Growing up with an overly controlling, self-absorbed narcissistic mother can be a pretty soul-destroying experience for a child. As you grow into your adult years you know that you need to set boundaries in the hopes that she’ll stop trying to control who you are and how she expects you to be living your life.
Standing up to a narcissistic mother is no easy feat. You’ll most likely be met with resistance, manipulation and blame (“how dare you treat your mother this way, after everything I’ve done for you!”), just to name a few tactics.
However, to be able to move forward into a whole and fulfilling life, without the constant energetic pull of your narcissistic mother, there are a few essentials things you need to do.
Standing up to a Narcissistic Mother:
- Set boundaries
- Detach from her and the storyline
- Practice ‘Grey Rock’
- Pre-plan responses
- Understand that she won’t change
- Focus on healing yourself
Firstly, it’s imperative to set your own firm boundaries based around what you will and won’t accept from others, no matter who they may be. And most importantly, you need to prioritise self-love and healing your wounds and traumas. Only then can you truly be free of the torment of narcissistic abuse and be able to live the life you really do deserve.
Here we’ll be looking at how standing up to a narcissistic mother the right way will bring you relief and freedom.
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Signs of a Narcissistic Mother
The most clear-cut sign of a narcissistic mother is her complete and utter self-absorption.
Children of narc mothers will be raised knowing that their mother always must come first. In fact it becomes the family expectation to make sure the mother is ‘happy’ and comfortable, so that the rest of the household is able to relax and go about their business in peace… for a time.
My narcissist mother made it abundantly clear that she was the one who did everything for everyone else, she was the overworked one, she deserved to rest, relax and take a holiday.
The sentences that come out of her mouth are constantly filled with, “I” and “me.”
It’s true, your narc mother may be very involved with your school, sporting club, friends, birthdays and everything else. But her reasons for being overly-involved are completely self-serving, even though she sells herself as being a self-sacrificing martyr.
You see, the narcissistic mother needs to control everything. Being right in there amongst all the different aspects of your life, grants her the opportunity to push the chess pieces around as she pleases. It means that she always knows all the information and will never be left out of the loop. It can be entirely suffocating.
Interestingly, narcissistic mothers can go the other way and be totally absent from your life because quite frankly, they’re just not interested. They’ve got their own life going on, which is far more important to them.
They may just waltz on in every so often to get attention and grandma cuddles (if there are grandkids around), offload all of their own happenings and dramas, then disappear again for months on end.
They still expect to be treated as the all-important matriarch. After all, they’re entitled to the special treatment that comes with the ‘mother’ role, even if they’ve done nothing to have earned it!
Not every narcissistic mother is a glamour queen, holding onto their youthful looks, although that can definitely describe the grandiose narc mother. If your mum is a covert narcissist, she will be more sullen, quiet and much less confident.
If you’re still not sure on whether or not you’re dealing with a narcissistic mother, here are some very common traits that you might recognise.
Signs of a Narcissistic Mother:
- Has an air of superiority and arrogance
- Manipulates and takes advantage of others
- Doesn’t respect your boundaries (in fact, you’re not even allowed to have boundaries)
- Lack of empathy and sincerity
- She’ll compete with you (particularly with her daughters)
- Inflated need for admiration
- Entitled (feels she can have, say and do whatever she likes, just for being her)
- Exaggerates talents, skills and achievements
- She’s always the victim, who everyone must pander to
- Gaslights you to manipulate your perception and twist things around to her view
- Acts nice in public, but is awful at home
- Avoids accountability and is never wrong (she’ll never apologise for things she’s done)
Standing up to a Narcissistic Mother
By now if you’re still reading, you’ve probably recognised that you’re dealing with a narc mother. So, what can you do about it? Is standing up to a narcissistic mother even a good idea?
Due to the nature of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), I do not recommend calling your mother out and telling her she’s a narcissist.
Given that she genuinely believes she’s special and above all others, she will take that as a personal attack. Even if you sat her down and tried to talk to her in a loving way, you will only find yourself being manipulated, accused and gaslit. In fact, she’ll probably even turn around and say that you’re the narcissist.
From there, she may even proceed to smearing your name throughout the family. Why? Because she needs to control the storyline and cannot have you talking to anyone else before she’s gotten in first with her version of events.
So, when it comes to standing up to a narcissistic mother, what is the best way to protect yourself, while causing the least amount of collateral damage as possible?
Here are some tactics, which will help you to reclaim (or claim for the first time) your life, and take your own power back from your narcissistic mother.
First off, you need to work out what your dealbreakers are when it comes to how your mother (and others) treat you. What types of behaviours will you no longer accept in your life, no matter who they are coming from?
Here are some examples:
- Belittling, invalidations and put downs
- Being controlled and told what to do as an adult
- Being shamed
- Confusing conversations where you feel manipulated
As someone who was never even allowed to have boundaries, I know that setting them and having the confidence to hold them can be a confronting task. Plus, you know your mum isn’t going to like them or even accept them without hard push back.
Go easy on yourself as you’re learning how to communicate what you won’t stand for anymore from your mother. Remember that following through on your word is extremely important, otherwise your mother will continue to think she can treat you however she likes, despite you having stated your needs.
Phrases such as, “if you keep putting me down Mum, we’re going to have to have this conversation another time,” work well. And if she continues to invalidate you, hang up the phone or walk out and hold true to your word.
Be prepared for her to throw accusations at you, try to make you feel guilty for ‘treating her that way,’ play the victim and many of her other games.
You’ve got this. You know your truth, no matter what manipulations she pulls out of the hat.
