Nobody has a perfect mom. The fact is, everyone makes their share of mistakes. But if your mom created a toxic environment for you growing up, it can impact you as an adult.
"Childhood should ideally, be a time when we feel loved, accepted, safe and protected," Arlene B. Englander, licensed psychotherapist, tells Bustle. "Sadly, for some of us, it may have been a time of feeling hurt, neglected, or abandoned."
Your relationship with your mother is so important because it's the first experience you have of being in a relationship. It's your first chance to feel loved and nurtured. But if your mom made a toxic environment for you growing up, it can affect your interpersonal skills, the way you communicate, or even how you see yourself. If your mom withheld affection or used criticism as a way to manipulate or control you, those would be signs of abuse. Therapy can help you figure out if you grew up in a toxic environment or an abusive one.
"Sometimes the negative after effects of growing up in a toxic environment can cause you to mistrust others, choose partners or friendships where you're taken advantage of, and you won't know how to have or set healthy boundaries," Rachel Ann Dine, LPC, owner of Humanitas Counseling and Consulting, LLC, tells Bustle.
In order to heal from the past, it's important to recognize how it's affecting you today. Here are some signs your mom created a toxic environment for you growing up, according to experts, and how you can move on.
Everyone Always Knows Your Business
If you grew up in a family where everyone knew your business even if you didn't want them to, your mom may have failed to set and enforce healthy boundaries. According to Scott-Hudson, this tends to happen when your mother doesn't have healthy boundaries for herself. You'll know if she doesn't because she'll overshare, intrude on your privacy, and fail to keep secrets.
"Pay close attention to the exact moment that you begin to feel suffocated with your mother, because this this is likely the precise moment when she's violating your boundaries," Scott-Hudson says. "This is typically the moment when we begin to feel like we've lost our voice."
You Have A Me Vs. Everyone Else Mentality
Moms who tell you that you're better than everyone else can be just as toxic as those who put you down and tell you that you're worse than everyone else. "The reason for this is they're inherently separating you from everyone else," Scott-Hudson ways. "The you are 'better than/worse than' messaging ensures that you are against everyone else. It 'others' you from everybody else, rather than allowing you to be a part of the whole." This is the type of thing that can leave you with an inferiority complex, which can be detrimental to your relationship with others.
You Grew Up Feeling Like Love Came With Conditions
If your mom only showed you love and affection when you excelled at something growing up, this can send a confusing message to you about what it really means to be loved. As Dine says, "This style of emotional expression can cause you to feel as if you have to work for love or act a certain way to be loved in your adult relationships." You may end up feeling undeserving of love and friendship unless you do something to "earn" it.
You Never Felt Like You Could Fully Celebrate Your Wins
"If you were afraid to shine in any way for fear of being put down by your mother, she was a toxic parent," Scott-Hudson says.
She may not have put you down directly. But if she didn't celebrate your wins and instead used phrases like "you could've done better," you may have grown up feeling like wins were just another opportunity for your mom to judge you. When this happens, people either overachieve or accept that they're always going to be a "failure."
You Have People-Pleasing Tendencies
"The mother is the most important person who defines our identity," Dr. Sherrie Campbell, psychologist and author, tells Bustle. If you were ever scared about getting less than an A on a test or being anything than the top student in your class, your mom may have created a toxic environment for you growing up. According to Dr. Campbell, this type of environment can lead you to have people-pleasing tendencies. You'll become afraid of being "fatally flawed" and will feel the need to overacheive in order to prove your value.
You May Never Feel Like You're Good Enough
Insecurities over feeling not good enough typically stems from childhood. "If our own mother can't love us, how can we possibly love ourselves?" Dr. Campbell says. If your mom ever made you feel like you weren't a priority or that you weren't good enough, this may manifest later in life as feeling "needy," closed off, or anxious in romantic relationships.
The good news is, you don't have to live with feelings of unworthiness or inferiority forever. "When you become an adult, you now have the choice to re-learn certain skills that you may not have learned while growing up, and/or learn how to love yourself and the unique qualities you possess," Dine says.
A therapist can help you learn strategies for dealing with negative self-talk or your feelings about your mom. It's important to know that change isn't easy, but it's always possible. You don't have to allow your past to define you.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.