Daughters of Covert Narcissistic Mothers
Daughters of Covert Narcissistic Mothers

In the complex tapestry of family dynamics, there exists a shadowy corner where the subtle yet profound influence of covert narcissistic mothers weaves its intricate threads.

Join us on a compassionate journey as we explore the impact of daughters of covert narcissistic mothers. These resilient individuals bear scars that often remain hidden, but their stories are a testament to strength, survival, and the human spirit’s capacity for healing.

Delve with us into the world of daughters of covert narcissistic mothers, as we shed light on their experiences, challenges, and the paths they tread towards self-discovery and recovery.

A Brief Overview of Covert Narcissism

Before we dive deeper into the impact on daughters of covert narcissistic mothers, let’s start with a brief overview of what covert narcissism entails. Understanding the core traits of covert narcissism is crucial to grasp the dynamics that daughters with these mothers often face.

Covert Narcissism Defined

Covert narcissism is a subtype of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Unlike overt narcissists who exhibit grandiosity, attention-seeking behavior, and an obvious sense of entitlement, covert narcissists are more subtle in their approach. They often present themselves as selfless, kind, and empathetic on the surface, making it challenging to identify their narcissistic tendencies.

Characteristics of Covert Narcissists

Covert narcissists are adept manipulators, using emotional tactics to control and exert power over others. Their manipulation often includes guilt-tripping, emotional blackmail, and playing the victim – this last one being a classic tactic of the female covert narcissist.

While they may appear caring and empathetic on the surface, covert narcissists are highly critical and demanding behind closed doors.

They maintain an insatiable need for control, dictating choices, preferences, and even career paths of those around them, all under the guise of concern and love. They excel at gaslighting, distorting the truth, and making their victims doubt their own experiences, leaving their targets emotionally confused and vulnerable.

Understanding the core traits of covert narcissists is crucial as it forms the basis for comprehending the unique challenges faced by daughters of covert narcissistic mothers, whose lives are deeply affected by these subtle yet pervasive traits.

Understanding Covert Narcissistic Mothers

In this section, we will explore the world of covert narcissistic mothers and gain a deeper understanding of their traits and behaviors. Understanding the intricacies of covert narcissism, and getting into the mind of the covert narcissist, is essential to comprehend the unique challenges daughters of covert narcissistic mothers face.

Traits of a Covert Narcissistic Mother

In this section we’ll see how each of the traits associated with covert narcissists applies to covert narcissistic mothers and how that affects those around them – especially their daughters.

1. Manipulation: The Art of Emotional Control
Covert narcissistic mothers are masters of manipulation. They use emotional manipulation techniques to control and shape the behavior of their children. This manipulation often includes guilt-tripping, emotional blackmail, and playing the victim.

2. Control: The Need for Dominance
These mothers have an insatiable need for control over their children’s lives. They dictate choices, preferences, and even career paths, all under the guise of concern and love.

3. Criticism: Undermining Self-Worth
While they may appear supportive to outsiders, covert narcissistic mothers can be highly critical behind closed doors. They may constantly belittle their daughters, pointing out flaws and mistakes, eroding their self-esteem.

4. Emotional Inaccessibility: The Facade of Empathy
Covert narcissistic mothers often lack emotional availability. They may seem caring on the surface but remain emotionally distant, making it challenging for their daughters to form a genuine emotional connection.

5. Gaslighting: Distorting Reality
Gaslighting is a common tactic used by covert narcissists and by covert narcissistic mothers in particular. They deny their harmful behavior, distort the truth, and make their daughters doubt their own perceptions and memories.

6. Projection: Blaming Others For Their Flaws
Covert narcissistic mothers often project their own insecurities and flaws onto their daughters. They may blame their children for their own unhappiness and inadequacies.

7. Scapegoating: The Unfair Targeting
Another disturbing trait is scapegoating, where a covert narcissistic mother singles out one child as the family scapegoat. This chosen child becomes the target of blame, criticism, and manipulation, often bearing the brunt of their mother’s emotional abuse.

There are many ways in which a covert narcissist mother can scapegoat her daughter and scapegoating can have severe and lasting effects on the chosen child, who may grow up feeling unloved, rejected, and burdened with unwarranted blame. This destructive dynamic within the family can lead to profound emotional scars that persist into adulthood.

Covert Narcissistic Mother Vs Overt Narcissistic Mother

While both covert and overt narcissistic mothers share some common traits, they differ in their approach and presentation. Understanding these differences can be crucial in identifying and dealing with them.

