How Mean Mothers Impact Self-Love

If I asked you who you think has had the deepest impact on your ability to love yourself – from the earliest age of your life – who would you say? If you said your mother (or primary caregiver) then you would be correct. This week we are going to examine the impact that a mean or unloving mother can have on your ability to love yourself and create meaningful long-lasting relationships.

From birth, babies with loving mothers (or primary caregivers) get positive validation and feedback (mirroring and care) – from their very first interactions. If a mother is unable to stay lovingly connected to her child with attention, affection and care, there are emotional consequences.  


So what is the impact of having a mean or unloving mother?


  1. Isolation

It can be an incredibly isolating experience (especially for women) to have an unloving, mean or rejecting mother. Nobody wants to talk about, and if you do bring it up you will often be met with judgemental and (let’s be honest) often just stupid reactions, like being told: “You only have one mother, you should love her unconditionally.” These comments are usually because people who have not had this experience genuinely have no idea how painful this situation can be! Most women just don’t talk about it or will gloss over the issue, while underneath feeling very wounded.

  1.  Disease to please

When we grow up constantly seeking approval or positive reinforcement from a mother, or have been lacking that kind of feedback in our lives, as adults we can often have trouble drawing boundaries as we are constantly looking for approval from others. You can find out more about how to combat the ‘Disease to Please’ here.

  1.  Lack of confidence

If the primary person in your life is rejecting, mean or unloving, that can cause low self-esteem. Feeling that your own mother doesn’t like you can result in your feeling inferior and unlovable.

  1.  Repeating reality

People who have experienced unloving or mean mothers often find themselves in situations later in life where they actually attract other similarly mean or judgemental women into their life – repeating the pattern of constantly seeking approval or affection in some way.  


When we have these kinds of unresolved childhood injuries, we haven’t shifted enough inside to create the new outcome we are seeking, so we are often drawn to people who are familiar to us in some way because we unconsciously seek the desired outcome. We WANT that mean friend to give us the positive validation that we didn’t get from our mothers. So without becoming aware of this pattern, we can often end up repeating a similar reality over and over. To identify whether you have got yourself into a repeating reality, ask the Three Qs:

  1.  Who does this person remind me of?
  2.  Where have I felt like this before?
  3.  Why is this dynamic familiar to me?


Awareness is the key to breaking the repeating pattern and starting the healing process.

  1.  Relationships

Attachment Theory (which examines how our relationships early in our life with parents, caregivers etc impacts our romantic relationships later in life) identifies two main results from having this type of primary caregiver. Ambivalent attachment happens because you have learned from this experience that intimacy and connectedness are not safe, so you are never fully invested; and avoidant attachment, meaning that because you find relationships so stressful, you simply take yourself out of the running – often ending a relationship yourself rather than risking being rejected.

Steps to Take on the Path to Healing

It is important as you start to heal to remember that you are not to blame. This is a very sad limitation that your mother has – there is nothing wrong with you. The criticism and judgment that you received from your mother is not a reflection of your value.

  1.   Love the Child

Take a photo of you when you were very young and honestly look at that child’s face. Know that whatever story you were told about not being good enough IS NOT TRUE. That child is you, she is perfect, and she deserves only love.

  1.  Relationship Snapshot

Take some time to examine your friendships and romantic relationships and see in which one of these you are repeating the relationship with your mother. Evaluate which relationships really make you feel good and which friends really love you for who you are.  Also, honestly identify which friends constantly judge you or criticize or make you feel inferior. Once you have a list of those unhealthy relationships, you can start energetically shifting those relationships. You decide who gets to be in your life. Period.

  1.  Choose Your Family

Choosing a female mentor who holds you in high esteem, or having friendships with older women who treat you with love and respect can be a very healing experience. Sometimes realizing that your mother is never going to change can be difficult, so CHOOSING healthy relationships to replace that dysfunctional one can be very healing. This requires consciously choosing as opposed to unconsciously repeating an unfulfilling pattern.

