Forgive Your Mother

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Since I have talked about relationships recently on my podcast and re-evaluating them, I want to follow up with probably the closest relationship most of us have. Or at least, it’s the first deep relationship that we have, and that’s with our mother.

Now, I understand that some of us may not have had a traditional maternal influence. Perhaps you were raised by a grandmother, another family member – someone else entirely. I’m talking about whomever it was that filled the role of mother (maternal guide) for you.

Because regardless, there is one thing that we can’t deny. We all have a mother. We were all born from a woman’s body.

That is our common circumstance. Indisputable fact. Indeed, undeniable.

Whether or not she was or is what you would consider a “good” mom, is where your thoughts about her come in. And yes, it is your thoughts about your mother that create the reality of what your relationship was and what it is.

It’s time to unpack all the thoughts that you have about your own mom, because we tend to get super judgmental when it comes to that role, don’t we? Both for ourselves and for others.

Why do you think that is? Seriously, I’ve been wondering this for some time.

I think it’s because we have an expectation that we will be nurtured, cared for, and loved by our mothers like no one else.

It was her womb where we were formed, so there’s this sense that we should have this close connection.

Notice that I opened up this by saying that our relationship with our mother is probably the closest one that we will have, or at least the first close connection.

“Close” doesn’t automatically equate to positive. I want to clarify that early on. It’s close because you have the relationship and the attachment from the very beginning of your life.

Over the period of your childhood, you may or may not have felt your relationship with your mom was a positive one.

Or maybe you did, and the distance started to set in as an adult.

I think it’s safe to say that at one point or another, we have been angry with our mothers for falling short of our expectations.

Indeed, for being fallible human themselves.

For some reason, we think our moms are supposed to be above reproach. She should never disappoint us. She shouldn’t make mistakes. She should guide us, help us, and always be there for us.

If that is your mother, fantastic! Congratulations.

That is not the case for many of us, is it?

Many of us were born to women who weren’t prepared to be mothers. Who didn’t even want that role in the movie that is your life. That could be true.

Just because you have the ability to do something (like procreate), doesn’t mean that you’re going to be good at it. And by “good” at it, I mean automatically assuming those characteristics that we expect of our mothers like showing up as caring, nurturing, loving human beings.

The ability to procreate does not automatically provide those characteristics. It is not a package deal.

And sometimes, our mothers were very young when they gave birth to us. They were still trying to figure out life for themselves and suddenly they were thrust into caring for another human being. A very needy one, at that. Babies are needy. They can’t do anything for themselves, and they can’t communicate what those needs are. At all.

Motherhood is a total guessing game for the first couple of years. And the challenge of a lifetime.

So, moms really are just trying to figure it out. Even if they have multiple children, every child is unique. It doesn’t even matter if you’ve been down that road before, you can somewhat know what to expect in terms of biological development. You have to navigate the personality of each individual child.

Just stop and look through the lens of your mother for a minute or two. Try that. What do you imagine she thought or felt with the tiny, helpless, needy version of you?

It’s fascinating for me to take that perspective on. While of course, I can never know what my mom was thinking or feeling, taking a moment to imagine is a fascinating exercise.

And it’s a helpful one when my own thoughts trace back to moments in the past and I start having judgments that she should have done things differently.

Is that true?

Should she have?

As close as that mother relationship is, it can also be one of the most volatile. I think this may be especially true for girls. I could be wrong; I’m just guessing based on my own experience and observations. It does seem that boys have “better” relationships with their moms; that men seem more drawn to their mothers.

Regardless of whether you think it’s true that girls have a more complex relationship with their mothers, what you really need to be challenging are those thoughts that you have that she’s did it wrong or that she’s doing it wrong.

Did she?

Is she?

Is that true?

Here’s where offering up the concept that everything happens the way it’s supposed to is very helpful.

Because you can take on the thought that the things your mom did or didn’t do have scarred you for life, or you can take on the thought that she was doing the best she could and you learned lessons from her.

You know what your mom did or didn’t do that has you all fired up about her now. Even if she’s no longer living, you may still be hanging on to that massive pile of resentment.

You wish your mother had been different.

You wish she would change now; that she would be who you want her to be.

Or you wish that you had had a better relationship when she was alive. That she hadn’t done those things to you when you were younger. If SHE hadn’t done those things, then you wouldn’t be so messed up in the head.

Does any of that self-talk sound familiar?

I’m sure that it keeps our therapists busy for years – unraveling all of that pent-up frustration!

Do you think your mom had access to a therapist or a life coach to unravel all of the pent-up frustration she felt towards her own mother?

Oh, that’s a really good question. As I understand it, therapy has only recently become acceptable in society’s mainstream. I’m talking about the US…if you’re in another country, it may still not be acceptable to seek therapy.

It may not have been affordable.

The coaching industry is still developing. Really, it is still in its infancy.

So, think about that too. Bring the generational considerations into the mix. Just as healthcare overall continues to improve, mental health and wellness may not have even been a thing that our parents even knew about or had access to.

Our mothers really had to figure out this life as they went through it.

