Growing up with a narcissistic mother is incredibly painful. It causes a great deal of damage too, not only to one’s mental health but sometimes physical as well due to the intense, incredible stress of living with such a cruel person.
Unfortunately, the damage done is still with the child moving out of his or her mother’s home. While some of that damage is obvious, such as a person having C-PTSD, not all of it is so easily identified. There are many behaviors that tend to stick with a person even years after the abuse has ended.
Many victims accept the blame for everything. Growing up with a narcissist, you learn early in life that everything is your fault. If you had any doubts about that, your narcissistic mother would remind you of it. By adulthood, victims have lost all doubts & know everything is their fault.
Closely related is apologizing for everything. Children aren’t allowed to stand up for themselves, especially to their narcissistic mother. In fact, we don’t even have any clue how to stand up for ourselves. Instead, we learn to apologize, whether the problem is our fault or not. This behavior carries over into adulthood.
Narcissistic parents often compare their children unfavorably to their siblings or cousins. Those children grow up comparing themselves unfavorably to others just as their parent did rather than appreciating the differences in each person.
Children of narcissistic parents learned early in life that their purpose was to do for their parent. Children aren’t even thought of as human to their narcissistic parents, but instead they are merely tools to be used as needed by that parent. Knowing this means these children believe they aren’t important. They prioritize everyone else over themselves.
Along these lines, children of narcissistic parents also refuse to ask for help. They believe they are unworthy of help from anyone. Many are also perfectionists & think they should be able to do things by themselves, without any assistance.
Chronic self doubt is another problem narcissistic mothers create in their children. When you grow up hearing how you can’t do anything right, you’re a failure, you’re stupid or other cruel things, self doubt is normal. It can make you doubt every single thing about yourself, even into adulthood. Often it’s like there is a recording in the back of your mind when you try to do something that says those same awful things Mom used to say, & when you hear the recording, it transports you back to childhood, when you felt you were all of those things Mom said you were.
Difficulty making decisions happens often with adult children of narcissistic parents, too. When you suffer with self doubt, decisions can be really difficult to make! Even simple decisions like when your spouse asks where you want to go for dinner can be very challenging, because you feel like whatever you say will be wrong.
Over thinking is another common sign of having grown up with a narcissistic mother. It stems from having to be “on alert” at all times, needing to know what Mom wanted or how to please her or what exactly she needed at any time in order to avoid a narcissistic rage.
The lack of ability to express emotions is common with adult children of narcissistic mothers. So many narcissistic mothers did their best to stop their child from expressing any emotions, negative or positive. My mother used to scold me for having “that Bailey temper” that I learned never to show any anger or even simple frustration. It felt easier to stuff that emotion deep down than to be shamed. My mother also complained that I didn’t look happy, yet if I was happy, if it had nothing to do with her, she would shame me for being happy. Many narcissistic mothers behave in a similar way with their children.
Do you behave in any of these ways, Dear Reader? If so, please know you are NOT alone & you are NOT crazy. I’ve experienced them all, & still do experience some of them. I have found that praying really helps a great deal. I ask God for help or to show me what I can do to change my behavior. Simple? Sure, but also very effective.
I also question things. “Am I really to blame for this? Why?” “Should I apologize for that? Why or why not?” “Why am I comparing myself to that person instead of appreciating our uniqueness?” “Am I really not smart enough/talented enough/etc. to do that? What evidence do I have that shows me I’m not?” “Is it really unreasonable of me to ask my husband for help when I don’t feel good? Why?” These simple questions make me think about the situation at hand more objectively & I can see that sometimes what I’m thinking is nothing more than some old, dysfunctional mindset. Upon seeing that, I am able to act in a more appropriate way. If you have trouble doing this, another approach could be to imagine a friend came to you with the problem you’re facing now. What would you tell that friend? Imagining a friend is confiding in you rather than thinking about yourself facing the problem can give you a very different perspective.
Although these issues are challenging, they can be dealt with with time & work. Do it- you deserve to be rid of these dysfunctional habits!