Updated: Nov 4
“I am not cruel, only truthful.” - Sylvia Plath
For those of us who know what it’s like to be raised by self-centered, entitled, absent, or abusive mothers, sometimes the pain doesn’t just come from what happened to us, but also from what we didn’t get to experience. While other children were being taught valuable lessons about themselves and life itself that all children need to grow and thrive, we were instead playing mother wound dodgeball with people who had no business being parents. If you know what I’m talking about, this post is for you.
While it’s never too late to learn what you should have been helped to learn as a child, it’s also okay to feel angry about the fact that you missed out at no fault of your own. Your needs as a child were always valid, no matter what your mom (or any other parents or caregivers) may have been going through at the time. I’m proud of you for taking care of little you now, and I hope one of these 33 truths will speak to you.
Truths About Family
Not all moms know how to love. Moms are people, too. Nothing magical happens when a woman becomes a mother that will guarantee she knows how to love other people, let alone her child.
Blood is not always thicker than water. In fact, sometimes it’s much, much thinner. This idea we have in our culture that the people who care about you the most will always be in your family is nothing more than a myth.
Family isn’t everything. If family was everything, we’d just call it everything. “My everything and I are going to the movies.” “My everything is moving states.” In reality, family means different things for different people. For the fortunate few, it’s nothing but wonderful, but for too many of us, it’s a source of tremendous trauma.
You don’t owe your mom anything. You never asked to be born. You never asked your mother to be your mother. You had zero say in any of it. The only thing you “owe” your mom is what you owe every other person on this planet: basic human decency.
Boundaries are part of every healthy family relationship. Love doesn’t mean never saying no. In fact, a love that can’t tolerate your "no" isn’t a love at all. This is just as true for family relationships as it is for intimate relationships and friendships.
Good parents put their children first. Choosing a man over her child, putting a romantic relationship first… This is not what loving mothers do. Yet this is something a lot of mothers do. Too many, in fact.
“When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching—they are your family.” - Jim Butcher
Truths About Feelings
It’s okay to cry. Crying isn’t just okay. It’s also good for you. Never apologize for your tears.
Your feelings are valid. No one has the right to tell you how you “should” feel, even your mom. How you feel is how you feel. It really is as simple as that. Arguing with you about your feelings makes as much sense as arguing with you about your favorite color.
It’s okay to feel angry. Anger—like happiness, joy, and sorrow—is just an emotion. You don’t need to run from it, push it away, avoid it, ignore it, or stuff it down. All you need to do with your anger is allow it to be with you. Feeling angry and being hurtful to someone else because you feel angry are two very different things.
You can’t choose your feelings. Feelings are like the weather. Just because we might hope for sunny skies doesn’t mean the snow and the hail and the sleet won’t come. Thankfully, however, we aren't any different than the sky. No matter what weather comes your way—pleasant happiness, stormy anger, dreary grief, etc.—you are vast enough to handle it.
People who feel are harder to control. Pay attention to the people who take issue with your feelings. What are they trying to accomplish? What’s their goal? Chances are good they’re after control. Emotionally available people won’t ask you to check your feelings at the door.
“Meditation is not about feeling a certain way. It's about feeling the way you feel.” - Jon Kabat-Zinn
Truths About Conflict
Conflict is a normal part of life. The goal isn’t to run away from any and all conflict. Instead, the goal is to learn to discern which conflicts are worthy of your time and energy. There are many necessary battles in this life. If everyone chose the easy road and avoided them, we’d be a sorry bunch indeed.
Some people will be committed to misunderstanding you. You’ll meet people who need to misunderstand you because doing so helps them avoid seeing themselves clearly. Your job is to not take their so-called “confusion” personally, as it’s not about you, nor is it a problem you can solve. There are people who do want to understand you. Spend your breath on them.
Some people will never say they’re sorry. There will be apologies you deserve that never come. Sometimes this is because the person is not at all sorry. Sometimes this is because the person is too afraid to apologize as a result of their own trauma. And sometimes it’s because the person doesn’t know how to apologize. Whatever the reason, remember this: someone else's failure to be accountable is about them, not you.
