Covert Narcissist Mother Scapegoat Daughter
How Covert Narcissist Mother Scapegoats Her Daughter

Growing up in a family with a covert narcissist mother can be an emotionally tumultuous experience, especially if you find yourself cast in the role of the scapegoat daughter.

Scapegoating is a form of emotional abuse where one family member is unfairly targeted, blamed, and subjected to manipulation and criticism by another.

In this article, we’ll delve deep into the dynamics of being the scapegoat of a covert narcissistic mother, exploring the signs, the profound impact, and strategies for coping and healing.

Understanding these aspects is crucial for both scapegoat daughters seeking recovery and those aiming to support them on their journey. So, let’s begin by unraveling this particular enigma of covert narcissism.

First, Let’s Understand Covert Narcissism

Definition of Covert Narcissism

Covert narcissism, also known as vulnerable narcissism, is a subtype of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). While classic narcissists exhibit grandiosity and arrogance, covert narcissists mask their self-centeredness with an appearance of humility and self-sacrifice. They tend to be hypersensitive to criticism, have fragile self-esteem, and often play the victim.

Traits Associated with Covert Narcissism

Covert narcissists exhibit a range of behaviors and traits that can be challenging to detect, including:

  • Emotional Manipulation: They use guilt, pity, and sympathy to control others.
  • Victim Mentality: They frequently portray themselves as victims of circumstances.
  • Gaslighting: They distort facts, deny their actions, and manipulate others’ perceptions.
  • Emotional Distance: They struggle with emotional intimacy and are often emotionally distant.
  • Inferiority Complex: They harbor deep-seated feelings of inadequacy.
  • Dependency: They rely on others for validation and self-worth.

Now that we have a better understanding of covert narcissism, let’s explore the insidious tactic of scapegoating within narcissistic families.

Understanding Scapegoating

What is Scapegoating?

Scapegoating is a form of emotional abuse where one family member is unfairly singled out and blamed for problems within the family. In the context of a covert narcissistic mother, this dynamic involves her projecting her own insecurities and faults onto her daughter, making her the target of relentless criticism and manipulation.

Scapegoating In the Family Dynamic

Scapegoating often becomes deeply ingrained in the family dynamic. The covert narcissist mother uses her daughter as a convenient target to deflect accountability and maintain her self-image as the suffering, selfless parent. This harmful cycle perpetuates dysfunction within the family.

The Role of the Scapegoat within a Narcissistic Family

The scapegoat serves as a lightning rod for the covert narcissist mother’s negative emotions, allowing her to avoid confronting her own issues. Other family members may align with the mother or become enablers, inadvertently perpetuating the abuse. This role can have long-lasting and devastating effects on the scapegoat’s self-esteem and mental well-being.

Now that we’ve explored the dynamics of scapegoating, let’s delve into the heart of the matter – how a covert narcissistic mother scapegoats her daughter through various tactics.

15 Ways How a Covert Narcissistic Mother Can Scapegoat Her Daughter

Understanding the nuanced and often insidious nature of scapegoating by a covert narcissist mother requires a closer examination of the specific behaviors and tactics involved.

Here, we’ll delve into 15 ways how which a covert narcissistic mother can scapegoat her daughter, shedding light on the painful experiences the scapegoat endures within such a family dynamic:

#1. Constant Criticism

A covert narcissist mother excels in subjecting her daughter to relentless criticism, often in the form of subtle yet hurtful remarks. This constant barrage of negative feedback can encompass various aspects of the daughter’s life, from her appearance to her choices and even her aspirations.

Nothing ever seems good enough in the eyes of the mother. For example, a daughter may receive comments like, “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” or “You’re never going to amount to anything.”

#2. Comparison to Others

To further erode her daughter’s self-esteem and self-worth, the covert narcissist mother frequently resorts to the damaging tactic of comparison. She habitually compares her daughter unfavorably to others, whether it’s siblings, friends, or even strangers.

In doing so, she emphasizes the perceived shortcomings of her scapegoat, highlighting the achievements, qualities, or attributes of others while diminishing her daughter’s accomplishments. For instance, the mother might say, “Look at how well Sarah is doing in school. Why can’t you be more like her?”

