12 Devastating Ways Your Narcissistic Mother Lied To You About Who You Are

Photo: Mangostar | Shutterstock
woman with hands clasped looking distraught

You don’t have to wonder where your self-doubts came from if you had a narcissistic mother.

She made sure you would learn to walk on eggshells, second-guessing yourself as you went.

Right from the time you made your entrance into this world, you were in danger. Harsh, but true.

When you were a tiny baby, you were perfect. Everyone looked at you, cooed at you, and told your mother how beautiful you were. She basked in the attention. You were her product. She had done well.

And then you started to become a little person.

Your father could interact with you and your mom was left out. You could do things on your own and let your feelings be known.

You were no longer an extension of your mother. You were no longer something she had done well. The limelight shifted to you.

Unacceptable! Mother would have nothing of this.

But she had to be covert about it. After all, who is jealous of their baby?

You can’t say that out loud. So, Mom acted out. She became covertly, but fiercely, competitive. And, the rest is history. 

And, unfortunately, the challenge of living with a narcissistic mother never ends.

RELATED: 5 Sad, Underlying Beliefs You May Have If You Were Raised By A Difficult Parent

How to recognize narcissistic behavior in your mother

I remember one hot summer evening when I was about 13 years old. My Dad was away fishing. That was his job. Clever man, he found a way to be away from "her" for six months of the year.

I deeply resented that he left me to fend for myself with the monster all that time. 

That’s the way I thought of my borderline/narcissistic mother. In my mind, she was "her."

Dad’s away and Mom and I are actually having a close-to-bonding moment — at least, as close as it ever came. We were laying on my Mom’s bed in the sticky heat, and she raised her leg, admiring the curves.

A narcissistic mother must win

Silly me! I made the mistake of raising my leg and pointing out that mine was just like hers. Game on. No, her leg was curvier, more shapely, lovelier. And, she wouldn’t let it go. And, I’m not pulling your leg!

Don’t even get me started on the battles of bra sizes!

A narcissistic mother is a force of nature. She’ll cut you down, wash you out, and make you wrong for being wet and bleeding. If you’re her daughter, she will compete with you down to the smallest insignificant details.

You feel it constantly, but, as a child, you want to please her. Yet, she seems to never be pleased … unless she’s winning. One thing is sure: you will never win. She will withhold her love, her acceptance, and her approval of you in order to always have power over you.

If you’re her son, she wants your full attention. She wants you to see her as the standard for all women in your life. When you begin to notice girls, she demands your homage.

RELATED: 8 Long-Lasting Effects Of Having Narcissistic Parents

Dating with a narcissistic mother

And, when you begin dating, all hell breaks loose. No one will be good enough for you because no woman stands a chance next to her!

Of course, this will all be covert and underground. She’ll say one thing and do another. She’ll be coy about it. Sometimes, almost flirtatious. Keeping you — and everyone else — in confusion and chaos is her specialty!

You won’t really know if your mother is a narcissist. That’s a clinical diagnosis and narcissists don’t go to psychological clinics. They are perfect. There is absolutely nothing wrong with them. So, you’ll actually never know if she fits the criteria. 

That’s why I created the term, Hijackals®. Those are the relentlessly difficult, toxic and disturbing people in life. All Hijackals drink from the same pool of traits, so it’s about behaviors.

It really doesn’t matter whether she is narcissistic, borderline, histrionic, or antisocial. She’s a Hijackal!

RELATED: 4 Awful, Unbelievable Memories Of Growing Up With A Narcissistic Mother

You can't escape the 'competition'

Starting early in your life, you never had a chance to escape from the competition you didn’t ask to enter. Born into it, you knew nothing different.

A narcissistic mother shapes you in ways that confuse and confound you on so many levels. But, as she is always right (and don’t you dare forget that!) you are left with few options. After all, you need her to survive.

You might be asking: "Where was my father in all this?" Well, he was quite likely already defeated — just as mine was — and he found ways to escape. He worked too much, played too much, or slept too much. He knew that, if he showed great interest in you, Mother’s competitive streak would lash out and it wouldn’t be pretty.

So, as much as he may have loved you, he feared her more … that is, if he was still around at all.

So, a narcissistic mother is a dangerous — though, often covert — thing. She is wily.

She puts on a great face for the community. She seems to be the salt of the earth.

She speaks proudly of you like you are her possession. People are wary but usually duped by her great show of affection for you in public (but never in private).

How did this affect you? 

RELATED: How I (Barely) Survived My Narcissist Mother

Here are the 12 devastating ways your narcissistic mother lied to you about who you really are:

1. You’re too much trouble

Your narcissistic mother resented everything that went into child-rearing. She tried to get out of it as much as possible, leaving you to fend for yourself.

You were to be seen and not heard unless you were excelling at something she could bask in the glory of — and take the credit for.

Otherwise, you asked too many questions, wanted too much, and generally, were not worth bothering with.

2. You're not good enough

She could not possibly let you feel good about yourself. Even when you excelled at something, she withheld her approval. If she didn’t keep the lid on your self-esteem, she feared you would outshine her.

No matter what a small and bitter life she was leading, she lived in constant fear that you would be seen as better than her. And, she certainly wasn’t having any of that! 

3. You’re not worth spending time with

She did not enjoy raising you or being with you. She wanted a baby who would be a "mini-me" and that didn’t happen. Her idea of a good time was to find ways to be appreciated and significant.

You couldn’t provide that. You were little, or incapable, or uninteresting. She needed validation from adults and you were just a means to an end for getting that.

