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If Your Mom Criticizes These 5 Things, She May Be Toxic

And some space might be healthy.

by Lindsay E. Mack
Originally Published: 

Even when you're well into adulthood, your mother's opinion probably still matters quite a bit. On some level, you just want to make her proud. However, that kind of validation isn't always available. For instance, if your mom criticizes certain aspects of your life, then she may be a toxic parent, and/or you may have a toxic relationship with her. Sometimes the best and healthiest option is to stop relying on a toxic person’s judgement about your life totally.

Your desire to be a dutiful child at any age probably comes from a good place. But some parents are legitimately impossible to please. Everything is your fault and a disappointment. You may feel powerless around this toxic parent, even when you're a full adult (and maybe even a parent) in your own right. It’s hard to undo decades of misdirected anger and blame, especially if it’s always been there and seemingly “normal” to you. Thankfully, there are plenty of strategies for dealing with a toxic parent, and the first step is recognizing if you have a toxic mom or dad. Setting healthy boundaries, and limiting the time you spend together, are just two of the ways some people manage these tricky relationships.

Read on to see whether your mom might show these potentially toxic traits, and consider getting some backup from a therapist if anything hits too close to home.


Your identity, sexual or otherwise

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Your parents aren't required to launch a new PFLAG chapter or anything if your sexual orientation is anything but heterosexual, but some support in this area is always respectful. "I think some of the most toxic things a mother could say to her kid is 'I don't believe in trans identity,' 'to be good and innocent you can't have sex,' or 'your private parts are dirty' — all of which I have heard parents say," sex educator & consultant Sarah D'Andrea, M.Ed. tells Romper. Cutting remarks about your perfectly healthy and normal sex life as an adult are just out of line and can be incredibly damaging if this is what this is what you’ve been taught since you were a young child.


Your accomplishments

Does it feel like your mom is constantly undermining your progress? "Comments where a mother takes credit for a child's accomplishment can also be toxic and destructive," says relationship coach Lisa Vallejos, Ph.D. "For example, a child wins an award and the mother says something like 'the apple doesn't fall far from the tree' instead of allowing the child to be celebrated on their own merit." Whether you're getting a masters degree or trying out a new exercise regime, your mom is there to take the credit.


Your weight

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Honestly, this is a super sensitive topic for loads of people, so even the slightest comment can feel like a personal attack. "A toxic mother will bring up your weight and whether it's too little or too heavy according to her own standard of what is acceptable," says trauma therapist Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse. "Toxic mothers make themselves the barometer of right and wrong in their children's lives." And there's a very good chance that your weight is never quite right by her standards, whatever the numbers on the scale say.


Your perceived ranking with peers

Maybe your mom pits you against peers. "A toxic mother compares her children to other people's kids," says Thomas. "She highlights individual's successes and likes to talk about specific areas where you may be struggling." If your peers happen to graduate college or get engaged before you do, then there's a big chance this news will be used against you in some way.


Things you can’t change

This is an especially frustrating criticism. "But, moms should especially steer clear of criticizing or demeaning things that kids can’t change — such as their looks," as media psychiatrist & bestselling author Carole Lieberman M.D. tells Romper. "For example, never say, 'I wish your eyes were blue instead of brown.'" There isn't much you can do about these sorts of comments anyway, because it isn't like you can grow five inches taller or instantly change careers just to placate a parent.

For the most part, criticisms from a toxic mom shouldn't run your life. That being said, in some cases there may be a fine line between what toxic and what ia is a fine line between have to run your life in any way, and a bit of distance from her might be healthier for you anyway.

If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).


Sarah D’Andrea, sexuality expert and consultant

Lisa Vallejos, Ph.D., relationship coach and psychologist

Shannon Thomas, trauma therapist and author of Healing from Hidden Abuse

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