7 Signs You've Been Raised By a Narcissistic Mother, Therapist Says
Here's how to spot the red flags in your own parent.
When you're growing up, it's normal for your parents to be an outsized presence in your life—after all, you rely on them not only for emotional safety but also for the very tools of your survival. However, as a child grows and gains independence, a healthy parent-child relationship will naturally shift into something more balanced. The parent will come to view their offspring as their own distinct person with valid needs, desires, and perspectives worthy of validation and support. Unfortunately, if you've been raised by a narcissistic mother, this is unlikely to have been your experience.
In fact, trauma-informed psychotherapist and content creator Mia Amini says there are seven common ways that narcissistic mothers tend to derail their relationships with their children. Only by noticing them can you begin to extract yourself from these toxic patterns, she warns.
They center conversations around themselves.
Narcissism is largely defined by a person's lack of empathy, sense of grandiosity or superiority, and entitlement. That's why narcissists will usually put themselves at the center of the conversation whenever possible.
"They have a skill for turning every conversation back to themselves, even when the topic is about you," Amini explains in a recent TikTok post.
This can be especially difficult to contend with when the narcissist in question is your mother since it undermines a genuine connection between you. If gently steering the conversation back to more neutral topics regularly seems to fail, seeing a family therapist may help you establish a more balanced dynamic.
Their love is conditional.
If you notice that your mother seesaws between being loving and rejecting you, this is another sign that they may be a narcissist. Sudden drops in temperature—first their demeanor is warm, then icy cold—could mean they're using their love as a tool for manipulation.
"Their affection is conditional and often feels like a transaction," says Amini. "They give you attention and kindness only when you're fulfilling their needs or making them feel good or look good."
They gaslight you.
Gaslighting is another common symptom of narcissism, Amini says. If your mother is a narcissist, she may deny or disregard your perception of reality, leading you to feel confused or disorientated.
"They never acknowledge your sense of reality," the psychotherapist says. "They turn the situation around, making you doubt your own memories and feelings, and they insist that things happened differently than you can remember."
They're your toughest critic.
It's common within the parent-child relationship for both parties to feel criticized, but if you notice that your mother is always your toughest critic, there may be a deeper problem at play.
Narcissists "are masters at giving criticism, often harsh and personal, and they criticize you far more than they praise or support you," Amini says. If you notice that your parent regularly tears you down, this is a major red flag, she warns.
They create drama.
All families have conflict, but if you notice your mother enjoying the drama, this may be a sign that she has narcissistic tendencies. "They thrive on chaos and conflicts just to be at the center of attention or assert their dominance," Amini explains.
A narcissistic mother may use inflammatory or exaggerated language, read into people's intentions, or become fixated on others' failures or transgressions, all in an effort to turn up the intensity in the relationship or cast themselves in the role of victim. If you see this happening often, it could be a sign that your mother has narcissistic traits.
They keep you dependent on them.
When you're physically, emotionally, or financially dependent on someone, it reinforces an uneven power dynamic between you. A narcissistic mother will often intentionally nurture that dependence to maintain their feeling of control and superiority.
"Your independence is their inconvenience. Any steps you take toward your autonomy are met with resistance or outright sabotage," Amini says.
They make you strive for their approval.
Finally, if your mother is a narcissist, she'll always make her love or approval something you need to earn or achieve.
"They use love as a weapon, offering it as a reward for compliance and withdrawing it as a punishment, making their approval something you feel you have to earn time and time again," Amini says.
If you notice this particular trait, it's important to take a step back and give yourself your own unconditional approval. Focus on your strengths, be proud of your achievements big and small, and give yourself grace when you find yourself struggling.
Though you can't always fix the broken dynamics in your relationships, you can protect your mental health by creating boundaries and practicing self-care. Talk to a therapist to learn more about how to heal the wounds of growing up with a narcissistic parent.
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