Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers: A Bond Made of Selfishness and Coldness

Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers: A Bond Made of Selfishness and Coldness
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

The daughters of narcissistic mothers grow up under a threatening female shadow. The main characteristics of this kind of upbringing are control and a lack of empathy. The mother is trying to create an exact copy of herself in her daughter. But that also means that she’s projecting her own ego and all her insecurities onto her. This upbringing is characterized by self-denial, dependence, and suffering.

Will I ever be good enough for my mother?  This is one of the most common questions in the minds of daughters with narcissistic mothers.

But what a lot of them end up assuming is that their mothers had absolutely no maternal instincts. Experts at erasing identities and squashing any attempts at independence, narcissistic mothers are one of the most complex, harmful types of people out there.

A movie about this: Mommie Dearest

Back in the 1980s, there was a movie that dealt with this exact same situation.  Mommie Dearest was based on an extremely successful book by Christina Crawford, the daughter of famous actress Joan Crawford.

Within its pages, which she originally meant to be a biography of one of the most important and powerful women in the movie business, she ended up exposing a story of almost constant psychological abuse. It was the story of a narcissistic mother going against all the traditional ways to raise a child. What she wanted was to create another version of herself, through her daughter. As you might guess, the results were terrible…

I work and work ’till I’m half-dead, and I hear people saying, “She’s getting old.” And what do I get? A daughter… who cares as much about the beautiful dresses I give her… as she cares about me.”

-Mommie Dearest (1981)-

Daughters of narcissistic mothers.

Daughters of narcissistic mothers: when nothing is good enough

One thing we should point out is that not all women with narcissistic patterns of behavior have an actual narcissistic personality disorder, based on the definition in the DSM-5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). They might have some similar traits, but they can still function properly on a social and personal level. But there is one thing that’s true about them: they’re totally incompetent when it comes to raising a child.

What this maternal narcissism does is completely short-circuit the mother-daughter bond. It also makes it almost impossible for that little girl to become an independent, confident woman.

You might be asking yourself at this point what this is like when it comes to male children. The simple answer is that it’s not great either. In these kinds of families, the whole dynamic is usually centered on the narcissistic motherThe exhaustion and the impact from her personality take over just about everything in the house.

But daughters of narcissistic mothers suffer much more from that for a few reasons. Firstly, because these mothers project themselves onto their daughters. They’re like a blank canvas for their mother’s ego, but their mothers see them as a threat at the same time.

Their mothers know there’s always a chance that their daughters can surpass them. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in beauty, intelligence, resolve, independence, etc… Now we’re going to look at some of the dynamics that surround these kinds of harmful bonds.

Maintaining a relationship with a narcissistic mother is as complicated as it is exhausting. It’s important not to forget that they lack any empathy for their own daughters.

The helplessness of daughters of narcissistic mothers

Narcissistic mothers establish unmerciful discipline. They worry more about how the world sees their daughter than about understanding how she feels, what she wants, or what she needs. From early ages, these kinds of mothers will erase their daughters’ emotions through indifference or criticism.

These patterns completely destroy the daughter’s ability to develop her identity. Low self-esteem is always a huge problem for them. But they also deal with low self-confidence, helplessness, and a need for approval from their mother in any situation. 

The dependence is so intense that, as the years go on, they start to feel shameThat shame then becomes toxic, because a lot of the time they end up thinking they’re not worthy of love.

Narcissistic mother chastising her daughter.

You should never compete with a narcissistic mother

Like we mentioned earlier, narcissistic mothers see their daughters as nothing but reflections of themselves. They want their daughters to be like another part of them. That’s why they have to be perfect and make all the same choices they would make. These kinds of mothers condition them in everything from tastes, subjects, friendships, and relationships.

But that usually leads to a side effect that’s as paradoxical as it is harmful. These mothers constantly feel envy. It’s like a shadow that won’t leave their daughters alone, like a veil suffocating them. What can happen as a result often seems surreal. They won’t let their daughters go out with specific people, and yet at the same time, they’ll start to flirt with those people if they’re around. One thing all daughters of narcissistic mothers know is that they’ll never be there to defend them.

Daughters born to serve and please their narcissistic mother

A narcissistic mother demands her daughter’s constant attention. She forces her to fill her needs, fulfill her expectations, and not stand out too much. That way, she won’t overshadow her mother. To make sure this all works, these mothers are willing to manipulate their daughters, humiliate them, and destroy their self-esteem.

How do you heal the wounds from having a narcissistic mother?

A lot of daughters of narcissistic mothers deal with true trauma. It’s a wound they’ve gotten from growing up with an unclear identity and tons of buried, intense, denied emotions. They have to confront their feelings of shame. They have to free themselves from the effects of co-dependence. But, as you might guess, that’s not very easy.

It’s something you can survive. s long as you get the right kind of help, you can even heal from it. There are therapists who specialize in these kinds of cases. They’re ready to help you every step of the way to overcome this trauma. The first step is to replace your mother’s internalized, critical, negative voice for a new one: yours. It’s a voice that will treat you with respect, love, and a desire to grow.

Woman watching the sunset.

The second step is to learn to detach yourself from them and to set limits. You have to learn to prioritize yourself and give yourself the space you deserve. That way you can start projects of your own. Or you can even just be, act, live, and breathe with total independence, finally free from her narcissistic influence.

However, doing all that takes time. In a lot of cases, it even means distancing yourself from your narcissistic mother. For the first time in your life, you’re going to openly do something that’s always caused you massive anxiety: disappointing her. But taking that step is like an investment in your mental health and your quality of life.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.