1. Overt Narcissistic Mothers: These mothers are more overt in their narcissism. They openly seek admiration and validation, often displaying grandiosity and arrogance. They might publicly criticize their children or use them as trophies to boost their own ego.

2. Covert Narcissistic Mothers: On the other hand, covert narcissistic mothers operate in a subtler manner. They present a facade of selflessness and kindness, making it difficult for outsiders to recognize their narcissistic tendencies. They manipulate their children behind closed doors, using emotional and psychological tactics to maintain control.

3. Emotional Impact: While both types of narcissistic mothers can cause significant emotional trauma, daughters of covert narcissistic mothers may struggle more with self-doubt and confusion due to the stark contrast between their mothers’ public persona and private behavior.

Understanding these distinctions is crucial because it helps daughters of covert narcissistic mothers validate their experiences and seek the support they need.

The Impact on Daughters of Covert Narcissistic Mothers

Now that we have a clear understanding of covert narcissistic mothers and how they differ from overt narcissistic mothers, let’s delve into the profound and often long-lasting impact these mothers can have on their daughters. The emotional toll that daughters of covert narcissistic mothers endure is both complex and significant.

#1. Low Self-Esteem: A Constant Battle

Low self-esteem is a persistent companion for daughters of covert narcissistic mothers. Imagine growing up in an environment where your every action is scrutinized, your worthiness constantly questioned, and your accomplishments often met with indifference or criticism. This relentless emotional abuse chips away at a child’s self-worth, leaving behind a deep sense of inadequacy.

The daughter may internalize the negative messages conveyed by her mother, leading to a distorted self-image. She might believe she’s inherently flawed or undeserving of love and acceptance. This deep-seated self-doubt can continue to haunt her well into adulthood, affecting her personal and professional relationships, and limiting her life’s potential.

#2. Anxiety and Depression: Shadows of Emotional Abuse

Living under the influence of a covert narcissistic mother is akin to navigating a minefield of emotional manipulation. Constantly walking on eggshells, fearing unpredictable emotional outbursts or passive-aggressive tactics, can create a chronic state of anxiety. Daughters may become hypervigilant, always anticipating their mother’s moods and needs in an attempt to maintain a semblance of peace.

Over time, this chronic stress can manifest as anxiety disorders and depression. The emotional toll of trying to please an emotionally unavailable and manipulative parent can lead to overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair. Professional help is often necessary to untangle the complex web of emotions and regain mental well-being.

#3. Suffering from Perfectionism: The Never-Ending Pursuit

Covert narcissistic mothers are often masters of setting impossibly high standards. Their daughters may grow up believing that they must excel in every aspect of life to earn their mother’s love and approval. This relentless pursuit of perfection can become an exhausting and emotionally draining cycle.

These daughters may become perfectionists, setting unrealistic goals for themselves and feeling a deep sense of failure when they inevitably fall short. The fear of not meeting these unattainable standards can lead to paralyzing anxiety and self-criticism. Breaking free from the shackles of perfectionism is a crucial step towards healing and self-acceptance.

#4. Trust Issues: The Lingering Doubt

Growing up with a covert narcissistic mother often means learning not to trust one’s own perceptions and emotions. These mothers excel at gaslighting, distorting the truth, and making their daughters doubt their own experiences. Over time, daughters may struggle to trust their own judgment, intuition, and even their closest relationships.

This deep-seated distrust can have far-reaching consequences. Daughters may find it challenging to form healthy, trusting connections with others. They may be hesitant to open up and share their feelings, fearing that they will be manipulated or criticized once again. Rebuilding trust in oneself and others becomes a vital aspect of the healing journey.

#5. Boundary Problems: The Struggle for Autonomy

Covert narcissistic mothers often disregard their daughters’ boundaries and personal space. They may invade their privacy, dictate their choices, and disregard their wishes. Growing up in an environment where personal boundaries are constantly violated can lead to daughters who struggle to set and enforce boundaries in their adult lives.

These daughters may have difficulty asserting themselves or saying “no” when necessary. This vulnerability can make them susceptible to further manipulation and abuse. Learning to establish and maintain healthy boundaries is a crucial step toward reclaiming autonomy and self-respect.

#6. Lack of Identity: The Missing Piece

Daughters of covert narcissistic mothers often struggle with developing a strong sense of self. Constantly seeking validation and approval from their mothers, they may lose sight of their own identities and desires. This lack of self-identity can hinder their personal growth and fulfillment.

