Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers

Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers

by Karyl McBride Ph.D.


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Aimed at daughters experiencing the emotional abuse of narcissistic mothers, Will I Ever Be Good Enough? helps readers overcome the challenges and reclaim their lives.

The first book for daughters who have suffered the abuse of selfish, self-involved mothers, Will I Ever Be Good Enough? provides the expert assistance you need in order to overcome this debilitating history and reclaim your life. Drawing on more than two decades of experience as a therapist specializing in women’s health and hundreds of interviews with suffering daughters, Dr. Karyl McBride helps you recognize the widespread effects of this emotional abuse and create an individualized program for self-protection, resolution, and complete recovery.

Narcissistic mothers teach their daughters that love is not unconditional, that it is given only when they behave in accordance with maternal expectations and whims. As adults, these daughters have difficulty overcoming feelings of inadequacy, disappointment, emotional emptiness, and sadness. They may also have a fear of abandonment that leads them to form unhealthy romantic relationships, as well as a tendency to perfectionism and unrelenting self-criticism or to self-sabotage and frustration. Dr. McBride’s step-by-step program will enable you to:

(1) Recognize your own experience with maternal narcissism and its effects on all aspects of your life
(2) Discover how you have internalized verbal and nonverbal messages from your mother and how these have translated into overachievement or self-sabotage
(3) Construct a personalized program to take control of your life and enhance your sense of self, establishing healthy boundaries with your mother and breaking the legacy of abuse

Warm and sympathetic, Dr. McBride brings a profound level of authority to Will I Ever Be Good Enough? that encourages and inspires you as it aids your recovery.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439129432
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 09/08/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 21,879
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.65(d)

About the Author

Karyl McBride, Ph.D., is a licensed marriage and family therapist with more than thirty years of experience in public and private practice, specializing in treatment of trauma. She is a leading authority on narcissism and author of Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers. She is a contributing blogger for Psychology Today, Huffington Post, and her recent book was featured in the New York Times book club. Dr. McBride can also be found online at WillIEverBeGoodEnough.com, KarylMcBridePhD.com, and Facebook.com/DrKarylMcBride.

Read an Excerpt


Our relationship with Mother is birthed simultaneously with our entry into the world. We take our first breath of life, and display the initial dependent, human longing for protection and love in her presence. We are as one in the womb and on the birthing table. This woman, our mother...all that she is and is not...has given us life. Our connection with her in this instant and from this point forward carries with it tremendous psychological weight for our lifelong well-being. Oddly, I have never wanted to believe this.

First, being a feminist-era mom myself, I didn't want mothers and women to bear so much responsibility or ultimate blame if things go wrong. Certainly many factors other than mothering shape a child's life. Second, I didn't want to face how feeling like an unmothered child had such a devastating effect on me and my life. To acknowledge this meant I had to face it.

While doing research over the years, I have read many books that discuss the mother-daughter bond. Each time I read a different volume, unexpected tears would stream down my cheeks. For I could not recall attachment, closeness, memories of the scent of Mother's perfume, the feel of her skin, the sound of her voice singing in the kitchen, the solace of her rocking, holding and comforting, the intellectual stimulation and joy of being read to.

I knew this was not natural, but could not find a book that explained this lack. It made me feel somewhat crazy. Was I delusional, or just a chick with a poor memory? I could not find a book that explained that this phenomenon of feeling unmothered could be a real deal and that there could be mothers who are not maternal. Nor could I find a book that discussed the conflicted feelings that their daughters have about these mothers, the frustrated love, and even sometimes the hatred. Because good girls aren't supposed to hate their mothers, they don't talk about these bad feelings. Motherhood is a sacred institution in most cultures and therefore is generally not discussed in a negative light. When I decided to write a book on mothers who don't mother their daughters, and the pain this causes girls and adult daughters, I felt as if I were breaking a taboo.

