How to survive a toxic or narcissistic mother and keep your sanity

Updated: a day ago

I have deep compassion and sympathy for anyone who has been raised by and is dealing with a toxic parent, a toxic or narcissistic mother is a destroyer of self confidence and self esteem, like an emotional vampire she drains the life force out of you, being denied the basic acceptance, harmony and stable foundations that others enjoy can be an incredibly isolating feeling, and in the absence of awareness it can have an impact on every subsequent relationship in your life, as well as cause severe anxiety or even prolonged depression and feelings of hopelessness.

Therefore it is helpful to identify and understand the traits of a toxic parent, to find coping methods as well as to start rebuilding our confidence so that we can move forward without being weighed down, refusing to allow our experiences to become a disadvantage to us as we move through life.


Although toxic relationships can pop up in many areas of life, grandparents, aunts or uncles, partners, in-laws or siblings, we are going to focus on toxic Mothers today.


To some, the traits of a toxic mother may sound far fetched or unbelievable, we have been taught to believe that you "respect your Father and Mother" but respect is earnt and it can be destroyed. Unless you have encountered this personally you probably can't even begin to understand the insane levels of emotional and mental abuse that some people endure at the hands of the the very people who are supposed to be biologically hard wired to love and protect them.


It would be impossible to cover every trait of a toxic mother but here are some common ones that you might relate to:


-She is egotistical to the extreme, outward appearances and a wider reputation matters much more to her than the personal feelings of those around her, she may display this with overt materialism or exaggerated self aggrandising behaviours, she lacks empathy towards you and others, you may hear her saying cruel and bitter things about people she knows often, but to their faces she is charming and has perfected an act of care and concern, which seems to have people fooled. You may notice her sucking up to others and being ultra friendly even though you know she has said terrible things about and has secretly schemed against them in ways that they would horrify them if they knew.


-One of the greatest indicators of a toxic mother is the way you feel around her, you may experience anxiety, frustration, fear and distress. Energy never lies, even during times where she is trying to be pleasant or you have succeeded in keeping the peace, you feel uneasy, angst ridden and unsettled to the core.


-You come to realise she has no sense of human empathy and feels no sincere compassion for the traumas or difficulties other people face in life, yet she constantly feels sorry for herself and expects everyone else to.


-She is controlling and wants everything her way even if you feel that a path she is pushing on to you doesn't feel right for you, this could be a career path that she pushes you towards despite your protests or it may be that you are happy in your relationship but she repeatedly pokes holes in it and make you feel ashamed in your choice of partner or she might push you towards a man that you are not interested in because outwardly he satisfies the criteria that qualifies for her approval, even if you have no interest in the person. Basically you are expected to "fall in line" with whatever schemes she cooks up for you. She might even be controlling over petty small things like what you wear or read. She may measure success only in terms of financial wealth and status and happily push you in to life choices that make you miserable just because they are outwardly impressive. This is where "mother knows best" becomes toxic, she cares nothing about your own dreams, values or goals, she simply wants to live through you, and brag about how exceptional her children are to make herself feel more important.


- She is like Jekyll and Hyde she has mastered false charm and a polished outward appearance, your friends may even remark on how nice she is and how lucky you are to have a mother like her, but inwardly you are uncomfortable to know a completely different side to her personality.


-She has a total lack of self awareness, no matter how calmly or carefully you explain your perspective when she has hurt you, she is unable to see anyone else's point of view but her own trying to get any sort of acknowledgment for the harm she has caused quickly devolves into a power struggle where she "strives to win" at any cost, without ever considering your needs, emotions or struggles.


-Furthermore, she gaslights you and plays the victim, if you ever do find the courage to express how you feel she flips it onto you as a reflex playing the victim with statements like "you think I am a terrible Mother it hurts me so deeply!" there is no chance of being heard or understood and instead you spend the time feeling guilted and trying to handle her drama, or she gaslights you, and accuses you of the very thing she has done to hurt you ie: after weeks of neglect, unkindness or stone walling she complains that you are no longer close and she doesn't feel wanted.


