Adult Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers – Growing Up with a Narcissistic Mother

Adult daughters of narcissistic mothers are likely to have experienced a childhood of emotional neglect, manipulation, and criticism. Growing up with a narcissistic parent leaves deep-rooted emotional scars that affect their self-esteem and their relationships with others.

A narcissistic mother is usually overly critical or demanding. She is also unable to provide unconditional love or validation, and is often jealous of her daughter’s relationships or accomplishments.

It is important to understand the ways that a narcissistic mother can affect her adult daughter’s life so that they can begin to heal and move forward in their lives with confidence.

Characteristics of a Narcissistic Mother

Narcissistic mothers are notoriously difficult to deal with, their behaviour often leaving those around them feeling emotionally drained and confused.

The following is a list of the most common traits of a narcissistic mother:

Controlling: Imposing Boundaries and Limitations

Narcissistic mothers possess a heightened desire for control, extending their influence into every aspect of their daughters’ lives.

They micromanage with fervor, leaving no room for independence or autonomy.

From career choices to personal relationships, these mothers dictate their daughters’ every move, stifling their ability to make decisions for themselves.

This controlling behavior can lead to a sense of suffocation and an inability to develop a strong sense of self.

depressed woman

Lack of Empathy: Emotional Detachment and Indifference

One of the most striking traits of a narcissistic mother is her consistent lack of empathy towards her daughter’s emotions and experiences.

She remains emotionally detached, displaying a cold and uncaring attitude.

Whether her daughter is going through a difficult time or celebrating an achievement, the narcissistic mother fails to offer comfort, support, or shared joy.

This emotional neglect can be deeply damaging, leaving the daughter feeling unimportant and invalidated.

Ego-Centric: Selfishness and Self-Prioritization

Narcissistic mothers prioritize their own needs above all else, including the needs of their daughters.

Their sole focus revolves around maintaining their self-image and fulfilling their desires, often at the expense of their children’s well-being.

When confronted with their egocentric behavior, they react with anger and manipulation, attempting to regain control and divert attention away from their selfish actions.

This constant self-centeredness creates an unhealthy dynamic, where the daughter’s needs are consistently disregarded.

depressed woman

Highly Judgmental: Unrelenting Criticism and Harsh Judgments

Narcissistic mothers have an insatiable need to criticize and pass harsh judgments on their children.

Regardless of their daughters’ accomplishments or efforts, these mothers find faults and flaws to belittle and undermine their self-esteem.

The constant barrage of negativity leaves the daughter feeling unworthy, striving for unattainable perfection, and fearful of expressing her true self.

This highly judgmental behavior perpetuates a toxic cycle of self-doubt and low self-worth.

blame-shifting and guilt-tripping

Takes No Responsibility: Blame-Shifting and Denial

A defining characteristic of narcissistic mothers is their refusal to take responsibility for their actions or acknowledge their mistakes.

Rather than admitting fault, they engage in blame-shifting tactics to absolve themselves of any wrongdoing.

They deflect blame onto others, including their own daughters, creating a distorted reality where they are always the victim.

This denial of responsibility prevents any opportunity for growth, resolution, or healthy communication within the mother-daughter relationship.

narcissistic mother

How Narcissistic Mothers Treat Their Daughters In Childhood

Childhood can be a confusing and difficult experience for daughters of narcissistic mothers.

These toxic mothers tend to think the world revolves around them, often leaving their children feeling unheard, unseen, and neglected.

The following list highlights how narcissistic mothers treat their daughters during their childhood years.

Setting Unrealistic Expectations. Narcissistic mothers often place unreasonable expectations on their daughters.

They expect them to achieve goals beyond what is realistic for a child or young adult.

4 Types of Unhealthy Mother Daughter Relationships

Love is always conditional. A narcissistic mother’s love is conditional and often based on how well her daughter reflects upon the mother’s image.

Constant Criticism. Even the smallest of mistakes will unleash a barrage of criticism.

They Sabotage Attempts At Independence. Narcissistic mothers want their daughters to remain reliant on them.

They will sabotage any attempts at forming or strengthening relationships outside of the family unit.

Emotional Manipulation. Narcissistic mothers will often resort to emotional manipulation, such as guilt-tripping or shaming, in order to gain and retain control of their daughters.

Making Everything About Themselves. No matter what’s going on in the life of their child, it falls upon deaf ears if it doesn’t benefit or reflect positively back onto her parent’s opinion of themselves.

daughters of elderly narcissistic mothers

The Impact of Narcissistic Mothers on Their Adult Daughters

As adults, daughters who were raised by narcissistic mothers often struggle with self-esteem issues, feelings of guilt or shame, codependency in relationships, difficulty setting boundaries, anxiety, depression, low self-worth, and mistrust in others.

