Never Good Enough for a Narcissistic Mother

by Michelle Piper

When a client tells me they never feel “good enough,” I know there is serious pain in that person’s life. As I listen, I hear how the person’s thoughts go moment-to-moment, scouring recent experience to see how he or she can be better somehow. The patient asks, compulsively, “How can I be more?”

This is especially common for children who grew up with a narcissistic parent. That habit of hyper-vigilant self assessment was needed to survive childhood. Think of it—if you need to anticipate what a narcissistic adult wants from you next, hoping to avoid negative consequences or gain much needed attention, how could you avoid learning to self-tune and quickly adjust to the narcissist’s needs?

As a result, adult children of narcissistic mothers unintentionally carry forward many unreasonable standards that mom had for them while they were growing up. Though you may no longer tolerate another adult treating you as your narcissistic mother did in the past, you may replicate that same pattern in how you treat yourself. Are your expectations of yourself fair? Do you ever meet the mark you set? Do you feel satisfied with your day more often than not?

When we get stuck in never-good-enough, we become worn out by the constant search to be more productive, valuable, loved, and attractive. Yes, self assessment is a valuable skill. But, when we constantly scan and measure our worth only by what we can do, what role we play, or who approves of us, we become increasingly empty. Instead of accepting our inherent worth as a perfectly imperfect living being, we become driven by our fears.

Never-good-enough feelings can sneak into our lives in many different ways. Here are some examples:

1. You end a long day of work where nothing went wrong and no one acted negatively toward you, but you still don’t feel that your boss or fellow employees were satisfied with what you did.

2. A friend of yours thanks you for the birthday gift you just gave her, but you think you detect some small disappointment in her voice.

3. Someone says you look good that day and you automatically tally that it has been over a week since anyone has complimented you on your appearance.

4. You have leisure time but you don’t use it because you feel you must be productive. You are baffled by friends who say they are “just going to relax.”

The self-doubts can feel never ending. It is awful to feel apologetic just for being alive, but sometimes that’s how we feel when we are in a never-good-enough state. Notice: Do you treat yourself with care and love? How often?

If not, there are ways to do so. Starting now, find opportunities to be kind to yourself. The next time you feel the anxiety of a negative opinion, end your self-reflection with naming at least one thing you did right. Or, at a minimum, one thing you did not do wrong.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Rubies October 19, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Dear Bertie,
You really mean a great deal to me too. I truly want the best for you. I like to think we’ll both be able to get past all our heartache (or at least most of it) and all our frustration by sharing with each other. I’ll tell you, since we started communicating regularly, I’ve barely mentioned anything to my husband about my family or the nasty drama we’ve been through. So THANK YOU for being there for me. I know he was completely done with hearing anything about them quite a while back (and I certainly don’t blame him.) but it being MY family, I was far from done. I have one friend who also had issues with her mom, but she was also physically abused, and got beyond it all years ago. So even though she understands, I just don’t feel right saying too much to her about any of it. We’ll get beyond it all too.

Know, there’s a part of me that doesn’t feel right about “hogging up too much of this site” either, but whenever I think that, several things come to mind. One being, as I’d said before, no one had posted on this thread for years before mine. A little more than three years to be exact. Two, considering the theories of cyber space, we could write on here all we want and never run out of room to write more. Three, no one is forced to read what we’ve written, nor is anyone prevented from writing whatever they want. (Another note to anyone who’d care to comment or join us, PLEASE DO.) Four, if Michelle had any problem with it, she’d come on here and tell us to ‘knock it off’. Though I imagine she’d probably do it with more class than that. : ) Five, she’d originally set up a forum intending to facilitate back and forth communication, but was simply unable to continue it due to the “demands” of “maintenance and management”. She also states on her “About Michelle Piper” page, “Being able to share your story and have someone else acknowledge it is also an important step in the process. Whether you share your story here, with someone you trust deeply, or a counseling professional of some type, keep in mind it’s an important step in the recovery process.” So even though I don’t feel %100 about it, I figure she probably doesn’t mind whatsoever. Beside that, we’re not treading on the rights of others, nor are we breaking any stated rules or laws. For that matter, if someone else really has an issue with it, they can get on here and tell us. Though I strongly doubt that will happen. Because we’re on a site being visited mostly by reasonable victims, not narcissists.

