Recognizing The Signs Of A Covert Narcissist Mother

Spotting the signs of a covert narcissist mother can be tricky because it’s not always obvious. Unlike the overt exhibitionism typically associated with narcissism, the covert narcissist operates under the radar, making her manipulative and self-centered actions harder to detect, but no less damaging.

In this post, we will explore the signs of a covert narcissist mother, shedding light on the nuanced ways these behaviors manifest and affect those closest to them.

covert narcissist mother

Understanding a Covert Narcissist Mother

Understanding the complex dynamics of a relationship with a covert narcissist mother can be quite daunting. These mothers are masters of deception, skilled at presenting a nurturing and caring persona to the world.

They excel in sustaining this image, making it exceedingly challenging for outsiders to perceive even a hint of the manipulative and controlling behavior they inflict on their families behind closed doors.

Unlike overt narcissists, who are blatantly self-centered and incessantly seek attention, covert narcissists operate differently. Their narcissism is not immediately apparent but manifests subtly over time.

Covert narcissists might not exude the blatant selfishness or egotism characteristic of overt narcissists, yet their actions are still rooted in an inflated sense of self-importance and a worldview that is fundamentally self-centered.

The Picture Perfect Mother

A covert narcissist mother paints a picture-perfect image of parenthood to those outside her immediate family circle. She appears to be deeply involved in her children’s lives, appears attentive to their needs, and provides support in public settings.

Yet, this behavior is merely a façade, a veneer skillfully constructed to camouflage her true nature. Behind this mask lies a personality that is overly critical, devoid of empathy, and emotionally unavailable.

This dichotomy creates a whirlwind of confusion and self-doubt in her children, further exacerbating the difficulty they face in coming to terms with her abusive behavior.

Here are some signs that may indicate your mother could be a covert narcissist:

woman crying

1. A Master of Victimhood

A covert narcissist mother is an expert at casting herself in the role of the perpetual victim.

She will spin stories about how she has been wronged, painting vivid pictures of personal injustices and hardships. These stories have a recurring theme: she is the misunderstood heroine who constantly battles against the odds.

Whether it’s a disagreement with a neighbor, a perceived slight from a friend, or a professional setback, she positions herself at the receiving end of unfair treatment.

This tactic serves a dual purpose.

First, it garners sympathy and support from those around her, reinforcing her role as the victim and ensuring a steady supply of attention and validation.

Second, it allows her to deflect any blame or responsibility for her own actions. By keeping the focus on the wrongs done to her, she effectively sidesteps any scrutiny of her own behavior.

 eternal victim

More subtly, this constant portrayal of victimhood can also be a form of emotional blackmail against her children. It creates an unspoken obligation for them to support and defend her, regardless of the situation.

They are drawn into her web of perceived injustice, often feeling guilty if they dare to challenge her version of events or fail to provide the expected level of sympathy.

In this way, the covert narcissist mother ensures her needs are always center-stage, expertly manipulating those around her with her victimhood narrative.

It’s a powerful tactic that can have a profound impact on her children, often leading to a complex mix of emotions, including guilt, frustration, and a deep-seated sense of obligation

 passive aggressive

2. Passive-Aggressive

One of the hallmarks of covert narcissists is their mastery of passive-aggressive behavior. Unlike overt aggression, which is direct and unambiguous, passive-aggression is subtle, indirect, and often masked by a façade of politeness or concern.

Backhanded Compliments

Covert narcissist mothers excel at doling out backhanded compliments, seemingly positive remarks that carry an undercurrent of criticism.

They might compliment your new haircut while lamenting how your previous style was so much more flattering, or praise your cooking skills and then wonder aloud why you don’t use them more often.

These comments leave you in a state of confusion, questioning whether you’ve been complimented or criticized.

Thinly Veiled Criticism

Another common passive-aggressive tactic used by covert narcissist mothers is the art of thinly veiled criticism.

They make negative comments about your choices, actions, or character, but they do so in such a subtle manner that it’s often hard to call them out without seeming overly sensitive.

They might express concern about your health while implying you’re not taking care of yourself, or question your decision-making abilities under the guise of offering advice.

covert narcissist mother

Shifting Blame

Beyond their words, covert narcissist mothers are experts at shifting blame and making others feel guilty without appearing to do anything wrong. They will forget important dates, neglect responsibilities, or fail to follow through on promises, then react with surprise or hurt when called out.

