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As children, we often rely on our parents for support, assurance, and love. But if a parent neglects these essential emotional needs, it can adversely affect their child’s development. A mother with a narcissistic personality disorder is an example of a parent who cannot give their children adequate nurturing and attention. Their entitlement often forces them to mistreat their children and use them as a prop to meet their own needs.

A narcissistic personality disorder is a complex psychiatric disorder, and many may not know what it is. The abuse related to this disorder can be insidious, and many may grow up believing that the toxicity in their household due to their mother’s behaviour is perfectly reasonable. Hence, understanding the traits of narcissistic mothers is essential for anyone who suspects their mothers may be suffering from this disorder.

Following are the seven most crucial narcissistic mother signs to look out for:

She does not value your boundaries.

A mother in healthy relationship with their children is expected to respect their boundaries. Even if she does not agree with their children on everything, she understands that she cannot control everything in their lives. On the other hand, a narcissistic mother has an exaggerated need for power and control and can trample over any boundaries just to get what they want. For example, a mother with a narcissistic personality disorder may just show up at your house unannounced and justify it by saying she was passing by and wanted to be nice.

She lacks empathy.

Most mothers feel immense pain when their child is in some kind of discomfort. Many also try to attune to their child’s likes, dislikes, and personal needs and may even feel guilty when they fail to do so. However, this dynamic may play out differently if you have a narcissistic mother at home. Evidence suggests that children of narcissistic parents report a lack of empathy with very little interest in their emotional needs. Some of these children also feel “invisible”, as if their mothers cannot truly see them.

She may try to compete with you.

Most mothers want what is best for their children and generally wish them a better life than ever. On the other hand, narcissistic mothers often compete with their children, especially daughters. Some resent their daughters’ youth, while others feel jealous of their success. As a result, they may constantly criticise their children for being too “stupid” or “selfish.”

She gaslights you.

Gaslighting is a broad term, but it essentially indicates some form of psychological abuse intended to make the other person doubt their perceptions. Gaslighting from a narcissistic mother may present in the following forms:

  • Being told that you are too dramatic or overreacting to something
  • Telling you that you are misremembering or misunderstanding details
  • Attempting to change how you feel
  • Lying about their behaviour

She only treats you good in public.

A narcissistic mother may act like a completely different person at home and change their attitude the minute they step into a public setup. At home, when nobody is looking, they can be dismissive, cruel, or detached. But when she is among people, she may brag about you, show off your accomplishments, or express love for you. Unfortunately, most of these efforts are usually an attempt to uphold her image of being a perfect mother.

She perceives herself as the victim.

It is common for narcissistic people to manipulate the situation just to get attention and sympathy from others. For example, a narcissistic mother may complain about being misunderstood or singled out.

She takes advantage of others.

A narcissistic mother will avoid personal accountability and repeatedly rely on others to satisfy her needs. She is likely to change the societal rules so that they fit into her own preconceived notions of how things must work. Such parents are likely to pick friends based on what they can offer them instead of how these friendships would feel.

Dealing with narcissistic mothers can be extremely hard and challenging. For some, it may feel impossible with your mother on the other end. While you may not have an ideal relationship with her, there are several steps you can take on your end to honour your personal needs and protect your well-being.

Educate yourself on narcissism

Narcissism can be confusing for many, especially with its different subtypes and their specific symptoms. So the first step you must take to break the cycle of narcissism from your mother is educating yourself about the issue. Surf through the internet, borrow a book from a library or get in touch with a professional to know what it is and how it impacts others.

Do not blame yourself

If your narcissistic mother has constantly shamed, condemned, or belittled you, these behaviours will likely take a massive toll on your self-worth and self-esteem. It is possible that you might have grown up blaming yourself for your mother’s attitude. However, as you educate yourself more about this disorder, you will know it was never your fault. Every child deserves respect, compassion, and love, and the reason behind your mother’s attitude was nothing more than her mental illness.

Set firm boundaries

By now, you must already have an idea that your narcissistic mother is not too good at handling boundaries. At the same time, you may struggle to identify your boundaries or establish them as you do not wish to trigger a blowout from her side. However, it is crucial to set boundaries sooner or later as they are an essential factor that shields you from the emotional trauma of your mother.

So take some time out to identify your limits and own them. When you are ready, communicate them to your mother as clearly as possible.

Practice grey rocking

The grey rock method is a popular way to avoid narcissistic abuse, especially if you have to maintain some contact with the perpetrator. This technique helps you save the relationship while limiting its heightened emotions and arguments.

As a part of the grey rock method, you must disengage from the perpetrator, i.e. your mother. For example, you may consciously act as if you are bored, uninterested, or not in the mood to respond. In some cases, you may respond with one-word answers, and in others, you may choose to ignore them to avoid arguments altogether. Over time, your mother may get frustrated but will likely start looking elsewhere to focus her narcissistic energy.

Don’t try to change her

Personality disorders, such as narcissism, are notorious for being hard to treat, most likely because a narcissist hardly changes their behaviours or attitudes. To commence treatment, such people must have a desire or willingness to change. But because your mother may not even admit she has a problem, trying to change her will only backfire into more abuse and manipulation.

So instead of devoting your time and energy to trying to help her become a different person, focus on acceptance. You cannot change your past, but you certainly have the power to take better care of yourself today and move on.

Consider breaking off

In some cases where narcissistic abuse becomes too much, a no-contact approach is the only way to handle the situation. Such an approach involves eliminating all types of communication with your mother.

Find a support system

Reach out to others who can validate your struggles and fears. It can be anyone; your family member, a friend, a colleague, or a therapist. Surround yourself with loving people who only wish the best for you.

Repeated exposure to a mother’s negative emotions and narcissistic behaviours can quickly generate complicated emotions in many people. If you have spent your life with a narcissistic mother, therapy can be a safe place to process this relationship and find new ways to cope with its effects on you. While one-on-one therapy is the best setting to overcome such a trauma, some people also benefit from group therapy. You may also find solutions and reassurance at 12-step groups and rehabs focusing exclusively on children of parents with narcissistic personality disorders. As you search for a mental health professional to manage your issues, choose the one with expertise in the relevant work area.

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