I Vowed I Would Never be like my Selfish Unloving Mother

dysfunctional mother daughter relationship
stormy mother daughter relationship

I used to live waiting to be good enough. I thought ~ “as soon as YOU say that I am important, then I will be important.  When you say that I am lovable, then I will be lovable. When YOU say that I am worthy then I will BE worthy”.  Deep down I believed that someone else would determine my value. I had to learn to stop operating under those beliefs. I had to stop seeing myself through the unloving eyes of others.

When I was 14 years old, I vowed that I would never be like my selfish, unloving, self centered mother. That was a serious vow and that memory is one of the clearest memories that I have. I don’t remember what happened the day that I made that vow but I remember it was one of the only promises that I ever made to myself.  I knew somehow that our mother daughter relationship was dysfunctional and that my mother was on the toxic side, I just didn’t know what I could do about it, or how long lasting and deep the effects of her way of relating to me would be.

When I went through my process of recovery from dysfunctional relationships, I took a closer look at the vow I made to never be like my toxic mother.  I asked myself what that meant to me and what specifically I had been referring to back then. I saw my mother as someone who didn’t care about others and cared about herself too much. She didn’t care about me. She discounted my feelings and she discounted my needs. She was disloyal and dismissive.  She was cutting and mean. She humiliated and embarrassed me in public and her actions and statements made me feel unworthy of respect or love. My mother (who demonstrates many signs of narcissism) was very selfish and self centered. My mother and I had a very dysfunctional and toxic mother daughter relationship.

More recently I took a look at this whole dysfunctional mother daughter relationship and the ongoing damage that it caused to me, in an even deeper way.  My narcissistic mother put herself first. So I vowed that I would never put myself first. My mother didn’t go without so I wanted to be the opposite;   I would go without many things to prove that I was not like my mother.

Somewhere along the line I decided that my needs would never come before others because that would mean that I was “like my mother” and in putting myself or my needs before anyone else would be showing those same signs of narcissism and since I had learned as a child that my needs didn’t matter, it was easy for me to stop listening to myself and discount my own needs.  I was proud of myself for doing it! That decision represented the vow that I made not to be like my mother. And I didn’t realize that I was taking over from all the other abusers in my life by agreeing that my needs would come last. My motive was understandable, but the practice was funky and dysfunctional.

When I decided that I would never be like my mean and toxic mother, I went to the other extreme and ended up being just as dysfunctional and I ended up treating and regarding myself exactly the same way that she treated and regarded me; as unworthy and unimportant. I discounted my feelings and I discounted my own needs. I put myself last. I humiliated and embarrassed myself by not ever standing up for myself and my own actions reinforced the belief that I was unworthy of love.

It’s a long uphill climb, learning to overcome this self discounting treatment. I still catch myself putting myself last under the guise of being a wonderful person and contributing to the greater good of mankind.  I have done it with my family and I have done it right here with my website and my readers.  Spreading myself so thin that I get sick, all because I vowed that I would never be like my narcissistic, dysfunctional and toxic mother.

I have been rethinking that vow lately.

The way that my mother did relationship with me was dysfunctional and toxic. The way that I learned to do relationship with myself as a result of how I was raised, was also dysfunctional and toxic.  By realizing where I got the ideas and teachings about HOW to treat myself, and how to NOT be like my selfish, toxic and dysfunctional Mother, I discounted and devalued ME, in just the same way that she did.

I still vow that I will never be like my unloving mother but today I am learning that what I regarded as the opposite of my mother is still toxic and dysfunctional. I had to take a look at the whole picture in order to see that I was not actually setting things right by being the total opposite of her because I was still disregarding me. (As I had been taught to do by her example)

Putting myself first is not narcissistic at all. The difference between the way that my mother regards herself vs. others and the way that I regard myself vs. others is that I believe all people are equally valuable. The way that my mother operated was that SHE was the most important and that HER needs were the most valuable.

The truth is that we ALL have equal value and that self care and self love when done in a healthy way, will actually benefit all those in contact with the person who practices it.

Everyone is welcome to share. Please feel free to use any name you wish if you feel unsafe about posting with your real name. I look forward to reading your responses to this article.