These issues can be exacerbated when interacting with family members who continue to display narcissistic tendencies.

Narcissistic mothers have a profound and detrimental impact on the lives of their daughters.

adult daughters of narcissistic mothers

Low Self-Esteem. Adult daughters of narcissistic mothers are likely to suffer from low self-esteem, as they are constantly bombarded with criticism and never get the unconditional love they need and deserve.

Difficulty Building Healthy Relationships. Due to their challenging upbringing, adult daughters of narcissistic mothers often have difficulty forming healthy relationships.

They find it hard to trust people or form meaningful relationships due to their experiences with manipulation and criticism from their mother when they were younger.

adult daughters of narcissistic mothers

Poor Coping Mechanisms. With the lack of guidance or support from a caring parent, adult daughters of narcissistic mothers are at risk of engaging in self-destructive behaviours like drinking or using drugs.

Unresolved Trauma. Unfortunately, the impact of narcissistic mothers on their children can sometimes linger well beyond childhood and cause complications in adulthood when left unresolved.

Prone To Narcissism Themselves. The damage inflicted by a narcissistic mother can often lead to adult daughters developing similar narcissistic traits, as they are more likely to mimic the behaviour of their parent in order to cope with their challenging upbringing.

adult daughters of narcissistic mothers

Codependency. Adult daughters of narcissistic mothers are at risk of becoming codependent in relationships.

This is because they are constantly searching for the unconditional love and validation that they were denied in their childhood.

Perfectionism. Having a narcissistic parent can cause feelings of worthlessness and insecurity in adulthood.

When they grow up, these women are prone to perfectionism.

They often become workaholics and suffer from anxiety and depression because they never feel that they have achieved enough or done enough to prove themselves.

The long-term effects of having a narcissistic mother can be devastating.

Some adult daughters may experience depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, difficulty forming relationships with others, borderline personality disorder (BPD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders.

Without proper treatment and support, these issues can become debilitating.

adult daughters of narcissistic mothers

How Narcissistic Mothers Treat Their Adult Daughters

Becoming an adult does not always mean the challenging experiences of having a narcissistic mother will stop.

Adult daughters of narcissistic mothers are often faced with even more criticism, manipulation and unreasonable expectations.

Their mother will often try to dictate what kind of job they should have, who they should date or even marry, how much time they should spend on leisure activities, etc.

Narcissistic mothers will use all the nasty tricks in their narcissistic toolkit – gaslighting, shaming, guilt-tripping, etc.

They do not care that they are harming their child. The only thing they care about is controlling and dominating them.

how to heal

Advice for Adult Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers On How to Heal

It’s important to recognize that your childhood experience is not a reflection of who you are.

Your childhood trauma is a burden that you will have to carry for the rest of your life, but it does not have to define who you are.

The first step in healing is to acknowledge the pain and hurt that comes with having a narcissistic mother.

It is necessary to acknowledge the memories and experiences that have shaped you as a person before you can start to move forward and heal.


Consider Therapy

One way to do this is through therapy.

Dealing with unresolved issues from childhood can be difficult, so psychotherapy is an option that the adult daughters of narcissistic mothers should seriously consider.

Speaking with a professional about your experiences can help you understand why you feel the way you do and give you tools for how best to manage them.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is particularly effective to identify and challenge the irrational thoughts and beliefs they may have adopted due to their mother’s behaviour.

It also helps to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms caused by the abuse they have experienced.

Psychodynamic therapy is also beneficial, as it allows the daughter to explore her experiences and relationship with her mother, learning how these issues are impacting her in the present day.

Additionally, Schema-Focussed therapy can help adult daughters of narcissistic mothers improve their relationships with others and reduce their overall distress levels by focusing on long-term goals and patterns of thinking or behavior.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) could also be beneficial when healing from narcissistic abuse, providing skills such as mindfulness and emotion regulation that can help manage feelings of stress and anger that often arise after trauma.

Group therapy is another effective option that provides individuals with the opportunity to connect with other people who have had similar experiences for support and healing.

Other helpful resources are books about narcissism written specifically for daughters of narcissistic mothers as well as online discussion groups focused on recovery from toxic relationships with mothers.

daughters of narcissistic mothers therapy

Re-Write Your Story

As an adult daughter of a narcissistic mother, it is important to take the time to re-write your story.

