None of us are immune to the negativity of a toxic person and things become far worse when they happen to be our own loved ones. Your best friend, your lover, your siblings, they are all people you love and trust. The toxic traits of these people, hurt us the most. But when a person has been raised by a toxic mother, that hurt runs the deepest.
There was a time not too long ago, even in the most advanced thinking circles, if you dared to talk of toxic parents, your words were met with raised eyebrows, if not outright disapproval, even outrage. But fortunately, times are changing, and people are more open to accepting that parents can cause harm to their children, even if unknowingly.
So, if you have ever been in a dilemma about why your relationship with your mother remains strained or have heard things like, “Mothers hate their daughters but love their sons” but want to know if it is really true, then we are here for you. With insights from psychotherapist Dr. Aman Bhonsle, (PhD, PGDTA), who specializes in relationship counseling and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, let’s identify who is a toxic mom and signs you were raised by a toxic mother.
Toxic Mother – 5 Common Characteristics
Dr. Bhonsle explains, “All relationships have disagreements, yet some relationships retain a constant component of unpleasantness and discomfort to a point where they hinder your mental well-being. Such relationships are toxic.” What we must remember is that no one’s personality is completely black or white. They are so many shades of gray.
To understand who is a toxic mom, ask yourself this – has your mother frequently made you feel guilty, unworthy, ashamed, or frustrated? Have you ever wondered if your mother is suffering from the infamous jealous mother syndrome? Well then, this might have been due to certain toxic traits in your mother. Your mother could be very sweet and can shower you with gifts, but if she is stonewalls you when you disagree with her, then that is a toxic trait, or a part of signs your mother resents you.
We are encouraged to love our parents unconditionally, without questioning them. We are taught to perceive our parents to be flawless, to the point that when they blame you for the problems in their life, you believe them. Relatable? Here are some other characteristics that you will relate to if you have been raised by a toxic mother or a narcissistic toxic mother.
1. She needs to be the one in control of your life
The primary trait of a toxic mother is she is going to try to control you. She will try and dictate every aspect of your life. While it is indeed perfectly normal for a parent to offer advice and guidance to their child, to teach them what is good and harmful, it is not, however, acceptable to threaten or ill-treat them physically or emotionally blackmail them when they don’t adhere to your every word.
If your mother dictates your life to the point that she is telling you what to wear, what to study, what career you should have, who you should be friends with, or who you should be marrying regardless of your opinions or interest, then you have a toxic mother. If she gives you the silent treatment or emotionally blackmails or physically abuses you when you disagree, those too are signs of a toxic mother.
2. She has no control over her emotions
Have you wondered, “Is my mom toxic or am I overreacting?” Well, this might help you recognize her toxicity. “The common misconception is, emotions give rise to thought when the reverse is actually true,” explains Dr. Bhonsle, “A toxic mother is never going to admit that her thoughts are a reflection of her unmet expectations or that it’s her perceptions that are coloring her way of thinking.”
It is normal to have a minor slip-up once in a while or say something mean when you are upset. However, a toxic mom will lash out at her child every time she is upset. Sometimes it might even turn into frequent verbal and physical abuse. These are clear signs your mother resents you. She doesn’t have the ability to resolve conflicts with her children in a healthy manner.
3. Your boundaries will be infringed upon and glossed over
Everyone has boundaries. Scratch that, everyone should have boundaries. Boundaries are not confines to keep people away and seclude yourself; instead, they are barriers to keep you safe and mentally healthy. But a toxic mother will have none of that.
One of the most common traits of a toxic mother is her lack of respect for your boundaries. Maybe it was in the form of reading your journals or barging into your room without knocking. Toxic parents feel their children are an extension of themselves, hence disregard their need for privacy. These mothers also fear the worst when it comes to their children and feel that they are up to no good.
