How To Tell If You Grew Up With A 'Toxic Mum' And How To Fix It

MMMMUUUUUMMMM! It really is all your fault.

Yes you can blame your parents for many things -- but now it seems that if you had a "toxic" mum growing up, there are some signs that can't be ignored.

"When you have a toxic mum, you are on the receiving end of a lot of manipulative behaviour and you may have come to expect that from other people," said clinical psychologist Dr Helen Odessky.

"As children, we totally depend on our mothers, and they teach us how to view the world and ourselves," psychotherapist Richard Brouillette told Bustle. "So if their view [was] skewed or unhealthy, we [learned] to adjust ourselves to their outlook." 

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Yes, it turns out that your habit of overworking, constantly seeking validation from others or people-pleasing can actually be a side effect of simply having a toxic mother.

And what exactly is that? Try these traits on for size.

She may have never been happy for you, may have been overly critical of things you do or made you feel guilty all the time. Then there's the fact that she always made you feel the need to apologise for not being good enough, wanted to be seen as a friend, not your mother, she couldn't seem to have a reasonable conversation and lashed out when she was upset or that she was controlling...

Get the idea? And while a lot of mums exhibit one or two of these traits as you grow up -- hey she's only human after all -- it's when you find yourself still dealing with them as an adult and exhibiting certain behaviours towards other people because of them, that you know she's really done you over.

But you can change things.  Oh yes, you can.

Mommy dearest beware.

Firstly, it's time to stop being overly self-critical because your mum criticised you a lot as a kid.

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"Remember, that the fact that your mother was critical says a lot more about her than it does about you. Try to focus on looking inwards for self-validation, or to others who are offering up the respect and love you deserve," advised Lysn psychologist Duygu Arslan. "Try to remember praise that you have received from others around you. Think back to times when perhaps your father, friend, or a person who cared about you was proud of you or complimented you for your great qualities. Write these praises down to remind yourself of your achievements as well as positive qualities you possess."

Image: Getty
Everyone needs validation to feel emotionally secure so it is unfortunate that your mother didn’t offer you this. Ensure that you are getting validated in some areas of your life by surrounding yourself with a strong support network. Gravitate towards those who will encourage, inspire and motivate you to do better.

Next up, stop selling yourself short because you were raised to believe you couldn't handle things. You've got this.

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"Try to write down all the things that you know are good about yourself and begin a practice of affirmations (saying these to yourself every day). This helps if you can say it in front of a mirror, over and over again," suggested Duygu.  "Practice some affirmations first thing in the morning to help with increasing your confidence and mood. While it might feel strange at first, over time it will feel more natural. Then you can practice this in public -- when someone compliments you, you can try to own the compliment by saying ‘thank you’ instead of brushing it off or challenging what they’ve said."

Image: Getty

Let's talk about people-pleasing -- a habit that has likely developed slowly over time as a result of a deep yearning to please your mum and yet seemingly always letting her down. Try to focus on the why and understand what outcomes you might be seeking from being a people-pleaser -- are you chasing validation or reward, seeking gratification or a compliment for doing well?

"Chances are you might not be getting this every time from others so it’s important to try to focus on your own needs," said Duygu. "Trying to please others all the time can be exhausting and often means that your own needs aren’t being met. Value your own time and energy and focus on doing good for yourself.

Practice how to say ‘no’ to people assertively to maintain healthy relationships. You may initially feel guilty or selfish for saying ‘no’, but setting boundaries is important for your well-being."

Which leads us nicely into the fact you take on too much because your mum was overcritical and you’re trying to make up for feeling inadequate… just stop it already.

"Compensating for feelings of inadequacy by continually striving to achieve is common and can mean that you work tirelessly without any sense of reward," Duygu told 10 daily. "You might feel like no matter what you do, it is never enough -- but that’s not true! Change your own expectation of what’s needed and remember to set boundaries."

Whatever you do and however you communicated with your mum -- toxic or not -- there's a lesson in here for all of us. It's important to focus on lowering your own standards so that you don’t always need to be ‘perfect’ and understand that  ‘good enough’ is, well, good enough.