You don’t have to forgive them. Forgiveness means different things to different people. Instead of forcing yourself to forgive, get curious about what forgiveness means to you. And contrary to popular belief, forgiveness isn’t healing for everyone. Plenty of people heal the mother wound without forgiving their self-centered, entitled, absent, and abusive moms every day.
Forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things. You can forgive someone and still not wish to have a relationship with them. Just because you’ve made the decision to go no-contact doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven them. Maybe you have. Maybe you haven’t. Either way, it’s your own damn business.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” - James Baldwin
Truths About Mental Health
Healing is not linear. I wish I could tell you that healing is like walking straight up a flight of stairs, but it just doesn’t work like that. Healing—like peeling an onion—actually moves in a spiral. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re going two steps forward and then other times you’ll feel like you’re going three steps back. Hang in there and trust the process.
Being upset with your mom doesn’t make you mentally ill. Unfortunately, there are moms out there who will try to play the “My child is mentally ill” card anytime their adult child rightfully calls out their bad behavior. This is blame-shifting, and it’s also super ableist. If your mom—or anyone else—tries this stunt, remember that all it is is just a steamy little pile of poo.
Therapy can be a really good thing. A lot of us grew up in families where the adults taught us that therapy was a bad thing. But the truth is that therapy can be a really, really good thing. Sure, there are bad therapists out there, (just like there are bad mothers) but that’s how it is with anything. Thankfully, doing just a bit of research before going to therapy exponentially increases your chances of success.
Mental illness does not reduce you. Having a mental health diagnosis is nothing you need to feel ashamed of or embarrassed about. It’s just another part of who you are, much like the color of your eyes or the sound of your voice. You are whole just the way you are.
“Recovery is not one and done. It is a lifelong journey that takes place one day, one step at a time.” - Unknown
Truths About Love & Relationships
Love is a verb. Some people will tell you they love you, but you won’t feel loved by them. Why not? Because love requires more than just words. Love requires action.
Monogamy isn’t required. There’s no rule that says you need to have a monogamous marriage—or a marriage at all—to live a happy, fulfilled life. If you want to be monogamous, that’s great. If you don’t want to be monogamous, that’s great too.
True love does exist. Just because your mom (or anyone else) was incapable of loving you doesn’t mean you’ll never know what it means to be really and truly loved. Love is real, and just because you haven’t experienced it yet doesn’t mean you never will.
Friendship isn’t optional. Whether we’re introverted or extroverted, in a committed relationship or single, uber busy, or with free time to spare, at the end of the day we’re all still human, and humans need connection with other humans as much as we need air. Don’t let anyone minimize your friendships or your need for friendship. Friendship is vital for all of us.
Some relationships are better off ended. It’s a difficult but important truth. Some relationships really do belong in your rearview mirror. The end of an important relationship doesn’t make you a failure. It just makes you a human who knows your worth.
Divorce isn’t the same thing as failure. Maybe the best thing you’ll ever do is to get that divorce. Divorce is just like any other tool. Use it well, and the benefits cannot be overstated. Your parents’ messy divorce doesn’t need to be the way you do divorce.
If you need to shrink yourself, it’s not love. Real love will never ask you to be less of who you are. Say that to your inner child as many times as you need to.
“Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend." - Albert Camus
It’s okay to say no. You’re allowed to say no. Saying no doesn’t make you a mean person. Or an unloving person. Or a bad person. Saying no just shows that you’re a boundaried person who knows your own worth. Good on you.
Healthcare is a human right. You deserve access to healthcare regardless of your work status. Or marital status. Or financial status. Healthcare is something you have the right to no matter what the meritocratic capitalists try to tell you.
Your worth is who you are, not what you produce. You're a human being. You’re not a machine. Or a slot on the boss’s time clock. No matter what you do (or don’t do) your worth can never be reduced. It’s unmovable.
Some people will only be able to love their idea of you. And it’s not your job to convince them to know, much less love, the real you. Sometimes the best thing you can do is get up and walk away from other people’s fictions and fantasies.
You are enough. You’ve always been enough. You’ve never been too much. You = just the right amount of enoughness.
You are lovable. Right now. In this moment. Exactly as you are. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.” - Maya Angelou