"Will I Ever Be Enough" by Dr. Karyl McBride was recommended to me.
I listened to 9 chapters on the mail route yesterday, and then bought the kindle edition, because there are many things I want to share on this blog.
I didn't think that I would learn more about myself and my mother, but I was wrong.
I have contributed all my 'mental-ness' from either sexual abuse or the cult-like religion and its impacts upon me, when in fact, a huge section of who I was/am is due to maternal narcissism.
This completes the puzzle of me!
Here is some of what is in this book. (this is a very long post, but packed with information that helps me understand the relationship between my mother and I)
"The more I learned about maternal narcissism, the more my experience, my sadness, and my lack of memory made sense. This understanding was the key to my beginning to recover my own sense of identity, apart from my mother. I became more centered, taking up what I now call substantial space, no longer invisible (even to myself) and not having to make myself up as I go along. Without understanding, we flail around, we make mistakes, feel deep unworthiness, and sabotage ourselves and our lives."
"I realized that there are mothers who are so emotionally needy and self-absorbed that they are unable to give unconditional love and emotional support to their daughters."
Below is a questionnaire I heard.
What is amazing to me, is first, the term maternal narcissism. And secondly, the effects of being raised by one. I would like to note, that these narcissistic mothers, don't treat all their children the same. And, IF you have a caring, empathetic grandmother or aunt who you spent time with, it can reduce the impact of their behavior. My experience of my mother will not be the same for others in the family. Also narcissistic mothers treat daughters differently than sons.
Questionnaire: Does Your Mother Have Narcissistic Traits?
Mothers with only a few traits can negatively affect their daughters in insidious ways. (Check all those that apply to your relationship with your mother— now or in the past.)
1.When you discuss your life issues with your mother, does she divert the discussion to talk about herself?
2. When you discuss your feelings with your mother, does she try to top the feelings with her own?
3. Does your mother act jealous of you?
4. Does your mother lack empathy for your feelings?
5. Does your mother support only those things you do that reflect on her as a good mother?
6. Have you consistently felt a lack of emotional closeness with your mother?
7. Have you consistently questioned whether or not your mother likes you or loves you?
8. Does your mother do things for you only when others can see?
9. When something happens in your life (accident, illness, divorce), does your mother react with how it will affect her rather than how you feel?
10. Is your mother overly conscious of what others think (neighbors, friends, family, coworkers)?
11. Does your mother deny her own feelings?
12. Does your mother blame things on you or others rather than own
13. Is your mother hurt easily and does she carry a grudge for a long time without resolving the problem?
14. Do you feel you were a slave to your mother?
15. Do you feel you were responsible for your mother’s ailments or sickness (headaches, stress, illness)?
16. Did you have to take care of your mother’s physical needs as a child?
17. Do you feel unaccepted by your mother?
18. Do you feel your mother is critical of you?
19. Do you feel helpless in the presence of your mother?
20. Are you shamed often by your mother?
21. Do you feel your mother knows the real you?
22. Does your mother act like the world should revolve around her?
23. Do you find it difficult to be a separate person from your mother?
24. Does your mother want to control your choices?
25. Does your mother swing from egotistical to depressed mood?
26. Does your mother appear phony to you?
27. Did you feel you had to take care of your mother’s emotional needs as a child?
28. Do you feel manipulated in the presence of your mother?
29. Do you feel valued by your mother for what you do, rather than for who you are?
30. Is your mother controlling, acting like a victim or martyr?
31. Does your mother make you act different from how you really feel?
32. Does your mother compete with you?
33. Does your mother always have to have things her way?
Note: All of these questions relate to narcissistic traits. The more questions you checked, the more likely your mother has narcissistic traits and this has caused some difficulty for you as a daughter and an adult.
"When you grow up in a family where maternal narcissism dominated, as an adult you go through each day trying your hardest to be a “good girl” and do the right thing. You believe that if you do your best to please people, you’ll earn the love and respect you crave. Still, you hear familiar inner voices delivering negative messages that weaken your self-respect and confidence. If you are a daughter of a narcissistic mother, you likely have heard the following internalized messages repeatedly throughout your life:
• I’m not good enough.
• I’m valued for what I do rather than for who I am.
• I’m unlovable.
