When we’re young, it’s mom who gratifies our needs and takes care of our hurts. But she is also the first one to impose control and set limits. As we grow, memories of this primary and powerful relationship are imprinted deep in our psyche.
Through attachments we learn who we are and what we feel. Some moms don’t acknowledge their kids as independent and set up coercive relationships with conditions on love and approval. In all stages of life, children with difficult mothers can struggle with self doubt and worry that others won’t approve of them.
Even though the media leads us to believe that all mothers deserve flowers on Mother’s Day, not all moms are lovable. So how can you protect yourself from rejection and keep your self respect while regulating closeness and distance? Here are some ideas to take better care of you on Mother's Day and throughout the year:
Let go of the dream of having a loving mother. It's hard to face the fact that you don’t have a 'good enough' mother. Once and for all, step back, shift the focus away from her and begin to protect and nurture yourself.
Be clear about what you're willing to do. Perhaps your mother still has unreasonable expectations. Instead of valuing what you do, she argues and criticizes. Make a list of what you’ll tolerate and keep firm boundaries. Don’t assume that you have to do it all alone - talk honestly about how you feel and have family members do their share. Some adult children have to work it out by walking away.
Refuse to respond to unrealistic demands. You’ll create more balance by setting limits. You don't have to continue identifying with the role of the victim. Think about seeing a therapist, because learning how to soothe yourself and manage your moods will put you more in control of your life.
Silence your self-doubt. It’s not uncommon for insecurity to be the legacy of a difficult mother. Challenge your negative internal scripts and put them to rest. Value those who listen as you share your opinions and desires. It’ll remind you that close relationships can be different from what you have with your mother.
Begin to practice self love. You’ll feel more empowered as you list all you have achieved without your mother’s support. Realize that these assets belong to you alone. If you've spent a lifetime trying to be taken care of or consumed with rage about not having that kind of love, it may be hard to see yourself as the valuable person you really are. Grow to know that you are not defined by your mom, but by what you envision yourself to be.
Notice the positives of the life you've created. When you were young, your mom's attitude may have made you feel worthless or invisible. Now that you are older, you're no longer that helpless little girl. Admire and respect your grown up qualities - how responsible you are, being able to laugh at yourself, your fierce independence and good judgment.
As you continue working to get what you need and want, consider the possibility of offering forgiveness. Granted, your mom may have made it difficult to accept yourself or trust others. But know that forgiving your mother for who she is doesn't necessarily excuse her actions. And starting to extinguish the feelings of rejection and resentment can mark a new beginning for you - a Mother's day gift that you give yourself, freeing you from the past.