” I’m only telling you this for your own good. Only your mother will tell you the truth.”
” That dress is too short, too tight, too showy, too baggy, too casual.”
“You really should stick with/leave that job you love/hate”
” That boy or girl you are into,… well, he or she doesn’t make enough money, is the wrong color/religion/sex.”
“And your hair, let me count the ways you have gotten that all wrong. ”
Only your mother will tell you the truth. For your own good, or is it?
Sometimes mom’s advice is really for your own good. When a mother who has a history of standing by your side and not interfering in your adult life speaks up gently, thoughtfully, and hesitantly her advice may well be for your own good.
BUT… not always. Sometimes mom’s need to weigh in has more to do with her needs than yours. Does mom’s “well-meaning'” advice sting more than it helps, and you’re not exactly sure why?
Does something about it feel off?
-5 (not so great) reasons mom gives you unwanted advice
1- She is afraid for you. Feeling unsure, mom projects her insecurites onto you and your life. Thus, she feels she needs to save you from yourself, because she has trouble looking at herself and her life.
2-She needs to be relevant. As you grow into adulthood, and her influence wanes, she worries you won’t need her anymore. She keeps you one down to keep herself in a position of authority.
3- She is treatened by you. Your success and claims to a full adulthood is a reminder of what she didn’t, or couldn’t, make of her own life. It makes her uncomfortable to acknowledge to you, or to herself, that she might have become something more.
4- She needs you to look good for her to look good. There is no daylight between her efforts as a mother and how you “turned out. ” She sees your life as the extension of her efforts. Because of her need to look good, she can’t withstand your struggles.
5- She is triggered by you. Mothers who have been hurt by their caregivers (in childhood) have an unconscious need to pass down the hurt. Hurt people hurt people.
-A quick way to tell if her unwanted advice is coming from an unhealthy place.
Let’s say you resist mom’s advice. You tell her she is coming on too strong, hurting your feelings or over-stepping her bounds. In response, she says,” I guess I’m just a horrible mother, I was only trying to help.” This defensive pushback is designed to shut you down. You can know her advice is more about her need to give advice rather than your need to receive it.
Why is it so hard not to take mom’s advice to heart?
Because out hearts and minds are wired for attachment early on, we have a hard time contemplating the mother we trusted in childhood (whether or not she deserved it) does not always have our best interest at heart. But sometimes she doesn’t or can’t.
Because of her own limitations and insecurities, she can step in too harshly and too often. On one end of the continuum is the mom who has narcissistic, borderline or histrionic defenses. On the milder end are mothers who have a hard time letting go.
The daughter in the role of the “good “daughter has an especially hard time rejecting mom’s advice. She sees herself as mom’s ally and, to a certain degree, feels responsible for mom’s feelings. It is hard for her to recognize that mom’s help might not be helpful.
Trust and mutual respect make for a receptive landing pad for mom’s advice. Otherwise, “for your own good advice that only your mother will tell you” stings for a reason.
*As a mother to two grown daughters, I know when I feel that itch to tell them something “for their own good”. It usually isn’t.
To find out if you are experiencing the “good” daughter syndrome go here.
How to ask your mother to stop giving you unwanted advice go here.