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4. She will try to manipulate you to get her way
Be it a parent or a partner, one of the most constant characteristics of a toxic person is their penchant for manipulation. For the person being manipulated, it is also one of the hardest things to recognize and break free from. Be it emotional blackmail, guilt, fear, or shame, a narcissistic toxic mother will use them all to get her way with her child. Often the child is too wrapped up in these negative emotions to even know what is going on.
It could be something as small as wanting to go elsewhere for a vacation instead of spending it with your parents. Yet you will be made to feel guilty about choosing anything else but them. You might be forced to wonder if you have a narcissistic mother jealous of daughter, and unable to let her have a good time. A toxic mother will use all types of emotional manipulation to get you to do her bidding.
5. She has very little empathy
The earliest memory Manny had of his mother was her locking him up in a pitch-dark room for breaking a vase. He was sent in there to think about what he had done. And he did end up thinking, not about the accident with the vase but of all the monsters that were there with him inching closer. He banged on the door and begged his mom to open up till he passed out. He was 5 years old then.
Years later, at the age of 13, he still had night terrors and sometimes incidents of bedwetting. Yet whenever he tried to talk about it to his mother, she just mocked and belittled him. She often called him over-sensitive and sometimes, when she was particularly peeved, she even called him crazy. These behaviors would unfortunately only collect as signs of resentment in the family. But thankfully, Manny took matters in his own hands when he grew up.
At the age of 21, Manny feels moving out of his parent’s house was the best thing he ever did. He understands that it is very difficult to deal with toxic parents when you live with them, and sometimes it is best to let them go. He still has night terrors sometimes, but he is seeing a counselor and he feels much better. The clear lack of empathy that Manny grew up with is the hallmark of a toxic mother.
Related Reading: How To Get Out Of A Controlling Relationship – 8 Ways To Break Free
8 Signs You Were Raised By A Toxic Mother
Dr. Bhonsle says “Becoming a mother can be a biological inevitability but motherhood is a role. And sometimes due to certain factors, a woman is unable to fulfill this role properly. If a woman has a personality disorder, then her toxicity is not limited to her children, she is going to treat everyone around her the same. However, unfortunately, quite a few times this toxicity is the result of generations of toxic behaviors, which are signs of resentment in the family that have been unfairly normalized.
“It is a vicious circle. A woman who hasn’t had enough exposure, who has maybe lived a very sheltered life, will not realize the toxicity that she has inherited, and as a result, she will not only be unable to escape its clutches, she will also end up passing it on to her children.” You might shrug your shoulders and say that mothers hate their daughters but love their sons or that they suffer from jealous mother syndrome directed to their female child. But that clearly is a presumption.
It is mind-numbing when one understands the magnitude of people who deal with toxic parents and how deep-rooted this issue is. In a study titled An Exploratory Investigation of Jealousy in the Family, 52% of respondents claimed they experienced jealousy in the family, out of which 21.2% respondents said it was from their mother. But, one thing does help put our mind to rest. It is the knowledge that there is a way out of this.
As Dr. Bhonsle says, “The first step to healing from a toxic mother is to first recognize and accept you have one. This acceptance will be the bedrock of your attempt to heal from it.” Here are 8 signs you have been raised by a toxic mother and important tips to help you find peace after a toxic relationship.
1. You fear manipulation and have trust issues
Let’s admit it – manipulation is very commonplace. Sometimes even your cat will try to manipulate you by looking at you with those big eyes. However, to deal with toxic parents when you are living with them becomes a whole different ball game. You are manipulated so often that you develop deep-seated issues.
Not only do you develop trust issues but you might also avoid relationships for fear of being manipulated. Your faith in other people is so badly damaged that it becomes difficult for you to trust anyone at all.
Expert’s Healing Tip: ”When a person has trust issues, they need to understand that not all people are the same. That some people, in fact, deserve to be trusted. For that, they need a safe space to express their thoughts,” says Dr. Bhonsle, “One has to completely redesign their thinking under the guidance of a therapist. A therapist will help support them in a way that they are able to see the part of the horizon that they were missing out on, all this time.”