How did they learn right from wrong? Who were their teachers? Their guides? What kind of resources did they have? What kind of education did they receive? How much love and support were provided?

Yes, those are all factors in how we develop as humans. That means your mother too.

Perspective does help.

Even if you don’t know the full story and of course, you’ll never know the full experience, just giving yourself some space to allow your imagination to kick in can be helpful with that perspective.

I like to use the power of my own imagination to ask, “what if my initial perception isn’t reality?”

Even better, what if my learned perception, honed over many years of thinking the same thoughts over and over to the extent that it becomes my truth, isn’t actually true?

Of course, the relationship that you have created with your mother is like any other in the sense that you do have the choice whether you want to keep it the way that it is or explore alternatives.

Yes, notice that I said the relationship that YOU have created.

I’m going to keep driving that point home: any relationship that you have with another person originates from your thoughts about them.

I am fully aware of our tendencies to say, “Well, she was wrong. She shouldn’t have done those things or said those things. She shouldn’t have treated me that way. If she had been different, she would be more deserving of my love.”

I am fully aware of that tendency because I have carried it for a long time myself. And I’m here to tell you, wishing your mother had been different, wishing that she had showed up every single minute of every single day in such a way that she matched your expectations (you know, those things that you have created in your mind?) is not the path to freedom.

In fact, it’s the opposite. You will have created a prison for yourself if you are hanging all of your hopes and dreams on another person to change who they are. Or if you hold on to some kind of dream that will reverse time and make everything better like a mother is supposed to do.

I get it. You think you are punishing your mother by holding onto your resentments, yet the truth is that you are only punishing yourself.  

You are the one who has imprisoned yourself with your own warped perception of reality.

Now, perhaps you were abused either physically or emotionally – maybe both.

How do you let that go?

The very first thing that you do is that you decide that you want to. And that’s not a matter of saying that you’re okay with everything that happened and that you would do it again if given the chance. It’s a matter of acknowledging, “yes, this is what happened and maybe it happened for me and not to me.”

We are very good at taking on the role of victim and as long as we can keep our mothers in the role of villain, then we can be martyrs. We can say that we are better humans in spite of our circumstances.

What if we could become better humans because of our circumstances?

Not in spite of them. Because of them.

Who would you be if you chose to release yourself from your mind-made prison?

Who could you become?

How could you show up in the world? Perhaps as a mother yourself, but most importantly, as a whole human who believes in her inherent worthiness?

Oh, the possibilities.

They are endless.

The limits, they are boundless.

Your relationship with your mother is only complicated because you allow it to be. Because somewhere along the way, on your journey, you have decided to give your power over to another human’s ability to parent the way that you think they should.

That’s your truth bomb.

Going back to that concept of exploring your own perceptions, have you considered what your mom’s relationship with her own mother was like?

What do you even know about that?

Maybe she was in fact doing the best she could with what she knew; what she was taught. How she was raised. Perhaps with that perspective, she actually did do better. Perhaps she learned a whole book’s worth of things not to do based on her own experiences and perhaps she did the best she could with that knowledge. With those learned experiences.

Yes, perhaps she did do better. Perhaps she did the best she could.

That’s possible.

And allowing that possibility to exist in your mind is another step toward freedom.

Here’s the best part. Your mother doesn’t have to be involved in this process. This is your process. Remember, this is your mind. It is both your prison and your path to freedom. Your mind.

So, if your mother is no longer living in human form, you can still choose to change your relationship with her.

You can have a real conversation with her or an imaginary conversation. Either way, you have the power of choice as to whether or not you want to continue to allow the things that she did to you as a child (or even as an adult) to direct or dictate the way you feel about yourself and your inherent worthiness.

What if the way that everything happened is exactly as it was supposed to happen? What if there are no accidents?

What if?

What if you really could rewrite the story of your past that you have created in your mind and embrace the notion that everything that happened, happened for you and not to you?

What if you truly examined all of the possibilities? All of the ways that creating new thoughts about your life and specifically, your mother’s role in your life, could set you on a path to freedom.

What if?

Who would she be then?

Who would you be then?

“Very little grows on jagged rock. Be ground. Be crumbled, so wild flowers will come up where you are.”

Jelaluddin Rumi

Yes, I think that in order to be ground and crumbled, you must step into your own humility.

You must take on the understanding and awareness that maybe you don’t know everything. That maybe you don’t know the best way your mom should behave or should have behaved.

Just as we put our mentors and our political, societal, or religious leaders on a pedestal, we do the same with our mothers. We have this idea that they should be all-knowing and flawless. We create our own disappointment and resentments when they fail to meet our expectations.

Forgiving your mother for being a fallible human being is not about letting her off the hook. It’s about letting yourself off the hook. You don’t have to remain in that prison. That’s the beauty of being an empowered human. You have the ability to open that door and step into the light of your new truth at any time.

That is your power.

That is your freedom.

Forgiving your mother is releasing yourself from pain.

It is the greatest gift.

Trust me.

This post is a partial transcript of my podcast, What Lights You Up – Episode 50. I invite you to enjoy the full episode and subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or Audible!

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