It wasn’t easy.
Dealing with a narcissist in your life is tough. But when that person happens to be your mother, things can get real bad, real fast.
I have a friend (and yes, it’s actually a friend and not me) who’s been dealing with her mother’s narcissistic ways her whole life. And unfortunately, it took her until she was halfway into her 20s to realize the real reason why her mom was so “crazy.”
If you aren’t quite sure what being a narcissist means, it’s when a person is excessively interested in themselves. In fact, the actual definition of a narcissistic personality disorder is: “Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others,” according to the Mayo Clinic. But behind this mask of ultraconfidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to even the slightest criticism.
It doesn’t mean this person stands in front of the mirror all day, complimenting themselves on their perfect skin and amazing hair — that’s simply self-involved behavior — It runs much deeper than that.
Rather, a narcissistic person will make every situation about them, blame other people for their problems and misfortunes instead of themselves, and are unable to have empathy for others. Intertwined with every one of their actions is usually some kind of underlying, self-serving benefit for themselves.
Having a narcissistic mother is particularly worrisome, as mothers are usually supposed to put their children first.
Once my friend found out the signs your mother is a narcissist (after talking to a therapist for years), she has realized how to handle her. Here are 4 memories she shared with me about times her mom really proved her narcissistic ways.
- “I remember telling my mom I didn’t like what she packed me for lunch for school. Her response was, ‘It doesn’t matter if you eat it; it just matters that the other parents know I make lunch for you.'”
- “My mom was always late, and it was my responsibility to make sure we got out the door in time for family and school events. When I was 11, I would wake her up for work when I was leaving to take myself to school.”
- The day I found out I graduated from college, I called my mom, who was a graduate student at the time, to tell her the good news. When I told her I graduated, she responded, ‘That’s great… I got an A on my paper today!'”
- “By the time I was 14, it was common for my friends’ parents to say to me, ‘It’s like you’re the mom and she’s the daughter.'”
Instead of making my friend her first priority, her mother put her own needs first.
Getting enough sleep was more important than getting her daughter to school on time. Talking about her own grad school paper was more important than celebrating her daughter’s accomplishments. And making lunch just so that the other parents “thought” she was a good mom (instead of finding out what her daughter actually enjoyed eating) showed her priorities and is one of the major signs her mother was a narcissist.
Kids are pretty resilient, and since my friend’s father wasn’t around much, she learned to be fiercely independent at a really young age. She also spent a lot of time being taken care of by her aunt, who taught her how a mother should act. Eventually, as she got older, she realized the difference between how a mom should treat their kids and the way her mom treated her. She knew things weren’t right but dealt with them because she was so used had to taking care of herself for so long.
Thankfully, my friend was really social and replaced what was missing from her mother with the support of friends and other family members. However, once she got older, and had to actually deal with her mother on a new level, she sought out professional therapy. Going through college, career changes, student debt, getting married, getting divorced, moving to different states, and everything else that comes with adult life: Her mother simply wasn’t there for her emotionally.
My friend didn’t have any guidance or a mother figure to talk things out with.
Instead, she had to deal with her own problems on top of the draining interactions with her mother. Her mom was so out of balance that she couldn’t keep a job, a boyfriend, or a handle on her life. So my friend dealt with not only her personal problems, but the problems of the one person who is supposed to be her rock: her mom.
Going to therapy helped her a lot and through her sessions, she learned to distance herself from her mother and focus more on herself and the people that she cares about.
So, if you think that someone close to you is narcissistic, you should evaluate the situation and decide if you are okay with keeping that person in your life.
Alex Alexander is a blogger for YourTango.
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