Reading books about the mother-daughter bond always gave me the sensation of a deep loss and the fear that I was alone in this suffering. Experts wrote of the complexity of the mother-daughter connection, how it is rife with conflict and ambivalence, but I felt something different -- a void, a lack of empathy and interest, and a lack of feeling loved. For many years, I did not understand and tried to rationalize it. Other members of the family and well-intentioned therapists explained it away with various excuses. Like a good girl, I tried to make excuses and take all the blame. It was not until I began to understand that the emotional void was a characteristic result of maternal narcissism that the pieces began to fit together. The more I learned about maternal narcissism, the more my experience, my sadness, and my lack of memory made sense. This understanding was the key to my beginning to recover my own sense of identity, apart from my mother. I became more centered, taking up what I now call substantial space, no longer invisible (even to myself) and not having to make myself up as I go along. Without understanding, we flail around, we make mistakes, feel deep unworthiness, and sabotage ourselves and our lives.

Writing this book has been a culmination of years of research and a soul journey that took me back to when I was a little girl who knew something was wrong, feeling that the absence of nurturing was not normal, but not knowing why. I am writing this book now in the hopes that I can help other women understand that those feelings were and are not their fault.

This does not mean that I want you to blame your mother. This is not a journey of projected anger, resentment, or rage, but one of understanding. We want to heal ourselves and we have to do that with love and forgiveness for ourselves and our mothers. I do not believe in creating victims. We are accountable for our own lives and feelings. To be healthy, we first have to understand what we experienced as daughters of narcissistic mothers, and then we can move forward in recovery to make things the way they need to be for us. Without understanding our mothers and what their narcissism did to us, it is impossible to recover. We have been taught to repress and deny, but we have to face the truth of our experiences -- that our longing for a maternal warmth and mothering is not going to be fulfilled and our wishing and hoping that things will be different are not going to change things. As girls, we were programmed to look at the dynamics of the family in a positive light, even though we knew we lived under a shadow. Our families usually did look good to outsiders, but though we sensed something was wrong, we were told that really "it is nothing." This kind of emotional environment and dishonesty can be crazy-making. Smile, be pretty, and act like everything's good. Sound familiar?

I am still amazed whenever I talk to other daughters of narcissistic mothers at the similarities of our internal emotional landscapes. We may have different lifestyles and outward appearances for the world to see, but inside, we wave the same emotional banners. My greatest hope is that this book will offer you acknowledgment and validation for your profound emotions and allow you to feel whole, healthy, and authentic in who you are today.

In writing this book, I had to fight many internal battles. First, I had to trust my ability to do it, as I am a therapist, not a writer. Second, and of more interest, I had to talk to my mother about it. When I brought it up with Mother, I said to her, "Hey, Mom, I need your help. I am writing a book about mothers and daughters and I need your input, suggestions, and permission to use some personal material." My mother, bless her heart, said, "Why don't you write a book about fathers?" And of course, she was worried about being a bad mother, which would be expected. She was able to give me her blessing, however, and I think it is because she was trying to understand that this is not a book about blame, but a book about healing. I have to admit I wanted her to say many things like: "Are there some things we need to discuss or work on together?" "Do you have pain from your childhood?" "Is there anything we can do about it now?" "Can we heal together?" None of this happened, but after all these years of my own recovery work, I knew not to expect her to be able to do this empathic inquiry. I was grateful that I had mustered the nerve to broach the book to her, which admittedly took me some time to do. At one time in my life, this exchange would have been unthinkable.

Somehow, after taking this risk, I found it easier to move forward and be authentic in talking about my own experience as well as about my research. Although it would have felt emotionally safe to write at arm's length from a purely clinical perspective, I hope that my own stories of being a daughter of a narcissistic mother will help you know that I do understand. I have been there.

I've divided the book into three parts that parallel my approach to psychotherapy. Part 1 explains the problem of maternal narcissism. Part 2 shows the impact of the problem, its many effects, and how it plays out in daughters' lifestyles. Part 3 is a road map for recovery.