You, though, were not capable of providing the homage she needed. Aside from needing the income, your narcissistic mother probably worked in order to give herself the opportunity of having others appreciate her.

You may have been a latchkey kid, and maybe for no other reason than you couldn't give her what she needed.

4. You’re not enough

Similar to the one above, you couldn’t fulfill her needs, so you may have been pushed to the side. You felt as though you weren’t important, and she didn’t care about you. You were right! Only she mattered.

You, then, couldn’t. She left you feeling as though you didn’t matter, and that may be carried on now in the way that you settle for far less of everything in life than you deserve.

5. You’re supposed to please other people … especially her

Even though you’re now an adult, you are still longing for your mother’s love and approval. That’s the way it goes when you’ve had a narcissistic mother. In a healthy relationship, your mother would love and approve of you just because you breathe, because you are her flesh and blood. Not so with yours.

You could stand on your head and spit wooden nickels for a year, and she won’t be pleased. Your narcissistic mother taught you that you had no inherent worth.

Your worth came from making her look good, and from doing what she wanted and told you to do. And, how could you possibly do that for "she who will not be pleased?"

6. You’re not smart enough 

First, you can’t be smart enough, because you learned early on that your narcissistic mother always has to be smarter than you, or needier than you, or better than you. You’re supposed to figure out how to make your narcissistic mother happy, and you got that message when you were very small.

It’s not your job, but she may have turned you into a people-pleasing pretzel or a downtrodden doormat. Straighten up and stand up. It’s not your job to please other people. Please yourself and everything will work better.

RELATED: My Children's Father Is A Narcissist: The Impossible Reckoning Of A Bully Parent

7. You’re incapable

She has to think she does everything better than you. Even if she’s never even tried something, she’s sure she could do it better if she wanted to. Or, she’ll point out other people who do it better than you.

In fact, she’s so concerned with competition, that she’ll tell you not to even try things because you probably can’t do it, or can’t do it well enough. This can stop you from following your interests and learning new things. Don’t let it. She wasn’t right. 

8. You’re incompetent

You need to be perfect. That’s the only standard worth achieving. That’s what your narcissistic mother thinks because she cannot entertain anything that paints her as less than perfect. She’s always right. Therefore, you have to be wrong. Even when you’re succeeding beautifully, she cannot bring herself to approve of or reward you.

Narcissistic mothers are masters at moving the goalposts so that you can never be seen as achieving enough. Your accomplishments are rarely acknowledged and are often downplayed. It leaves you feeling. vaguely, that what you contribute is never quite enough. That’s the nasty nature of narcissistic mothers!

9. You can’t make good decisions

Obviously, if you’re incapable and incompetent, you cannot make good decisions. Your narcissistic mother will be endlessly happy to point out all three of those things, even in the face of your Nobel Prize in neuropsychology.

She’ll play the "what if …" game: what if you’d tried harder, what if you hadn’t had that education she provided, what if you hadn’t spent so much time focusing on your studies because heaven knows, your social life is not up to par. 

Narcissistic mothers make you second-guess yourself constantly.

10. You shouldn’t take risks

"What if you fail? You’ll make me look bad." That’s what the narcissistic mother is all about: looking good and keeping up her reputation. Put that with her need to compete with you and you can see where you cannot win.

When you do take risks and succeed, she downplays your accomplishments and takes credit for all she has done to make it possible.

Of course, it’s! If you fail, it’s "I told you so" and "Whatever gave you the idea that you could rise to that? You think too much of yourself."

So, again, you doubt yourself when the opportunity presents itself.   

11. You’re defensive

When you’ve had a narcissistic mother, you are constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop or the ax to fall. You know you cannot be right, and you will be wrong. Narcissistic mothers are the masters of fault-finding, too. The potential downside of you and everything is front and center in her mind.

So, you’re always mounting a defense in your head — even after your mother has left the planet! You’re always ready for the onslaught, the criticism, and the fight. And, if you talk back to her — no matter how honest, true, or practical you are—you will always be accused of being defensive.

12. You're nothing without her

That has been the hew and cry from your narcissistic mother since the moment you took your first step: "How dare you be separate from me? How dare you make decisions on your own? How dare you not do, believe, accept, and aspire to exactly what I tell you are enough for you? How dare you dream big?"

It’s all about comparing with her and making her look good. And, how dare you be better than she thinks she is?

You're always off-balance with a narcissistic mom

There’s little doubt that having a narcissistic mother can keep you off-balance and on guard every minute.

They are treacherous, outrageous, and crafty. They have to be. They are running scared every second of their lives.

Hijackals are fearful, vigilantly fearful. It’s the result of their upbringing. They don’t know another way to be and because they have to think they are perfect, they don’t seek other ways to be, either.

Don’t let a narcissistic mother rule your life. Especially don’t let the lies a narcissistic mother told you about yourself be your truth. She was wrong!

In your mind, make her put down her gun, and step back. Don’t let her hurt you anymore. Just because she was hurt does not make it acceptable that she hurt you.  

Say "no" to the ever-running script in the back of your mind that tells you these lies. Replace them with the truth.

You are an amazing, clear, smart, capable, competent, confident, loving human who deserves to shine.

Don’t let your narcissistic mother ever rain on your parade again.

RELATED: How To Put A Narcissist In Their Place In 5 Super-Simple Steps

Rhoberta Shaler, Ph.D., is a relationship consultant and educator and the author of sixteen books. She specializes in helping the partners, exes, and adult children of chronically difficult people.