#3. Emotional Neglect

Emotional neglect is a subtle yet insidious form of abuse. The covert narcissist mother may withhold affection, emotional support, and validation from her daughter. This emotional withholding can leave the daughter feeling unloved, unimportant, and undeserving of care and attention.

The mother’s emotional distance is palpable, creating an environment in which the daughter’s emotional needs go unmet, often leading to feelings of emptiness and abandonment.

#4. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a psychological tactic used by covert narcissists to manipulate and control their targets. In the context of a mother scapegoating her daughter, gaslighting takes the form of distorting facts, denying her own actions, and manipulating her daughter’s perception of events.

This calculated manipulation causes confusion, self-doubt, and a skewed sense of reality in the daughter’s mind. For instance, the mother may say, “I never said that; you must be imagining things” or “You’re too sensitive; I didn’t mean it that way.”

#5. Blame-Shifting

Covert narcissists rarely take responsibility for their own actions, and they are masters at shifting blame onto others, especially the scapegoat daughter. When problems or conflicts arise, the mother deflects accountability away from herself and redirects it towards her daughter.

This constant cycle of blame reinforces the daughter’s role as the family’s designated “problem.” For example, when confronted with her own mistakes or shortcomings, the mother might respond with, “It’s always your fault; you’re the one causing trouble in this family.”

#6. Creating Drama

Covert narcissist mothers often thrive on creating drama and chaos within the family, with the scapegoat at the center of the storm. By manufacturing conflicts, crises, or controversies, the mother diverts attention away from her own behavior and maintains a position of control.

She may intentionally provoke arguments or disagreements, and her daughter is frequently the chosen target for her manipulation. This constant state of turmoil keeps the family focused on the daughter’s supposed issues, allowing the mother to evade scrutiny of her actions.

#7. Invalidation

The feelings, thoughts, and opinions of the scapegoat daughter are consistently invalidated by the covert narcissist mother. Any attempt by the daughter to express herself, her concerns, or her emotions is met with dismissal or ridicule.

The mother may label her daughter as overly dramatic, sensitive, or irrational, effectively undermining the daughter’s self-esteem and diminishing her sense of self-worth. This relentless invalidation leaves the daughter feeling unheard, insignificant, and disconnected from her own emotions.

#8. Triangulation

Triangulation is a manipulation tactic often employed by covert narcissists to create conflict and confusion within relationships. In the context of family dynamics, the mother may use the scapegoat as a pawn in her intricate manipulation games. She involves the daughter in conflicts or disagreements with other family members, subtly pitting them against each other.

This divisive strategy not only fosters discord but also reinforces the mother’s control over the family dynamic. For instance, the mother might share confidential information about the daughter with a sibling, sparking jealousy or resentment and causing tension between family members.

#9. Unrealistic Expectations

The covert narcissist mother frequently imposes unrealistic and unattainable standards on her daughter. These expectations extend to various aspects of the daughter’s life, including academics, achievements, appearance, and behavior.

The mother’s relentless pressure contributes to the daughter’s emotional distress, fostering a perpetual sense of inadequacy and failure. For example, the mother may demand straight A’s from her daughter and chastise her severely for receiving anything less, regardless of the daughter’s efforts or circumstances.

#10. Isolation

Isolation is a common tactic used by covert narcissist mothers to further reinforce the scapegoat’s role and maintain control over them. The daughter may be excluded from family events, outings, or gatherings, effectively making her feel like an outsider within her own family.

This isolation not only exacerbates the daughter’s feelings of alienation but also hinders her ability to seek support and validation from other family members. The mother may justify this exclusion by claiming that the daughter “doesn’t fit in” or “always causes trouble.”

#11. Projecting Insecurities

In an effort to deflect attention from her own insecurities and vulnerabilities, the covert narcissist mother often projects these negative qualities onto her daughter. She criticizes traits or behaviors in her daughter that she dislikes in herself, transferring her own self-doubt and fears onto her child.

This projection further damages the daughter’s self-image, as she internalizes the mother’s negative assessments. For instance, if the mother feels insecure about her appearance, she may relentlessly criticize her daughter’s physical appearance, fostering body image issues and low self-esteem in the daughter.