As adults, they may grapple with the question, “Who am I?” This profound sense of self-doubt and confusion can make it difficult for them to make important life decisions or pursue their passions. Rediscovering their true selves is an essential part of the healing journey.

#7. Dependency: Stuck in the Web

Covert narcissistic mothers often encourage dependency on them. They may subtly discourage independence and self-reliance, leaving their daughters feeling trapped in a web of emotional control.

These daughters may struggle to make decisions without seeking their mother’s approval or guidance. As a result, they may find it difficult to navigate life’s challenges independently. Breaking free from this dependency and regaining autonomy is a crucial step in the journey to healing.

#8. Difficulty with Emotional Expression: Silenced Voices

Growing up with a covert narcissistic mother often means suppressing one’s emotions as a coping mechanism. Daughters may have learned to hide their true feelings to avoid criticism, manipulation, or emotional volatility from their mothers.

As adults, they may struggle to express their emotions openly and honestly, even in safe and supportive environments. This emotional suppression can hinder their ability to form healthy, authentic connections with others and can lead to a sense of emotional isolation.

#9. Role Reversal: Parenting the Parent

In many cases, daughters of covert narcissistic mothers are forced into a role reversal where they become the caregiver from a young age. They may find themselves responsible for their aging covert narcissist mother’s emotional well-being, constantly striving to meet her needs and expectations.

This role reversal can have profound consequences. Daughters may struggle with asserting their own needs and desires, prioritizing their mother’s emotional needs over their own, and feeling burdened by a sense of responsibility that was never rightfully theirs.

#10. Impaired Social Skills: Navigating Relationships

Growing up in an environment where trust is scarce and emotional manipulation is prevalent can hinder a daughter’s ability to form healthy relationships. She may struggle with social interactions, finding it difficult to trust others or establish meaningful connections.

These daughters may feel socially isolated or anxious in social settings. They may fear being judged or rejected, making it challenging for them to build a support network and form genuine friendships.

#11. Emotional Flashbacks: Reliving the Past

The emotional trauma experienced with a covert narcissistic mother can lead to emotional flashbacks. These daughters may suddenly find themselves reliving painful memories or feeling overwhelmed by emotions triggered by certain situations or interactions.

These flashbacks can be distressing and disruptive to daily life. Recognizing and managing these emotional flashbacks is an important step in the healing process.

#12. Imposter Syndrome: Feeling Like a Fraud

Many daughters of covert narcissistic mothers struggle with imposter syndrome—a persistent belief that they don’t deserve their achievements or that they are frauds. This self-doubt can be deeply ingrained, making it difficult for them to recognize and celebrate their successes.

They may attribute their accomplishments to luck or external factors rather than acknowledging their own skills and abilities. Overcoming imposter syndrome is a crucial aspect of rebuilding self-esteem.

#13. Self-Doubt: A Lingering Shadow

Years of manipulation and criticism can result in persistent self-doubt. Daughters may constantly question their abilities and worthiness, leading to a lack of confidence in themselves and their decisions.

This self-doubt can be paralyzing, preventing them from pursuing their goals and dreams with conviction. It’s essential for daughters to learn to trust in their capabilities and believe in their own worth.

#14. Seeking Validation from Others: The External Quest

Having never received the validation and love they needed from their mothers, daughters of covert narcissistic mothers may seek external validation from others. They may place an excessive emphasis on the opinions and approval of partners, friends, or colleagues.

This external quest for validation can lead to unhealthy relationships and a cycle of seeking approval, often at the expense of their own needs and well-being.

#15. Difficulty in Parenting Their Own Kids: Breaking the Cycle

The impact of growing up with a covert narcissistic mother can affect a daughter’s ability to parent her own children. She may struggle with setting healthy boundaries, expressing love and affection, and providing emotional support to her own kids.

Recognizing these challenges and actively working to break the cycle of dysfunction is crucial for daughters who are now mothers themselves. Seeking professional guidance and support can be instrumental in becoming the parent they wish they had.

Understanding these profound impacts is the first step towards healing and recovery. In the following sections, we will explore coping mechanisms, strategies for healing, and the importance of seeking therapy and support in the journey towards a healthier and happier life.

Coping, Healing & Recovery

Coping with the aftermath of having a covert narcissistic mother is a challenging journey, but it is also a path toward healing and recovery. While the scars run deep, there are strategies and support systems available that can help daughters of covert narcissistic mothers regain their sense of self and well-being.

