Will I Ever Be Good Enough? – The mother-in-question is me

Do I notice the irony of the subtitle on this blog post? Why yes, yes I do.

It’s taken me a long time to write about Will I Ever Be Good Enough? by Karyl McBride, Ph.D. I have mixed feelings about it. Let’s see if you agree.

It’s about mothers and daughters. To be clear, daughters and their narcissistic mothers.

They say it’s a book for daughters. It’s funny how I turned it on its head and made it a book about me as Mother, not me as Daughter.

Mother/ Daughter issues run through my family like … like… the Mojave River. It’s above ground and below… sometimes obvious… sometimes not. After a storm, it can turn into a torrent. Out of nowhere! I know, because we lived in a desert town, on a street that ended at the river.

An aside: The river bed was normally dry, the water ran below ground at this particular point of its journey. But after an especially bad summer storm (we used to get flash floods) the river came above ground and rushed past us like it was going downhill. Pretty dangerous if you don’t know what’s possible… kinda like a narcissistic mother. But I digress. 

I got the book on the recommendation of a friend. The title was enough to reel me in. I didn’t know if my mother was a narcissist, but I certainly knew I’d never be good enough.

Where did that feeling come from? I could tell you it’s my mother — such a simplistic answer. Mothers are ALWAYS at fault. How well I know!

But yes, my mother and I tangled… a lot… when we both were young. We had a bumpy start in life… and I don’t talk about it much. It most-likely colored what came after. Whatever it was, it stopped more than twenty years ago. Our relationship is one of mutual admiration, respect and love.

Her mother was a complicated woman, though she seemed less-so by the time I knew her. She was, simply put, my angel. She was a spectacular grandmother.

Nobody talked much about my mother’s young life, but I remember realizing – at a fairly young age – that my mother was more like the parent to her mother than the other way around. My grandmother, with her actions, seemed to say, “I can’t do anything without you.” Was this love? She thought so. I think. I don’t know.

Reminds me of a quote, also found in this book:

She did not know how to love me and I don’t know how to love you. – Sidda Walker in The Devine Secrets of the YaYa-Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells.

Will I Ever Be Good Enough? is rich in information and a moving, hopeful, excellent work about repairing, moving-on-from or growing the mother/daughter relationship.

However, it’s too easy to label a distant mother, a grieving mother, a struggling mother, a bitchy mother… as a narcissist. That’s just the feeling I get.

I looked up “How prevalent is narcissism?” Here is the first answer I received:

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders between 0.5 and 1 percent of the general population (50 to 75% are men) is diagnosed with NPD.

Surely, that number does not account for all the narcissistic mothers this book implies are out there? Does it?

I worry that we’re getting heavy-handed with our labels.

What do you think?

In the meantime, I have to say that I saw myself in this book… in places, a daughter, in others as a mother. I’m sure my adult children have used the word “narcissist” to describe me on more that one occasion. Having health anxiety certainly sets the stage. Me and my pain, my fears, my body. Me, me, ME. Ugh.

I know they never wondered if they were good enough because  – big surprise – I told them they were good enough all the time. I never wanted them to wonder.

However… in that… they tell me I didn’t push hard enough, let them get away with too much, didn’t give them enough rules.

Once, my youngest daughter was giving me a list of everything I’ve done wrong as a mother… and as she finished, she said, crying: “You didn’t teach me how to sew!”

The thing is: I don’t know how to sew!

Double ugh.

Being a mom is tough enough without worrying you’re doing it wrong all the time.

Which brings us back to the title of the book: Will I ever be good enough? Apparently not. Not as a daughter, not as a mother. And it’s probably not because of narcissism. But I could be wrong.

Triple ugh.

 

 

6 comments

  1. Hi Sheryl, many thanks for this post. My understanding is that narcissism is a spectrum. While it’s true that only a very small amount of people are diagnosed with NPD, there are many, many more who exhibit unhealthy narcissistic traits such as a lack of empathy and an inflated sense of self-importance. I love this book by Karyl McBride and I think it’s invaluable for any daughter who wants to make sense of and heal from her experiences with a narcissistic mother. I know you said it’s taken you a long time to write about it but I’m so glad you did! I found it really interesting to hear your take on it, thank you also for sharing your personal experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Happens to the best of us, Lovey. I told my daughter she was good enough every day of her childhood too, but at about the age of thirty she told me one day she couldn’t think of a single good thing about herself. Another ten years has gone by with her furiously trying to prove it to me, herself and everyone. Right now it looks like she’s reconnecting to that original feedback & therefore releasing the need and becoming happier. Time will tell. Anyway. There’s no such thing as a perfect mom — and you’re not alone.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.