If, like many new moms, you are plagued with feelings of unworthiness, you may wonder how you will instill appropriate self-esteem in your own child. As you begin to mother, you may find memories of your own childhood—scenes you haven’t thought about for years—springing into your mind. As you look into the small face of this vulnerable little being who has been entrusted to you, you may find yourself wondering how your own mother felt and what she thought when she looked into your small face, so many years ago.
None of us gets to have a perfect mom. So let’s just get that right out there. Your mom wasn’t perfect, and you won’t be either, despite your best intentions. Let’s keep it real. We make mistakes, we forgive ourselves, and then we try to do better the next day. It usually works out.
But what if you really had some poor mothering when you were a child? What if it went beyond making some very human mistakes? What if your mom was actually mean and destructive to you? How will that impact you as a mother yourself now?
If this is striking a chord with you, read on.
If your mom was a narcissist, you were left with a feeling of “not being good enough.” In fact, there is a popular book you will want to read, entitled “Will I Ever Be Good Enough?” by Dr. Karyl McBride, Ph.D.
How do you know if your mom was a narcissist? Start with these two questions:
- Was your mother capable of showing you (or anyone) empathy?
- Was your mother capable of loving unconditionally?
If the answer to these two questions is “no,” then you will want to investigate further, because these are two red flags that could be signaling narcissism.
The narcissistic parent (yes, narcissists come in both genders, in fact) is more concerned with outward image than with her children’s feelings; she blames others for her own transgressions; she is very critical; the world, she seems to believe, revolves around her; she must have everything all her own way; she can be very good at playing the victim or martyr in order to manipulate her family.
If any of this is sounding familiar, you are probably feeling you have some inner work to do. You are also probably worried about doing anything in your mothering that even remotely resembles what your own mother did.
Keep in mind that narcissism is on a spectrum. Sometimes a person would not qualify for a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but still may have enough of the narcissistic characteristics to have severely impacted their family.
Check out Dr. McBride’s book. Work with a therapist that understands the dynamic of the narcissistic parent. There is a registry of such therapists on Dr. McBride’s website: http://www.willieverbegoodenough.com/resources/find-a-therapist/
Daughters of narcissists benefit in therapy from some re-parenting techniques, and from learning to love and accept themselves unconditionally as they should have been loved, accepted and cherished as children. I have seen, time and again, that you actually CAN give what you never got, despite the old saying to the contrary. It just takes a little healing.