“To shine your brightest light is to be who you truly are.”
― Roy T. Bennett
You disconnect and stare hopelessly on the phone.
Your blood is boiling and so is your mind.
Another Sunday with your mother.
All you want is to spend the day at home–just you, honey and your kids.
You want to relax and have fun, not be the objects of Mother’s critical attention. But saying no to your mother will open the floodgates of a toxic stream of accusations, criticism, and complaints.
You can’t face it, not yet.
Saying no to yourself and your family is easier.
But you still feel bad.
Who’s Portrait Is It?
“Selfish and ungrateful, only thinking about you.”
That was me according to my mother. And an “ungrateful pig” when I failed to comply–a useless, stupid person no one would ever love.
Mother’s words became my beliefs.
What are yours? What beliefs were imposed on you?
Let’s challenge these monsters of the past.
Don’t Let Others Define You
Imagine wearing ill-fitting clothes that someone else chose for you.
Would they make you feel uncomfortable, frustrated, and phony?
Like Mother’s ugly words, they wouldn’t define you. Your own feelings, thoughts, and needs do.
When you feel free to have your own beliefs, feelings, and behaviors, apart from those of your parents (or others), you are “self-defined.”
– Susan Forward, Ph.D.
Shed those labels and define yourself.
Paint Your Self-Portrait
Many people don’t stand up for themselves because they confuse self-definition with selfishness.
– Susan Forward, Ph.D.
Doing something for yourself is no crime. In fact, it’s a necessity if you want to maintain good health.
Here are the first steps to a path of self-discovery.
1. Assess the situation.
Is it about the dinner with your mother or about you saying yes to her and no to yourself?
Read more about saying no here.
Stop accommodating your mother’s every demand. It’s not your job to keep her happy.Your mother's happiness is not your responsibility. It has never been. Click To Tweet
2. Find out what YOU want.
It might be difficult at first, but hang on. Here are the options you have:
a) Yes, we are coming.
b) No, we’re not coming this weekend because we have other plans.
c) We are coming this Sunday, but after that, it’s once a month/every six months/not again until Mother’s Day.
If you don’t feel strong enough to say no to your mom yet, don’t worry.
Learning what you want is the important first step.
Ready to move on?
3. Learn how to respond instead of reacting.
You don’t have to act on autopilot when one of these interactions happens. Here’s how to change that.
• Prepare yourself for a conversation.
• Take a deep breath before you answer.
• Hold a small object like a quartz heart to help you stay grounded.
Try to speak calmly using neutral responses like:
• Oh, I see.
• I’m sorry you don’t approve/are upset/are disappointed.
• I love you too, mom.
When she has said her piece, gracefully close the conversation.
• I hear you; thanks for sharing.
• You are totally entitled to your opinion.
• Let me sleep on it/I’ll think about it/I need some time.
• Let’s talk about it another time when you are calm.
Knowing what to say will lower your anxiety level.
But if your mother is verbally abusing you, tell her: “I don’t want to be with you when you behave this way,” and leave.
It worked wonderfully for me.
Don’t apologize, argue, or explain yourself. Don’t ask for understanding or forgiveness. Avoid discussion at any cost.
Start practicing with someone less significant in your life than Mother, like a cashier in the supermarket or someone in your gym.
When you feel less awkward, try it with your mom. Choose a simple issue like criticism of your hairstyle or your new dress.
Notice how it feels to have a conversation on your terms, and be proud of yourself.
4. Start making statements and create boundaries.
Now that you know better how you feel and what you want, determine what behavior is acceptable to you and what’s not.
What you are willing to do for her and what is out of limits?
Now imagine the conversation with her.
Mom: “Every woman wants children. You’re just being selfish.”
You: “That’s your opinion, mom, and you’re totally entitled to it, but I disagree.”
Want to learn more about healthy boundaries? Click here.
As in the previous step, start with the easiest subjects and practice your statements in front of a mirror or role play with a friend until you feel confident. Then go to your mom.
Becoming Your Own Person
You are not going to change your mother, and that’s not your goal.
Changing your own behavior will help you to shift the balance of power and give you more control.
It’s not easy; no new beginnings are.
It’s like learning to walk a tightrope–you pay attention to each step, but you still lose your balance and fall. Everyone does. So don’t hang the rope too high in the beginning and you’ll be safe.
Setbacks and mistakes are inevitable. Acknowledge them and move on. Don’t let the anxiety hold you back.Only you know who you are. Show it to the world.Click To Tweet
Free yourself from your emotional prison.
Enjoy the feeling of being YOU.
P.S. I used to carry a list of possible answers with me as a reminder at for a long time. It takes time to grow into your new strength, so be patient.
Images by Pixabay
i am enjoying all of your website. i don’t think i would ever find something like this that so connects to me and my problems. i just want to say thank you so much. i feel less alone and releaseing guilt.
I’m happy to hear that. Thank you so much for sharing with me. Happy healing. 🤗
I made your picture of “you’re not responsible for you mother’s happiness. You never were” my Lock Screen wallpaper. Now when she calls, I see that reminder before we even start talking.
What a great idea! I love to hear that my image inspired you, helping you to cope with your difficult mother. Keep going and take care. 🤗🧡
Wow, I didn’t know there was specific help/advice for mother daughter relationships with a mother who is toxic. That is so interesting. This post spoke to me very much and helped me feel better it’s my situation. I’m a full grown adult with multiple young kids. And I’m struggling massively with my relationship with my mother. I always have, however, it’s getting worse. She has been diagnosed with BP and doesn’t believe it, as well as an alcoholic and doesn’t believe it. I don’t even know why I stand up for myself because it is an endless cycle. I hope when I have more time to dive into your website to see what else you have to offer. Thank you.
Toxic relationships between mothers and daughters have always existed. We also learned that this problem usually is generational – some mothers can’t love their kids unconditionally because they never learned how. Today, there’s help to find. I’m happy that you’ve discovered our website because understanding what’s going on between you and your mother means you can make changes in your life. Let me hear when you are ready, and I will do everything I can to help you. Remember that you are not alone. Much love.
Michelle Kleinhans says
Thank you for a great post that summarizes some key steps. It is extremely difficult to break away or start putting these boundaries in place. It has taken me almost 3 years to get to a place where I no longer want to even try rescue the relationship. This was after some really big things happened in the family, I
supported heavily in each incident and then afterwards heard it wasn’t enough or not the ‘right’ help. that was the final straw and i finally saw my mom and brothers for what they are, and how I have always been misused. Each message is severely manipulative and laced with guilt inducing comments, I just can’t anymore. However the guilt of going no contact is not so much for me but my young children who love her (she is very fun and charismatic of course). I am almost 38 and really feel such guilt at trying to rid myself of being emotionally abused by my toxic mom and brothers, and live a content and peaceful life with my husband and kids.
Will explore your site more, thank you!
Thank you! Yes, it’s hard enough to make a decision for yourself, but making a choice on behalf of your kids hurts even more. Stick with your decision, if it gives you peace of mind. Kids also need their mom to be healthy and in a good mood.
That’s true that our moms have a very different relationship with grandchildren, often much healthier than with us. Maybe in time you will be able to work up some arrangement for the kids that will work for you. If not, your kids can decide for themselves when they are older.
Much love and support. 💕