The Wisdom in the Wounds-letting go of being a good daughter so I could focus on being a good mother
Updated: Jul 6, 2019
I thought that being a good daughter meant holding my mother’s pain for her. I believed that this was how to love someone. The little girl in me thought that if I could share my mom’s pain with her then life wouldn’t be so hard for her. I just wanted her to be happy. That’s all I ever wanted. I thought being a good daughter meant staying silent when I needed help. I thought being a good daughter meant swallowing my emotions. I thought being a good daughter meant following the rules. I thought being a good daughter meant trying to be like my mother. I thought that being a good daughter meant mothering my mother.
Being a good daughter kept me in a role of performing and pretending to be someone else all the while secretly pleading "love me, see me, accept me". It felt safe to share the parts of me that are independent, self-sufficient, accomplished and put together. Underneath this lived my sensitivity and creativity. Underneath lived a lifetime of emotions I had been too afraid to actually feel. I tucked them neatly inside a box along with all the other parts of me that felt scary and vulnerable. Just below the pain buried deep inside of me also lived the magic and wonder that is ME.
I thought being a good daughter meant sharing NONE of this. The thought of speaking my truth and sharing my story with others always triggered feelings of betrayal. I’m a grown woman now with two daughters of my own to raise and this desire to be a good daughter still courses through my veins. This year I realized that being a good daughter was keeping me from being the mother I needed to myself and my daughters.
This year everything changed in the most unexpected turn of events. I hired a business coach to help me create a therapeutic coaching practice. Choosing to veer off the predictable path I’d always followed in favor of opening my own business triggered so much fear. I started to examine my life and realized that I lived in a constant state of hide and seek. I hid who I really was all the while seeking my mother’s unconditional love, acceptance, approval and support. At the core I didn’t trust I was good enough exactly as I am. I didn’t fully trust myself or my voice. My inner critic was loud and questioned me every step of the way. “Who do you think you are?” “What if you fail.” This could have stopped me but instead I chose to see this as my invitation to deepen my own healing. I hired another coach and set the intention to awaken to my full power and potential so I could step into brave leadership.
Early in our work together I had a an AHA moment. The voice of my inner critic was actually my mother’s voice that I still carried inside of me. This voice cautioned me from risks and kept me playing safe and small in my life. We learn how to care for ourselves and how to mother ourselves from our mother or mother figure. I’d learned that my value was in how much I could do and how well I could do it. I’d learned how to be independent and self-sufficient. I’d learned that my needs were not important. My needs made me feel pathetic. I’d learned how to push myself. I’d learned that perfectionism is a good motivator. I’d learned how to ignore my emotions.
I set out exorcise my mother’s voice from my head which really meant I needed to release old self-limiting beliefs and install new life affirming ones. This is a process called reparenting or in my case remothering. The patterns we play out in our day to day life were installed in early childhood between birth and around the age of seven. We absorb the world around us and repeat what we learned. This is stored at the subconscious level where we spent a whopping 95% of our adult time. We literally become what we experienced. Change requires that we bring mindfulness to consciously rewire our brain. As adults our responsibility is to determine if the patterns we learned in early childhood support us or not. If they do not, our responsibility is to heal them.
Mother is both a noun and a verb. I realized I needed to spend less time focusing on my actual mother (noun) and more time learning to mother (verb) myself. I’d spent a lifetime longing for intimacy, nurturance, acceptance, and guidance from my mother. This year I surrendered. I stopped focusing on her and what she wasn’t giving me and instead I started focusing on me. I realized that my unmet expectations of my mother were leaving me in a constant state of disappointment that was draining the life force energy out of me. I was perpetually upset and angry with her. It was not fair to me and it was not fair to her. On the New Moon in February of this year I held a fire ceremony to release any and all expectations I had for my mother. I wrote every single thing I had ever expected of my mother and then I consciously burned them in a fire. I burned my expectations to be nurtured, mentored, nourished, unconditionally loved, celebrated, prioritized and protected. I released her of any responsibility to be a mother to me. I grieved and I cried. I realized that my grief will be with me for a lifetime. And I have the responsibility to meet it with love and compassion. I have a responsibility to mother myself in the ways I always wanted and needed.
What does mothering mean to me? To you? What does a healthy, loving mother feel like? To explore these questions I used collage and imagery to help me connect with the energy I associate with the loving mother. The image I created reflects warmth, safety, nourishment, mirroring, support, wildness, fierce protection, playfulness, relaxation, coziness, sweetness and stability. This collage became an anchor point for my work to embody the loving mother I always needed for myself.
I still struggle with feelings of betrayal as I share parts my story. I still feel responsible to protect my mother. I still long for her approval. I still grieve. I think I always will. What anchors me to keep going is that my story is bigger than me and it's bigger than my mother. Complicated mother-daughter relationships are a cultural norm that few speak about but many relate to. There is beautiful wisdom within the wounds I carry. This wisdom is what I am here to share. I'm writing a book for daughters seeking their mother's love and approval. Throughout my writing process I am comforted by the loving mother that lives within me. She reminds me that silence is self-betrayal and that serves no one.