#12. Conditional Love

The love and affection that the covert narcissist mother offers to her daughter are often conditional and contingent on the daughter’s compliance with the mother’s demands and expectations. The daughter must continually strive to meet the mother’s ever-shifting criteria to earn her love and approval.

This conditional love creates an unhealthy dynamic in which the daughter feels compelled to seek validation and acceptance from her mother but is left perpetually unsatisfied. The mother’s affection becomes a reward to be earned rather than a consistent source of emotional support.

#13. Victimhood

A classic maneuver in the covert narcissist mother’s playbook is to portray herself as the long-suffering parent, burdened with a “difficult” or “problematic” daughter. By casting herself as the victim, she garners sympathy and support from others within and outside the family.

This narrative paints the daughter as the source of all familial strife and positions the mother as a martyr, further isolating the scapegoat. The mother may frequently lament her struggles, making statements such as, “I’ve sacrificed so much for you, and this is how you repay me” or “I don’t know what I did to deserve such a difficult child.”

Victimhood, it turns out, is a classic ploy deployed by female covert narcissists.

#14. Undermining Achievements

Even when the scapegoat daughter achieves success or accomplishes something noteworthy, the covert narcissist mother may undermine her accomplishments. Rather than celebrating her daughter’s achievements, the mother downplays or belittles them, often attributing the success to external factors, luck, or minimal effort on the daughter’s part.

This constant invalidation of her achievements erodes the daughter’s sense of pride and self-worth. For example, the mother might say, “You got that promotion? It must have been because your boss felt sorry for you” or “Winning that award was just a fluke; anyone could have done it.”

#15. Emotional Manipulation

Emotional manipulation is a hallmark of covert narcissism, and the mother frequently employs this tactic to control her daughter’s actions, decisions, and emotions. She uses guilt, fear, or emotional blackmail to steer her daughter in the desired direction or to ensure compliance with her wishes.

This emotional manipulation leaves the daughter feeling trapped, coerced, and unable to assert her own needs and desires. For instance, the mother might say, “If you cared about me, you would do what I want” or “You’re responsible for my happiness, so you need to do as I say.”

These 15 tactics represent the various ways in which a covert narcissistic mother can scapegoat her daughter. Each of these behaviors contributes to the daughter’s emotional distress and trauma within the family dynamic. In the following sections, we’ll explore the signs of scapegoating and delve into the profound impact it has on the daughter’s life.

The Signs of Scapegoating by a Covert Narcissistic Mother

Recognizing the signs of scapegoating within a family with a covert narcissist mother is crucial for both the scapegoat daughter and those offering support. Here are key indicators:

1. Unrelenting Blame

A prominent sign of scapegoating is the consistent and disproportionate blame directed at the scapegoat daughter for family problems, regardless of her actual involvement.

2. Inconsistent Treatment

Scapegoats often experience inconsistent treatment compared to other family members. They may be subjected to harsher punishments, stricter rules, or unfair expectations, highlighting their status as the designated “problem child.”

3. Emotional Neglect

Scapegoated daughters frequently endure emotional neglect, with their emotional needs ignored or invalidated. The covert narcissist mother may dismiss their feelings, leaving them feeling unheard and emotionally deprived.

4. Alienation

Scapegoats may be isolated or alienated from other family members, making them feel like outsiders in their own homes. This isolation reinforces their role and discourages them from seeking support within the family.

5. Frequent Criticism

Constant criticism is a hallmark of scapegoating. Scapegoats are subjected to relentless criticism, which erodes their self-esteem and self-worth.

6. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic used by covert narcissists to distort facts, deny their actions, and manipulate their daughter’s perception of reality. It causes confusion and self-doubt.

7. Emotional Manipulation

Scapegoating often involves emotional manipulation, where the mother uses guilt, fear, or emotional blackmail to control her daughter’s actions and decisions.

Recognizing these signs is the first step toward addressing the issue and supporting the scapegoat daughter on her path to healing.