I imagine it would be tough to find a “savvy counselor” almost anywhere. I read somewhere that one should not only seek out a counselor who fully understands the disorder, but also one who’s been personally targeted by such bullies. They were saying that the wrong counselor can do even more damage, by turning the blame back on the victim, or convincing them they’re overemotional and making things up. I think It would take someone who really knows their stuff and has a real heart of love to counteract all the influence of a narcissistic mother. I’m not trying to say you shouldn’t seek one out if you think you need to Darling. I’m just going on my faith in God, my own inner resources, our communicating, further narc education, and the belief in the adage ‘Time heals all wounds’.

Hope to hear from you before long. <3

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Bertie October 19, 2017 at 2:07 pm

Well, now I feel better about writing! Here I go!

When I said I was “bursting” the other day … you will know what I mean when I try to explain it. There are some days, when the thoughts about NM and siblings and relatives are totally filling up my head. The initial thought travels to another thought, and then another thought, and another. And it’s always about bad stuff … never good.
Anyway, I was having one of those days.

Communicating with you has helped me A LOT too. The only one I ever used to voice things to was my husband. And although he tries to listen, he has long grown tired. And I don’t blame him whatsoever. He has been involved in all the mess too, so he understands.

I recall Michelle writing what you just quoted … how telling and sharing is part of the recovery. Personally, I have never run across another person that I know (in real time) who came from a family “like mine”. I’ve had many close girlfriends … and I never told them much … but what little I did tell them, they could not relate too. They could not understand. They did not grow up this way. And so, I never said much.

This site has been very helpful. I’m here to listen to you whenever you need a listener.

So tell me more of your story (if you want too).

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Rubies October 19, 2017 at 5:58 pm

For those wanting to read more comments, push “PREVIOUS COMMENTS” at the top of this list, highlighted in light blue. I and another commenter are carrying on a conversation about our narcissistic mothers from the previous list. PLEASE feel free to join us, as we’d be happy to have you. Or leave your own response to this article.

Thank You!

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Rubies October 19, 2017 at 6:55 pm

Thank you Bertie for saying you’re here to listen, as I’m here for you. Though I don’t always have the time to say all I want to you. I wish we could do nothing but write on here untill we both get it all out of our systems. In fact, I feel there are things that have been brought up in our conversation, and in TW’s comment that I keep intending to get back to, but find I need to say other things instead. My mind is a jumble at times about all this. I so understand you saying one thought leading to the next thought and it all being bad. I know I’ve been suppressing so many things for so long that my mind is “bursting” too. It’s strange because I use to only focus on the good stuff with my mother, and now that I’m looking at things more objectively, I’m seeing how much the bad outweighs the good.

I so agree with what you said before, about our having a harder time with all this due to how elderly our mothers are. Our choosing to separate from them is really like making a final decision. I hate to say that to you, and to myself. It’s the reason why I want to give in sometimes, but then what would I go back to? More anger, even more hateful actions, the same lies, or worse. Someone younger, with a younger mother, could at least separate from her, knowing they probably have another twenty or thirty years to change their minds, or possibly work things out with her. However, we can at least know that no matter what happens, we won’t be facing this twenty years from now.

We’ll make it Bertie, one way or another. <3

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Bertie October 20, 2017 at 6:42 am

I never saw my mom for what she was until the past 15 years, give or take a few. We started to “do battle” at that time … because I finally said “no”. And we would be doing battle today, if I called her on the phone today, or if she called me.

