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Challenges of Having a Covert Narcissist Mother

Recognizing that your own mother may have narcissistic traits can be very difficult and confusing. In this article, we aim to provide insight and support for anyone trying to understand and cope with a covert narcissistic mother.

We explain some of the complex characteristics that can define covert narcissism, especially in maternal relationships. Our goal is to help you identify harmful behaviors while having empathy for the deep wounds that may be the root cause of your narcissistic mother’s harmful actions.

Equally important, we share strategies and resources focused on your healing and growth. We walk through steps to set boundaries, find support, practice self-care, and rebuild your self-worth.

What is a Covert Narcissist Mother?

A covert narcissist mother can be characterized by a subtle form of narcissistic behavior that is not as overt or blatant as the more commonly recognized form of narcissism.

Identifying a covert narcissist’s traits can be tricky due to their subtlety. However, the emotional impact on others is very real.

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Common Traits of a Covert Narcissist Mother

Here are some key traits and behaviors often associated with a covert narcissist mother:

Subtle Manipulation

Unlike overt narcissists who are openly self-centered and demanding, covert narcissist mothers may use more subtle methods of manipulation.

This might include guilt-tripping, passive-aggressive behavior, or playing the victim to garner sympathy and control over others.

Sensitivity to Criticism

They are often extremely sensitive to criticism, even if it’s constructive or mild.

This sensitivity can manifest as defensiveness, denial, or turning the critique back onto the person who raised it.

Seeking Sympathy and Validation

A covert narcissist mother often seeks constant validation and sympathy from others.

She may present herself as misunderstood, underappreciated, or a martyr to gain attention and reassurance.

Emotional Withdrawal

They might use emotional withdrawal as a tool of manipulation. By withholding love or affection, they control and punish family members, often in subtle ways that can be difficult to recognize.

Envy and Competition

Covert narcissists can be envious of others, including their own children.

They may feel threatened by their child’s success or positive qualities and can engage in competitive behavior to maintain a sense of superiority.

Lack of Empathy

While they may not be as overtly dismissive of others’ feelings as an overt narcissist, covert narcissist mothers also struggle with empathy.

They may be more focused on their own experiences and feelings, with little genuine concern for others.

Insecurity and Low Self-Esteem

Covert narcissists often harbor deep-seated insecurities and low self-esteem, which they mask with their narcissistic behaviors.

This is in contrast to the overt narcissist, who typically displays overt confidence and self-assuredness.

Neglecting the Needs of Others

They may neglect the emotional or even physical needs of their children, focusing primarily on their own needs and desires.

Understanding Covert Narcissist Mothers

Unlike overt narcissists, covert narcissist mothers may not be obvious in their actions. Despite an exterior of warmth, they may use subtle manipulation that leaves children confused.

A key trait of narcissistic personality disorder is difficulty displaying genuine empathy. This can lead to pressure on children to meet their covert narcissistic mother’s needs, risking their own mental health.

Covert narcissist mothers often have a “golden child” who receives the most affection, causing an imbalance in family dynamics. This is also known as narcissistic triangulation.

Gaslighting and twisting truth to create self-doubt are also common tactics.

Contrasting Overt and Covert Narcissistic Behaviors

While differing in expression, overt and covert narcissism both stem from similar emotional wounds.

Overt narcissists may be confrontational, while covert narcissists use manipulation and guilt.

The Impact of a Covert Narcissist Mother on a Child’s Development

The effect of covert narcissistic mothers on a child’s development is complex. The subtle control and manipulations by these mothers can profoundly shape a child’s psyche.

Though appearing outwardly “nice”, their true narcissistic self is often obscured from public view.

This can be incredibly confusing to children of narcissistic mothers because they might doubt their own negative experiences contrasted with their covert narcissistic mother’s positive reputation and the facade she presents to strangers.

Related: Recognizing the Symptoms of Narcissistic Abuse PTSD and C-PTSD

Seeing Past the Facade of the Covert Narcissist Mother

Covert narcissist parents may overtly favor the “golden child” while neglecting children who don’t meet their expectations.

They may not seem outright abusive because they keep their narcissism private, only to unleash psychological control at home.

Understanding how a covert narcissist mother’s behaviors shape her children is key to helping them heal and build healthy relationships.

How Narcissist Mothers Use Emotional Manipulation

Narcissistic mothers are highly skilled at emotional manipulation. They twist emotions to suit their needs, dismissing children’s individuality. Such mental abuse typifies narcissistic personality disorders.