I hope you have found this helpful and I hope these words of advice help you along your journey to healing. Please share this with anyone who may find it helpful and spread the love.  

As always, take care of you.

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  1. Hello Terri, this was really a good post to read. I am going to share this with others as well.
    We encounter a few adults around in our day-to-day life, who have unhealed wounds from childhood because of mean and unloving parents or step-parent (through their behaviour, we can understand that).
    It is really important to healing our inner child else it affects us as well as all other relationships in our life.

  2. Thank you so very much for discussing this taboo topic. Society in general does not seem to accept the idea of uncaring, unloving mothers. It goes against nature. I grew up in a home with an angry, resentful mother. My sisters and I were subjected to constant screaming and comments like “If it weren’t for you little %#$ of a %$*&#@$; I would have lots of nice clothes and boyfriends!” She was more than just mean. She was abusive. My father’s role was to work long hours and emotionally distance himself. His only advice was to say, “Don’t make her mad.” Very hard to do as she was angered by our very existence.

    I began distancing myself several years ago as she is still a volatile and hate-filled person. I wouldn’t feel safe to be alone in a room with her, even though she is elderly. She is very devious and a gas-lighter. She says incredibly ridiculous things, and people believe her. My dad gave me a ride to the doctor for my post-surgical visit and his car was filled with dirty, uncapped insulin syringes. (She is diabetic with a history of MRSA infection). I nearly had a needle-stick incident as used needles were strategically placed in the seat, door handle, etc. Just on the passenger side. Very, very scary that anyone can be so evil, especially one’s own mother. My dad’s reaction was to make excuses and promise to clean out the car. Thanks, but no thanks. I won’t ever place myself in jeopardy like that again.

    I live some 5 miles from my parents, but haven’t been in their house for over 2 years. Relatives can be very judgmental, even when they know the situation. They try to force a reconciliation and make comments like “You need to just get over it.” You don’t “just” get over abuse. You don’t “just” get over being unloved and unwanted. I am not going back to the well for more abuse just to keep everyone happy with the status quo. Sometimes I feel that writing a book about my childhood would make them understand – or not.

    This idea of extending blanket forgiveness to a person who doesn’t want it – is nonsense. Forgiveness is a circle. It starts with the offender having true remorse and asking to be forgiven. Then the injured party has a choice whether they forgive or not. Too many well-meaning people preach forgiveness these days and shame the victim. You must forgive anyone and everyone. Why on earth would you forgive someone who doesn’t want to be forgiven? Its meaningless. Not that I want to carry around a load of stinky, emotional trash, but it does anger me when relatives in particular demand that I be forgiving. They don’t have a right to dictate my feelings. They didn’t have to survive a damaged childhood.

    Thank goodness for caring, supportive friends. It makes all the difference to have empathetic people in your corner. I also have several older friends that I have instinctively gravitated to over the years – my friend’s mom, an older co-worker and a dear friend who is 101 years old and sharp as a tack. As you mentioned, I think it is so important for older women to mentor younger women. Years ago, when we lived in smaller, close-knit groups, this was more common.

    I didn’t intend to write so much, but this is the first opportunity I have ever had to publicly “come out of the closet” so to speak. It has been decades of evasiveness and embarrassment trying to hide something that was not my fault. No one wants to address this or even acknowledge it. Mothers can’t be mean. They are all kind, loving, selfless women who deserve our respect and admiration and a lovely Mother’s Day gift. Don’t even get me started on that holiday. My mother buys her own cards, signs her daughters’ names and displays them proudly on the kitchen table.

    Thank you again for bringing this to light. The video and written narrative together were so helpful. I have re-read it a number of times and found one sentence to be key. “You decide who gets to be in your life. Period.” I know that in my head, but seeing it in print was powerful.

    Joy and blessings to you for the important work you are doing.

    1. Rita,
      I am so touched by your note and so grateful you are here. Be rest assured that you, my dear are not alone in your struggle and that I see you, I feel you and am witnessing you with so much compassion. I am also inspired by your resilience and courageous. You deserve to be valued and cherished and the fact that you found loving mentors is amazing. Keep up the great work and hold your head high, mama- there is no shame in telling your truth and taking care of you!