It was weird to read Michelle’s descriptions of how the various children fall into categories. There were five of us and we did fit into them. Looking back, I see that my oldest sister was ALWAYS the Golden Child. This hurts a little, because I was the other daughter, born much later. I only saw things as they really were, recently. I never saw it before.
For example: My parents had/have a very nice antique dining room table and chairs. Years ago I asked my NM if I could have that someday. She said, “No, Golden wants that”. I didn’t think much about that. And then, over the years, NM would make a HUGE FUSS when Golden and family came home. But she “expected” things from me. She “did things” for Golden. She had undying sympathy for Golden, always. I was supposed to give Golden what I had. (How is this supposed to not cause a problem eventually?). It never ended! We are all old now and it is still the same! NM and Golden are actually MAD that I have a husband and a home. Well, excuse me?! Stuff like that.
And so, I have literally been driven crazy by the two of them. And these are the females within my family unit. I could say a whole lot more, but I won’t. This paints a bit of a picture. Oh heck, I’ll add another. I grew up around families who were pretty poor. I guess we were poor too, but were doing better off than some of the rest. And so, when school came around every fall, my NM would tell me that they deliberately were not going to dress me nice, so that I would fit in. This was the case during all of grade school. Finally, I started high school. NM and Golden saw an ad in the paper for a big box of used clothes. They went and bought me the gigantic box of used clothes and brought it home. They started to pick through it, with me standing there. The clothes were awful. Stuffed in there. Folded tight. Big and homemade and ugly. I stood there and went “Yuk”. From that point on, my NM bought me some new, in-style clothes. But the interesting point is: She always made a point that Golden had nice clothes. Always. Every year. I didn’t let this bother me, even though I “realized” it a long, long time ago. I finally let it all bother me when the two of them denied me having a home, a family, a husband …. which are things I should not be denied having.
It’s all so dysfunctional. At times, I want to climb to the top of a mountain top and scream. But I’m okay. I’m better these days. But it was like being stabbed in the back by the two females who, at one time, were the two females I was closest too, and thought that they loved me unconditionally. There comes that “unconditional” word again. They would love me today, too, if I would not have had a happy marriage, a handsome husband, and a nice house, etc.
And the funny thing about clothes is that I became a “Tom Boy” kind of person in that I don’t really care about clothes. Which goes to self-esteem — I’ve always felt okay about myself without having super nice clothes on my back. Because I learned that before. I learned how to have good self-esteem by being “just me”. But I do know that clothes matter and I love nice clothes. But I feel okay about myself without having to shop. If that makes sense.

But I will always have a sadness and an anger that it had to come to this point with regard to my ending relationships with my NM and Golden. We all LOST.

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Bertie October 20, 2017 at 9:09 am

I have to write more on the subject. This subject would be more about “dysfunction” than having a NM. Not too many years ago, I thought this was about “Codependency”. But I do not know if I had that right. ??

The older four kids were born close together and have a bond. I have since learned that I am not included.

Years past, whenever something went on, whenever someone was having money problems, Golden was part of the scene. In her own way, she helped, but it did not involve giving anyone money. But as the years went by, Golden started having HUGE problems and expected HUGE help in return. She also wanted financial help for her kids, who were adults, and she more or less, expected it. I do not think she got $$ for her kids.

I have also learned that in our family, no one ever pays the money back. One time, I borrowed a book to Golden. She didn’t return it. A couple of years later, I asked for it back. She said, “If you borrow someone something, don’t expect to get it back”.

If I summed it up, I would say that NM and Golden had “Unrealistic Expectations” (from me … and indirectly, from my husband).

My husband and I did what we could for my family and I mean that! We didn’t have a magic money tree outside to go out and pick money from. But I think to NM and Golden, we were viewed as being “stingy” and were “letting them suffer” while we lived a life of affluence. They all sat around and talked about us, often … about the fact we weren’t giving them money.

We were living very normally, by society’s standards. Lower middle class. That is all.
We were raising a family. We didn’t go on trips, I always cleaned my house, I always did everything myself, with regard to everything. My husband did not marry my mother. My husband did not marry my sister. My husband did not owe my brothers.

My husband’s mother never asked him for a dime. Ever. One sibling, one time, asked him for money. Once. Their family always did everything as a “team”. If the mom needed something, someone took charge, and they all chipped in. Did this happen in our family like this? No.

I had to say this to my NM, one time, while she was mad about the fact she wasn’t getting money from my husband. I brought up the fact that HIS OWN mother was not after him for money — but that she is! My NM’s angry response was, “Well, she’s STUPID, isn’t she?”

As the years went on, NM used a phrase a lot. She would say to me, “You People …”
She would say “You people don’t know what it’s like to do anything nice for anyone….”
Which was a joke. Because my husband and I did tons of stuff for tons of people, always. NM was the one who never stuck her nose out of her door, her entire life. One time, NM said to me, “You people eat good”. She was referring to me saying that I was making roast for supper. If you went into NM’s house right now, she’d have food stuffed everywhere. She has food. She’s a hoarder.

