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9 Signs You Were Raised By a Toxic Mother

9 Signs You Were Raised By a Toxic Mother

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Growing up with a mother whose behavior can be characterized as toxic often leaves deep-seated marks that can influence our adulthood in significant ways. These marks aren’t always visible as bruises or scars; they are the lingering doubts, the subtle insecurities, and the silent fears that govern our interactions and choices.

Recognizing these signs is the first step toward understanding and healing. As women, especially those of us who pride ourselves on our strength and independence, it’s vital to acknowledge these experiences not as weaknesses but as challenges we’ve had the courage to face.

1. You Always Doubt Your Decisions

When you’re raised by a toxic mother, decision-making becomes an uphill battle. You’re supposed to grow up, leave the nest, and make choices with confidence. But what if, instead of being your cheerleader, your mother was the critical voice that never ceased? Let me paint a picture that might be uncomfortably familiar.

From the clothes you chose to the friends you hung out with, her approval was rare, if ever granted. This pattern likely followed you into adulthood. Whether it’s deciding on a career path, a romantic partner, or even what to eat for dinner, that ingrained voice questions every move you make. You’re haunted by the “what ifs” and the fear of making a mistake.

This is because, in your formative years, decisions were not your own. They were subject to scrutiny and often met with disapproval. Making a choice now feels like standing on a diving board with no one to assure you that the water is fine.

You might find yourself agonizing over the smallest choices, seeking external validation like a compass for direction. And when that validation doesn’t come, it’s like being in a boat without oars.

But here’s what I want you to know: you are not your mother’s voice. You are not the hesitancy or the doubt. With each decision you make, you’re rewriting the narrative. It’s about recognizing that internal critic for what it really is—a relic of the past that has no place in the stronghold of an alpha woman.

To start changing this narrative, begin small. Make tiny decisions and honor them. Understand that it’s okay to be wrong sometimes because that’s how you learn and grow. The most important thing is to start trusting your inner voice more than the echoes of the past. With time, that trust will build a foundation so solid that the old voices will no longer shake it.

2. She Dismissed Your Feelings Regularly

Feelings are our most intimate companions; they whisper truths about our deepest needs and desires. However, when you’re raised by a toxic mother, your feelings might have been guests that were never welcomed at the table. Reflect on those moments when you were sad, anxious, or even bursting with excitement — how often were those feelings brushed aside as if they were mere distractions?

A toxic mother often has a repertoire of dismissive phrases: “You’re just being sensitive,” “You’ll get over it,” or the ever-damaging “Stop overreacting.” It’s like living in a world where your emotional GPS is constantly being recalibrated by someone who refuses to acknowledge the destinations you need to reach for personal growth.

The dismissal of your feelings probably didn’t stop at childhood. It likely followed you into your romantic relationships, friendships, and even into your professional life. You might find yourself minimizing your emotions, questioning their validity, or feeling guilty for having them. And when you do express yourself, there’s that shadow of doubt, isn’t there? The shadow that suggests maybe your emotions aren’t quite “appropriate” or “justified.”

Here’s my perspective: Your feelings are valid because you feel them. They are the truest expression of who you are and what you’ve experienced. And if they’re big, it’s because they come from a big place — your heart, your soul, your essence.

3. You’re Constantly Seeking Her Approval

Craving a parent’s approval is natural; it’s woven into the very fabric of our being. But when that parent is a toxic mother, this longing can turn into an endless pursuit that spans a lifetime. Do you recognize the chase, the constant striving for a nod of approval that seems as elusive as the horizon?

This might manifest in the perpetual perfecting of your life presentation — the right job, the right partner, the right social circle — all in the hopes that she’ll give you that coveted seal of approval. But it always seems just one achievement short, doesn’t it?

Here’s the deal: When approval is a rare commodity, it becomes precious to us. But in the case of a toxic mother, that approval might as well be a mirage in the desert of your desire for maternal warmth and recognition.

I know it’s not easy, but the key is to shift the focus from her validation to self-validation. Begin by celebrating your victories, no matter how small. Applaud yourself for the hard work, the resilience, and the sheer willpower it takes to keep moving forward in the absence of maternal support.

Realize that the approval you’ve been seeking from her, you can give to yourself. In fact, your approval is the most potent kind there is. When you start to recognize your worth and accomplishments through your own eyes, the need for her acknowledgment will start to lose its power over you.

4. She Was Overly Critical, Never Satisfied

Living with a mother whose criticism flows more readily than praise is like constantly trying to fill a sieve with water—exhausting and futile. If this resonates with you, know that it’s not uncommon among those raised by toxic mothers. Perhaps every report card, every job change, every life decision was met with a furrowed brow and a comment on how it could’ve been done better.

This incessant criticism can lead you to second-guess every action and decision, long after childhood. There’s always that nagging thought at the back of your mind: “Will this be good enough?” But let’s be clear—good enough for whom? When you’re always aiming for a shifting target of someone else’s making, satisfaction becomes a stranger.

