Signs of a Narcissistic Mother and How to Deal with One

Published October 18, 2023

The term narcissistic has often been used to describe certain types of men. Men who think it's all about them. Men who need excessive admiration, who lack empathy, are manipulative, gaslight you, blame you for everything, and give you the silent treatment. 

Less often is the term narcissistic used to describe a mother. In her book, The Emotionally Absent Mother by Jasmin Lee Cori uses the term to identify one of the reasons a mother may emotionally abuse and neglect their children. She identifies a few reasons:

  • She doesn't know any better.
  • She is emotionally shut down.
  • She has never grown up.

And then she asks, "Does she have a mental illness?" She notes that there are a few psychiatric disturbances that show up consistently in the most unloving mothers. They are borderline personality disorder and narcissism.

So, what is narcissism? What are the characteristics and signs of a narcissistic mother? How do you deal with a narcissistic mother? Below are some answers to these important questions.

What is Narcissism?

In The Emotionally Absent Mother, Cori explains that narcissism arises from a wound to a person's sense of worth that leaves her [or him] feeling so unworthy that she [he] constructs a cover-up image of exaggerated worth. Defending such a shaky self-image leads to many extreme defensive behaviors... some common characteristics of extreme narcissism include:

  • It's always about them.
  • They crave admiration and attention.
  • They are never wrong (in their eyes). (Don't let them see it in you! They will go on an all-out attack to discredit you).
  • They are superior or superlative in every way. 

Other Signs of a Narcissistic Mother 

Choosing Therapy, in the article Narcissistic Mothers: 14 Signs and How to Deal with One, identifies other signs of a narcissistic mother. 

  • She doesn't respect your boundaries.
  • She plays you and your siblings off against each other.
  • Constantly criticizing you. 
  • Ignoring your needs.
  • Seemingly competing with you. 
  • Gaslights you.
  • Only treating you well in public. 

How do you deal with a narcissistic mother? 

  • Educate yourself about narcissism. 
  • Stop blaming yourself. 
  • Set firm boundaries. 
  • Minimize communication. 
  • Prioritize your own needs. 

Choosing Therapy further notes that growing up with a narcissistic mother isn't easy. Maintaining a relationship may feel even more troubling or complicated. However, you can learn how to move forward and prioritize your well-being.

Even if you can't change your mother, you can revise how you respond, adapt, and take care of yourself. To learn more, read the full article, Narcissistic Mother: 14 Signs and How to Deal with One. Another resource is the book, Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing The Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Karly McBride, Ph.D.