The Impact of Scapegoating on the Daughter

The effects of being the scapegoat of a covert narcissistic mother are profound and enduring, leaving a lasting imprint on the daughter’s life. Understanding the extent of this impact is crucial for both the scapegoat and those who aim to support her on her journey towards healing and recovery. Here are some of the profound consequences:

1. Low Self-Esteem and Self-Worth

Scapegoating systematically erodes the daughter’s self-esteem and self-worth. The constant criticism, blame, and invalidation lead her to believe that she is inherently flawed or unworthy of love and acceptance.

2. Emotional Scars

The emotional abuse inflicted through scapegoating leaves deep emotional scars. The daughter may carry these scars into adulthood, impacting her relationships, self-image, and overall mental well-being.

3. Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)

Scapegoating can lead to the development of C-PTSD, a condition characterized by persistent emotional distress, flashbacks, and difficulty regulating emotions. These symptoms can interfere with the daughter’s daily life and mental health.

4. Anxiety and Depression

The chronic stress and emotional abuse experienced by scapegoats often lead to anxiety and depression. These mental health conditions can persist long after the daughter has left the toxic family environment.

5. Struggles with Relationships

Scapegoated daughters may face challenges in forming healthy relationships. They may struggle with trust issues, difficulty setting boundaries, and fear of rejection or abandonment.

6. Perfectionism

The covert narcissist mother’s unrealistic expectations can drive the daughter toward perfectionism, where she constantly strives to meet impossible standards in an attempt to gain approval and avoid criticism.

7. Self-Doubt and Indecision

Scapegoats frequently grapple with self-doubt and indecision. They may have difficulty trusting their own judgment due to years of gaslighting and invalidation.

8. Self-Blame

Scapegoated daughters often internalize the blame placed upon them, even as adults. They may feel responsible for family problems or failures in their own lives, perpetuating feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

9. Fear of Conflict

The fear of confrontation and conflict, instilled through years of emotional abuse, can hinder the daughter’s ability to assert her needs and advocate for herself in various life situations.

10. Impact on Career and Ambitions

The emotional turmoil and self-doubt resulting from scapegoating can impact the daughter’s career and ambitions. She may hold herself back, fearing failure or rejection.

11. Physical Health Issues

Chronic stress associated with being the scapegoat can manifest in physical health issues, such as headaches, digestive problems, or even autoimmune disorders.

12. Isolation & Loneliness

Scapegoated daughters may struggle with feelings of isolation and loneliness, both within their families of origin and in their adult lives, as they find it challenging to trust and connect with others.

Strategies for Coping and Healing

Coping with the aftermath of being the scapegoat of a covert narcissistic mother and embarking on a journey of healing can be challenging but ultimately transformative. Whether you are a scapegoated daughter seeking to reclaim your well-being or someone supporting a survivor, these strategies can guide you towards a path of recovery and growth:

1. Seek Therapy

Seeking therapy is often the most crucial step in the healing process. A therapist, particularly one experienced in narcissistic abuse and complex trauma, can provide invaluable guidance and support. Therapy offers a safe space to explore the trauma, process emotions, and develop healthy coping mechanisms. Therapists can use various modalities, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), or EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), tailored to your specific needs.

2. Join Support Groups

Consider joining support groups or online communities specifically for survivors of narcissistic abuse. Connecting with others who have experienced similar challenges can provide a sense of validation and belonging. Sharing your experiences, listening to others’ stories, and offering support can be therapeutic and help you understand that you are not alone in your journey.

3. Educate Yourself

Knowledge is a powerful tool for healing. Take the time to educate yourself about narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), covert narcissism, and the dynamics of narcissistic families. Understanding these concepts can validate your experiences and help you make sense of the manipulation and abuse you endured. Books, articles, and online resources can provide valuable insights.

4. Set Boundaries

Establishing and enforcing healthy boundaries is a fundamental step in protecting your emotional well-being. Learn to recognize when your boundaries are being crossed and practice assertive communication. Setting boundaries is not about being selfish; it’s about safeguarding your mental and emotional health. With time, this practice will empower you to assert your needs and maintain healthier relationships.

5. Practice Self-Care

Prioritize self-care to nurture both your physical and emotional well-being. Self-care activities can range from daily rituals like exercise, meditation, and a balanced diet to indulging in hobbies, pampering yourself, or simply resting when needed. Self-care acts as a buffer against the stress and emotional turmoil caused by narcissistic abuse.

