There are many consequences of being raised by a narcissistic mother.
Of them, self esteem is one of the most damaging and pervasive for a child of a narcissistic parent.
Low self esteem instilled in childhood tends to be carried into adulthood and dictate what one does for themselves in life, and it can be a source of self sabotage. If you struggle with self esteem issues and deal with social anxiety, lack of self confidence and other effects of low self esteem, the first step is to realize it isn’t your fault.
A narcissistic parent who encourages you to have low self esteem had a great deal of influence as you on a child lacking the development of critical skills; but as an adult, you can reflect on what happened.
In this process you get to see that certain weaknesses or challenges you have in life aren’t innate in you, but were instilled. This means you have unforeseen potential and can rewrite the scripts in your life.
If you had a narcissistic mother, the following might help you identify the specific causes of your low self esteem or patterns of low sense of self worth.
A narcissistic mother marginalizes your positives and made everything about you a negative.
Marginalizing your accomplishments or strengths, while highlighting every slightest weakness is a classic trait of jealous, covert narcissistic mothers.
They feel threatened by their children’s success or potential success, because it triggers their own low self esteem.
Rather than deal with their jealousy, they put their kids down and convince them of flaws most parents wouldn’t focus on, or in many cases even think of. Narcissistic mothers marginalize any successes, such as by suggesting how small the achievement is or by comparing you to someone who’s achieved more.
Other examples of marginalization are unreasonable and repetitive criticism of you, unfavorable comparisons to other people, attacks on your optimistic statements and invalidation of your accomplishments or capabilities.
The aim of this is to lower their children’s self esteem and confidence, inspiring insecurity and low sense of self worth.
This way, the child learns to avoid punishment and strive to be loved by sabotaging and marginalizing their own success. Even when presented with opportunities, these children will struggle to do take them due to disbelief in themselves.
With your mother, your desires don’t matter
Does your mother always have an agenda whenever she interacts with you?
Children with narcissistic mothers sometimes feel like they’re a task list or a chore list when they think of their mother. They’re taught to feel like their only value comes from what they get done that day.
Narcissistic mothers tend to set ridiculously high expectations for their children, who take them very seriously and aim to meet their mother’s expectations in exchange for their acceptance or in hopes their nagging or micromanaging will ease up if they do. (It doesn’t.)
She takes sole ownership of your accomplishments & paints a false public image of you
Are the “you” who you really are and the “you” your mother presents to the rest of the world (her friends, extended family and so on) two quite different people?
Does she twist or embellish the truth about your accomplishments? Does she lie and make stuff up about you to impress her friends? These are narcissistic traits that can be very damaging to a child’s self esteem.
It sends the child the message that the real version of them isn’t adequate or worthy of showing other people.
This is what gives many adults the internal critic that whispers, “I’m not good enough.” If the narcissistic mother also lectures her child about how they must act in public or in front of others, this message gets compounded.
Your mother lacks empathy or sympathy for you
Talking about my feelings with my mother was a foreign concept for me. My feelings were constantly manipulated, but it wasn’t acceptable for me to share feelings; or if they were, it was expected I would be lectured for why those feelings aren’t the right ones to have.
One time when I told my mother I thought I was depressed, she told me I didn’t get to be depressed because she and my father had given me everything I needed for a great life.
My father was even less emotionally available, if you can imagine.
However, my parents consistently made it clear to me and my sister that their feelings mattered very much. Their feelings, however fickle, had a place in my nervous system; and I was compelled to action whenever they were angered or frustrated with me. Meanwhile, I was punished or shut down for even complaining about them being unreasonable in any way.
When parents don’t listen to our feelings when we’re children, we learn that our feelings don’t matter. We’re less likely to listen to how we feel or pay attention to our feelings as adults, until they fully surface as depression, anxiety or likewise. If we had no model of sympathy or being cared for when we were sad, we may have dissociation and other difficulties in dealing with our own heavy emotions.
Though it’s not our fault, we may take the blame of our depression or other emotional cloud as being our own inherent fault — a catch-22 of low self esteem.
Your mother consistently insults you or projects her own bad traits or behavior onto you
Do interactions with your mother often make you feel inadequate, incapable, stupid, mocked or offended?
Does your mother accuse you of things, exaggerate your failures or constantly reprimand you for your performance in something or for your general behavior? These mothers create children with social anxiety, low self esteem and high levels of self doubt.
They’re so used to being questioned, second-guessed and called out for when they haven’t done anything wrong, that they tend to hesitate and sabotage themselves frequently or naturally unless they pick up on it. Adult children of narcissistic mothers who constant criticized and insulted them as children tend to have critical voices in their own heads. They can identify with the concept of internalizing the abuser: a common effect of narcissistic abuse.
The consistent insults in childhood tend to subconsciously implant in them the idea that there must be something inherently wrong with them. Narcissistic mothers tend to project and blame their own shortcomings and problems on their children, which amplifies this feeling and further lessens their chance of developing a foundation for healthy self esteem.
All these and more add up to low self esteem, as well as undervaluing yourself in relationships and in the workplace.
Low self esteem can often lead to social anxiety and social withdrawal, as well as a perpetual negative self image that sabotages you. People with low self esteem generally have difficulty accepting compliments, and they can be incredibly unfair and hard on themselves.
The good news about self esteem is that as an adult only YOU can dictate your self esteem. Change the thoughts you think about yourself. Reject the negative ones and observe how they came from outside you; this breaks their spell over you.
If you’d like help with recovering your self esteem, with healing from other effects of narcissistic abuse, such as weak personal boundaries, people pleasing, codependent relationships, complex-PTSD, social anxiety, self sabotage and more, check out my online course, Narcissistic Abuse Recovery.