Because you have heard such self-negating messages year after year— messages that are the result of inadequate emotional nurturing when you were little:
• You feel emptiness inside, and a general lack of contentment.
• You long to be around sincere, authentic people.
• You struggle with love relationships.
• You fear you will become like your mother.
• You worry about being a good parent.
• You have great difficulty trusting people.
• You feel you had no role model for being a healthy, well-adjusted woman.
• You sense that your emotional development is stunted.
• You have trouble being a person separate from your mother.
• You find it difficult to experience and trust your own feelings.
• You feel uncomfortable around your mother.
• You find it difficult to create an authentic life of your own.
Even if you experience only a few of these feelings, that’s a lot of anxiety and discomfort to carry around. As you learn more about the mother-daughter dynamic associated with maternal narcissism, it will become clear to you how you came to feel as you do.
My research into maternal narcissism identified ten common relationship issues that occur between mothers and daughters when the mother is narcissistic. You may relate to all or only some of these issues, depending on where your mother falls on the maternal narcissism spectrum, from a few traits to the full-blown narcissistic personality disorder. Let’s take a look at these ten mother-daughter dynamics associated with maternal narcissism, which I refer to as “the ten stingers.” To help us better understand how these dynamics get played out in real life, I’ve illustrated them with clinical examples from my practice as well as...
THE TEN STINGERS
1.You find yourself constantly attempting to win your mother’s love, attention, and approval, but never feel able to please her. Both big and little girls want to please their mothers and feel their approval. Beginning early in life, it is important for children to receive attention, love, and approval— but the approval needs to be for who they are as individuals, not for what their parents want them to be. But narcissistic mothers are highly critical of their daughters, never accepting them for who they are. \
• If Madison Avenue ever needed to come up with a commercial aimed at daughters of narcissistic mothers, my client Jennifer could have provided them with the perfect image. During our first session, she told me that she felt like standing on a street corner holding a sign that read “Will Work for Love.”
Jennifer recalled always trying hard to please her mother, but one story from her childhood was particularly telling. One day in a department store, she watched her mother hold a beautiful little coin purse and understood how much her mother wanted it. She vowed somehow to get it for her, even though she was only eight years old and it was expensive. She skipped lunches at school for weeks on end until she had saved enough money to buy the elegant purse for her mom. She wrapped it in shiny red paper and saved the surprise for Christmas. On Christmas morning, she eagerly awaited her mother’s reaction to the gift, but was crushed when her mom accused her of stealing it and threw it across the room, screaming, “I don’t want a gift from a thief!”
• Mindy describes herself as a “messy type” and her mother as “Ms. Anal Retentive— a clean freak.” She told me, “I tried for years to be clean and organized to get her approval, but I am not like her. I am right-brained. I try to keep things organized and neat, but clutter happens to me against my will. I guess I’m the creative type, and she didn’t like that. I’m now fifty years old, and still when Mom comes to visit, she can’t withhold her disapproval if the newspapers are scattered across the living room floor.”
• Lynette never could get her mother’s approval. Her mom was an accomplished pianist, and Lynette strove to be just like her. Although she spent years studying piano and giving recitals, she could never live up to her mom’s expectations. “Mom still clucks when I make mistakes,” she told me. Lynette decided that maybe her choice of boyfriend would finally do the trick. “When I met my husband, I thought to myself, Wait till she meets this guy. She’ll love him and be happy that I chose him. I was hoping that she would adore him and that would finally give me the approval I needed. But after meeting him, she actually asked me if I thought he was cute, because she thought he looked a little rough around the edges and not as refined as she had hoped.”
• Bridget remembers giving her mother gifts to prove her love. She felt particularly sad about a Mother’s Day plaque she gave her mom, with the phrase “World’s Best Mom” printed on it. “Mom really didn’t like it. She hung it up for a while and then took it down and gave it back to me. Mom said it didn’t fit her decor when she redecorated her kitchen. I still have it. I just gave up after a while.”
