Children who grow up with toxic, narcissistic, enmeshed or neglectful parents grow up with a void that is hard to fill.
Much is spoken about the selflessness of motherhood. But what about the rest of us who have grown up with mothers of a different kind? Mothers who were unkind, toxic, or narcissistic?
Psychologists around the globe trace back relationship and self-esteem issues in adulthood to childhood issues. However, when it comes to daughters of unloving mothers, the scars run deep.
A few experts, like Susan Foreward, have spoken about the healing needed for children who have grown up with mothers who lack self-love and pass that on to their children. A subject that became the title of her insightful book, Mothers Who Cannot Love.
The scars that daughters of unloving moms carry often remain lifelong. Here is what those scars would say if they could speak.
1. I am not good enough
A child who has had to grow up with a toxic mother is likely to face self-doubt all her life. No matter how much she achieves in her life, her mother’s voice questions her self-worth constantly. This is the underlying belief that makes her choose the wrong partner, who tends to disrespect her and take her for granted.
2. I wish was _____
“…better, prettier, smarter, thinner, more like my sister, less like my dad.” The list can be endless. A daughter looks up to her mom for self-affirmation. When it is the mother who breaks the child’s confidence or compares her with others, the daughter often goes about wishing she wishes she was anything but herself.
3. I am too _____
“…broken, messed up, ugly, fat, thin, stupid to be loved, to be successful, to deserve a good job.” Psychotherapists often see how the messages kids receive from parents can become their inner voice as adults. Daughters who had to face the wrath of narcissistic moms tend to be overwhelmed by self-criticism as adults. This makes them more prone to anxiety and even depression.
4. I don’t deserve love
As grownups, daughters of toxic or abusive moms feel a constant void in their being. No matter what they do, something seems to be missing. Psychologists would say this is because the initial attachment with primary caregiver was a ruptured one. But in simple terms, daughters of unloving moms feel they don’t deserve love. This belief attracts abusive partners and unhealthy relationships as adults.
5. I can’t do anything right
If your mother was an authoritarian, who hid her abuse behind the mask of perfectionism, you are bound to feel like you can never do anything right. You wish that the voice in your head would stop attacking you. You know you are better than you give credit to, but until you heal, almost anything you do seems just not right.
6. I should look perfect to be loved
If your mother emphasized on looks or appearance or you found your mother’s narcissistic nature value your “prettier” looking sibling more, then your mother equated your self-worth with looking perfect. As an adult, you may find it hard to go bare-faced or look less than perfect. In a twisted way, she passed on the message “unless you are pretty, you will not have my approval.”
7. I just cannot say “no”
Many women find it hard to say no. But children who were abused or violated (emotionally or physically) have very weak boundaries. If you mother was overbearing or enmeshed emotionally, you find yourself saying “yes” to requests, demands, partners, chores, tasks, favors when you want to scream “no.”
8. I don’t belong anywhere
A mother is the first person to provide a sense of belonging. The warmth of a loving mother makes a child feel at home with herself and with the world. When this is ruptured due to abuse, control, or emotional manipulation, daughters grow up feeling like an emotional nomad. No matter who is around them, they don’t feel like they truly belong anywhere.
9. Nobody truly cares for me
While this might seem like a spoiled brat throwing a tantrum, an unloved daughter grows up to be fiercely independent most often. She believes she has no one to depend on except herself. While being strong and independent is a great, such women also end up constant givers and never the receivers. They have trouble with intimacy and allowing others to pamper them.
10. I should be someone else to be accepted
Women who grow up with mothers who constantly make them doubt themselves often find relationships to be a battle ground. They find themselves in situations where they have to choose between love and freedom or love and being true to oneself. This is because somewhere inside they were made to believe early on that they should be more or be different than who they are. Because “if mom doesn’t love me as I am, then who will?”
If you grew up with a toxic, abusive, or neglectful mom, you are not alone. You can reach out to support groups, women’s circles, or professional therapists who can assist you to heal the broken parts. Once you heal from past trauma, you will find yourself become the woman you were meant to be. The woman you always were. The one your mom could never truly hold or appreciate.