How Daughters of Covert Narcissistic Mothers Can Cope

1. Self-Awareness: The first step in coping is recognizing and acknowledging the impact of having a covert narcissistic mother. Self-awareness can help daughters understand their emotions, triggers, and patterns of behavior that may have developed as survival mechanisms.

2. Set Boundaries: Learning to set and enforce healthy boundaries is crucial. It’s essential to establish limits to protect oneself from further emotional manipulation or abuse.

3. Seek Support: Connecting with others who have had similar experiences can be immensely helpful. Joining support groups or online communities for daughters of covert narcissistic mothers provides a safe space to share stories, gain insights, and receive validation.

4. Practice Self-Care: Prioritizing self-care is vital for emotional healing. Engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation can help restore a sense of balance and self-worth.

5. Therapy: Seeking therapy with a qualified mental health professional can be a transformative step in the healing process. Therapy provides a supportive environment to explore past traumas, develop coping strategies, and rebuild self-esteem.

6. Journaling: Writing down thoughts and feelings can be a therapeutic way to process emotions and gain clarity. Journaling can help identify patterns, triggers, and areas for personal growth.

7. Mindfulness and Meditation: Mindfulness practices and meditation techniques can help daughters of covert narcissistic mothers stay grounded and reduce anxiety. These practices encourage living in the present moment and cultivating self-compassion.

8. Educate Yourself: Understanding narcissistic personality disorder and covert narcissism in-depth can be empowering. It helps demystify the behavior of the mother and provides a sense of validation.

The Long-Term Effects of Coping Mechanisms

While coping mechanisms are essential for immediate relief, it’s crucial to acknowledge that some strategies developed in response to a covert narcissistic mother may not serve well in the long run. For example, perfectionism or people-pleasing behaviors, while adaptive in childhood, can hinder personal growth and happiness in adulthood.

As daughters embark on their journey of healing and recovery, they may need to reassess these coping mechanisms and work towards replacing them with healthier strategies that promote self-love and self-acceptance.

Benefits of Therapy and Support

Therapy, particularly with professionals who specialize in trauma and narcissistic abuse recovery, can be an invaluable resource. It provides a safe space to explore painful emotions, identify negative thought patterns, and develop strategies for healing.

In therapy, daughters can also learn to reframe their self-perception and understand that they are not responsible for their mother’s behavior. This realization can be incredibly liberating and is a crucial step towards rebuilding self-esteem.

Support groups and communities offer a sense of belonging and validation. Sharing experiences with others who have faced similar challenges can provide a source of strength and resilience.

Strategies for Healing and Rebuilding Self-Esteem

1. Self-Compassion: Learning to treat oneself with kindness and understanding is a cornerstone of healing. Daughters must practice self-compassion and challenge self-critical thoughts.

2. Emotional Processing: Therapy can help daughters process and release buried emotions from their past. This emotional work is essential for moving forward and breaking free from the emotional baggage.

3. Identify Healthy Relationships: Daughters can work on identifying and nurturing healthy relationships in their lives. Building a support network of trusted friends and loved ones can provide emotional stability.

4. Embrace Self-Discovery: The journey to self-discovery involves exploring personal interests, passions, and values. It’s an opportunity to reclaim one’s identity and pursue what brings genuine happiness.

5. Practice Assertiveness: Developing assertiveness skills is crucial for setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. Learning to communicate needs and boundaries effectively is empowering.

6. Self-Care Rituals: Regular self-care practices, such as exercise, meditation, or creative hobbies, are essential for maintaining emotional well-being and resilience.

7. Limit Contact: In some cases, limiting or cutting off contact with the covert narcissistic mother may be necessary for healing. This decision should be made with the guidance of a therapist and in the best interest of the daughter’s mental health.


The journey of daughters of covert narcissistic mothers is marked by resilience and strength. Coping, healing, and recovery are achievable goals. It begins with self-awareness, extends to seeking support, and ultimately leads to rediscovering one’s true self and reclaiming a life of fulfillment, free from the shadow of a covert narcissistic mother’s influence.

In our concluding section, we’ll wrap up this exploration with a compassionate reminder that healing is possible, and daughters of covert narcissistic mothers can emerge from their experiences as survivors who thrive in their own right.

Further Reading

For those of you who would like to educate themselves on this subject and are open to external reading, here are some books I recommend:

“Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers” by Dr. Karyl McBride – – This book offers insights into the experiences of daughters of narcissistic mothers and provides guidance on healing and recovery.

“The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment” by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman and Robert M. Pressman – This book provides insights into the dynamics of narcissistic families and offers guidance on treatment and recovery.