2. Your mother emphasizes the importance of how it looks to her rather than how it feels to you. “It’s much better to look good than to feel good” could easily be a narcissistic mother’s mantra. Looking good to friends, family, and neighbors, rather than feeling good inside, is what’s most important to her. A narcissistic mother sees you as an extension of herself, and if you look good, so does she. It may appear on the surface that she is concerned about you, but at the end of the day it is really all about her and the impression she makes upon others. How you look and act is important to her only because it reflects her own tenuous self-worth. Whenever you are not on display and can’t be seen by others, you become less visible to her. Sadly, how you feel inside is not really important to her.
• Twenty-eight-year-old Constance tells me, “My mother is involved in every aspect of my life: how skinny I am, the clothes I wear, the right hair color, even my career. I’ve never been fat, but she put me on diet pills when I was 12 and started doing my makeup for me when I was 15, explaining, ‘Men leave women who let themselves go.’ When I disagree with her taste, she demeans and criticizes me. Even now as an adult, when I go home I make sure to have my ‘mother look’ in place. I starve myself for two weeks before the visit to be thin enough.”
• Gladys reported moments in her childhood when her mother tried to be a good mom. “But she could never just put her arms around me to comfort me. One time I had lost out on an audition for a high school play, and I felt sorely dejected. I just needed a hug. I think she felt bad for me, but she couldn’t tune in to my feelings. Instead, she did the strangest thing. She went out and bought me some go-go boots and proudly announced that if I felt bad inside, at least I could look good the next day at school. Now I wonder if she was the one who was embarrassed that I lost the audition.”
3. Your mother is jealous of you. Mothers are usually proud of their children and want them to shine. But a narcissistic mother may perceive her daughter as a threat. You may have noticed that whenever you draw attention away from your mother, you’ll suffer retaliation, put-downs, and punishments. A narcissistic mother can be jealous of her daughter for many reasons: her looks, material possessions, accomplishments, education, and even the girl’s relationship with her father. This jealousy is particularly difficult for her daughter, as it carries a double message: “Do well so that Mother is proud, but don’t do too well or you will outshine her.”
• Samantha has always been the petite one in the family. She says that most of her relatives are overweight, including her mother, who is obese. When Samantha was 22, her mother ripped her clothes out of the closet and threw them to the bedroom floor, exclaiming, “Who can wear a size four these days? Who do you think you are? You must be anorexic, and we’d better get you some help!”
• Felice, 32, told me, “My mother always wanted me to be pretty, but not too pretty. I had a cute little waist, but if I wore a belt that defined my waistline, she told me I looked like a slut.”
• Mary sadly reported, “Mom tells me I’m ugly, but then I am supposed to go out there and be drop-dead gorgeous! I was a homecoming queen candidate and Mom acted proud with her friends but punished me. There’s this crazy-making message: The real me is ugly, but I am supposed to fake it in the real world? I still don’t get it.”
4. Your mother does not support your healthy expressions of self, especially when they conflict with her own needs or threaten her. When children are growing up, they need to be able to experience new things and learn to make decisions about what they like and don’t like. This is partly how we develop a sense of self. When mothers are narcissistic, they control their child’s interests and activities so that they revolve around what the mothers find interesting, convenient, or nonthreatening. They do not encourage what their daughters truly want or need. This can even extend to a daughter’s decision to have a child of her own.
• In the movie Terms of Endearment, the family is at the dinner table when the daughter announces that she is pregnant. Her mother screams and runs from the room, saying that she is not ready to be a grandmother. Clearly, the daughter’s pregnancy is not about her— it’s all about her mother!
• Like the daughter in the film, Jeri’s ability to express herself was inhibited by her mother’s inability to see beyond her own needs. Jeri was always artistic as a child and began winning awards for her art in the third grade. Later she won an award for a painting that included a full scholarship to an art school, but she never took advantage of it. “I never got to use the scholarship,” Jeri told me, “because my mother didn’t want to drive me to the school. She thought it was a hassle.”
• Ruby longed to be involved in various school activities, but when she got the lead in the school musical, her mother was furious. “You don’t have time to go to all of those rehearsals! You won’t be able to get everything else done around here,” she screamed. Her mother made Ruby do all the household chores each day before she could even begin her schoolwork, let alone memorize her lines in the play. Ruby’s mother gave her a hard time throughout the rehearsal period of the play, but when the night of the performance came around and Ruby did a good job in spite of her mother, Mom threw a huge party for her own friends to celebrate “my daughter the star.” Yet none of Ruby’s friends were invited to the party and Ruby’s mother somehow forgot to tell her she did a good job.