Reflect on your experiences and create positive affirmations about who you are and what you have been able to overcome in life, no matter how challenging it may seem at times.

This can help build resilience and confidence in yourself, giving you the strength to navigate future difficulties with more ease.

Write down your successes, no matter how small they may be, as this will help to give you a sense of accomplishment and pride.

Realize that although your past experiences may still impact your decisions, they should not define who you are or limit what you can achieve.


Practice Self-Compassion

It is important to acknowledge the challenges you have faced and be gentle with yourself.

Show yourself the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to someone else in need.

Don’t be afraid to express and embrace your individuality. Allow yourself to discover the things that make you special without the fear of judgement or criticism.

Forgiveness can be an incredibly powerful way to start healing any trauma or pain from your past.

Work on forgiving yourself for any mistakes, decisions, or circumstances that have happened.

This doesn’t mean you have to forget, but rather accept and understand why things may have occurred in a certain way.

Above all else, recognize that you are worthy of love and respect regardless of any relationship struggles you may have experienced in the past.

self compassion

Develop Coping Strategies

It is important for adult daughters of narcissistic mothers to recognize that they are not responsible for their mother’s words or actions.

Learning healthy coping mechanisms such as mindfulness practices can help them manage difficult emotions triggered by interactions with their mother.

It is also beneficial for them to find supportive people in whom they can confide and trust as well as activities that bring joy and fulfillment such as hobbies or self-care routines (e.g., yoga).

Seeking out therapy from a professional who specializes in narcissism can also help adult daughters process their experiences in a safe environment and develop strategies for managing relationships with their mother going forward.

build a support network

Build a Support Network

As an adult daughter of a narcissistic mother, it is important to build a strong, supportive network.

It is important to understand that familial bonds are not the only kind of relationships that constitute as family.

You can choose who to consider part of your own ‘family’ by connecting with people who make you feel accepted, protected and valued through moments of shared joy and pain.

It is okay to reach out and create meaningful relationships with these people in order to build a circle of support.

Together, they will be a source of comfort during difficult times, but also celebrate with you during good times.

self care

Practice Self-Care and Self-Validation

Finally, it’s important for adult daughters of narcissistic mothers to practice self-care. Engage in activities that bring you joy, such as exercising, exploring hobbies or traveling.

Learning healthy coping mechanisms such as mindfulness practices are also very helpful to manage difficult emotions triggered by interactions with their mother

It is particularly important that you learn how to self-validate, to build your confidence and gain true independence.



Adult daughters of narcissistic mothers often carry the burden of unresolved trauma from childhood into adulthood.

This manifests itself through feelings such as guilt, shame, low self-worth, and mistrust in others.

If you are an adult daughter dealing with issues related to growing up with a narcissist mother, it is important to take action now by recognizing what happened in your childhood so that you can start taking steps towards healing yourself emotionally and mentally.

Frequently Asked Questions about Narcissism

Frequently Asked Questions About The Adult Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers

What are the common characteristics of adult daughters of narcissistic mothers?

Adult daughters of narcissistic mothers often struggle with low self-esteem, difficulties in relationships, fear of failure, anxiety, depression, feelings of inadequacy, and may even exhibit traits of narcissism themselves.

How does a narcissistic mother behave towards her daughter?

A narcissistic mother may be overly critical, manipulative, neglectful, or emotionally abusive. She might view her daughter as competition, belittle her achievements, or use her for her own gain.

Why do narcissistic mothers target their daughters?

Narcissistic mothers often view their daughters as extensions of themselves rather than separate individuals. They might target their daughters due to envy, competition, or the desire to control someone close to them.

Can an adult daughter of a narcissistic mother heal from her past?

Yes, healing is definitely possible. It often involves therapy or counseling, setting boundaries, possibly limiting contact with the narcissistic mother, and building supportive, healthy relationships.

How should an adult daughter set boundaries with her narcissistic mother?

Setting boundaries involves clearly communicating what behavior is acceptable, limiting contact if necessary, and standing firm when boundaries are violated. It’s important to prioritize your mental health and wellbeing.

Can an adult daughter of a narcissistic mother have a healthy relationship with her mother?

While challenging, it’s not impossible. It would require the mother to acknowledge her behavior and seek professional help, and the daughter to establish firm boundaries and engage in ongoing therapy.

How can an adult daughter of a narcissistic mother avoid repeating the cycle with her own children?

By seeking therapy, gaining awareness of harmful patterns, learning healthy parenting techniques, and striving to respect her children as separate individuals, an adult daughter can break the cycle of narcissistic abuse.

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