6. Build a Supportive Network

Surround yourself with friends and loved ones who understand your journey and can provide empathy and encouragement. Cultivating a supportive network of people who respect your boundaries and believe in your healing can be a source of tremendous strength.

7. Challenge Negative Beliefs

Work closely with a therapist to identify and challenge negative beliefs and thought patterns that have been ingrained through years of scapegoating. These beliefs, such as “I’m not good enough” or “I’m always to blame,” can be replaced with self-affirming thoughts through techniques like cognitive restructuring.

8. Mindfulness and Meditation

Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help you stay grounded and reduce anxiety and stress. These techniques encourage you to stay present, acknowledge your feelings without judgment, and cultivate a greater awareness of your inner self.

9. Embrace Self-Love

Embracing self-love and self-compassion is essential for healing. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a dear friend. Remember that you are deserving of love and respect.

10. Express Your Feelings

Find healthy outlets for expressing your feelings. Bottling up emotions can hinder healing. Consider journaling, art, music, or physical activities as ways to release pent-up emotions and gain clarity.

11. Distance from Toxic Relationships

If possible, create distance from toxic family members who perpetuate abusive dynamics. It’s important to prioritize your well-being over maintaining harmful relationships. Limiting or cutting contact can provide the emotional space needed for healing.

12. Healing Modalities

Explore alternative healing modalities that resonate with you. Techniques like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), yoga, acupuncture, or aromatherapy can address trauma and promote emotional well-being.

13. Therapeutic Techniques

Consider therapeutic techniques such as inner child work or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Inner child work allows you to address deep-seated emotional wounds and unmet needs from childhood. DBT, as we’ve seen earlier in the article, equips you with practical skills for emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance, and mindfulness.

14. Set Realistic Goals

Set achievable goals for your personal and professional life. Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small. Each step forward builds your confidence and self-esteem. Over time, you’ll come to realize that you are capable of achieving your aspirations.

15. Forgiveness

Consider forgiveness as a tool for your own healing, but remember that it does not require reconciliation with the abuser. Forgiveness is a personal choice and is more about releasing your own emotional burden than absolving the covert narcissistic mother of her actions. It allows you to let go of anger and resentment, freeing yourself to move forward.

16. Trauma-Informed Care

If you have physical or mental health issues as a result of your experiences, seek care from trauma-informed healthcare providers. These professionals understand the impact of psychological trauma on physical health and can provide holistic support tailored to your needs.

17. Advocate for Yourself

Advocate for your needs in all areas of life, from healthcare to work. Learning assertive communication is a valuable skill that empowers you to express your needs, assert your boundaries, and advocate for yourself effectively.

18. Embrace Your Resilience

Recognize and celebrate your resilience. You have endured tremendous challenges, and your strength is a testament to your ability to overcome adversity. Acknowledging your resilience can boost your self-esteem and inspire confidence in your healing journey.

19. Set Realistic Expectations

Acknowledge that healing is a non-linear process. Understand that setbacks may occur, and that’s okay. Progress often involves ups and downs. Be patient and compassionate with yourself, and remember that each step forward, no matter how small, is a victory.

20. Seek Legal Advice (if necessary)

In cases of severe abuse, financial exploitation, or ongoing legal issues, consult with a legal professional who specializes in family law or abuse cases. Understanding your rights and options for protection is essential for your well-being and security.

Remember that healing from scapegoating by a covert narcissistic mother is a deeply personal journey. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and progress may take time. Be compassionate with yourself and seek the support and resources that resonate with your unique path to recovery.


Navigating life as the scapegoat daughter of a covert narcissistic mother is undeniably challenging, but it is not an insurmountable burden.

With the right support, self-compassion, and a commitment to healing, it is possible to break free from the cycle of abuse, reclaim your sense of self, and build a life filled with love, self-worth, and empowerment.

Remember that you are not alone, and there is hope for a brighter future beyond the shadows of scapegoating. Your journey to healing is a testament to your strength and resilience, and it can lead to a life of fulfillment and well-being.