WHAT IS THE MOTHER WOUND?
We tend to think of our ‘first love’ as that teenage crush we had on that handsome boy at school, but truthfully the first real love we have is with our mother. It is this first important relationship that influences how we connect and love others and how we find a sense of safety and security in ourselves and the world.
The term the mother wound is the name we give to generational pain inherited and passed down between grandmothers, mothers, and daughters caused by living in a patriarchal culture that’s been and often still is largely oppressive toward women. The term can also be describing a difficult, abusive or neglectful relationship between a child and their mother growing up and the negative impact this lack of adequate attachment and love has on the child. This impact can still affect us into adulthood.
WHAT CAN BE THE CAUSE OF A MOTHER WOUND?
Often women have grown up with a deep-rooted belief of being ‘less-than’ and having to internalize their needs, emotions and be quiet, good, put other’s needs before their own in order to be loved, approved of and accepted. These feelings, beliefs and coping mechanisms can cause women to ‘shrink’ themselves and conform to being the ‘good girl’, accommodating, tolerating and caring for others first whilst devaluing and neglecting themselves, in order to be accepted in the family system.
THE TRAUMA OF THE UNHEALED MOTHER WOUND IS A BURDEN THAT CAN BE PASSED ON FROM MOTHER TO DAUGHTER
These negative messages are often internalized and not spoken about as females, as we learn from our mother’s behaviours and obediently take them on in order to get approval and love from our mothers and others in the family or wider circle.
SOME REASONS SHE MAY NOT HAVE BEEN TUNED IN TO YOUR NEEDS
As daughters we also often absorb our mother’s limiting beliefs, coping mechanisms and trauma and these may influence our lives in negative ways without us really being fully aware of this. We can be at the other end of our mother’s sadness, hurt, frustration, fear and sometimes resentment and rage.
She may have internalized and denied her own needs and these emotions can be buried but will emerge in different ways. She may be struggling with addictions, abuse, toxic relationships, stress, anxiety and depression and unable to ask for support. She may feel she has no choice, but to ‘get on with it’ and appear to be strong. She may also have developed dysfunctional coping mechanisms to deal with her own emotional pain, that’s not been acknowledged and processed.
These things can negatively impact how mothers parent us as daughters, sometimes causing neglect, abuse or causing her to not be connected or tuned into her daughter’s needs. Difficulties between girls and their mothers are widespread but often not talked about openly. The fact that we don’t discuss this dynamic is how it remains quite rampant and often destructive.
WHY IS THE MOTHER WOUND SO DIFFICULT FOR US TO DEAL WITH?
The human brain is wired to need loving connection and avoid rejection and this is the most important thing to a baby or young child as we rely on our parents or care givers to survive. This is why it can be so distressing for a child to experience a lack of proper connection or not getting their needs met in their early years. A lack of healthy attachment in the forms of attention, love, encouragement, understanding and empathy can cause a traumatic wound that continues to affect us as we grow up.
SOME TYPICAL SYMPTOMS & SIGNS THAT YOU MAY HAVE EXPERIENCED THE MOTHER WOUND WITHIN THE RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR MUM:
If you had a challenging, difficult or turbulent relationship with your mother or experienced a lack of connection and love with her when you were growing up and you also identify with any of the following, there may be some healing for you to do around the mother wound. Do you or have you experienced:
A lack of boundaries and an inability to say “no’ in certain situations with people.
A fear of failure due to a fear of being judged or disapproved of.
A fear of success and fulfilment, again due to a fear of being judged, disapproved of and a guilt attached to wanting more out of life. Particularly if your mum isn’t fulfilled and successful or happy in her own life.
Unconsciously waiting for your mother to approve fully of your choices and decisions or to approve of you achieving your full potential.
Unconsciously believing that you need to conform, to be ‘good’ or smaller, quieter or dull your shine, in order to be accepted and loved.
People-pleasing &/or emotional care-taking of others, to your detriment causing exhaustion and resentment.
Negatively comparing yourself to other women.
Emotional and comfort eating, eating disorders
Poor mental health; anxiety &/or depression.
Self-criticism. Never feeling good enough, no matter what you achieve yourself or do for others.
A deep unconscious feeling of shame or belief that something is wrong with you, you just not sure why you feel that way.
Feeling pressure to conform to rigid expectations of womanhood, having to put others before yourself, do much more in the household, hold everything together at the expense of your own needs.
Suppressing your feelings and burying your needs, perhaps believing they are not important or don’t matter.
You can heal from the mother wound and it all start with awareness. These are the steps to take to start to resolve and let go of this childhood wound and be able to move on with peace:
Recognize childhood wounds, especially related to your mother's actions.
Acknowledge impact on your life and relationships.
Identify unhelpful patterns and limiting beliefs.
Feel and process emotional pain from unmet childhood needs.
Allow anger, sadness, and grief to be processed and released.
Healing and acceptance follow emotional processing.
3) Really Recognize That it Was Never Your Fault:
Understand your mother's actions were not a reflection of you.