For example, covert narcissists may gaslight children, claiming they misunderstood events. This confusion destroys their sense of reality. Such emotional exploitation is incredibly damaging, undermining children’s ability to trust themselves.

Covert narcissists also weaponize guilt, playing the victim if children assert themselves. This makes children feel responsible for their mother’s happiness, forcing self-sacrifice to please her.

This also makes it less likely for children to establish boundaries in other areas of their lives, which can get them into dangerous situations.

The Toll on a Child’s Self-Esteem

Narcissistic parenting can severely damage self-esteem. Constant exposure to a self-obsessed, insecure, covert narcissist parent causes children to internalize doubt.

With constant criticism, invalidation, and little real affection, children develop poor self-worth and a distorted self-image.

Children of covert narcissists often feel invisible, as their emotions go ignored. This breeds an inability to trust their feelings, leading to mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or abusive relationships in adulthood.

It’s important to know the child is not to blame for their emotional wounds. All forms of childhood abuse, from overt to covert narcissists, are unacceptable. No child deserves to endure such suffering.

How to Cope With a Covert Narcissist Mother

Unlike overt narcissists, covert narcissist mothers hide their traits behind a nice facade. Coping requires recognition, boundaries, professional help, and self-care.

Covert narcissist mothers often burden children with their emotional needs. Being the golden child of such a mother brings psychological pressure, not privilege.

The covert narcissist mother’s vastly different private and public images can damage children as much or more than overt abuse.

Recognition and Setting Boundaries

Understanding the signs of your mother’s narcissistic personality disorder is the first step to protecting yourself, through recognizing narcissistic traits and covert abuse tactics.

A great place to start is by educating yourself through online communities like Breaking The Cycle of Abuse and by reading books about narcissism.

Bringing awareness to covert narcissistic personality disorder promotes mental health, relationships, and recovery from abuse.

Seeking Help

Therapies like CBT and EDMR for narcissistic abuse can help manage the effects of narcissistic parenting. Support groups provide connections with others who understand your experience. You are not alone.

Professional mental health support, whether individual or in a group, provides tools to understand and cope in a healthy way.


Make time for activities that nourish you emotionally – hobbies, exercise, socializing with supportive friends.

Learning about narcissistic personality disorder can help you understand your mother’s behaviors are not your fault. Be gentle with yourself.

Related: Healthy Coping Strategies for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors

Supporting Those Impacted by Narcissistic Mothers

Having a narcissistic mother can be very difficult. Their need for control and their lack of empathy can deeply affect a child’s sense of self and emotional well-being. However, recovery is possible.

There are many resources and supportive communities available for those working to heal from narcissistic parental relationships.

Steps Towards Healing from Covert Narcissistic Abuse

Growing up with a narcissistic mother affects self-perception and relationships. Here are some steps you can take to begin to heal from covert narcissistic abuse.

Related: Understanding the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle: A Comprehensive Guide

Recognition and Reflection

Recognizing unhealthy patterns is the first step in healing. Do not blame yourself – your mother’s disorder does not reflect your worth. Seek support from mental health professionals and others who understand narcissism’s impacts. Your feelings are valid.

Reflect on your own behaviors and start making changes. Build independence and self-worth.

Building Healthy Relationships

Establish relationships characterized by mutual care and respect. They can help you reset expectations. You deserve to feel heard and valued.

Sharing Your Experience

Consider opening up about your experiences when you feel comfortable. It can help others going through similar situations feel less alone. Healing is a journey, but you don’t have to walk it alone.

You can share your story anonymously at Breaking The Cycle of Abuse, a community for folks who are breaking the cycles of abuse in their families.

Conclusion: How to Move Forward from Your Covert Narcissist Mother

It’s understandable to feel hurt after being in a relationship with someone with narcissistic traits, especially someone as close to you as your mother. Healing takes time, and it’s important to be gentle with yourself throughout the process.

Consider seeking professional support to process the emotional impact. There are many compassionate therapists who can help.

Building a support system of trusted friends and engaging in self-care can also help the healing journey. When you’re ready, know that healthy and loving relationships are possible. For now, focus on rebuilding your sense of self-worth and recognizing your inherent value.

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Continue educating yourself through books and online resources like Breaking The Cycle of Abuse. Understanding narcissistic personality disorder can bring clarity and validation.

Books like “Covert Narcissist Mother: An Adult Daughter’s Guide” by Ella Lansville are great to help your healing journey. Knowledge and compassion for yourself and others will help transform hurt into wisdom.

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