• A mother can feel so threatened by her daughter’s success that she won’t even bring herself to attend a graduation. Maria told me that her mom gave the excuse that she couldn’t attend Maria’s college graduation because it was too hot that day. Maria wasn’t surprised; her mother had never shared any of the trust fund money left by Maria’s late father but had used it on herself, rather than helping her daughter pay for college as her father had intended. “I had to work my ass off to put myself through college and never got a dime from her,” Maria told me.
5. In your family, it’s always about Mom. Even though “It’s all about Mom” is one of the central themes throughout this book, I’ve added this stinger here to illustrate some specific examples of how this plays out in the mother-daughter aspect of her life. The doctor had started her on antidepressants, and for the first time in a long time she hoped that she would be feeling better soon. She told her mother that she was about to try Prozac and showed her the prescription bottle. Her mother grabbed the bottle and threw away the pills, saying, “How could you do this to me? Have I been that bad a mother?”
• “It’s all about Mom” can play out in fairly obvious displays of maternal competition. Penny’s mother usurped the spotlight that normally would have been on the daughter before her wedding. “I had seen a beautiful silver sugar bowl and creamer at a local shop, and told my family that I planned to buy these items with the wedding money we had received. But when I went back to the store the following week to buy the set, it was gone. I thought nothing more about it until Christmas morning, when I was opening presents with my family. My mother had gotten a gift of that very sugar bowl and creamer from my dad. Turns out she had sent him to the shop I’d told them about— to get it for her. Then to top it off, she used the silver set to upstage me at a pre-wedding party. In the South it is customary before the wedding to have a tea and set up a table to show off your wedding gifts. My mother actually arranged a display table of her own. After people looked at my table, my mother would say, ‘Now come here and look at the really beautiful sugar and creamer I got.’ She never realized how her competitiveness affected me.” Penny’s mother goes to elaborate lengths to demonstrate that it’s all about her.
6. Your mother is unable to empathize. Lack of empathy is a trademark of narcissistic mothers. When a daughter grows up with a mother who is incapable of empathy, she feels unimportant; her feelings are invalidated. When this happens to a young girl, an older girl, or even a grown woman, she often gives up talking about herself or tuning in to her own feelings.
• Alice was distraught over her divorce, and her mother constantly pressed her for details, which didn’t help. She would ask Alice, “Who’s getting the house? What about custody issues? Which attorney did you hire?” Reluctantly, Alice answered all her mother’s questions, but when she tried to express how the divorce was making her feel, her mother would have none of it. Instead, she focused on how much alimony Alice should ask for and what her attorney should be doing. Unable to tune in to Alice’s emotional pain, her mother made her daughter feel unimportant. Alice kept asking herself, “But what about how I feel? Do I matter?”
7. Your mother can’t deal with her own feelings. Narcissists don’t like to deal with feelings— including their own. Many daughters I’ve worked with grew up denying or repressing their real feelings in order to put on an act they learned their mother wanted to see. These daughters describe their mothers as going “stone cold” or “fading into the woodwork” when feelings are discussed. Some report that their mother can express only anger, which she does often. When a mother’s emotional range is limited to cold, neutral, or angry, and she doesn’t allow herself or her daughter to express her true feelings, the two will have a superficial relationship with very little emotional connection.
• Brenda tells me, “My mother deals with feelings like a hurricane. Everything in her path gets destroyed. She yells a lot and swears a lot. It’s always everybody else’s fault. She doesn’t deal with her feelings.”
• Helen was on a wonderful European trip after she graduated from college. She had met a guy and was thinking of marrying him. She eagerly called her mother back in the States to discuss her feelings. Mom said, “I don’t want to discuss this,” and hung up on her. To this day, Helen still wonders what her mother was thinking. Yet, even though Helen is in her forties now, she has never asked her mother about this emotionally charged incident. She learned early in life never to bring up “feelings” issues.