  3. Terri. Thank you for this episode. I didn’t watch it when you initially send it but put it on my favorite pages. Then today I had a massive breakdown and decided to see it. Thank you for the work you put in the world. It makes a big difference for a lot of us that have no one else. It is so true what you say about others thinking we should love our mothers. In my case it happens with my sister. Even when she is aware of the damage my mother causes, she always suggest I accept her and love her which, in days like today, it feels impossible. I’m a very positive and spiritual person and the word hate, rarely comes to my mouth but sometimes I feel I hate her. What did I do to deserve such a terrible person in my life? And I know all relationships are spiritual assignments but I just feel there is nothing else to learn from her. I just hope I can be patient enough to wait one more year until I’m out of her house. I strongly believe in No Contact and being there doesn’t help because its an obvious advantage situation. Thank you for reading my story and for sharing tools to get better. Blessings!

    1. Laura,
      I am sending you so much strength and courage to get through the next year. You are under ZERO obligation to heed your sister’s advice and you have every right to the way YOU feel. Please consider doing energy work to protect your space while you still have to live there. My bestie, Lara Riggio has a great site with lots of free vids to help you. I am surrounding you with protective, peaceful energy xo

  4. I was physically, mentally and sexually abused by my adoptive mother who was the only mother I had ever known. She was so cruel. She told me I was deformed and no man would ever want me. She accused me of having sex with my father and told anyone she met that I was awful. I can’t even begin to explain how awful my childhood was. I attempted suicide several times. I am such a shell of a person. Thank you for helping people like us. We are not victims, we are survivors!

    1. LaRoyce,
      I am witnessing you (a beautiful survivor) with love and compassion. Thank you for sharing your story here. Keep up the great work and know that you are not alone on this journey xo

  5. Fab article Terri and thank you for posting however some mothers will have been rejected and hurt themselves as children and often this cycle gets repeated because of lack of awareness and the pattern carries on.

    I am not making excuses for abusive behaviour etc….but our mothers were also children once and they would have been conditioned and abused and the cycle continued……I have reflected on this and whilst I was a motherless child growing up I can also see the other side where my mother was not aware of her behaviour and actions….so now I have come full circle and realise I don’t want to repeat this behaviour with my children and hope that I have put a stop to this.

    1. Yes Milly, I agree. I believe that BEFORE forgiveness or understanding for our parents experience we have to do it for ourselves. The kid within each of us needs to have their experience honored and processed for healing to occur. A child who was raised in a dysfunctional situation learned that their needs are not as important as their parents needs so the healing process requires that the child (who is an adult now) give them self permission to prioritize their own feelings and experiences. Thank you for sharing here!

  6. Thank you so much for your inspiration and info. I am really understanding now why it’s hard to give myself an abundance of selflove. Thank you. I am working on it.

  7. Hi Teri,

    I think you are amazing. You speak so softly and look so good. I am 70 years old and have just come out of a narsistic relationship, 7 months no contact. I know I had a very rejecting mother. Everything I did to please her was met with disdain and I took that all as normal. I can even remember crying as a little one and my mother turning around saying “look at her face” said with disgust. Even to a telephone conversation…I would ring her and say hi mum, it’s helena…..and that was met with ‘YES’ …..every time…..very rejecting. she never did that to my siblings. I see now the repetition compulsion. I love your vids Teri, they are so soothing and full of enlightenment. Also I see that my ex husband had the same qualities. Thanks for taking the time to make the vids ……it is life saving, thank you thank you thank you and a BIG HUG xx

    1. Helena,
      I am so happy that the videos are helping you. You did not and do not deserve that kind of treatment. I am so sorry that was your experience. And want to encourage you to stay on your healing journey As you deserveTo be in a healthy relationship that makes you feel valued and loved and As you know it all starts with loving yourself. Thank you for being here with us xo

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