18 Unusual Traits of Narcissistic Mothers

Marlena Eva
10 min readJun 13, 2024

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Here are some traits of covert narcissistic mothers that we don’t hear much about

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

I wanted to write this piece for those who are bombarded by articles that describe covert narcissistic parents as critical, unempathetic, entitled and immature. Sure, narcissists have these traits but they also display a range of behaviors that are not common (and that you can’t spot if you’re not living with them).

The goal of this article is to help the readers who are uncertain if their parent is a covert narcissist and make them see that, certain behaviors even though are not talked about online ARE abusive.

Let’s go.

1. They talk to themselves often (and about you)

If you’re living with a narcissistic mother or even visiting her and staying at her place for a few days you will notice that, when she is stressed she’ll start talking with herself.

The discussion she carries is negative. She may say things to herself about you that are unpleasant to hear.

Example: ‘How foolish daughter is, how come she thinks her behavior is not affecting me?’ or ‘Why in the world God gave me such a bad child?’ If the mother is a malignant narcissist, she might use more hurtful words like ‘stupid’, ‘crazy’, irresponsible’, ‘loser’, and ‘whore’ when referring to you.

She will be saying all those negative things when she is close enough so you can hear her.

Why is she doing this?

This is a manipulation trick. She bashes your character and personality when she talks to herself so you can overhear her and call her out. This is a way to get negative attention from you. She might also want to annoy you or make you feel ‘worthless’ in her eyes so you feel as bad about yourself as she feels about her person.

I have read countless stories on Reddit where people caught their mothers talking badly about them to themselves and confronted them. The mothers would often shrink from explaining their behavior and make themselves busy.

2. They call everyone either stupid, crazy, ugly or a loser

This is a hard thing to accept from a narcissistic parent. They have nothing good to say about anyone, including their adult children. They call people all the names in the book. My mother uses ‘stupid’ a lot when describing people and it doesn’t matter who they are or what they have accomplished.

She might be talking about a woman with a PhD in Aeronautics and refer to her as an idiot who has not achieved anything in her life because she is single or childless.

Why is she doing this?

The narcissistic parent is jealous of everyone, especially of those who have accomplished something in their careers. Putting these people down is her way of making herself feel better about her accomplishments.

If the other person is stupid or a loser, she wins. Because she is far from a loser. She has achieved so many things. Look how many people revere her in the family and do her dirty bidding. She has adult children with kids of their own or a husband who enables her abuse. She’s the best.

While others are the worst. No one can compare themselves to her and her God-given talents and abilities.

3. They imitate your fashion style

Narcissistic mothers may change their entire style if one day, you decide to move in with them. If you wear black, she’ll start wearing black as well. If you’re a fan of polka blouses, she’ll wear polka dresses or t-shirts to imitate your style.

Why is she doing this?

By imitating your choice of clothing, she might want to steal your ideas and identity. She wants to make you feel not unique or special but average and boring.

4. They ask why a lot

A covert narcissistic mother often asks you why when you offer her an opinion. ‘Why don’t you eat pork for Christmas?’ ‘Because I am vegan, mom. I told you before.’ ‘Why are you vegan? It’s not good for you.’

‘We’ve talked about this before, Mom.’

Why is she doing this?

My understanding is that they want to tease you and make you feel uncomfortable. They live to get narcissistic supply from you and if you get angry or feel frustrated by their questions and interrogations, they’ve achieved their goal.

NB: They are not interested in why you went vegan, why you like going to the theatre and not to the cinema or why you love mint ice cream instead of chocolate chip. They want to stress you out so they can feel better about their internal discomfort.

5. They ask the same question after you have already given an answer

This is similar to no. 4. A covert narcissist will ask you if you have RSVPed to their dinner party on Saturday for days before the event. ‘Make sure you RSVP to our party, hun’. ‘I have already done that, mom’.

‘I don’t see it. Make sure you do it, don’t leave me hanging like that.’

A few days later you receive a text: ‘Make sure you RSVP to my party, hun. You forgot, haven’t you?’ ‘I have already RSVPed as I told you days before.’

‘OK.’

Why is she doing this?

This is the weirdest, most disturbing behavior of a covert narcissist. My mom does this all the time. She once asked me if I was coming to her dinner gathering even if I had told her I was not coming or that I was busy.

Or, if I would tell her I am only eating vegan food, she would then ask me if I eat pork or lamb. This would happen for years until I stopped eating her meals so that I wouldn’t have to be thrown in her narcissistic mind games.

She may ask you a question that she has already received an answer for because she wants to break you down. She knows that one can make another person stressed and confused if they ask them something repeatedly.

All that a narcissist wants is to break down another person’s spirit to feel superior to them. Remember that.

6. They decide what you should eat

A narcissist might know you are vegan or eat gluten-free meals and, despite this, they’ll cook chicken, pork or a gluten meal that will send you to the nearest toilet. It is infuriating when they offer to cook for you but don’t ask what you’d like to have.

Why is she doing this?

They want to take away your free will. A narcissist doesn’t want you to know yourself, your likes and dislikes.

A person who is confident and knows what they like (and doesn’t like) cannot be used and abused by a narcissist. So why would your narcissistic mother ask for your meal preference? She wouldn’t.

7. They use the word “death” a lot

Another weird narcissistic behavior is when they use the word ‘death’ or when they mention people they know who died or who are sick.

Why is she doing this?

A narcissist adores negativity and loves to stir drama around them. When someone dies, they can extract narcissistic supply from this event in the form of entertaining a discussion about the person who died. Why?

Talking about death and negative subjects makes the others who listen distressed. (It’s normal because death is not a happy subject)

This gives them a lot of power. Power to command other people’s attention and create stress and chaos in another person. My mother is an expert at this.