It’s time to introduce yourself to the concept of self-satisfaction. Understand that the only standards you need to live up to are your own. Set them realistically and compassionately. Remember, perfection is a myth, especially when defined by someone who may never acknowledge your true worth.

5. You Have a Deep-Rooted Fear of Rejection

The fear of rejection can be paralyzing, especially when it’s ingrained by a toxic mother. Growing up, the thought of not being accepted—for your ideas, your desires, your very being—might have been a recurring theme. Her rejection didn’t just sting; it left a blueprint for how you interact with the world.

You might notice this fear lurking behind decisions, big and small. It whispers caution when you want to speak out. It tells you to stay back when you wish to step forward. It’s a silent puppeteer, manipulating you into playing roles that aren’t truly yours, all to avoid that deep-seated fear of being turned away.

But here’s a thought: what if rejection, in its own painful way, is a redirection to something better, something more fitting for the authentic you? What if every ‘no’ you feared was actually a step closer to a ‘yes’ that mattered?

Confronting this fear starts with confronting the part of you that believes you’re not worth the acceptance. It’s about affirming your value independently of others’ opinions, especially those shaped by a toxic mother’s rejection. It’s no small feat, but as you do this, you will start to see rejection as less of a threat and more of a guidepost, directing you to where your worth is celebrated, not questioned.

6. She Often Invaded Your Privacy

Privacy is a sanctuary, a personal domain where your soul can whisper its secrets without fear. If your mother treated your privacy like an open-door policy, without knocking, without permission, she wasn’t just invading your space—she was trespassing on your emerging sense of self.

Whether it was rifling through your diary, eavesdropping on calls, or insisting on knowing every detail of your life and inner thoughts, this invasion can lead to a life lived on high alert. You become a master at hiding things, not because you have something to hide, but because you’re desperate for a shred of autonomy.

It’s a balancing act now, isn’t it? Learning to open up after years of guarding yourself against intrusion. It might feel like a betrayal at first, to let others in where you were never allowed to close the door. But consider this—boundaries are your birthright. And establishing them, even now, is not only your right but your responsibility to the self that yearns for respect and space.

7. Your Achievements Were Downplayed or Ignored

Nothing stings quite like the muted response of a toxic mother to your hard-earned achievements. It’s the silence that follows the fanfare, the blank stare in a crowd of cheers, that imprints on a child’s heart, teaching it that perhaps their successes aren’t worth celebrating.

If you’ve lived this, you know all too well how it can smother the joy of your accomplishments. You might downplay your own victories, pre-empting the expected dismissal. Maybe you even stop sharing good news altogether, to shield yourself from the sting of her indifference.

But let’s turn that narrative on its head. Each achievement is a testament to your strength, your intellect, your drive, and your resilience. The lack of her recognition does not diminish the magnitude of your success. Start to internalize this: your achievements are remarkable and deserve celebration, with or without her applause.

Create a ritual for yourself to celebrate your successes. Maybe it’s a solo date, a special purchase, or just a moment of reflection on your journey. Use these rituals to anchor the knowledge that your achievements are significant and they matter—because you decided they do.

8. She Manipulated You With Guilt

Guilt is a tool, and in the hands of a toxic mother, it’s wielded with precision to manipulate and control. If this rings true for you, then you know the weight of guilt that presses upon your choices, your desires, and your need for independence. You’ve been taught that your actions should always please her, that her emotional state is your responsibility.

This manipulation is often subtle—a sigh, a comment, a look—but its message is clear: you owe her. For your life, for her sacrifices, for her unmet dreams. And this debt is one she reminds you of, often at moments when you’re reaching for your own goals, for your own life.

But here’s the thing: guilt is not a currency you’re obliged to trade in. Your life is not a ledger of debts to a mother who cannot see past her own needs. It’s time to audit these feelings of guilt, to recognize them for what they are—tethers to a control that no longer serves you.

9. You Struggle With Healthy Boundaries

Struggling with boundaries is a common sequelae of being raised by a mother who didn’t respect yours. Perhaps your personal space was consistently violated, or your emotional needs were disregarded, teaching you that boundaries were not only futile but also unwelcome.

Now, as an adult, you might find it difficult to articulate or enforce your limits, because doing so feels like an alien concept. Maybe you say ‘yes’ when you want to scream ‘no’, or you go along with plans that leave you drained, all because setting a boundary seems like an insurmountable task.

Here’s the empowering truth: boundaries are a form of self-respect. They are the definitions you place on your life that dictate how you are treated by others. Learning to set them is like drawing a map of your personal worth. It takes practice, and yes, it can be uncomfortable, but the peace it brings is invaluable.

Start small. Practice saying ‘no’ without over-explaining. Pay attention to how you feel in situations and relationships, and honor those feelings as valid reasons for setting boundaries. Remember, those who respect you will respect your boundaries. And those who don’t are teaching you why those boundaries are essential.