• Stacy wanted very badly to discuss her childhood with her mother, which she’d never been able to do, because her mother would get too angry. But Stacy had been in therapy and made great strides toward her own recovery. She planned to have a long talk with her parents when they were in town for a visit. This time she felt the changes she’d gone through would help her communicate differently with her mother. In her backyard, chatting about the children and the family barbecue they would have that day, Stacy mentioned to her mother that she would love to be able to speak openly with her, as she now does with her own children, but as soon as she brought up childhood feelings, her mother began to drift away and become preoccupied with weeding the garden. Rather than get angry, her mother clammed up and completely withdrew, leaving Stacy virtually alone. After an uncomfortable moment of silence, Stacy and her mother went back to talking about the food for the family get-together, as though nothing had happened. When Stacy described this to me in therapy, I asked her how it felt. She had no words, but tears fell as she sat very still for a few minutes. Then with a sigh, she said, “There is no me; there can’t be with her.” Stacy saw that her mother can’t deal with her own feelings or her daughter’s, and that the emotional distance from her mother was truly unbridgeable.
8. Your mother is critical and judgmental. It is very hard for an adult to get over being constantly criticized or judged as a child. We become overly sensitive about everything. Narcissistic mothers are often critical and judgmental because of their own fragile sense of self. They use their daughters as scapegoats for their bad feelings about themselves, and blame them for their own unhappiness and insecurity. Children— and sometimes adults— don’t understand that the reason Mom is so critical is because she feels bad about herself, so instead of recognizing the criticism as unjust or a product of their mothers’ frustration, they absorb it. (“ I must be bad, or Mother would not be treating me like this.”) These negative messages from our early upbringing become internalized— we believe them to be true— causing us great difficulties later in life. A narcissistic mother’s criticisms create a deep feeling within her daughter that she is “never good enough.” It is incredibly hard to shake.
• Marilyn’s unique talents were overlooked by her mother, who could focus only on— and criticize— what she perceived as Marilyn’s faults. Her mother was a good dancer and valued people who were “into music,” particularly those who could dance well. She sent Marilyn to ballet and tap lessons as soon as she could walk and talk. But Marilyn was a singer, not a dancer. “Mom told me I was unteachable— a klutz. She would even tell this to her friends, and I remember them laughing about it. Even though I was good at singing, all she could say was, ‘Too bad she can’t dance.’ ”
• When Sharon married her third husband, she was afraid to announce the news to her parents because she knew her mother would be wary and critical. After Sharon told them the exciting news, her mother said, “I could get a spot in Guinness World Records. I could tell them I have only one daughter, but three sons-in-law!” Sharon cried almost the entire hour when she told me this story, and I have to admit, I cried with her.
• Ann related in therapy that she tries hard to be independent, but her mother has affected how she views the world and feels about herself. “I’m insecure about my abilities. I always sense that my mother is looking over my shoulder, and if I make the tiniest error it’s like she’s there judging me. Everything I do has a piece of ‘What would Mom think?’ in it. She’s always a voice in my head.”
9. Your mother treats you like a friend, not a daughter. In a healthy mother-daughter relationship, the mother acts parental and takes care of the child. The daughter should be able to rely on her mother for nurturing, not the other way around. During the childrearing years, the two should not be friends or peers. But because mothers with narcissistic traits usually did not receive proper parenting themselves, they are like needy children inside. With their own daughters, they have a captive audience, a built-in source for the attention, affection, and love they crave. As a result, they often relate to their children as friends rather than offspring, using them to prop themselves up and meet their emotional needs. Sometimes being a supportive friend to her mother is the only way for the daughter to get positive strokes from Mom. The daughter may fall into the friend role willingly, not even realizing there is something terribly wrong with the arrangement until much later in life.
• Ever since Tracy can remember, her relationship with her mother was like being best friends. She says, “I was only 12, and I would hang out with Mom and her friends. I would cut her friends’ hair, and we would all go on diets together. My mom and I were totally enmeshed. She would tell me everything about her friends, my dad and their relationship, including the sexual stuff. It didn’t matter that I was uncomfortable hearing all that. She needed me to be there for her.”
• Cheryl’s mother was a single parent and dated constantly. When she arrived home from dates, she would tell Cheryl all about the man she dated, what they did and how she felt about him. “My mom’s total life was about dating, and I had to hear about every escapade. I really wanted Mom to be into me and what I was doing, but we always had to talk about her boyfriends and her emotional life.” Cheryl also said that her mother left her with a nanny most of the time and didn’t bother coming to any of her school activities. “She didn’t even know who I was dating or what I was involved with at school, but I knew all about her social scene.”