Exposing Truth; one snapshot at a time

Darlene Ouimet  

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98 response to "I Vowed I Would Never be like my Selfish Unloving Mother"

  1. By: Sophia Posted: 2nd November

    I just viewed some videos on healing from childhood trauma by Daniel Mackler, who Darlene mentioned recently. I really like hearing his boldly unapolgetic critiques. One thing he said really jumped out at me tonight. That was, if I’m looking to know what it is to truly be myself, don’t look to what is “normal” in society, because most people in the norm are highly traumatized and in denial themselves. I think this can help when I start to feel bad about myself because of some inner voice chiding me for not doing things the way everyone else is. Heck, I just worked hard for the past few months to try to get a friend of mine elected to the city commission who is a person of great honesty and integrity. She was defeated by a man who is rich, dishonest, unscrupulous, and vindictive. I can see how the “normal” world works. I don’t want to compare myself to that and judge my success and accomplishments by that. But when I vow to be different, I now see that it has to come from KNOWING that I deserve to feel welcome and worthy. (I’m pretty certain that this awful man who just won the election has deep unresolved emotional issues himself, but it is not for me to “understand and forgive” when his position allows him to hurt my community!)

  2. By: joy Posted: 2nd November

    Dear Karen

    The difference between you and my mother is you truly loved your child. my mom hated seeing me . hated me.. and never hesitated to let me know how much of a mistake I was.. I know now. I am not .. just because she said I was doesn’t make me one..

    As surely as she cannot create another human being merely by saying so .. so she cannot have stopped me from coming to be . because despite how terribly I came about. I was part of an carefully thought out plan of God given permission to take flesh. .

    Maybe my life is meant to show how someone coming from such terribleness can still rise up to be such a wonderful proof of God’s mercy.. and love.. I actually grew up in circumstances that were far from idea.. I really have reason to praise God . because .. I am not evil or hateful.. .. that is God in me. and I thank God. .for that..I don’t feel hate ..

    I know its in us to try to reason .. but some things have no reason.. other than they were allowed for some greater purpose not yet seen. .that is how I am trying to approach this .. that time of hurt. those times of hurt.. were only pieces of my life. but not my whole life..

    Still more pieces will appear and then you and I will see the whole picture. Pieces are just pieces but when you put them all together they become a beautiful picture.

    I am so sorry Karen what trauma you have known.. I can say I understand.. I feel it in my heart the terrible pain and burden you have but you chose to get away from all that.. nonsense..

    your son is at an age that young men and women rebel. not just that he went through trauma but it’s the time of life when everything is changing inside.. and perhaps..it’s painful his reactions..but some day . he will come around and not be so mad.. .

    Like me and you and all us here he has some things to go through and figure out. you giving him space.. room.. and understanding will help him.. as he tries to come to understand things.. am sure he loves you and you love him… maybe if he needs room just shower your love from a distance;)

    I know the mormon faith is very strict they have been to my house so many times this past summer and I have told them not interested.. they are very similar in rituals and rules as I have known. am so sorry… for you but happy that you are now free..

    I know its awful to feel how your son feels but also know that he will come to know just as you, me, Darlene and others are coming to know .. that some things we feel just arent real..they are things we came to believe but really should not have..

    Sending love. hope I didnt ramble too much am full of the flu bug.



  3. By: Pam Posted: 2nd November

    AnnaLyza, I’ve had problems with my youngest that sound simular to your son. The psychologist said that it is because my son identifies with me and took on my own feelings of low self-esteem. I know my depressions effected him also, and it was his depression that brought us all into the world of mental health care. Much of that experience was painful also, with doctors taking advantage of my propensity to blame everything on myself (he was diagnosed bipolar so I immedicately believed he inherited it from me and both of us were locked into the drugs for life condemnation). I am now learning not to beat up on myself over his problems or think that I am responsible for always making him feel better. I now see that as a means of backdoor control that doesn’t allow him his own successes and failures. The best thing I can do for my son is live an emotionally healthy life and work toward his full independence. I think we are close to that. He’s doing much better and I no longer believe either one of us is bipolar and in need of being confined within a chemicle assylum.

