“You glow differently when you’re not fearful, hating, hurting, bitter, and miserable.” ~ Unknown
I used to believe I had to protect myself from my mother.
This belief created anxiety and fear.
The fear drove me to react, push away, lash out, shut down, avoid.
In all areas of my life, not just with her.
As a result, I lived small.
I was anxious. Angry. Full of the need to defend. Unaware. Sleep walking through life. Lacked confidence. Second guessed everything.
And my boundaries? If I even had them, they were ineffective.
I bounced between blaming her and blaming myself for years.
I no longer blame myself because:
…when I was a child, living small was how I coped with what life had seemingly handed to me.
…as I grew up, I didn’t know that it was my thoughts that created so much of my pain.
…even as an adult, for a long while I didn’t know my thoughts about her (and my past) were optional.
Now I do. Now I take responsibility for my thoughts.
(Responsibility and blame are not the same thing.)
I no longer blame her because blaming her didn’t help me feel better, or do better. It kept me in a less-than position.
Slowly, over time, I opened myself up to thinking new thoughts about her. To seeing how alternative thoughts might feel. To practicing new ways of living and being. Even though my nervous system sometimes sends me signals that tell me I am in danger.
It wasn’t a flip of a switch. I didn’t just change my thoughts and voilà, all better. No, I practiced. I caught myself. I learned to be intentional in what I was thinking. To employ practices to calm my nervous system.
I am calmer.
I like and respect myself.
And it all started with choosing to think differently. My mother didn’t change.
Conventional wisdom: you need boundaries to protect yourself.
My experience: boundaries are about respecting yourself, and the more you respect yourself, the less protection you need.
This is a subtle but powerful distinction. If you see yourself as needing protection, you are putting yourself into a helpless, powerless position. Even if you think it’s just with her, that belief – that you’re helpless and powerless and in need of protection – will seep into other areas of your life.
This doesn’t mean not having, or disregarding, your boundaries.
It means that the energy with which you establish and maintain your boundaries will be vastly different than it is when you establish boundaries because you believe you need them to protect yourself.
Establish and maintain your boundaries out of respect for yourself, not out of fear of her.
Need help? Revisit Chapters 13-16 in Difficult Mothers, Adult Daughters or the Limit section in The Difficult Mother-Daughter Relationship Journal.
Want 1:1 help? Click here and let’s chat and see if working together is a good fit.
Much, much love,
Reveal patterns. Heal shame. Transform legacies.