A reader shares his experience growing up with a narcissistic mother

"I decided to cut my mother out of my life."
"I decided to cut my mother out of my life."

After reading part 1 of Parent24's narcissistic parenting series, Martin wrote in to share his experience with us. 

He tells of what it was like growing up with his mother who he suspects is an undiagnosed narcissist. 

His letter follows:

I found this article illuminating as I often struggled to articulate what it was like to grow up under my mother. I thought I'd share some experiences of my 32 years under a suspected narcissist.

It was awkward and uncomfortable

My earliest memories are ones of tension - I cannot remember exact spaces or faces, but I remember a clear feeling of tension and anxiety at the earliest times in my childhood.

Except for being with my grandparents, who raised me until I was four, but more on this later. I was bullied at primary school, and the only comfort I was given was that the children are jealous of how smart I am and that the world is cruel to us smart people.

No attempt was made to stop the bullying or to physically comfort me. In fact, the only memory I have of ever receiving a hug from my mother was when I went abroad for 3 months at age 22 - it was awkward and uncomfortable. 

Us vs Them

Despite being a gifted child, bringing home a 95% mark on my math test commonly resulted in the following response: "you're missing 5% and need to work harder next time." 

The net effect was that I simply stopped trying to do well - and it affected my academic life well into my time at university. 

The main theme of my teenage years and early adulthood revolved around my mother creating a sense of Us vs Them. You were either brilliant like we were, or you were an idiot.

I remember often being confused at how someone was brilliant one day, and an idiot the next without any sensible justification. And of course, I was told that the idiots are out to undermine us.

This shaped my worldview into adulthood, and I struggled to maintain relationships and friendships - I was often harsh and critical to girlfriends, and this behaviour could only be described as abusive.

Extremely toxic behaviour

However, as I spent time away from my mother and around other people, I started to gain some perspective. Naturally, this also resulted in my growing apart from my mother and our relationship becoming strained. 

Around the time that I got engaged my mother's behaviour became extremely toxic. She made my engagement party unenjoyable and attempted to drive a wedge between my stepfather and me. 

At this point, I decided to cut my mother out of my life as her toxic behaviour was starting to intrude on my relationship with my wife. It has been the best decision I've made to date.

Struggle to accept this unconditional love

As per her character, she has spent the past three years attempting to turn the family against me - often employing tactics which involve telling relatives that having a relationship with me is a betrayal of her trust. 

Since cutting her out of my life, I have tracked down my biological father who has, along with his family, completely embraced me and shown nothing but unconditional love towards my wife and me.

Admittedly, I initially struggled to accept this unconditional love as it was such a strange concept to me.  

This new relationship with my father has gone a long way towards reducing the narcissistic tendencies that I learnt from my mother.

How a normal family behaves

I also believe that my grandparents played a pivotal role in providing a nurturing home for me in my first few years - and showing me how a normal family behaves.

This in turn protected me from fully adopting my mother's narcissistic traits. I'll admit that it still remains an everyday battle to avoid the narcissistic tendencies, but as time passes it does become easier, and I have noticed how much stronger my relationships have become.

I hope that sharing my experience helps others draw the strength that they need to change their own circumstances. 

Submitted by Martin

Parent24's narcissistic parenting series aims to debunk the myths about Narcissistic personality disorder and seeks to provide insight into how this common mental health condition plays out in parenting. Watch this space as we continue to unpack this intricate topic. 

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Toxic parenting styles we're leaving with our parents

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