Mental health, Narcissism, Relationships

Why you shouldn’t try to change your narcissistic mother

photo of a woman symbolizing a narcissistic mother talking to her son

If you just found out you have a narcissistic mother, don’t freak out. Try to pause for a minute and think.

Your mother might be narcissistic but this doesn’t have to make you change the reality so it hurts less. I know, it is incredibly painful to live with this information, especially if you know what narcissism is and how difficult it is to have a relationship with someone with a personality disorder.

Before you will try to deny or avoid this reality (and I know you will…dozens of times), consider accepting what is happening to you and try to find ways to soothe the pain.

A narcissist’s (in)ability to change

I don’t wanna be ‘negative Nelly’ here and say that it’s impossible for your narcissistic mother to change. It’s not impossible. I think nothing is impossible, it is our own limitations that make us think this way.

The problem with a narcissistic mother (or father) is her unwillingness to accept that she is less than a perfect parent. And, because she believes she is flawless, she won’t seek help from a therapist. That’s why a narcissist can’t change. This doesn’t mean all narcissists are made of the same dough. Some, who are maybe younger, might seek help. It all depends on the person.

If your mother has narcissistic traits and not a full-blown NPD, she might wanna seek help to soothe her anxieties.

Author and expert in narcissism, Melanie Tonia Evans debated on her blog whether a narcissist can change and what would it take. Check it out here.

So why you shouldn’t wanna change your mom, if you know she is indeed narcissistic?

The following points are taken from my psychotherapy sessions and the online work I am doing counseling adult children of narcissists.

1. Lack of respect

It is disrespectful to ask another person to change for us. Yes, she might treat you badly but her behavior is her responsibility, not yours. If your mother realizes that she needs to change or that she wants to become less fearful, she will seek therapy. She will take care of herself without you asking her.

2. Her narcissism helps her

Just like you bake a cake when you’re overwhelmed with responsibilities at home, your mother uses her narcissistic traits to cope with the memories of her traumatic past. If it wasn’t for her narcissism, she probably would have lost her mind. Read more about the origin of narcissism from Ross Rosenberg’s video. You will understand it a bit more.

Your mother doesn’t know that she is engaging in narcissistic behavior and believes she is the most loving and nurturing mother. Manipulation through guilt, put downs and criticism are all signs of (tough) love. Even control is a kind of love for your narcissistic mother. Narcissists live in a negative world and get their energy from it.

They don’t know another reality than the one they have now. If you are more positive and hopeful, you won’t understand your family and will get into conflicts because of this.

3. It derails your recovery from narcissistic abuse

I have talked to many adult children of narcissistic parents and most of all had trouble accepting that they were raised by cruel narcissists. They even didn’t wanna accept the nature of narcissism and the fact that, most people with extreme narcissism are finding it hard to change. This fact inflicts so much pain, thus, the only way to recover is to cut the contact entirely with the abusive family.

It took me years to accept my reality as well. I used to behave exactly like the people in my counseling group.

In the three years since I discovered that my mom is a narcissist, I struggled to understand the essence of this disorder and to accept that NPD doesn’t have a cure (at least in my mom’s case). I only grasped the severity of my mom’s narcissism this autumn, during a therapy session.

It was shocking and disheartening to hear why mom engages in emotional abuse and that it was never, ever my responsibility to help her cope or be happier. It felt as if all my life I walked around with a bag in each hand that carried heavy rocks. I thought that carrying rocks without using them for anything is normal. I thought the pain from the physical effort was natural. Life is suffering, Buddha said. Isn’t it true?

Yes but the suffering should not last a lifetime. You have choices. One of them is to distance yourself from the parent who never offered you the unconditional love and support you deserve.

4. You’ll live in denial

Maybe this reason is similar with the one above. When you want a toxic parent to change, you actually deny that you lived through a lot of pain during your childhood. Why? Well, if your mother will indeed change and become the caring mother you yearned for as a kid, you will forget every bad thing she did and deny your experiences.

This isn’t good for your recovery.

One quote I love from Sigmund Freud is Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise. Meaning that, you can only feel better if you live in the truth.

All in all, it is not easy to discover your mother is a narcissist. This discovery comes with a lot of pain and sleepless nights. But the first and healthy step to take is accepting that your parent is suffering from a personality disorder. It will make your recovery process less excruciating.

If you don’t know that your mother (or father) is a narcissist, you can read my earlier post, ‘20 hidden traits of a narcissistic parent.’

Also, if you find it hard to cope with your parent’s narcissism, seek help from a support group. Email me with questions at

And, please share this post. Gracias 😉

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2 thoughts on “Why you shouldn’t try to change your narcissistic mother

  1. Good Evening All and of course to you Marlena,

    Having read your 20 signs and this article I yet again find myself agreeing with another insight into NPD and deepening my understanding of this disease which seems to be more common spread than most think… Perhaps a survival technique for a bygone era (but I digress and certainly try to excuse behaviour that can cripple well into old age).

    Both of my parents suffer with NDP and thankfully I have heard that this lessens the chance of ‘catching’ it, however at 33 I pretty much like to analyse most of my actions so I don’t manipulate, charm or exert… “‘unnecessary'” control (doing it now 🙂 as a knee jerk reaction purely for my own benefit. A rewireing so to speak.

    Having broken through the barrier between ignorance and diagnosis I think that a ‘normal’ life might be too much to ask however I would like to put my discovery to good use by using the skill of mask detecting constructively (which most lack due to not encountering NDP wittingly or forewarned) I wonder if opportunities exsist to stop others from suffering all the effects of NDP, less serious cases to the more grave cases on a larger scale than these albeit useful but small forums… Perhaps a regular meeting to discuss (not for treatment for I am far from qualified).. Or even to establish something large scale with the blessing and attendance of police and council workers provided they are themselves properly vetted and if we so desire… The comment with the lady with child who spotted her own NDP and wished to cure herself lest past on the bad habit brought me out loud and if you read this I thank you.

    What do you guys think?


  2. Hi. You brought up a great point and probably, a crucial problem in our society (does not matter which country). what to do to spot narcissistic abuse and stop others from suffering from the effects of NPD? I thought about this for a while. And yes, I would like to do meet ups in real life. Unfortunately, I live in a country that does not wanna talk about NPD or even acknowledge it, and, until I move away, I need to continue my work online. However, perhaps it is possible to install a forum here on this blog to invite people to discuss and help each other. All in all, this subject you brought up should be further discussed. Until next time, Marlena