8. They are hoarders

Narcissistic parents can be hoarders. They keep things they bought when they gave birth to you or when you were in school.

Why is she doing this?

I don’t know how to explain this particular weird behavior. However, Dr. Phil has a great talk about it and you can watch it here.

9. They don’t go anywhere alone

My mom goes everywhere with my dad, they seem joined at the hip. Some narcissistic parents are co-dependent and don’t feel like they can do stuff without their partner. They feel like a half person and that their husband/wife makes them whole.

Why is she doing this?

I guess because narcissists are co-dependents and have no sense of self. Going out alone and making decisions requires you to have a self. And we are all aware of the fact that narcissists have no sense of self.

10. They make plans for you (without asking you if you are busy)

They will text you that your aunt expects you at her place on Saturday even though you have already told your mom that you’re travelling to your boyfriend’s family for the weekend.

She doesn’t care about your plans. For her, you only exist to serve her needs.

Why is she doing this?

I’ve already told you why. See above.

11. They call you 10–20 times a day

This is not an abnormal narcissistic behavior. Many narcissistic mothers seem to fit into this unhealthy pattern of calling their adult children an unreasonable amount of times during the day.

Why is she doing this?

Narcissists don’t have boundaries and they expect you not to have boundaries, either. Wait until you stop answering her calls and tell her you are busy and that she should only place calls on Saturdays. She will flip out and maybe even start a smear campaign against you. Why?

You set a limit and narcissists are allergic to limits. For them, setting boundaries means ‘abusing them’. It’s so sad, isn’t it? Must be hell in their minds.

12. They have a rigid routine

A narcissist has a certain routine that she/he rarely breaks. I have noticed how hard it is to make my mother go somewhere in the evening, especially after dark. Her routine involves settling in front of the TV after 8 pm and sitting there until a bit before midnight.

Why is she doing this?

A routine gives a narcissist a huge sense of control. If they cannot control their environment by enforcing a strict routine, they cannot control the chaos and unresolved pain deep within them.

13. They rarely take selfies

Both my narcissistic parents stir away from social media. None have an Instagram account and they barely use Facebook (if at all). I haven’t seen them take selfies or even photos of their surroundings. I don’t think they like it.

Why is she doing this?

Taking a selfie means you are proud of your appearance in one way or another. (BUT, it can also mean you are insecure and need others to confirm you are attractive)

Posting this selfie on social media requires courage and confidence about who you are.

Some covert narcissistic parents might not even like how they look or maybe they’re too insecure to post their faces online for everyone to see. Why? Every Joe or Karen can comment on their photo and criticize their look. Exposing your selfie on Instagram can bring criticism and unnecessary talk about you. Narcissistic people don’t like criticism and they’d do anything to avoid it.

14. No family photos

They do not display childhood photos of you or of her holding you lovingly as a baby. Why? She knows she never bonded with you so she never got the chance to be a ‘mother’ to you.

Going to the park? Eating dinner out? Having fun at the amusement park? Shopping for bathing suits or for fun summer dresses? Having coffee or cooking a fun meal together? This never happened.

Healthy people want to immortalize the moments they spend together. A narcissistic parent doesn’t cherish moments they have spent with you because they don’t think they are in a relationship with you. They think you are an object to use and abuse whenever they want.

Would you want to be in a relationship with your mobile phone? Or with the microwave that warms up your meals? Or with the washing machine that gives you perfectly-white clothes?

I don’t think so. It’s tragic but it is what it is.

15. They are unhealthy

You will spend years asking them to take care of themselves, get fit, and exercise so they don’t get sick. They won’t listen because they don’t care.

Why is she doing this?

Caring for your body means you care about yourself. You like yourself and want to nurture your body with good food and an exercise routine. Narcissistic people hate themselves and their bodies.

16. They are envious

Whoever has more things than them needs to be crucified. How dare people achieve things, look beautiful, fit, healthy and accomplished?

How dare others achieve a level of self-fulfilment that narcissists will never achieve?

Why is she doing this?

Again, a narcissistic mother/father will always need to come above another person. They need to be better, have more than others and be more intelligent or intuitive. They don’t think like this: there is enough money for everyone. If this person achieved business success then this is proof I will achieve it, too.

They believe if another person has more things than them they must have achieved it through illegal or immoral ways. Other people can’t become successful by just being themselves, working hard and using their intelligence.

17. They are codependent

All narcissistic people are codependent. Co-dependency is an addictive behavior where you arrange your life according to another person’s values.

Narcissists will live their lives in a way that gets the approval of a loved one aka the narcissistic supply (eg. their adult children, spouse, or parent).

Why is she doing this?

They learned from their own dysfunctional and co-dependent families that having a self that is independent of others is dangerous. Thus, they buried their true self deep down and took on a new, false self to use as their identity.

This false self is the ‘codependent’ self-that is why a narcissistic mother will constantly tell you that setting boundaries with her has given her a physical or mental illness.

“My life is ruined because of you”, you’d often hear her say. Co-dependency makes you think other people create your feelings and emotions. (thus, your behaviors) That’s not true. You are the only person responsible for how you feel, for your choices and for how you handle things in relationships.

18. They suffer from addiction

Narcissists are addicts. Many narcissists are also dealing with alcoholism or drug problems. A gambling problem or an eating disorder can eat up a narcissist inside. Unfortunately, most of these addictions remain unaddressed.

Why is she doing this?

Having an addiction means not having control over your mind and body. Addictions are caused by unresolved childhood trauma and we all know that malignant narcissists rarely address the trauma that is at the core of their suffering.

If you think nothing is wrong with you and the other person is the problem, you’ll never connect with the pain you’ve buried deep down.

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Marlena Eva

MA in Social Psychology. Freelance Writer. Poet. Writes about: narcissism (NPD), relationships, mental health.