For all the ways mother-daughter relationships are absolutely wonderful, they can come with their fair share of problems and dramas, too. Both sides certainly contribute to these issues. But it's also possible for moms to be narcissistic and self-centered, absent and cold, or even completely jealous of their daughters.
While that last one may sound strange (I mean, how could a mom be jealous of her very own daughter?), there are several reasons why this can occur. For one, "it can be difficult to cope with providing your children with opportunities you didn’t get to experience while growing up," relationship expert Weena Cullins, LMFT, tells Bustle. "Some moms find it hard to be cheerful givers. They allow feelings of jealousy to linger instead of focusing on ways to improve their current life or be content in the developmental life stage they are in."
When you look at it that way, a jealous mom sounds a lot less strange, and much more deserving of compassion. That's why, if you think your mom has jealousy issues, it can help to be as understanding as possible. "Learn to see your mom as a person with flaws and feelings," Cullins says. "This is usually a more difficult task until we become older. However, exploring how your mom might be impacted by your growth and development as a woman can foster a level of compassion and empathy that can help you stay connected to her." Read on for a few signs jealousy may be at the root of your mother-daughter issues, as well as what you can do about it.
1. Your Mom Always Tries To Steal The Spotlight
If your mom has been feeling jealous, she might try to steal the spotlight by copying you, or even one-upping you. "You can’t mention that you are embarking on a new endeavor, taking a new class, updating your wardrobe, or signing up for a marathon without your mom following close behind," Cullins says.
Instead of showing support, her actions make it feel like a competition. As Cullins says, "a mom with jealousy issues will find it hard to allow you to grow or gain ground without trying to stay on your level or one step ahead of you."
2. She Acts Bored When You Share Big Things With Her
Jealousy can be a pretty painful emotion, so your mom may try to tamp hers down by feigning disinterest or boredom whenever you share good updates about your life, as a way to protect herself. She might cut a phone call short or change the subject, leaving you wonder why she doesn't seem to care.
"This can knock the wind out of your sails, which is the intention," Cullins says. "Jealous moms have a difficult time responding to their children’s accomplishments with genuine joy and happiness, so they just might try to steal yours."
3. She Talks Behind Your Back
"It’s unfortunate but true that when a mom feels jealous or threatened by your success, popularity, or beauty she may resort to putting you down," Cullins explains. She'll find things to pick on and highlight; things that aren't so great about you. If you made a mistake at work, she might announce it at a family get-together. If your skin is breaking out, she might call attention to it. And it's all meant to knock you down a few pegs, however unfair that may be.
"This can be hurtful and confusing, especially if you aren’t quite sure of the cause of her jealousy," Cullins says. It can even start to feel like you're dealing with a competitive and mean sibling, rather than a mom.
4. Your Mom Has Started Changing Her Appearance
If your mom begins changing her look in the makeup and fashion department, it may be a sign of her insecurity. "Moms who are jealous of their daughters may try to keep up in ways that aren’t reflective of their current age or developmental stage," Cullins says, "by emulating their daughter’s look, 'borrowing' clothes from their closet, or even inviting themselves to hang out or talk on the phone with their daughter’s friends."
While it may strike you as cute or funny at first, remember it's coming from a place of hurt. Some moms just like to hang out and have fun, but others may be trying to keep up with the younger people in their lives, due to insecurity.
5. She's Been Known To Overreact
Any number of issues — like stress, depression, or anxiety — can cause a person to overreact to slightly stressful or mildly upsetting situations. But depending on how she overreacts, it could be a sign of underlying jealousy.
"She may be sarcastic, angry, give the silent treatment, or resort to personal attacks," psychologist Dr. Nikki Martinez, tells Bustle. "These are very impulsive reactions, and often your mother is not even aware of why she is behaving the way. It just comes out."
She might snap at you over the phone, or pick an argument for seemingly no reason. And it can leave you wondering what's going on, and why she's acting so strange.
