If You Have These 9 Small Habits, It’s a Sign You Grew Up With A Toxic Mom
"As children, we totally depend on our mothers, and they teach us how to view the world and ourselves," psychotherapist Richard Brouillette, LCSW, tells Bustle. "So if their view [was] skewed or unhealthy, we [learned] to adjust ourselves to their outlook." This may explain why you're in the habit of jumping to conclusions, overworking, or constantly seeking validation — it's often a side effect of the negative impact your mom had.
There is good new, though. "You can absolutely overcome the habits you developed from your childhood," Brouillette says. "Start by learning to identify when your habit is triggered by a strong feeling, like anger or guilt [...] Have a little script prepared that you can repeat to yourself. Remind yourself of what you already know: that you are capable, that you are good at what you do, or that you will grow."
It may also be helpful to see a therapist, who will help you uncover the affect your mom had and give you ways to break bad habits, think more positively, and move on from your past. Here are a few habits you may have an adult if you grew up with a toxic mom, according to experts.
1. You Try To Be Agreeable At All Costs
While it's fine to be an agreeable person and take steps to get along well with others, it's easy for people raised by toxic moms to go overboard — to the point it's unhealthy.
"You lean towards people-pleasing, in part because growing up with a toxic mom meant that conflict was abundant and explosive," Dr. Helen Odessky, a licensed clinical psychologist and author of Stop Anxiety From Stopping You, tells Bustle. "People from such backgrounds tend to become conflict-avoidant, often at the expense of their needs and feelings."
To overcome this, it may be helpful to go to therapy as a way of building up your self-esteem, and learning how to be more assertive.
2. You Tend To Jump To Conclusions
If you're in the habit of jumping to conclusions or assuming the worst of people, it may have something to do with how you were raised.
"When you have a toxic mom, you are on the receiving end of a lot of manipulative behavior and you may have come to expect that from other people," Dr. Odessky says.
This can make having healthy relationships difficult, but is something you can work on and begin to overcome in therapy.
3. You Need To Be Validated
If you grew up with a mom who didn't offer enough support or attention — to the point it was toxic and neglectful — you may find yourself craving more validation as an adult.
Since you never got that assurance from your mom, "this will cause you to possibly begin to seek out attention in any way," therapist Lakiesha Russell, LPC, tells Bustle. You might ask for others to assure you on a project you're working on is great, Russell says. Or you may have other "attention seeking" habits, all as a way of feeling more secure.
4. You Find It Hard To Trust Yourself
Similarly, a lack of validation can also make it difficult to trust yourself and make decisions as an adult.
"If you are not getting the validation of being good enough as a person, you may allow your insecurities to take over, which in turn may cause you to doubt yourself in making sound decisions," Russell says.
This is something you can learn to overcome, however, possibly with the help of a therapist.
5. You Have A Tough Time Maintaining Healthy Friendships
"This may be an issue because we learn how to interact and communicate [in] our relationships through our parents," Russell says. Add in a habit of jumping to conclusions, or that need for validation, and you may find that it's tough to make or keep friends.
But never fear. Once you recognize a pattern like this in your life, you're already well on your way to moving past it.
6. You Take On Too Many Responsibilities
If you grew up with an overly-critical mom, it's possible "nothing you did was ever good enough, or you were a kind of scapegoat in her life," Brouillette says. "And now you have a critical voice running in your head, you have unrelenting standards, and you're always trying to overcome a sense of inadequacy."
Cut to you taking on too many responsibilities at work, or packing your schedule with side projects. If it feels like you're doing it all as a way to make up for feeling inadequate, it may be time to speak with a professional.
7. You Sell Yourself Short
On the flip side, you may also have a habit of selling yourself short — or not taking on any new jobs or responsibilities — because you were raised to think you can't handle it.
Or, it may have something to do with how close you are to your mom currently. "Toxic moms can be too enmeshing, wanting to be your best friend [and] keeping you too close," Brouillette says. "You may end up undermining your own efforts to be independent [or] turning down opportunities. Ambition and growth might make you feel guilty."
It can result in a feeling of being "stuck" or dissatisfied with life. But the good news is it's a habit that's possible to break once you're aware of it.
8. You Turn To Unhealthy Ways To Relax
As Brouillette says, "A toxic upbringing may have left you feeling starved for affection and you had to rely on self-soothing activities," which can take many forms now that you're an adult.
"As adults, think of the idea of compassionate or non-compassionate self-soothing," he says. "Mindfulness meditation, art, or hiking may be good examples of compassionate self-soothing. But self-soothing as a toxic habit is about making yourself numb to feelings."
If you haven't taken any steps to overcome the impact your toxic mom had, you may find yourself "oversleeping, [spending] too much time on social media, [or abusing drugs or alcohol]," Brouillette says. "So when you are engaging in a self-soothing behavior, ask yourself whether you are numbing yourself to feelings more than you should."
Editor's Note: If you or someone you know is seeking help for substance use, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357).
9. You Experience Negative Self-Talk
"People who grew up in high-stress households or with a parent who struggled to hold their child with positive regard might have ruminations (repetitious, habitual thoughts) about not being good enough," therapist Rebecca Kronman, LCSW, tells Bustle.
This is also known as negative self-talk, which refers to the constant chatter going on in your head. It may be critical words your mom used to say, that are still echoing around in your mind all these years later.
The words our parents say have a way of sticking around and leaving a lasting impact, so don't feel bad if they're still affecting you as an adult.
By recognizing these habits, knee-jerk reactions, and negative thoughts as they happen, you can learn to tamp them down and replace them with something more positive. It may also be helpful to go to therapy, for that extra bit of support.