They create a narrative where they are the innocent party, misunderstood or unfairly accused, effectively shifting the blame onto others.

These passive-aggressive behaviors serve multiple purposes for the covert narcissist mother. They allow her to exert control and inflict emotional harm while maintaining an outward appearance of innocence.

They also create an environment of uncertainty and self-doubt, undermining her children’s confidence and self-esteem.

At the heart of narcissism lies a profound lack of empathy, and covert narcissist mothers are no exception.

3. Lacks Empathy

At the heart of narcissism lies a profound lack of empathy, and covert narcissist mothers are no exception. Despite their ability to portray a caring and concerned exterior, they do not care about the feelings of others, including their children.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, to step into their shoes and see the world from their perspective. For most people, empathy comes naturally, especially towards those they love.

However, for covert narcissist mothers, empathy is more of a performance than a genuine emotional response. They might express concern or offer comfort when it’s expected of them, but these displays often feel hollow or insincere.

They lack the depth and warmth that comes with genuine empathy. This can be particularly confusing for their children, who may struggle to reconcile the caring image their mother projects with the coldness they often feel.

fake concern covert narcissist mother

Covert narcissist mothers are primarily focused on their own needs and feelings. Their world revolves around their experiences, their emotions, and their desires.

The needs and feelings of others, including their own children, are secondary at best. They will dismiss their children’s feelings as unimportant or trivial, especially if they conflict with their own, or respond to their child’s distress with irritation or indifference.

In extreme cases, they may even use their child’s pain as an opportunity to draw attention to themselves, turning the spotlight back onto their own feelings or experiences.

This lack of empathy has a profound impact on their children, leaving them feeling unseen, unheard, and emotionally neglected. It slowly erodes their self-esteem, damaging their ability to form healthy relationships, and leaving them questioning their worth and validity of their feeling

no empathy

4. Manipulative and Controlling

Covert narcissist mothers are masters of manipulation, often employing subtle tactics that can be difficult to recognize. They skillfully weave a web of influence around their children, using emotional tools such as guilt, shame, and fear to shape their behavior and decisions.

One common tactic is the use of guilt.

Covert narcissist mothers may imply or outright state that their children are responsible for their happiness or unhappiness.

They will express disappointment or sadness when their children don’t meet their expectations, which are most often exaggerated or unreasonable, instilling in them a sense of guilt for failing to make their mother happy.


Shame is another powerful tool in their arsenal.

They will belittle their children’s achievements, criticize their choices, or mock their interests.

By doing so, they make their children feel inadequate or inferior. This can lead to a constant striving for approval and validation, further reinforcing the mother’s control.

Fear is also often used to manipulate and control.

This fear can take many forms, from fear of disappointing the mother to fear of her anger or rejection. Covert narcissist mothers can expertly play on these fears, using them to keep their children compliant and obedient.


5. Overly Critical and Judgmental

A covert narcissist mother is quick to point out faults, failures, and shortcomings, rarely missing an opportunity to critique or admonish.

This relentless scrutiny is not just limited to her children’s actions but can extend to their thoughts, feelings, and aspirations as well.

These mothers typically have high, often unrealistic, expectations of their children. They demand perfection in everything, from academics and extracurricular activities to behavior and appearance.

The constant criticism and judgement from a covert narcissist mother inevitably significantly erodes her children’s self-esteem. It creates feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and a distorted self-image.

Children grow up believing that their worth is tied to their performance, that they must earn love and approval through achievement.

covert narcissist mother

Concluding Thoughts on the Signs of a Covert Narcissist Mother

Identifying the subtle yet damaging signs of a covert narcissist mother is key to getting a grasp on the intricate dynamics at play within your family. However, it’s not just about spotting these traits but also understanding how deeply they can influence relationships and personal well-being.

If your mother is a covert narcissist, taking proactive steps to safeguard yourself is crucial. Establish firm boundaries, lean on your support network, and reach out for professional help.

Remember, your mental health and emotional well-being take precedence over your mother’s selfish antics, and finding ways to protect and nurture yourself as you deal with these complex family dynamics is of utmost importance.

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