2. There is an intense need to be perfect
When a child is raised in a toxic environment, where they are mocked, yelled at, scolded, or emotionally or physically or mentally abused for every mistake they make, it scars them. The child grows up to have an excessive need to be perfect at all times. They simply cannot fathom making a mistake as the thought of failure scares them. A few ways this can manifest in your life:
- You feel motivated by fear
- You fear failure so much you tend to procrastinate
- You tend to focus on results and do not enjoy the process
- You have unrealistic expectations from the results of your endeavors
- Failure puts you in a spiral of depression
Expert’s Healing Tip: Dr. Bhonsle advises, “Wanting to be perfect all the time without failure is an unrealistic goal. It is actually very important to make mistakes because that is what pushes you to understand yourself better. It allows you to discover yourself and grow.” If you haven’t made a mistake, then you haven’t learned anything new.
3. You are extremely self-critical
Toxic parents can be overly critical of their children, undermining their achievements in the process. Be it body shaming you, insulting your friends, or your crush, they are quick to point out flaws and mock you. One of the 8 signs you were raised by a toxic mother is that you’ve grown up feeling worthless and undeserving.
Your warped view of yourself makes you hesitant, second-guessing yourself in anything that you do. The question, “Is my mom toxic or am I overreacting?”, ironically, is a sign of a self-critical, unsure person. Some other signs may include:
- When you have a negative interaction, you always assume it must have been your fault
- You constantly second-guess yourself
- You feel what you do is never good enough
- You avoid taking risks
Expert’s Healing Tip: “Go after something you love to do,” says Dr. Bhonsle, “So, if you are creative and like to draw, then do that. If you are curious and like to learn new things, then go for it. Let these values define who you are and who you can be.” Sounds too simple to be true? There is perfectly good logic behind it.
When you do something you love, you will give your best to it. Fighting for a cause is a thousand times easier when you believe in it. So, go for it and do what you love. You will not only be in a better place mentally, but it will also boost your self-esteem.
4. You put yourself last
It can be very challenging to deal with toxic parents when you live with them. They expect you to put their needs before anyone or anything else, including yourself. If you don’t, the treatment meted out to you will be such that you will be forced to question your environment and wonder, “How do you know when your mother hates you? And it doesn’t come as a surprise.
After all, when you are constantly told that you are being selfish and thoughtless, you end up believing it. You consider yourself a bad person and you try so hard to change that. You look for more and more ways to be more empathetic in a relationship, you try to be understanding, willing to do anything to prove that you are the person your parents believe you to be. And before you know it, you are putting your needs last.
Expert’s Healing Tip: “Frankly, it’s a lifelong challenge,” explains Dr. Bhonsle, “To break out of this thought process, one has to change their philosophy completely. It’s very important to remember not to be so hard on ourselves. The world is a tough place, so it’s completely okay to look out for yourself. At the end of the day, it’s you who has to pick up the pieces of your life.”
Related Reading: The 7 Types Of Boundaries You Need To Make Your Relationship Stronger
5. You feel anxious
Children who have been raised by a toxic mother (or toxic parents, for that matter) are often diagnosed with anxiety disorders as well as mommy issues that govern their life choices. Family is supposed to make you feel safe, a place where you don’t have to be guarded all the time. But when your family fails to provide you with this security, it takes a toll on you. Signs you have become an anxious person are:
- You feel physically restless or tensed
- You resting heart rate is above normal most of the time
- You are easily startled
- You don’t sleep well
Expert’s Healing Tip: “When a toxic mother is unable to provide her child with a safe environment, the child often seeks the company of other people who act as mother figures and are able to provide that safe space and that is perfectly fine,” says Dr. Bhonsle. While there are medications that do help with anxiety, certain lifestyle changes are also required. Eating a balanced diet, proper sleep, and exercising help with anxiety. It is also essential to stay connected to people who care about you.