I invite you now to come with me to learn about yourself and your mother. It won't always be a comfortable and easy trip. You'll be emerging from denial, confronting difficult feelings, being vulnerable, and facing characteristics of your own that you may not like. It is an emotional undertaking. Sometimes you will find it funny. Other times you will feel a great sadness as you try to understand what you experienced and heal from it. By doing so, you will change the legacy of distorted maternal love and make a lasting difference for your daughters, sons, and grandchildren. As you face the honest reflections of your life patterns, you will ultimately like yourself more and become better at parenting, in relationships, and in everything else in your life.

Emotional legacies are like genetic legacies; they pass along to each generation without anyone really taking a lot of notice. Some of the "hand me downs" are endearing and wonderful and we feel grateful and proud, but some are heartbreaking and destructive. They need to be stopped. We need to stop them. Having done my own recovery work from my distorted maternal legacy, I can say that I've been there and I can help you change yours too.

I welcome you to read further with me. Sit with me, talk with me, cry with me, laugh with me. Together we will begin to deal with the reality of your emotional legacy. Even if it's always been "all about Mom," it's your turn now. It gets to be about you, the "you" that maybe you've never discovered or didn't even know existed. Copyright © 2008 by Dr. Karyl McBride

Table of Contents


Part One: Recognizing the Problem

Chapter 1 The Emotional Burden You Carry

Chapter 2 T he Empty Mirror: My Mother and Me

Chapter 3 The Faces of Maternal Narcissism

Chapter 4 Where Is Daddy? The Rest of the Narcissistic Nest

Chapter 5 Image Is Everything: Put a Smile on That Pretty Little Face

Part Two: How Narcissistic Mothering Afects Your Entire Life

Chapter 6 I Try So Hard! The High-Achieving Daughter

Chapter 7 What's the Use? The Self-Sabotaging Daughter

Chapter 8 Romantic Fallout: Trying to Win at Love Where I Failed with Mom

Chapter 9 Help! I'm Becoming My Mother: Daughters as Mothers

Part Three: Ending the Legacy

Chapter 10 First Steps: How It Feels, Not How It Looks

Chapter 11 A Part Of and Apart From: Separating from Mother

Chapter 12 Becoming the Woman I Truly Am: Deserving Daughters

Chapter 13 My Turn: Dealing with Mother during Recovery

Chapter 14 Filling the Empty Mirror: Ending the Narcissistic Legacy


Suggested Reading and Movie Viewing Source Lists


What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"The author provides parenting tips as well as advice on maintaining healthy love relationships and friendships." —-Publishers Weekly Starred Review

