Can you name 8 signs you were raised by a toxic mother? If you grew up in a toxic family environment, you might not realise it is toxic. It is normal for you. It is just how you lived.
You might not have been allowed to mix with other children, so you cannot compare their lives with yours. You may have a sense of fear and secrecy but not understand why. Or you may be only too aware of living with a toxic mother, and it still affects you today.
What is true is that mothers have an enormous influence over their children; even more so than fathers. Research shows that children whose mothers suffered from negative personality traits were more likely to experience anxiety and depression and were at a higher risk of self-harm.
So, how do you know if your childhood was normal? If you are unsure, here are 8 signs you were raised by a toxic mother.
8 signs you were raised by a toxic mother
1. Your mother was cold and unemotional towards you
You don’t understand why people like you
Toxic mothers withhold love and affection. As a result, you don’t feel you deserve to be loved.
Your mother is supposed to provide love and affection. How your primary caregiver treats you in your early childhood shapes every other relationship you have. You may find it difficult to make meaningful connections as an adult.
Not being loved by the most important person in your life undermines your self-worth. How can anyone love you if your mother didn’t or, at least, didn’t show it? If the one person supposed to love you doesn’t, you might find it difficult to trust and open up, or you put barriers up to protect yourself.
2. Your mother neglected you
You are prone to anxiety and do not handle stress
One of the signs you were raised by a toxic mother is revealed in the way you handle stress. Evidence suggests that children who experience neglect from their mothers at an early age are more likely to suffer from anxiety and stress.
I’ve previously written about Polyvagal Theory. This theory suggests that our ability to self-soothe and calm ourselves (a strong vagal nerve) links to repeated reassurance from our mothers.
When we are repeatedly reassured, we learn to anticipate that help is coming. That mere thought and anticipation calms us down. If you were left to cry as a baby, you learned that no one was coming. As a result, your ability to calm yourself was damaged, resulting in a weak vagal nerve.
3. Your mother was emotionally unavailable
You don’t like talking about your emotions
Growing up in a toxic environment forced you to keep your emotions buried. After all, there was no way you could approach your mother for advice.
Maybe she belittled you or invalidated your feelings when you were a child? Perhaps she shut you down as soon as the topic became too sensitive? Maybe she brushed off your problems in the past and trivialised your feelings?
Children of toxic mothers find it difficult to open up about their feelings. They fear ridicule, embarrassment, or worse, abandonment.
Having an emotionally unavailable mother can affect you in other ways. For example, you may do or say things to shock her into noticing you. Perhaps you rebelled at a young age to try to get her attention?
4. Your mother was overly critical
You are a perfectionist, or you procrastinate
Children of critical parents can grow up in two ways; they either strive for perfection or procrastinate.
When we are young, we want approval and encouragement from our parents. Children that are constantly criticised strive for perfection to get that approval.
On the other hand, if the criticism is degrading or mocking, we may feel tempted to withdraw. After all, nothing we do is ever good enough. This sort of thinking leads to procrastination. Why start something when it will only be criticised?
5. Your mother was a narcissist
You avoid intimate relationships
Narcissists typically use people to get what they want from them, then they dump them. Narcissists are dramatic and loud, then switch to silent treatment. They withhold affection and are prone to blaming others for their predicament.
Narcissists demand attention, and as a child, this would be confusing. You are the child; you are supposed to be nurtured. However, your mother has to be at the centre of attention.
Narcissists experience rage when they don’t get what they want. Studies show that children of narcissists suffer from flashbacks and nightmares. They find it difficult to initiate or maintain relationships because they have learned from their mother that people cannot be trusted.
6. Your mother was controlling
You are impulsive and find it difficult to form connections
If you struggle with making decisions, it could be a sign you were raised by a toxic mother. One study examined the effects of parental control on young children. Dr. Mai Stafford led the study.
“Examples of psychological control include not allowing children to make their own decisions, invading their privacy, and fostering dependence.” – Dr. Mai Stafford
Parents are supposed to teach their children about coping in the real world. If your mother controlled every aspect of your life, you may find it hard to decide for yourself.
It might take you ages to come to a decision, whether it is something trivial like what to have for lunch, or ending a relationship.
“Parents also give us a stable base from which to explore the world, while warmth and responsiveness has been shown to promote social and emotional development. By contrast, psychological control can limit a child’s independence and leave them less able to regulate their own behaviour.” – Dr. Mai Stafford
Then again, some children go the other way and rebel against their mothers. If you had a strict upbringing, you may go against everything your mother stood for as a sign of defiance.
7. Your mother was manipulative
You see people as victims
Living with a manipulative mother gives you the inside track of her lies and deceit. You learn that you can trick people and manipulate them to get what you want. You can exaggerate, gaslight, guilt-trip and use every tool of deception at your disposal.
It also gives you a warped sense of the people around you. They are not emotional beings with feelings, damaged by your actions. To you, they are victims to be used as you will. If they are stupid enough to fall for your lies, that’s their fault.
8. Your mother was physically abusive
You can be aggressive and lack empathy
Research shows that children who grow up in a harsh and cold environment have a greater chance of showing aggression and callous-unemotional (CU) traits.
This may sound a little dry, but the significance is huge. Children are not labelled ‘psychopaths’, instead, we use the term callous and unemotional.
Previously, researchers believed psychopathy to be genetic, but studies show that parenting also impacts a child’s mental well-being.
“This provides strong evidence that parenting is also important in the development of callous-unemotional traits.” – Luke Hyde – co-author
Of course, that’s not to say that every abused child will grow up to be a psychopath. There are other variables, such as the father’s role, mentor figures, and peer support.
Abused children are also sensitive to changes in the atmosphere. They are quick to respond to a perceived threat. They become accustomed to adjusting their behaviour to suit the situation.
Above are just 8 signs you were raised by a toxic mother. Obviously, there are more. It is not surprising that our mothers hold such influence over our mental well-being. They are the first people we come into contact with, and their attitude informs us about the world.
However, it is good to remember that no matter how toxic your relationship with your mother was, it was not your fault. We tend to hold our parents in high esteem, but, in reality, they are just people like you and me.
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