Q. When I started my internet business, my mother told me:"Nonsense, you can't earn like this. That's not a job". She's always so damn negative about everything I start or dream about. Yesterday she really hurt me saying how she loved her first husband and how happy she was with him. He's still alive, but my father isn't, and now she wants me to understand she married my father because he was a "good man", not because she loved him. I think I'm doing too much to please her, but I get nothing in return. She had a son who died in a car accident and till this day she keeps talking about what a wonderful boy he was, that he could be an actor, that he was talented, exceptional. I never was her "little princess". She never told me I'm pretty, lovely like most mothers do. I believe it's HER who makes me feel so unsure of myself.
A. How sad it must be for you but your mother is showing the classic case of hiding her real pain and taking it all out on you. Her son isn't alive to hear it and your father isn't alive to hear it either. You are the only link to those two people and, instead of cherishing you and loving you because you ARE alive and the only person she has left, she treats you badly instead to cope with her suppressed anger. She doesn't really mean it and would be devastated if anything happened to you. However, she is masking her grief and when that frustration becomes unbearable, you are in the firing line.
Additionally, she does not believe in you because she resents your presence. How dare you have the opportunity to do things with your life when your brother and your father no longer have it? That is the kind of thing she probably thinks without meaning to do so. It then comes out in her behaviour. It is not an uplifting situation to be in and it would be the MAIN cause of your lack of confidence, to be constantly treated as second best. Don't judge her too harshly but try to spend less time around her. Let her begin to miss you more, to wonder what life would be like without you.
Why not write her a sympathetic letter, or talk to her face to face, if you have the courage. Tell her something like this, in your own words: "I know you are really hurting from the loss of my father and brother, but I love you too and am glad we have each other. However, you don't seem to appreciate my company and are constantly negative about my life. That does not do anything for my self esteem or my aspirations. Moreover, if you feel the need to treat me that way, it is not only sad, especially as I love and appreciate you, but I would need to spend less time in your company to prevent me becoming as negative as you are. That would be really tragic as I do appreciate you very much."
Tell her your honest feelings and then see what she does. If she keeps on in the same manner, try and avoid her as much as possible. When you are around her, only reinforce pleasant or positive actions. Whenever she says anything negative, don't respond or leave her company immediately. When she is positive and endearing, return the compliment or do things to affirm her. In this way she will gradually get the message that she will need to be more sensitive and loving if she is going to share your company and your love.
Resentment with loss
Your mother is not unique in her behaviour. There are many parents who lose a child then resent the other children for being alive and subconsciously treat them badly, but many gradually get over their grief and appreciate those kids even more. Your mother seem to be stuck in her grief and is looking for a scapegoat, someone to hurt and to be responsible for her pain. Sadly, you are the only one she can inadvertently blame because you are still alive. And she would have done the same thing to your brother had you been the unfortunate one to die first. Don't feed her negativity by accepting what is plainly unacceptable, neither should you allow yourself to be eaten up by jealousy about your brother. He's dead and you've got a life in front of you. Be thankful for that, not be jealous.
Talking about her son is your mother's way of dealing with her loss. He's never coming back so all she has is his memory and thoughts of how successful he could have been. Don't begrudge her that. Share it with her, encourage her to talk about him while gently reminding her that you need such support too. It doesn't matter that your were not expressly told you were a 'little princess'. You will begin to be truly valued when you learn to value yourself, lessen the jealousy and not allow yourself to be treated badly every day of your life.
So stop trying to please your mother, to make up for the son she lost, and start being you. Otherwise you will just keep getting more of the same. Start loving you, appreciating you and being kind to you. It will take the negative focus off your mother and place it positively where it belongs: on who you are, your value in life and where you're heading. You will feel quite different about her then and far less threatened by her actions.
Elaine Sihera (Ms CYPRAH)
Emotional Health Adviser
"Respect and love begin with the self. If we have none, how can we give away any?"