-She is self involved to the highest degree and see's herself as the worlds most important character, she talks about herself excessively, complains about her ailments, relationship difficulties and dramas, she is always a victim yet if you are honest with yourself she is never really interested in your news or worries, she experiences absolutely no concern for others (unless she is using it to seek attention), if you are having a genuine problem she tells you to get over it and stop complaining, or she refuses to even listen.

-Passive aggression is a lifestyle, she may suddenly stone wall you for long periods without explanation, you search your mind for anything you could have done wrong but draw a blank, you then notice others close to her beginning to stone wall you too. If you ask her directly she provides no answers although it is clear she is angry or blaming you for something. She will fester bitterly on any perceived slight even if she has given you absolutely no chance to address the problem, she is the epitome of passive aggression.


-She never let's you build any sort of confidence in yourself, when you are excited about a new opportunity or experience she instils fear in your mind that you may fail or get hurt, she understates your talents and intelligence so that your confidence in yourself becomes tied to her approval, or lack there of, as a result you constantly second guess yourself and have little belief in your abilities. Even well into adulthood you may still be afraid to take risks or reach for greater success as her voice still echo's in your mind.


- Some toxic mothers actually live through their child's accomplishments, for example my mother pushed me into modelling and beauty pageant's at a young age even though I was a sensitive and creative child who didn't enjoy the spotlight or the superficiality, I was more interested in humanitarian careers that enabled me to help others improve their lives. I stuck with modelling for a while, having my exercise regime and diet controlled until I was severely underweight and weak and yet claiming all the glory and money earnt from my work for herself, when I finally broke away and became a community development worker she could not be proud of me, not even when I became a company director at the age of 23.


- She has no boundaries and zero respect for your privacy, as a child she may have gone looking through your room or she might have read your journal, she may have thrown your beloved possessions away on a whim, she has no respect for your marital home either and turns up unannounced regularly even if you have asked her to check in by text first, she may peer through your windows or walk straight into your house, she may even open your private mail, she may not respect your privacy even on basic levels like not allowing you time alone in the bathroom or changing room without her walking in, or she pries into private areas of your life leaving you feeling mortified and violated, if you make a big deal about it she once again resorts to a victim mentality and gaslighting or she makes you feel childish for wanting her to respect your privacy.


-Subtle put downs are normal and frequent, often when you are least expecting them, they may also be sneaky, like something she knows only you will pick up on so she can then accuse you of being overly sensitive and emotional if you react. You may also notice she does this to vulnerable family members such as the frail, sick or elderly, making unkind comments to them about them aging or starting to lose their memory, which is truly disturbing.


-She expects people to make huge sacrifices or adjustments for her personal comfort but makes a huge fiasco out of being asked to make even the smallest of compromises or favours for others.


-She pits her children off against each other, usually toxic mothers choose a favourite child (generally the most eager to please or get along at all costs), then their accomplishments are over blown and their failures hidden or denied, while your accomplishments are ignored and your failures are brought up often, even if you are proud of your sibling and love them dearly, you are made to feel awkward by the constant comparison and by being made to feel less than them. Some toxic mothers will even pit you off against the other parent, blaming them for problems she caused, trash talking them in front of you or trying to turn you against the other parent out of some bizarre display of loyalty to her.


-Her love is conditional, this is so dangerous, her love is only given when you are following her map for your life or even if you are she might still criticise you regularly, if you succeed she barely acknowledges it, she may even talk over you about someone else she considers to be better than you in moments where you feel proud, ruining your positive feelings and growing

self esteem in one move. This might also extend to your own children, again she chooses favourites and plays her grandchildren off against each other, spoiling one while she neglects the other, children pick up on so much and they risk growing up with damaged self esteem and undervalue themselves as well, questioning why they were not worthy.


-Her kindness is always conditional, she never does anything out of love, even if she does offer to do something sweet for you, you very quickly come to discover that there are big strings attached and you have now been cornered into doing something you didn't want to do, if you resist, the act of kindness is thrown in your face.