There are many adult topics to which children should not be exposed. Children need to be allowed to be children, to focus on the things that matter to them, and they should not be burdened with adult concerns. Narcissistic parents involve their children prematurely in the adult world. A narcissistic mother who constantly confides in her daughter about difficulties in her relationship with her husband, for example, does not understand how painful this can be for her child. The daughter knows that she shares traits with her father as well as her mother, so criticizing a young child’s father is like criticizing the daughter too. The daughter needs to be allowed to depend on both her parents, but when a mother shares adult concerns with her daughter, a healthy dependence becomes impossible; the daughter feels insecure and alone because she has no parent on whom she can depend. She also feels guilty about not being able to fix the parental marriage problem or her mother’s issues. Again, the internal message she’s left with is, “I’m not good enough [because I can’t fix Mom’s problems].” In part 2, we’ll see how this self-negating message affects a daughter’s love relationships later in life.
10. You have no boundaries or privacy with your mother. Separating emotionally from your mother as you grow older is crucial to psychological growth, but a narcissistic mother does not allow her daughter to be a distinct individual. Rather, the daughter is there for her mother’s needs and wishes. This creates a significant problem for the daughter. There are no boundaries, no privacy in her family life. Her mother can talk to her about anything, no matter how inappropriate— and tell other people anything about her daughter, no matter how embarrassing. The narcissistic mother usually has no clue how wrong this is, and how unhealthy it is for her daughter. To the mother, her child is simply an extension of herself.
• Cheryl’s mother crossed the line when Cheryl was reconnecting with a high school friend. “I was so excited to find my friend and see what she had been up to in her adult life. We had been very close in junior high and high school and then lost touch. She had lost my number but found my parents in the directory. My mother answered her call and talked to my friend for a long time, making sure to brag to her that I was a practicing physician. But Mom was also quick to report the sordid details of my failed romances. When I finally talked to my friend, she inquired first about my relationships. I felt instant shame and embarrassment— and so violated by Mom. Why didn’t she let me tell my friend about my life and the problems I’ve had so I could explain what really happened and why?”
• Marion’s mother violates her actual physical space by using a key to her house and slipping in every once in a while to check up on Marion’s housekeeping. She then leaves nasty notes. The last one said, “Did I really raise you to be such a slob? There could be bugs in that refrigerator! Should we use that mold to make some penicillin?”
• Ruth’s mother has no boundaries when it comes to Ruth’s boyfriends. “Mother hugs, kisses, and even sleeps with them if I break up with them. Once she was at my birthday party and started making out with my ex-boyfriend in front of all my friends. And she was still married! When I confronted her, she said, ‘Well, he asked me to go home with him and I said no.’ I told her, ‘Thanks, Mom, for that consideration!’ ”
• In Nicole Stansbury’s compelling novel, Places to Look for a Mother, she describes the lack of privacy when the mother, oblivious to the daughter’s needs, feels she can walk into the bathroom even while the daughter is using it. The daughter says, “You always walk in the bathroom. We can never have locks. You never knock.” The mother replies with, “No wonder I’m on pins and needles all day, no wonder my nerves are shot. I can’t do anything, can’t make a single move without being accused. I don’t know what you are afraid of my seeing, what the big secret is. You don’t even have pubic hair yet.” Not only does this mother fail to respect her daughter’s boundaries and privacy, she blames her disrespectful behavior on her daughter.
"In order to become a healthy, mature, independent woman, a daughter needs to feel she has a separate sense of self, apart from her mother. Narcissistic mothers don’t comprehend this. Their own immaturity and unmet needs obstruct their daughters’ healthy individuation, which stunts emotional development."
While this is a very long post, it holds information that some women will need in order to understand how they became the woman they are.
I see the relationship I have with my mother in the above words. I see the dance we had. I am not here to place blame; but to hold understanding. I also see me and my earlier mother faults.
This is the key to me and my warped ways.
I wasn't born this way.
I was raised this way.
I am eager to hear about the recovery from maternal narcissism.
This book is pivotal in a deeper understanding of me!