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Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book helped me see that I am not alone! And it helped me understand family dynamics and how we kids responded to our mom and how we still respond. I do feel that the author should describe the different forms of narcissism on the book jacket or in the description of the book - because it does NOT mean "self love" like so many people think. I found the description of mom in the pages and read about how to cope with the past and the present relationship with her. And most importantly for me, I learned how to recognize the narcissistic tendencies in me so I treat my children better.
morganmad More than 1 year ago
This book is a practical guide to help daughters of narcissistic mothers to recover from the effects of their mothers' mistreatment. It is not intended to be a full scale discussion of the causes and treatment of narcissism nor of any current scientific theories, but a source to help the people most severely impacted by it. The author offers specific behaviors to help in recovery. She states very clearly that if you need more intensive therapy, then you should get it; she gives some practical advice on therapeutic methods and practitioners. Overall, this is a terrific book and a real support for those who have or had narcissistic mothers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have never written a book review before but I feel compelled to do so. This book is AMAZING. I had done alot of the work suggested in my own way years ago getting away from and recovering from my mother but recently began questioning myself again during a divorce. My biggest fear was choosing another narcassistic partner. My husband was an even bigger narcissist than my mother and I put up with a lot of unacceptable behaviors for a long time because they felt normal to me. This book has done so many things to improve my state of mind not the least of which is rebuild my confidence that I can pick someone good and worthwhile.
SusannahD More than 1 year ago
Dr. McBride lays out what can happen to the lives of the daughters of narcissists. I loved the line "Narcissistic Mothers: Always there when they need you" as it captured the essence of the relationship. An easy read in that it's not hard to get through or understand, but a difficult read in that Dr McBride lays out a path of recovery for us daughters, and it's not an easy trail. But as hard as life has been with The Mother, this path of recovery offers a real chance for change, and a real life.
Strawberry_Princess More than 1 year ago
I am amazed that while having traveled far in my recovery that I found a book that made my jaw drop on several occasions. The book is well organized, covers all the points and offers recovering advice gathered over years of practicing it and counseling with it. You will need to reread it at least once to pick up on all the insight the author has to offer. Thank you for helping and sharing, it was done in a well written book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dr. McBride nails it here! I have been struggling with this issue for many years. All the emotions I have felt over the years that are considered taboo in our society are talked about here. It made me feel that I am not so alone and that these issues really do exist and happen to other people. I read this over a weekend and I believe this book will change my outlook about myself. While I was able to identify the many messed up issues with my mother that affected my outlook about myself I never knew how to fix the problem or change how I felt about myself. The book gives the reader understanding of narcissism the importance of accepting the situation for what it is and direction for learning how to care for yourself. The book was very helpful to me and it's definetely a keeper as I am sure I will be referring back to it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first book that actually really helps you understand the problem and what to do about it to help yourself shake free from the after shock of growing up with someone with NPD. I especially liked that she stresses you don't need to feel guilty if you cannot remain in relationship. Very helpful!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this book helped me understand the history of a narcissistic mother. It was a life altering read for me. it helped me to cope with and understand what is behind the feeling of "not being good enough"!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is above and beyond what I expected. After so many years of struggling, I can now say "it's not me"and "it's not my fault". There are examples throughout the book from other daughters who are going through the same thing. I highly recommend this to every daughter who has a narcissistic mother.
ScorpionsFan More than 1 year ago
This book was so good at describing what it was like for me growing up that I was wondering if Dr. McBride had somehow lived my life. I'm in my 50's and wish I had discovered this book much earlier. My mother's 91 and is even worse now that she's living in an assisted living facility. It was a comforting to me that it was my mother than had a "problem" and that I could stop trying so hard to please her. An excellent book for any woman that is always hearing her mother tell her how much better she could do it even when she's on the opposite coast. I can't recommend it highly enough; I've lent it out some many times it's becoming ragged but my friends usually end up buy their own copy.
Robbiebee More than 1 year ago
Finally, a book that explains everything I've been thinking and feeling. Dr. McBride not only helped me see I was far from alone, but also how to handle and work through my feelings and accept my family limitations.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What I liked about this book is that it talked about a lot of different scenarios and that maybe one or two of them sounded close or like you and your mother. Pointing it out was a good walk. The part I liked the most was the three-step recovery that Dr, McBride walks you through. You are not going to ever change that person unless that person wants to change. You have to find what works for you to be healthy and vibrant. On Quora where people ask narc. questions of all kinds I probably recommend this book far above the many self-healing books I have read. Thank you Dr. McBride.
suzysunshine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What an incredible book. The author's clinical and personal experience with the phenomena of narcissism was so very helpful to me. The discussion was balanced and loving of both mothers and their daughters. I am 68 years old and have struggled with these issues all my life. Reading this book was a break through for me and has assisted in healing these wounds at long last. Thank you Dr. McBride
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thank you to Dr McBride. Discovering this book truly changed my life for the better. I normally read fiction for entertainment but this book was so spot-on about my narcissistic mother, I could not put it down and have read various parts repeatedly. It also helped that it was so well written, useful, and organized. Finally, at 59 yrs old & after I reading this book I understand why my mother has been so cruel. I would highly recommend this book to anyone in the situation. It is very hard to read if you have a mother like this but will help you to understand that you are not bad, your mother has a personality disorder and there is nothing you can do. I didn't even know there was such a thing & all of my adult life thought it was me. I could never understand why my mother who should love me is the only one who treats me so badly. Now that I know the root cause and it will never change, this book has helped me to develop some strategies. To me, this is more than a book it was enlightening experience and my life is better & clearer now. Excellent book!
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So glad I found this book. Highly recommended for those with narcissistic mothers.
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