6. She's Weird About Your Relationship With Your Dad
While it may sound bizarre, some moms can become jealous of father/daughter relationships. If this is true of your mom, she may get upset whenever you get lunch with your dad, if you two have an inside joke — basically anything that, in her eyes, leaves her out.
This is all thanks to your mom's self-esteem issues, Martintez says, which can be triggered by the happy relationship you have with your dad, especially if the two of them are having marital issues.
It's important to remember, though, that she doesn't have the right to interfere with your relationships. You shouldn't feel as if you need to cut off contact with other family members, just because she's upset.
7. She Isn't Proud Of Your Success
If your mom can't handle it when you have good luck or success, it might be because she wishes she had the same. "Mothers can get jealous when their daughter is popular, successful, and self-confident, especially when this is contrary to how the mother feels about herself," Martinez says.
A jealous mom is constantly comparing herself to others, and may choose you as her barometer of success. If your life looks a lot different than hers, it can compound the issue. "Instead of feeling pride and happiness for such a strong and successful child," Martinez says, "she resents the child for achieving what she was not able to."
Remember, however difficult it may be to deal with, it doesn't mean you have to downplay your successes, or give up on goals in order to appease your mom. While that may be what she wants you to do in the moment, the remedy is actually working on herself, which she will hopefully decide to do.
8. Your Mom Always Finds A Way To Criticize
Constant criticism, or bullying, may be your mom's way of letting out her own insecurity. For example, "if your mom criticizes the choices you make, such as your partner, or career, or says nasty things about you in front of family or friends, this may be a sign she is jealous," Kimberly Hershenson, a NYC-based therapist, tells Bustle.
It's definitely not something you have to put up with, but it can help to finally figure out why she's been acting that way. Should you start to feel as if the relationship is bringing you down more than its building you up, that's when boundaries may come in handy. You can pick and choose what you share with your mom, and even create a little distance between you, so you can live your life without feeling bad.
9. She Never Ever Asks About Your Life
If your mom never asks about your life, she could just be busy or a little bit self-absorbed. But it could also mean she just doesn't want to hear about your friends or your cool job, all due to her own jealousy issues. So it this becomes a theme, and it starts to seem like she's never interested, take note.
"If everything is about her and what is going on in her life, or she never asks how you are or what you're up to, this may be a sign of jealousy," Hershenson says. And since a mom is supposed to be one of your biggest cheerleaders, it likely won't feel good.
For your own sake, that's when you might want to expand your circle, and find other people to build you up, like your amazing aunt, or your best friend. If your mom can't be there for you, it can help to find someone else to fill that role.
10. She Constantly Tells You You're Wrong
Another way your mom might try not knock you down? By constantly telling you you're wrong. "If your mom is constantly correcting you or showing you how to 'properly' do things, this may be a sign of jealousy," Hershenson says.
It's her way of remaining "the best," which, again, just goes back to her own issues with self-esteem. To spare yourself the drama, try not to take it personally by not commenting back, or adding fuel to the fire. Over time, your mom may give up this habit, and be a little more kind.
11. She Picks Fights In Your Family
Again, if your mom feels threatened by your relationship with other family members, like your dad, she may try to pick fights in order to break things up, and make herself feel more important. And again, that's because your other relationships can "cause feelings of insecurity," Cullins says, so picking a fight may give her a sense of control.
She might also overreact as a way of getting attention. For example, if you're all at a holiday dinner and she isn't in the spotlight, don't be surprised if she gets "upset" out of nowhere, and needs to be comforted or consoled.
If this sounds familiar, it may mean your mom is experiencing jealousy, and possibly other personal issues. The best thing you can do is recognize where these ploys for attention are coming from, and see them for what they are. After all, this is about her feelings and issues; not anything you did wrong.
It can also help to be supportive, to a degree. But don't be afraid to ask a therapist for their advice, to create stronger boundaries with your mom, and even cut back your contact with her, if she's truly dragging you down.