The rivalry that needs to be named.

Mayo Clinic defines Narcissistic personality disorder: Narcissistic personality disorder — one of several types of personality disorders — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

A narcissistic personality disorder causes problems in many areas of life, such as relationships, work, school or financial affairs. People with narcissistic personality disorder may be generally unhappy and disappointed when they’re not given the special favors or admiration they believe they deserve. They may find their relationships unfulfilling, and others may not enjoy being around them

I have been lucky to see mother-daughter relationships that are empowering and good. Where the mutual love and respect flows and where the relationship with the father is also healthy and wonderful. For all the other ways that relationships are in this world, they seem to share a lot of problems and dramas. 

Some people don’t survive psychologically the relationship with a narcissistic mother. In extreme cases these relationships lead to lasting damages for the daughters. The root in many case, isn’t the strength of the daughter it is the lack of capacity and skills to love properly by a mother. 

Linda Martinez-Lewi Ph.D. states: The narcissistic mother is psychologically fused with her daughter.  Her coldness and lack of empathy affect her child from the beginning.  These mothers experience their daughters, not as unique individuals, but as extensions of themselves. The narcissistic mother frequently causes powerful and damaging psychological rifts between her children. Narcissistic mothers pit one sibling against the other and use conspiratorial secrets (often lies) to further poison and destroy the relationships between her children.

While both sides contribute to the issues, it is not uncommon for mother to be narcissistic and egotistical and cold, aggressive or even completely jealous of their daughters.  It is important for daughters to do their own investigative work and to find out and explore their options. A narcissistic mother is a very big problem. 

While in a normal relationship this may sound completely strange (how can a mother be jealous of her own daughter) it makes a lot of sense when you consider it. 

Narcissistic mothers sabotage their daughters’ efforts to become separate productive individuals.  The narcissistic mother is envious of her daughter on every level.  This becomes particularly pointed as her child moves into adolescence.

Many people want to provide their children with opportunities that they have not been able to get themselves and project their personal ideals of their visions of life on the child, rather than see what natural latent talents these children have, some of these kids live their lives trying to emulate their parents erroneous views and dreams, never living their own.

Before continuing to the narcissistic personality type (which feels shame and guilt) I want to present this video to you by Dr. Durvasula who takes the three antisocial personalities and distinguishes the main differences between a narcissist, a psychopath and a sociopath. This will show how a narcissist is not a psychopath or a sociopath and where and what signs to watch out for in all our relationships.

With a narcissist, there is a room for improvement most of the time and ways to stop behaviours and develop new ones. Obviously therapy is a key. As long as there is a desire to improve and correct behaviour it means that there is a desire to create harmony and lasting peace. Not all mothers are joyful givers. They allow feelings of envy and discontent to linger instead of focusing on ways to improve their current situation and life in the development life stage there are in. 

Jealousy is a form of projection, when we see something and imagine what that thing/person.situation does for another person and when we sense a deep lack of that same feeling. Jealousy is a form of anger and includes a strong attachment. When we explore more deeply in meditation the issues of attachment and a version as well as anger we can see that the jealous person can have a myriad of problems underneath and that they need a professional help. You can view a video I recorded about jealousy and what it is. 

While compassion may be of benefit for a while, wisdom and expertise of a professional psychoanalyst or teacher will be of most benefit.

Read on for some signs that jealousy and anger are at the root of your mother-daughter issues:

  1. She acts bored when you share a big news

Since envy has many shades and is a difficult feeling, your mother may try to dial down her own by pretending disinterest whenever you share a good news. This may knock you down for a while, which is her hidden agenda. Jealous mother’s have a difficult time responding appropriately to their children’s accomplishments with genuine joy and celebration, so they just might try to steal yours. 

woman red jacket Florian van Duyn

2. She talks behind your back

If every you had to struggle through a jealousy in your teenage years, you know that we turn to friends for help, and your mom, is likely doing the same thing. It is unfortunate but true that when a mother feels envious or threatened by your success, popularity, beauty, accomplishments, wellness and may resort to putting you down. This can be very hurtful and confusing, especially if you aren’t quite sure of the cause of her jealously.

Psychotherapist Bernadette Ryan, of Relationships Ireland, agrees, and feels a mother can vent her anger and frustration to conceal jealousy in all sorts of ways.

“Dressing inappropriately, trying too hard to be your daughter’s friend, being overly critical or harsh, overly strict or indulgent and restricting freedom or giving too much are all signs. It can come out in comments about your daughter’s dress, friends, activities,” says Ryan.

3. She starts to dress inappropriately for her age

Take note if your mother has suddenly been showing up dressed with clothes that are not appropriate for her age, younger or more make up, jewelry that isn’t really her style. all these are signs of her insecurity. Mothers who are jealous of their daughters try to keep up in ways that aren’t reflective of their current age or developmental stage, by emulating either her daughters or another figure. When mothers want to wear daughter’s clothing, or spend time with daughter’s friends these are all signs of problems and pointers to involve professional help. Remember that this is all stemming from a place of pain and hurt within your mother. Her inability to embrace your joy and her inability to come to terms with her age and her cyclical feminine nature.

woman sitting at a table Tanja Heffner

4. She’s been known to overreact

Stress depression and anxiety when under normal circumstance women voice clearly and know how to offer each other support, where to take boundaries and how to cope. When people begin to yell unexpectedly, overreact, threaten with aggression and violence these are huge red flags to watch for that clearly state that your mother has problems to address in her life with her own anger and envy. These are some bigger signs of narcissistic behaviour that will require your mother to enter into a psychotherapy for help.