Detachment is way easier said than done, I know! However it’s imperative for your mental health now to start practicing detachment, not just when you’re around your narcissistic mother, but even in how you think of her.
Narcissists are masterful at pulling those around them into their world, sticking an energetic hook into them, then inflicting massive guilt when those people try to pull away.
Your narcissistic mother does not genuinely and unconditionally love and care for you. In fact, it’s the opposite way around. While she expects unwavering loyalty from you, the thought doesn’t even enter her mind to reciprocate it with you.
It’s not your responsibility to fix her or make her happy. She’s a grown woman and that responsibility is hers alone.
We all know that she isn’t going to take responsibility for those things herself, but that’s not your problem to solve.
Over time, as your mother realises that you’re not available for her as much (if at all), then she will have no choice but to shift her focus elsewhere.
Detachment in itself is a huge unspoken boundary. You are energetically pulling away, saying ‘no’ and no longer being accessible as her narcissistic supply.
It’s important to recognise that the way your mother behaves actually has nothing to do with you. It’s her own mental disorder’s way of convoluting her reality and outwardly projecting her own unmet wounds.
Once you can practice stepping back and not taking on the things that she says and does, you will no longer be handing your power over to her.
A highly effective way to show detachment and to help your mother lose interest is to ‘grey rock.’ This is where you literally act as boring and uninteresting as a grey rock.
Think about how forgettable a plain old grey rock is. Now I want you to channel that energy and be the rock!
I’ve been using this one on my Mum for as long as I can remember. Even as a teenager, before I knew anything about narcissism, I became extremely aloof and detached as a learnt self-protection method.
Don’t ask any questions or engage with their stories, don’t offer up any information about your life. If she asks questions, keep it as surface level and non-committal as possible.
She really only wants to be talking about herself anyway, unless there’s gossip involved, so it’s extremely quick and easy for her to flip the conversation away from you and back onto herself with the click of a finger.
Having a set of canned exit responses is a good way to keep yourself on track and not get caught up in your narcissistic mother’s dramas or storylines.
If you feel as though she’s not treating you with respect or that one of your boundaries is being crossed, being able to tap out without a fuss is the best way to go.
Examples of planned responses:
“It’s time for me to go now.”
“I’ve got an appointment to get to, so I’ll see you next time.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way.”
“We can agree to disagree.”
“We can both have our own opinions.”
“I can’t control how you feel about me.”
“I’m not going to engage while you’re speaking to me that way.”
Even with your very calm response, you may still be met with anger, passive aggressiveness, gaslighting, manipulation and ‘poor me’ tactics, which is when you need to actually hang up the phone or walk away.
Do not be available for her to continue on with the conversation, because if history has taught me anything, it’s that a narcissist will not stop until they’ve ‘won.’
Understand that she will not change
I think one of the most important things to realise when standing up to a narcissistic mother is in the understanding that she will not change.
When I came into the full awareness, in my 30’s, that my mother is a narcissist, it changed everything for me.
Finally, I had the information that was always absent from my life, which had in turn created so much anger, sadness and confusion about my mum.
Finally I could understand why she was the way she was. At last I knew why I’d look around at all of my friends loving mothers, then I’d look at mine with such sadness in my heart, wondering why she wasn’t able to be that for me.
After researching and learning so much about narcissism, I was finally able to let go and stop searching for something that was never able to be.
I stopped energetically seeking out her approval, because now I knew that it could never exist. I pulled my energy back from her and grieved the fact that I would never have the mother that I truly needed and wanted.
I finally accepted that it wasn’t my job to change her, heal her or fix her.
Once I worked through my own realisations, grief and some of the trauma around my narcissistic mother, I noticed something very interesting. She actually stopped ringing me just to dump on. She stopped energetically trying to pull me in and she stopped trying to control me.
My own awareness and surrendering to the truth had effectively severed an energetic cord, which disabled her without me even having to say a word.
This acceptance is such an important step for your own wellbeing. Although you may feel as though you’ll be punished for abandoning her or that you’re ‘okaying’ her behaviour by her not accepting any accountability, you’re doing this for you, not her. By walking away in full acknowledgment of the truth, you’re actually setting yourself free.
Focus on your own healing
Now that you’re up to speed on the reality behind narcissistic mothers, it’s time to shift the focus onto yourself.
While researching the topic is very important in identifying and recognising patterns and behaviours, it’s not actually the key to your healing and freedom.
In fact, spending all of your spare time researching and ruminating over what’s been said and done only keeps you stuck in the trauma and victim mentality.
My heart goes out to you, because I absolutely know just how life altering it is to have a narcissistic mother. You’re probably no doubt filled with shame, unworthiness, deep inner wounds and have probably experienced other toxic relationships as a result.
I personally went from two decades with a narcissistic mother and an enabling father, on to another two decades with a narcissistic husband before I was able to extract myself from the toxic cycle. It’s devastating!
The door to your freedom now lies in healing each and every trauma within you and releasing them out of your body. It may sound counterintuitive, but I can honestly say it’s the only thing that has worked for me and set me free of narcissistic people and ongoing complex PTSD.
Spiritual healing with Selina Hill has been the best way that I’ve found to access healing at home, in my own time. She offers meditations, readings and healings, which all serve to shift the trauma from your body once and for all (see below).
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If you’ve tried everything to heal from narcissistic abuse, but just cannot seem to shift things, it’s probably time to call in the big guys.
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I hope this has helped you realise that standing up to a narcissistic mother is best done through your own healing journey, rather than having an all out argument. That would only feed into her ego, as she needs and loves drama, which provides her with the much sought-after narcissistic supply.