Honor Thy Mother?

With Mother’s Day just past, many are relieved it’s over until next year. With all those Facebook posts of happy mothers and daughters hugging and smiling, with all those declarations that mothers are role models and best friends, with all those hearts and flowers, some have to wonder. Is it for real? Those are the girls and women whose mothers don’t seem to love them. Or at least not enough.

What makes it worse is these unloved daughters dare not say anything negative about their mothers for fear of breaking a serious taboo. I had a friend who mentioned that she had given her sister a treasured pendant. When the sister died, her mother took all the sister’s jewelry including the pendant. Another friend remarked, “Your mother couldn’t have known what that pendant meant to you or she wouldn’t have taken it.” When my friend said her mother knew full well, the other friend insisted it was impossible.

So here’s a woman whose mother didn’t care enough to think about her, being shamed by her friend. Basically, her friend dismissed the woman’s feelings because they didn’t fit in with the friend’s notions about mother love. And to make matters worse, the woman hadn’t even expected her mother to consider her feelings and let her have the pendant. That’s because she was conditioned to her mother’s lack of love.

Unloved daughters can spend their lives aching for their mothers’ love and struggling to cope with the lack of it. It affects many aspects of their lives, especially their relationships.
Daughters whose mothers don’t love them enough feel:

Low self-esteem. If her mother doesn’t love her, who will? Even when other family members show love for her, it’s not enough, though surely helpful. Needing a mother’s love is a primal thing. And when that mother ignores her or criticizes her, or somehow manages to do both, that girl grows up to be a woman with no confidence. She doesn’t feel worthy, and indeed, gets into relationships with anyone who’ll have her. Because who is she to be fussy?

A need to please. Unloved daughters don’t believe anyone could like them for themselves. So they end up being a doormat, allowing themselves to be controlled and manipulated. Or, they are so needy and require a relationship so intense that they come on too strong and scare people off. They find it hard to make the kind of emotional connection they so desperately seek. And yet, they tend to be drawn to relationships that replicate the harmful one they had with their mother. Because people search for the familiar, even when it’s bad.

A lack of accurate perception. With mothers who are constantly criticizing, girls grow up with their mother’s view of themselves. They are fully aware of their flaws but their good points might as well not exist. They internalize what their mother said and they hear that disapproving voice in their heads, sometimes throughout their lives. They don’t have a realistic perception of themselves—who they are and what they can achieve. They often limit themselves, afraid to try anything because it might result in yet another failure.

Isolation. Unloved daughters feel especially lonely when others talk about how great their mothers were. They can’t utter a negative thought, even when it’s warranted, because that crosses a forbidden line. It’s taboo. Yet unloved daughters need to talk about their mothers, perhaps with a therapist if friends are not receptive. Because these daughters’ feelings are valid. And they are worthy of love.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: http://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contacts.

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