5. She is weird about your relationship with your father

While this may sound strange and it is relatively common for mothers to become envious of father/daughter relationships, she will get upset when you laugh it up with dad or have a good time without her. These are strong signs of narcissistic personality and problems she is dealing with herself. Your mother needs to work on developing better self-esteem. This becomes a big problem if the two parents have martial issues. In normal natural environment a mother would be embracing and happy for her daughter(s) to be in normal relationship and sharing with their father, when she cuts off and forbids one or both daughters from talking with the father, tries to control her husband, it is an alarming sign for professional help to intervene. 

6. She isn’t proud of your success

While the projection of a desire on you as a woman to be well may be a good thing once in a while, when you are exceeding what your mother has ever envisioned for herself it becomes a problem that she can not cope with. If you were never able to discover what your mother’s dreams were and what she aspired to be as a woman professionally and in her relationships it is tell-tell sign of secrecy and withholds that build and create a greater separation. If your mother can not handle when you are doing very well or have success and she wishes to bring you down for that or tries to tramp your work that is not cool at all. When a mother doesn’t feel popular or successful she may feel very challenged by a success and accomplishments of her daughter.

mother daughter 2

7. Your mother always finds a way to criticize 

Our mother only likes to criticize and bad mouth everyone she knows in her life. Constant criticism and bullying may be your mother’s way of taking out her own insecurities, these are all signs of jealousy and anger issues that have never been addressed. It is definitely not something to ever put up with. Referring your mother to a licensed psychoanalyst is a sure start of finding out why she is acting this way. 

8. If you mother doesn’t respect your boundaries

If you have found your mother snooping through your personal stuff, going into your room on your visits uninvited with or without pretence, looking over your shoulder to see what you are ding and reading and criticizing or using it for arguments or other motives, these are difficult signals of her inability to cope with separation and with you as a separate individual. Psychologists will often refer to people in this kind of relationship as “enmeshed” — unhealthily close, without a separate sense of self. As Gail Saltz, MD, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine told Real Simple, most enmeshed mothers act that way due to a fear of abandonment.

9. She thinks that you are responsible for her happiness.

The truth is that your happiness depends on you and you can not be responsible for anyone else happiness. happiness, Buddhism teaches comes from within and it can not rely on anything external. While parenting involves a certain amount of sacrifice no where is it right to make our daughters feel bad for the choices that we made. If you have this kind of a mother you probably spend a lot of time hearing how ‘selfish’ you are and how you need to change (see point 11)

10. She is never asking about your life

If your mother never asks about your life, she could be busy or a little bit self-absorbed, but is also means that she does not want to hear from you at all, due to her own jealously anger and unresolved self-esteem issues. We all have been there and we have experienced this unpleasant thing, it does not feel good and is a sign of her narcissistic tendencies. 

11. She constantly tells you you’re wrong

Sadly another way she may try to knock you down is to tell you constantly that what you are doing is wrong, incorrect or inappropriate. If your mother is constantly correcting you or showing you how to ‘properly’ do things, this is a sign of envy. In her way she is reminding herself that ‘she is the best’ which just goes back to her own problems with her self esteem. 

12. She picks fights in your family

If your mother feels threatened by your relationship with other family members, like your father, sister, grandmother, uncle and nephews and nieces, she may try to pick fights in order to break things up.  When the daughter are getting the attention that once was only for the mother and the mother does not know how to share the spotlight, it can bring out a lot of anger and insecurities and jealousy that unfortunately gets directed towards you. An envious mother will disagree with there daughter’s decisions and with decisions of other family members . It can lead to messy family conflicts and problems. 


13. Your mother always tries to steal the spotlight/dark-light

If your mother is narcissistic and jealous, you might catch her trying to ‘one-up-you’ whenever you share some kind of success, on the opposite side, if you have a problem she will also try to go and tell you that her problems are bigger and more important than yours. She will relentlessly pursue what you are doing and make sure that you are not a threat or eliminate you out of the game completely. These are very dark and threatening signs of narcissistic personality that has problems coping with day to day life and relationships. 

14. She will make you feel you are crazy

Any mother who has a NPD will claim she is confused, doesn’t understand you and generally deny what is going on. On any account to try to confront her about who she is or how things are she will turn and this the things in a way that will make you feel sorry for ever asking anything in a first place.

This is known as gaslighting, a disturbing technique that can destroy relationships. You will end up with a warped perception of reality, no confidence in your intuition, your memory, or powers of reasoning. This makes it much easier for a mother with NPD to continue with her abusive behaviour. She will wait for you to calm down, and may comment that you’re behaving in a neurotic or psychotic way. Then she’ll tell others about what happens, presenting the story as an expression of concern.


Is there help?

For you as a daughter there is plenty of support, creating healthy distance and proper support are necessary. Always remember that you are unique individual who has her own needs, you are not someone else’s agenda or an investment or someone else’s hope. Everyone is self accountable and we all co-create our relationships. You have to remember that no one can and will have a ‘handle on you’ if any relationships feels like this to you then it is based in narcissistic behaviour and you need be careful.

Wangmo Ph.D.

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