The Covert Narcissist

Why do some mothers dislike their daughters?

The reason some mothers hate their daughters is quite simply because of their own lack of self-esteem. It is the dissatisfaction with their own lives and lack of self-worth that slowly destroys the sense of worth in their daughters. Her fragile ego is only nourished by seeing her children as an extension of herself and if you don’t fit, you will be rejected. 

Is your mother jealous of you?

  • Do you have a difficult relationship with your mother and don’t know why?
  • Have you felt guilt at times that you don’t like your mother and felt it was your fault?
  • Is she competitive with you, treating you more like a rival than a daughter?
  • Do you get a strong sense that she wants you to do well in life… but not too well?
  • Does she compete for the attention of your children?
  • Does she try to compare you to herself?
  • Have you fallen victim to constant criticism and put downs?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, then this post is for you.

The Narcissist

Whilst we often hear about the narcissist in social media, I was discovered in my research the difference between the two main types. The overt and the covert Narcissist. We will mainly be dealing with the latter today.

It is NOT your imagination…

Growing up as a child you may not have understood why the relationship with your mother was so tense. Your mother’s erractic and judgmental actions would leave you bewildered, unsupported and emotionally abandoned. Today though, you can finally acknowledge your mother’s envy and accept her limitations. You can stop blaming yourself for the difficulties between the two of you and find some peace. No child seeks a difficult relationship with the person they seek out as their role model.

Extreme versions of the narcissistic mother display a consistent need to be the centre of attention, or to seek compliments to raise her self-esteem. Sadly, this is often done by putting their own daughter down.

‘You’re always causing trouble’

‘You’re so like your father’

‘It can be hard to love you’

‘Everyone finds it hard to put up with your behaviour’

‘What will people think of you’

Traits of the CN (Covert Narcissist)

After some research on traits of the CN, there are some main traits that were highlighted.

  • High sensitivity to criticism. NPD (narcissitc personality disorder) typically involves insecurity and an easily damaged sense of self-esteem.
  • Passive aggression. (Incapable of assertiveness).
  • A tendency to put themselves down.
  • A tendency to put others down.
  • A shy or withdrawn nature.
  • Grandiose fantasies.
  • Feelings of depression, anxiety, and emptiness.
  • A tendency to hold grudges.
  • Envy.

We will be focussing on the Envy element today, particularly with regards to daughters. 

Never confront the narcissist

If you try to question her opinion or experience, this will be met with condescending remarks, accusations, laughed off as invalid or unimportant.  Whilst I don’t want to touch too much on personal experience, I have a memory of questioning why my mother was copying my wardrobe, wearing identical clothes to me, even rushing to change her outfit once I arrived.

When I was brave enough to confront this, I was torn to shreds and asked to leave. This was backed up by my stepfather who was too weak to stand up to her. I was then gaslighted with a phone call to say it was my ‘mental health’. 

This leads nicely onto the next section.


Firstly, on a physical level. The narcissist mother will wish she were your age, perhaps you have a figure she envies, or she wishes to wear clothes that give her some identity. Possibly YOUR identity. 

As a teenager you may be subjected to regular personal insults about your appearance and you may be forbidden from wearing makeup, grooming yourself, or dating.  I can recall in my teens being allowed to wear makeup one minute, but then being ridiculed for it the next, especially when any male guests came to the house.

My teens years were spent with a mother who was an alcoholic, which is a whole other blog post, but mental health issues and alcoholism are atypical with covert narcissists and strengthen their moments of passive/aggressive behaviour. 

Sadly, if the mother is of menopausal age, the blooming youth of their daughter is too much for their vain tendencies.  

Believing she is ‘the fairest of them all’ (overt) or fearing she is not (as in covert narcissism) they may restrict or disparage any boyfriends in your teens, and, at the extreme, even compete for their attention and flirt with them.  Quite often they are jealous of the relationship between their daughter and her own father and will go to great lengths to damage this relationship.

Your appearance



Relationships (particularly with your father).

Most jealousy stems from the conflicting message “make me look good” but don’t do better than me. 

As a mother of daughters myself, this level of jealousy is something very difficult for me to comprehend. I always wanted my girls to fly and achieve bigger and greater things than me.  I also tried my best to nurture them for the individuals that they are, not seeing myself or a reflection of their sisters in any of them. 

A girl sees her mother as a role model growing up so it is very difficult for them to understand why their mother would want to compete. It is damaging and far from a positive experience.

The daughter’s sense of self can be cancelled by disdain and criticism and her goodness is questioned causing her ‘reality’ as a person to be obliterated. Rather than make sense of the situation, an innocent child decides that something must be wrong with them. 

In all cases of maternal jealousy towards the daughter, she is left with little support as a whole person. The consequences are terrifying for a child at any age 

In extreme situations, a mother may even overfeed you, saying you’re a ‘growing girl’ and that she’s just spoiling you. 

Narcissism is abuse

Repeated shaming and control undermine the developing identity of a young girl, creating insecurity. She cannot trust her own feelings and impulses and concludes that it is her fault that her mother is displeased with her, unaware that her mother will never be satisfied

 In extreme cases of emotional abuse, a daughter may feel she has no right to exist, is a burden to her mother, and should never have been born. Often the husbands or fathers are passive and don’t protect their daughters from such maternal abuse.

