The disease to please begins early in life when as daughters we learn about what makes our mothers happy or unhappy. We learn to respond to her rules and conditions because our main desire is to gain her love. Some of those expectations we can fulfil while others may be impossible to meet. We are two different people with different values, rules and conditions. We live through our own unique experiences and may also have opposing aims in life.
Communication between mothers and daughters will break down if there isn’t the opportunity to talk adult-to-adult in the relationship once a daughter is a woman. If neither mother nor daughters are willing to speak about what’s not working in their relationship and how they want to improve it in a calm, non-blaming and assertive manner, things will stay the same or build up and get worse. Many daughters invest much time and energy trying to please their mothers, without having any clear direction of what it is they are trying to achieve. You can read more about this dynamic and others in my second book Mothers and Daughters: the guide to understanding and transforming the relationship with your mother
Yvonne Case Study
Yvonne came to me asking for help in the area of careers and feeling unfulfilled
Yvonne shared with me she was trying to live the life her mother never had. Yvonne didn’t want to be an actress, but because her mother gave up her own acting career to raise her and then spent a small fortune on sending her to acting school, she felt she at least owed it to her mum to follow in her footsteps and fulfil the career her mother never completed. After sticking out acting college and getting just a few small parts in plays, Yvonne knew acting wasn’t in her heart and apologised to her mother for not making it.
Using The Spotlight Process, Yvonne became aware of the beliefs connected with her relationship with her mother. She had picked up the limiting belief ‘I have to live your dream’ after hearing her mother tell her as a child ‘I gave up everything I had to have you’. In turn, she formed the belief ‘I have to give up the life I want to live because you gave up yours to have me’. After much discussion, tears, EFT tapping and a fresh conversation about what her mother really meant, what came to light was that the choice her mother had made to have Yvonne had been a willing one. Tracing back to the original argument where she thought her mother was angry at her, this unconscious stream of words were what shaped Yvonne’s beliefs about her mother and who she thought she needed to be in order to win her mother’s love.
I love working in the area of relationships as it is so rewarding when daughters are able to understand why they formed the beliefs they did and how to transform them. Yvonne now works as an educator and speaker. So although she isn’t a professional actress, she formally uses her acting and presentation skills and has become a sought-after speaker, working all over the globe.
I have known many one-sided relationships where, for the sake of a quiet life, the daughter complies with her mother’s expectations. The same goes for mothers, too, who struggle with being a daughter and a mother at the same time. How frequently do you find yourself saying ‘yes’ to things, when all you really want to say is ‘no’? If this becomes a pattern for too long, it becomes harder to make changes and create new behaviours in your relationship.
Perhaps in reality, your mother isn’t who you want her to be. Accepting her as she is, will bring a sense of closure. It’s like agreeing to disagree. When you are able to accept yourself and understand she can’t meet your needs for whatever reason, there is no longer the need to keep searching for something which can’t be found. Your need to reach agreement and gain approval, acceptance or validation will disappear. Then, the energy you would have spent looking for those things, can be invested elsewhere.
Becoming your own ‘inner mother’ as an adult daughter is paramount in your ongoing self-care. When you take responsibility to heal your hurts, whether by seeking professional help or working through your experiences through reading, talking with trusted friends or joining a support group, you stop the self-defeating patterns in your relationship and put your needs first. It is not selfish to put one’s needs first, in fact by caring for yourself first, will enable you to care for others more effectively as you will not be ‘running on empty’.
By taking personal responsibility to meet our own needs, we change our negative patterns and behaviours and in doing so, we no longer have to blame our mothers for our life circumstances. We begin to understand her and the hand we have played in our relationship with her. With this awareness, we become self-fulfilled, happier and more confident in our abilities; we no longer need her to define who we are.
By taking responsibility to ‘mother’ ourselves and commit to healing our hurts, we can make the rest of our lives the best of our lives.