6. You crave assurance
“I will not compliment you,” Anne told her daughter Eliza when she showed her artwork to her mother. “If I tell you, it is good, it will only go to your head.” The can be a standard response of a narcissistic toxic mother and is also a type of emotional manipulation to get her way. It didn’t hurt Eliza because she was accustomed to her mother’s dismissive behavior. But as Eliza grew up, she craved approval from everyone. To the point, she was willing to bend over backward to get that affirmation. Here is how this need for approval manifests:
- You are a people pleaser. You go out of your way to give out favors
- You find it very difficult to say no
- You project a very high image of yourself to hide your true feelings of insecurity
- You feel inadequate in most interactions
Expert’s Healing Tip: “The thing about seeking validation from external sources is, it is conditional,” explains Dr. Bhonsle, “You will only receive someone’s approval if you do things that they want you to do. The moment you fail to do so, their approval is lost. We pick our own happiness and miseries. It is vital to remember that.”
7. You almost always find yourself in a codependent relationship
Another one of the 8 signs you have been raised by a toxic mother is that quite often you find yourself in a codependent relationship. A codependent relationship is one where a partner badly wants to feel needed by the other and feels worthless if they are not able to meet all of their partner’s needs. On the other hand, the partner is perfectly satisfied with someone else taking care of all their needs.
Expert’s Healing Tip: “For a person who has lacked certain elements of a healthy relationship due to a toxic mother, it is normal to seek those elements in their romantic relationships. To a level, it is healthy even. Nothing wrong in getting a little extra love,” says Dr. Bhonsle, “But, the bottom line is you are responsible for your own happiness. As long as your happiness depends on fulfilling other people’s needs or on other people to fulfill your requirements, you will never truly be happy.”
Related Reading: 11 Signs You Are In A ‘Complicated Relationship’
8. Extremely rebellious or completely timid or merely existing
“A person who has been raised by a toxic mother can go down any of these 3 paths,” explains Dr. Bhonsle, “They might become extremely rebellious, trying to prove themselves at every instance. Or they become very timid with very low self-esteem, allowing people to walk over them. Or in some instances, they might completely stop caring at all about anything in life. They go with the flow, never feeling passionately about anything.”
Expert’s Healing Tip: All of these paths might give rise to mental health issues. Life isn’t about surviving each day, going through the motions. Life is about living and experiencing all that it has to offer – the good and the bad. It is about maintaining a balance; only then can one grow into a well-rounded person.
- All relationships have disagreements, but toxic relationships retain a constant component of unpleasantness and discomfort to a point where they hinder your mental well-being
- Have you, in your relationship with your mother, been frequently made to feel guilty, unworthy, ashamed, or frustrated?
- A few signs of a toxic mother are that she needs to be in control of your life and regularly infringes upon your boundaries, she lacks empathy, tries to get her way through manipulation, and has no control of her emotions
- You might have turned out to be an adult who has trust issue, is over-critical, has an intense need to be perfect, feels anxious, craves validation from others, is codependent in their present relationships, among other repercussions
- The first step to healing from a toxic mother is to recognize and accept you have a toxic mother. In addition, one has to completely redesign their thinking under the guidance of a therapist
To anyone whose mother’s actions made them ask the question, how do you know your mother hates you, I would like to say, everyone exhibits toxic traits at one point in their life to someone. We all have flaws. You must recognize what they are and try your best to change them. One is never too old to grow. But if the process gets too overwhelming for you and you need the support of an expert, Bonobology’s panel of counselors is here to help you.
Look for signs your mother resents you. She may be infringing upon your boundaries, criticizing you constantly. She tries to control your life while showing no control over her emotions when it comes to you.
In a toxic mother daughter relationship, there is a constant component of unpleasantness and discomfort to a point where they hinder your mental well-being, and you are frequently made to feel guilty, unworthy, ashamed, or frustrated.
If you are in the position to seek your independence or move out, do it as soon as possible. Find support in friends and other members of your family. Consult with a professional counselor or therapist to guide you.
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