Internalize that you are lovable and enough as you are.
Separate your worth from past experiences.
4) Learn About Your Mother:
Explore your mother's upbringing and hardships.
Understand generational trauma or mother wound influences.
Grasp potential factors impacting her parenting skills.
Gradual process of letting go and forgiving.
Acceptance when forgiveness is challenging, especially in cases of abuse.
Empowerment through acknowledging past but focusing on growth.
6) Self-Love and Reparenting:
Reparenting: Providing yourself what you lacked as a child.
Offer love, respect, and care to your wounded inner child.
Shift focus from seeking these needs externally to nurturing yourself.
The good news is that you can heal. You may need some support and if so please do reach out to myself or another therapist who can help you to process and heal from any parental wounds.
There’s no doubt about it, attachment styles play a pivotal role in shaping the way we relate to others and the quality of our relationships. By understanding our own primary attachment style, we can gain more insight into our emotional responses and behaviors. Especially the ones that impact the health, fulfilment and success of our romantic relationships!
But What are Attachment Styles?
Attachment styles are patterns of emotional responses and behaviors that develop in childhood and persist into adulthood. These styles are influenced by early experiences with caregivers and how we experienced connection and love, or a lack of these as children. These early impressions shape our expectations, reactions, and interactions in relationships into adulthood (often without us being really aware of it consciously). The concept of Attachment Theory was first introduced by psychologist John Bowlby and later expanded upon by Mary Ainsworth through her research on the "Strange Situation" study.
Explaining the Four Attachment Styles
1. Secure Attachment: The Foundation of Trust: Imagine a solid foundation upon which a house is built – that's the essence of secure attachment. People with this style are comfortable with intimacy, independence, and vulnerability. They trust their partners and believe in effective communication. Securely attached individuals possess the ability to manage conflicts and seek comfort from their partners when needed. Their relationships are characterized by a healthy balance between closeness and personal space.
2. Anxious Preoccupied Attachment: Seeking Reassurance: Picture a sailboat navigating uncharted waters, sometimes tossed by turbulent waves. Anxiously attached individuals crave emotional closeness and reassurance from their partners. They can be prone to worry about abandonment and are often anxious causing them to be ‘clingy or needy’ in relationships. While their relationships can be intense and passionate, they can also feel like an emotional rollercoaster due to their fear of rejection.
3. Avoidant Dismissive Attachment: The Need for Independence: Visualize a bird in flight, soaring through the open sky. Avoidantly attached people tend to prioritize independence and self-sufficiency. They may appear distant or dismissive of emotional intimacy, often suppressing their own needs. If you’re avoidant you may find it challenging to open up fully and might struggle with commitment. While you value autonomy, your relationships can suffer from a lack of emotional depth and a difficulty being vulnerable with a partner.
4. Fearful Avoidant Attachment: A Pendulum of Emotions: Think of a pendulum, swinging back and forth between desire and fear. Fearfully attached people can experience conflicting emotions – they desire closeness but also fear it. This attachment style can come from unresolved traumas or past hurts that impact the person’s ability to trust and connect. It can be the result of a lack of safety and support in relationships from early life. Adult relationships with a fearful avoidant person can be tumultuous and confusing, marked by a push-pull dynamic as they grapple with their inner conflicts.
How do the attachment styles affect relationships?
Attachment styles significantly influence the dynamics of our relationships. Securely attached individuals tend to enjoy fulfilling partnerships, while the anxiously attached might struggle with jealousy and over-dependency. If you feel you are more avoidantly attached, you could have difficulty with emotional intimacy, leading to potential communication breakdowns. Fearfully attached individuals might find it challenging to strike a balance between their desires and fears, leading to unpredictable relationship patterns.
Nurturing Healthy Attachment
Understanding your attachment style is a crucial step towards building healthier relationships. If you identify with an anxious or avoidant style, know that change is possible with self-awareness and effort. It is possible to move from one of the insecure attachment styles to a secure one by the following steps:
1. Self-Reflection: Explore your past to understand the roots of your attachment style. Identifying triggers and patterns can lead to personal growth. 2. Effective Communication: Secure attachment is fostered through open and honest dialogue. Practice active listening and expressing your feelings and needs clearly. 3. Emotional Regulation: Develop healthy coping mechanisms to manage stress and anxiety, reducing the impact of attachment-related triggers. 4. Seek Professional Help: If you need some support, therapists specializing in attachment issues can provide valuable guidance and tools for improving your attachment style.
Attachment styles are the emotional blueprints that guide our connections with others and can underpin our beliefs about relationships too. Understanding your attachment style is a great first step towards growth, healing, self-acceptance and love. And by gaining awareness and understanding, through looking at our past experiences, we can pave the way for healthier and more fulfilling relationships in the future.
The journey to finding a compatible life partner can be both exciting and challenging. However, if we struggle with low self-esteem and a lack of self-worth, the path to a healthy love relationship can feel very blocked. Our perception and view of ourselves greatly influences our ability to attract and maintain fulfilling relationships.