To sum it up, NM and Golden needed money, all of the time, at this stage in their lives. We did not have it to give to them. Period. That’s when the “hate thing” started. And when we did give money to NM, she’d use it to buy new clothes and expensive make-up and the like. She didn’t actually NEED it. Or, if she did need something, she didn’t spend it on what she “needed”.

When I spoke with a brother this past year, he brought this up, and said, “Everyone knows that you guys get used for money”. And then he actually laughs by saying “Hee Hee Hee”.
And then we was after us for money, in a crafty kind of way.

One year, one of my brothers said, “She’s playing you”. Referring to NM.
One year, another brother said, “Don’t show her your throat”. Referring to NM.

Where’s that mountain top? I am done writing.
When I write about this, it confirms in my mind that I am doing the ABSOLUTE ONLY THING FOR ME AND THAT IS TO REMAIN NO CONTACT.

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Rubies October 20, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Wow Bertie, saying “We all LOST” is so profound and so very true for each member of my family as well. Though I imagine none of them will ever see it.

I lol’d about your “Well, excuse me?!” because it’s SO TRUE. It’s almost like them saying how DARE YOU have a normal life. One day I’ll ‘try’ to summarize the whole drama, and then you’ll understand how they truly tried to ruin our house, our marriage, and each of our lives for many years to come. Please know, I’m not trying to make it some mystery. I just know the more I say, the more I’d have to say for it to all to make sense. Just imagine three narcissists, (I’m not including the sister in-laws) all being controlled by a SOCIOPATH who despises us. And why does he despise us? Because he ended up owing us a LOT of money. And because we have a each other, a nice house, kids, successful business, close friends, respected names, and I imagine the worst thing for him was ‘happiness’. (At least we did back then.) I remember so many things coming out of their mouths, and especially his, which clearly expressed envy. (One of them didn’t, but he’s doing well in the money dept. and looks down his nose at everyone. He’s the original and always Golden Boy.) I’m sure Mr. Socio also despises us because when he’d make these envious statements, we tried to encourage him and sometimes admonish him into understanding that he could have these things too, if he made wise decisions in his life, worked hard or simply WORKED, and sacrificed some things. I now imagine his narc mind took all that as our trying to make him feel foolish, stupid, lazy, and irresponsible. We truly tried to be a good aunt and uncle to him, while at the exact same time, he was seriously PLOTTING to ruin our lives. It’s part of the long story, but he got my mother to try to press FALSE charges against my husband. I THANK GOD, the detective figured it must be some crazy family drama and didn’t pursue it. Of course, I imagine different people repeatedly calling the police station trying to get her to press these charges tipped her off. I swear these people would be absolutely thrilled if we each were worse off than someone completely alone, living in the streets, and completely despised.

I keep imagining you as a little girl, and remembering myself as well. It truly breaks my heart to think about us being repeatedly disrespected back then, and yet trying to convince ourselves not to let any of it bother us. We really should be proud of ourselves though. We’ve come a long long way and both made good lives for ourselves. They probably believed they could keep us down forever.

It does seem ‘weird’ how Michelle’s descriptions categorize each member of our families, but I’ve found is just basic psychology. Look up ‘Dysfunctional Family’ on Wickepedia. It’s quite enlightening.

Sometimes I hate to press submit because I always see all the spelling and other mistakes afterward. I’m so glad our comments aren’t graded. : )

<3

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Rubies October 20, 2017 at 5:45 pm

See, I misspelled Wikipedia. I also said his ‘narc’ mind about Mr. Sociopath, but from what I’ve learned, all sociopaths are narcissists. However, not all narcissists are sociopaths. Kind of like all Chevies are cars, but not all cars are Chevies. Sociopaths are just worse and more criminally minded. Example: Remember how I told you he got the other two to try to black-mail us, and that he could have ducked out of any responsibility for it if we had pressed charges.

So Bertie could you please tell me whether you’re able to get to the second page of comments on this article. I’m not, and I’m just wondering if it’s due to my old devise or whether it’s something to do with this site. Thanks! Hope to hear from you before long.

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Rubies October 20, 2017 at 5:54 pm

I just saw you posted again. I’ll have to respond to it tomorrow. : )

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