I recently reread Dr. Karyl McBride's excellent book, Will I Ever Be Good Enough? (Free Press, 2008). Its a useful resource for adult women who are trying to heal old wounds from a narcissistic mother. McBride estimates that there are over 1.5 million American women that are narcissists, and if one of them is your mother, you have probably been damaged by her insecurity, overbearingness, insensitivity and domineering personality.
Daughters of narcissistic mothers grow up understanding that mom is only happy with them if they do what she wants. The maternal love is entirely conditional. Mom is unreasonable and unrealistic about what she expects. She withholds love if she's not pleased.
Daughters of narcissistic mothers can feel empty, sad, disappointed, and like they are somehow not enough. I liked this poignant quote from Jan Waldron in McBride's book: "An adult woman can hunt for and find her own value. She can graduate herself into importance. But during the shaky span from childhood to womanhood, a girl needs help in determining her worth---and no one can anoint her like her mother."
Girls are vulnerable to whatever is happening with their mothers. Daughters can feel that they are valued for what they do rather than who they are. They may feel unlovable. It might be difficult to trust their own feelings. They may fear becoming like mother emotionally.
Here are some questions to help you determine if you are being affected by your mother's narcissism:
1. Do you find yourself constantly trying to get her approval, love, and attention but without success?
2. Did your mother emphasize how it looks to her rather than how it feels to you?
3. Is your mother jealous of you?
4. Does your mother not support your healthy expressions of self, especially when they conflict with her needs?
5. In your family, is it always about Mom?
6. Is it difficult for mom to empathize with others?
7. Does Mom have difficulty dealing with her own her own feelings? Is she limited to expressing anger,coldness and neutral? Does she have trouble letting others have or express their own(different) feelings?
8. Is Mom critical and judgmental of you?
9. Does your mother treat you like a friend, rather than as her daughter? Is she needy and trying to always get your attention and support?
10. Is it hard to have any privacy or boundaries from your mother?
Daughters of narcissistic mothers need to examine the negative messages they have absorbed from their mothers, and begin their own healing process. You can learn to replace the unhealthy maternal voice inside you for a healthier one that allows you to set your own boundaries, feel your own feelings and take good care of yourself. With counseling and self-reflection, you can begin to become a different kind of woman and mother than the one you grew up with. Good mothers don't engulf their daughters and tell them what to think, feel, do and wear.
Becoming your authentic self means overcoming the neediness and expectations of a narcissistic mother, and learning to love differently with your own partner and children. Breaking the patterns of narcissism in your family will help the next generation be mothered differently. McBride's book is a valuable read to get you started thinking about how you might have been impacted by a narcissistic mother, and begin the healing.