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?
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Who does this person remind me of?
- Where have I felt like this before?
- Why is this dynamic familiar to me?
Awareness is the key to breaking the repeating pattern and starting the healing process.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.