, what can you do if your mother is a narcissist? Here are some practical steps to help you manage your relationship:

  • Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries and enforce them. Let her know what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t.
  • Stay calm: Resisting emotional reactions to her provocations is key. As Anju Chandy advises, “Your calmness is your power.”
  • Plan your responses: Prepare respectful exit strategies when conversations spiral out of control. Phrases like “I have to get going, Mom” or “Let’s agree to disagree” can be useful.
  • Let go: Release yourself from the pressure to constantly please her. It is not your responsibility to make her feel special or relevant.
  • Get help: Seek support from a counselor who can help you navigate the impact of her narcissism on your life and guide you towards breaking the cycle.
  • Step away: In extreme cases, limiting or eliminating contact might be the best choice, especially if her behavior becomes abusive or violent. Focus on what you can control and prioritize your personal growth and happiness, just like Anju Chandy, who currently has no contact with her family.

The Don’ts: Pitfalls to Avoid

Don’t Expect an Apology

While striving to manage your relationship with your narcissistic mother, it’s crucial to steer clear of certain pitfalls:

  • Don’t expect an apology: Narcissists seldom accept criticism or take responsibility for their actions. Your mother may never see herself as wrong or her behavior as harmful. In her mind, she is the victim, not you.
  • Don’t attempt to fix or heal her: Remember, you cannot change her personality or heal deep-rooted wounds from her own narcissistic upbringing. Building compassion for her struggles can help you detach, understanding that her behavior is often unconscious.
  • Don’t compare her to others: It’s essential to focus on making the best of the relationship you have. Identify shared talents or interests and use those as a starting point for bonding.

So, if you find yourself grappling with a narcissistic mother, you’re not alone. Take control of your life, establish boundaries, seek support, and prioritize your own well-being. Remember, you have the power to break the cycle and discover a path that leads to your own happiness and fulfillment.

Have a story about dealing with a narcissistic mother? Share it in the comments below, and let’s support each other on this journey of empowerment and self-discovery!