Living vicariously through you

Rather than relate to their children, a covert narcissist wants them as mere extensions of themselves. If you do not reflect an image of them, you are an unknown entity to them. With any successes or achievements in your life, your mother may even say something like “Well you’re no child of mine,” if she has feelings of failure.

But rather than feeling praised, you will feel criticised. Rather than celebrating your experiences, they often shame you for thinking or feeling differently from them.

On the other hand, If a child mirrors their own weaknesses, they will make the child their ‘golden child,’ going to great lengths to shower them with affection and privileges. This unbalanced treatment will lead to difficulties between siblings and leads me onto the following…


This is sometimes called ‘emotional incest’ and happens when a parent or caregiver relies on a child for their emotional needs that should come from adult relationships. It crosses boundaries and deprives the child of a healthy parent-child relationship. Whilst the golden child may relish the adoration and close relationship on the one hand, they are driven by guilt to fulfil the parent’s emotional needs on another.

This can be seen in a parent who cries or shows distress if a child moves away – a perfectly natural and healthy part of adulthood, but they unable to see that the grown child needs to live their life for themselves and not exist to fulfil their own needs.

They may share information with this child that crosses boundaries and put other siblings down to them which damages the dynamics of the family. 

It is a ‘too close for comfort’ dynamic with an underlying form of emotional blackmail.

Self Involved

Unlike the enmeshed mother who smothers her child, this mother controls her involvement to suit her own self-reflection. She is very concerned with appearances and the opinions of others. She can be incapable of making her own decisions due to constant fear of what others may think.

They will stop at nothing to recruit others building an army for the sake of their ego, even undermining your parenting and competing for your own children. 

Which brings me to…

Narcissistic Grandparents

With narcissistic grandparents, you will never gain support or loyalty with your own children. They will challenge and attack you and your parenting at any opportunity. Unless you are present with your parent and your own child, you won’t realize this insidious abuse is sneaking into your life.

They will be creating chaotic confusion by appearing one way in front of you, and another in front of your children. Going so far as to criticise you and share information that should not be shared with your children. It is NOT healthy for grandparents to undermine you so please be aware before it is too late.

Innocent children are tempting, loving targets for narcissistic grandparents who refuse to be held accountable. Whilst they will spoil and give either financially or emotionally to ‘win’ their grandchildren’s hearts, it is insidious and done purely for their need of admiration and control. There is veiled motivation behind a narcissist’s every move.  

My own mother always criticised my parenting and once even said “you should never had had children,” when they were still very young.  I was constantly criticised for not doing things the way she would have done and should have seen warning signs far earlier. 

Shelter your children from abusive adults. If you see behaviour being driven by their desire to control those around them, the psychological abuse that you suffered will continue. 

Signs of Narcissistic Grandparents

  • They will tell the child ‘they are the favourite’
  • They shown signs of jealousy towards other grandparents
  • They refuse to involve themselves if a child needs disciplining or correcting,
  • They will directly criticise you to them, either behind your back or in front of you.
  • They will break your boundaries or rules with young children.
  • They will spoil them
  • They will take credit for any achievements


Toxic shame will make you feel unaccepted for being yourself. It can make you feel you have to sacrifice yourself or lose your mother’s love – a pattern of self-denial and accommodation which is replayed as co-dependency in adult relationships.  It is a cycle that is repeated and if you look at your own parents, you may well see signs of co-dependent relationships. 

If your real self is rejected, first by your mother, and then by yourself, the consequence is internalised shame believing that your real self is unlovable. (It is no wonder I have suffered bouts of psychosis!). 

A daughter’s shame is compounded by the anger and hatred she may feel towards the mother that she truly does not understand. She believes this to be further evidence of her badness and her mother’s criticisms to be true. During the process of never feeling good enough, adult relationships may repeat a cycle of abandonment until you find awareness of the situation.

A mother’s love should always be unconditional, allowing the child to be who they are destined to be. With awareness of this, you can begin a journey to healing and self-love.


These are intentional plans to humiliate you in an attempt to compromise your reputation. If your mother smears you, she might:

  • Try to bring in her back up army by way of family members. Telling them you are and always have been a problem.
  • Test your partner or friends’ loyalty by making mean comments about you.
  • Attempt to sabotage your relationships, even siding with your ex’s in breakup situations.
  • Gather information from sources that can help to bring you into disrepute.
  • Exaggerate and play on any mistakes you may have made.


Whilst toxic relationships have come to light in recent years and are more openly spoken about, I am not an advocate that we should live in a ‘blame’ culture. Covert Narcissism is a reality in today’s world, and so is toxic mother/daughter relationships. By talking about this, it can bring awareness and help others to take steps to remove themselves from toxic relationships, or navigate around them with a deeper level of understanding. When you understand the fragility of the narcissist’s self-esteem it brings a level of understanding.

To summarise here are some toxic behaviours that confirm if someone you know is a Covert Narcissist. 


  • Criticism
  • Judgmental
  • Seeming detached
  • Addiction (alcohol, drugs etc.)
  • Promiscuity
  • Blaming
  • Silent Treatment
  • Yelling
  • Defensiveness
  • Emotional neediness
  • Manipulation
  • Creating Drama
  • Entitlement
  • Seeking validation
  • Seeking admiration

Next week, I will talk more on this subject with some tips on how to heal and find peace after a life of with emotional abuse from parents. It is possible to heal the ‘mother wound’ and develop a sense of wellbeing through learning to love yourself. 

Some further reading and resources:

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