Anxious behavior

5 Steps on the Road to Self-Compassion

Daughters (and sons, for that matter) who grow up with hypercritical, combative, or dismissive mothers don’t just suffer from low self-esteem but they also internalize their mothers’ words and assessment of them as self-criticism. Self-criticism is the habit of attributing any setback or negative outcome to your own personal character traits; it’s an automatic way of thinking that’s largely unconscious and self-blaming, and moves from the particular to the general without your even being aware that you’re doing it.

Anxious behavior

The Enmeshed Mother: A Daughter Trapped

While the daughter of a dismissive mother suffers because she’s ignored and can end up caught in a cycle of behaviors meant to elicit her mother’s attention—either highly constructive or destructive or both—the enmeshed daughter disappears in the hot glare of her mother’s attention. This daughter lacks a sense of self because her mother only sees her daughter as an extension of herself, and observes no boundaries. The way out of this especially...

Anxious behavior

When Mom Plays Favorites: 4 Effects on the Odd Daughter Out

For all that the cultural mythology insists that mothers love all their children equally, the truth is that mothers (and fathers, for that matter) treat their children differently. In fact, it’s so much a part of family dynamics that it’s got its own acronym: PDT (Parental Differential Treatment). Some differential treatment is inevitable, having to do with the ages of the children; a four-year-old may feel that her infant...

Anxious behavior

3 Triggers for Anxious Behavior (And How to Beat Them)

Daughters who grow up with mothers who send mixed signals—who are sometimes emotionally available and loving, and other times not—develop an attachment style called anxious-preoccupied. While a securely attached daughter knows that she can depend on her mother for empathy, support, and guidance, the anxious daughter is never quite sure which Mommy will show up; her view of the world is that it is an unreliable place, where your status can change from moment to moment.

Child Development

Dreading Mother’s Day? You’re Not Alone

As we inch toward that second Sunday in May, my email and Facebook feeds fill up equally with ads touting “5 Ways to Celebrate The Best Mom EVER,” and messages from unloved daughters. This holiday—perfect for selling flowers, mugs, keepsakes, and greeting cards encrusted with roses and happy thoughts—is also one that’s uniquely painful for those daughters who lacked their mothers’ love, affection, and support and, even worse, may have endured their constant criticism and disparagement.

Attachment Theory

Unloved Daughters and the Problem of Belonging

Here are some of the words daughters use to describe how they felt in childhood and, for many, long into their adulthood: adrift, disconnected, isolated, an outsider, shut off, wandering, all alone, different from everyone. As one woman put it: “I always wondered why I felt like a drifter...always trying to find that one place where I could was a very long, painful journey to accept the fact that my mother didn't know how to love me. In fact, she was totally threatened, challenged and overwhelmed by me.” The feeling of not belonging—of being a misfit or damaged enough so that you’ll never belong anywhere if you don’t belong where you began—spreads out and generalizes in a way to affect all aspects of a daughter’s sense of self.