In this post, I'll talk about the ways in which a lack of self-worth can hinder our search for a partner. I’ll also give some tips on embracing self-worth to help you, if you are a single woman in order to find a loving and compatible relationship.
The ways low-self esteem can show up when you’re single and wanting a relationship
1) Underestimating your own value (forgetting what a good catch you are!)
A lack of self-worth can lead to underestimating your own value as a potential partner. When you don't recognize your own strengths, qualities, and unique attributes, it becomes difficult to show these when dating and may make it more tricky to present yourself confidently to others. This self-doubt can manifest as a reluctance to put yourself out there, engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors, or settling for relationships that are not fulfilling for you and do not align with your true desires and needs.
2) Attracting unhealthy dynamics & toxic relationships
Low self-worth can unwittingly attract unhealthy dynamics and toxic relationships. When you don't believe you deserve better, you may find yourself drawn to partners who reinforce your negative self-perception and make you feel even more unworthy of love. These relationships may involve emotional manipulation, disrespect, or an unbalanced power dynamic, further perpetuating your feelings of unworthiness. Because of this, finding a healthy and loving partner becomes increasingly challenging.
3) Fear of vulnerability and intimacy
Self-worth plays a pivotal role in the ability to be vulnerable and develop intimate connections with others. When you lack a sense of self-worth, opening yourself up emotionally becomes daunting. Fear of rejection or abandonment may prevent you from fully investing in a relationship or expressing your true feelings. This fear can create barriers to intimacy and hinder the development of deep, meaningful connections. It can also mean that a potential partner doesn’t really get to know you properly and get to see the ‘whole’ authentic you. This leads to a lack of connection, ultimately, because you may not be being fully yourself.
4) Settling for less than you deserve
A lack of self-worth can lead to settling for less than you truly deserve in a partner. Believing that you are unworthy of love and affection can make you more likely to tolerate mistreatment, neglect, or a lack of effort from potential partners. This pattern of settling can perpetuate a cycle of unfulfilling relationships and reinforce negative beliefs about yourself.
5) Lack of self-care and boundaries
Self-worth is closely intertwined with self-care and establishing healthy boundaries. When you don't value yourself, you may neglect your own well-being and prioritize the needs and wants of others above your own. This imbalance can lead to emotional exhaustion, resentment, and an inability to establish and communicate your boundaries effectively. It becomes challenging to foster a healthy and equal partnership when self-care and personal boundaries are compromised.
Tips for embracing your self-worth and finding a partner
Awareness is the first step to change! Recognizing the impact of low self-worth on your ability to find a partner is the first step toward more positive choices for yourself. Here are some strategies to embrace self-worth and enhance your chances of finding a loving and compatible partner who will treat you with the care, love and respect you deserve:
Cultivate self-compassion: Practice self-compassion by treating yourself with kindness, understanding, and forgiveness. Acknowledge your strengths and celebrate your accomplishments. Inside the Healthy Relationship Roadmap Program one of the exercises we do is write a list of all of our gifts, traits and achievements, all of the things we appreciate and like about ourselves. This can be used whenever we need a boost and to bolster self-confidence when we need it!
Challenge negative self-beliefs: Identify and challenge negative beliefs about yourself that contribute to your lack of self-worth. Replace them with positive affirmations and realistic self-appraisals. When you identify a limiting belief that you may be holding about yourself, ask yourself: “Is this really true?” Find the evidence that it is NOT true and write all of these points down. This helps you to shift your thinking to the truth, rather than the mind choosing to focus on unhelpful thoughts.
Invest in self-growth: Engage in activities that promote personal growth and self-improvement. This could include pursuing hobbies, learning new skills, or seeking professional development. Do more of the things that make you happy and bring you joy too! This signals to your brain that you value yourself more and will help you to gain confidence and self-esteem.
Surround yourself with positive influences: Build a support network of friends and loved ones who uplift and value you. Seek out role models and mentors who inspire and encourage self-worth. Don’t spend time with people who don’t respect you and treat you nicely. This is an act of self-preservation and self-care.
Seek therapy or professional support. Consider seeking some help to address underlying issues contributing to your lack of self-worth. A therapist or coach can provide guidance and tools to support your journey toward self-discovery and self-acceptance.
To sum up!
Embracing self-worth is a transformative journey that can positively impact your ability to find a compatible partner. By recognizing the barriers that a lack of self-worth can create and actively working to cultivate self-worth, you can open yourself up to healthier relationships grounded in mutual respect, love, and fulfillment. I hope these tips have helped you if you recognize any of this in yourself.
Remember, you deserve to find a partner who appreciates and cherishes you for the incredible person you are!
P.S. We also do a lot of the self-discovery and inner healing that addresses self-esteem on the Healthy Relationship Roadmap Program. This is my signature live online program supporting single women to heal their past, love themselves more and cultivate the perfect mindset and energy in order to attract all good things to them, including a wonderful healthy and loving relationship. If this resonates with you, read more about the program here!