    I just want to share this because the ways this junk gets passed down is sometimes, convoluted. My parents were highly irresponsible and my parenting style was hyper-responsibility. I left littl room for my children to take their own responsibility. Yes, I did make mistakes but my kids make mistakes too. Love and truth do make a difference in reclaiming what was lost beginning who knows how many generations ago. I think it is as much about the human race healing and becoming as it is a personal journey of healing and becoming.


  4. By: joy Posted: 2nd November

    Karen.. just want to acknowledge your very long note and will be back in an hour. I have seen it but am doing a little breathing treatment having trouble breathing..cold.flu ..bug. but will be back to respond before nights up . I understand how your son feels. but you cannot take on that blame either.. you were a victim too.. your post has loosened the tears from my eyes.. be back in a few..

    Love you


  5. By: AnnaLyzza Posted: 2nd November

    Sorry, I meant “your mothers talking to you about their sex lives” – or exposing you to their sex lives, not YOU talking to YOUR kids. Please pardon my poor choice of words there.

  6. By: AnnaLyzza Posted: 2nd November

    Hi Pam, it’s me (Karen B) with my new, more discreet name.
    My mother also has a strange sense of entitlement to be taken care of by others. If she is coming to visit me she’ll always say, “Are you going to wait in me hand and foot?” Every time. The last time she said it I said, “That joke is getting pretty old, Mom.” I have also told her that when she’s 80 and infirm then I will take care of her, but not until then. Of course it’s always jokey jokey but one of these days if she says that again I should just sit her down and tell her how these comments make me feel. And she’ll probably say “oh i didn’t mean it like that” but oh well, hopefully the point will get through.

    Your parents sound like full-fledged users and parasites. I know my Mom is operating from a state of childish woundedness and trying to fill a void. Since she started taking care of herself and since she and my Dad have become friends to each other and my Dad has started taking care of her (he’s her landlord…yeah…it’s kind of weird – they were divorced for years but never really stopped being married) she is not needy like she was at all.

    I’m glad you ousted your parents from your life because it does not sound like they feel one bit of guilt for how they live and how they exploit those around them. It particularly upsets me how they tried to come between you and your kids. That is devious and nasty. When my mother was in her needy phase she would also sometimes try to come at me or my siblings through our kids, but I was pretty fierce about standing up to that. I can be a bear when it comes to my kids, and am learning to be strong for myself too!

    The talking to your kids about your sex life thing is icky icky icky. That absolutely is sexual abuse of the mind. It’s like your mother(s) wanted you to be exactly what they needed you to be at the time, to fill whatever role was required whether it’s surrogate parent or source of money or friend/confidente or taxi service or whipping boy, and if you didn’t comply then you were a bad, neglectful daughter. No appreciation at all for all you have done. My husband’s grandmother was very much that way. My MIL could never do enough to please her. I don’t know what can be done with such people other than to distance oneself from them, because they truly do not care how they make you feel – they only want you to give them what they want. It is a miracle to me that loving, kind, compassionate, strong, abuse cycle-breakers emerge in such families and put the brakes on these patterns. So, salute to you Pam and Darlene and Robert and all of you Cycle-Breakers!!!

  7. By: Pam Posted: 2nd November

    Darlene, The search term that brought me to EFB was, Narcissistic mother daughter relationships. Our mothers have different personas but I recognized the simularities immediately in what you wrote about your relationship with your mother. My mom was overly prim and proper about sex but she and my dad also shared portions of their sex life with me as a means of my sexual education. I also heard them having sex on a regular basis. It’s disgusting and I still don’t understand their motive in that one. They sure managed to twist my mind up when it came to sex though. Sexual abuse of the mind.


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 2nd November

      Yes, about sexual abuse of the mind. I have heard it called many things such as emotional incest. That one really resonated with me. I agree with what AnnaLyzza said about controllers/abusers making their victims be whatever they wanted at the time. That was very well said and very true.
      Hugs! Darlene

  8. By: Pam Posted: 2nd November

    Karen, My dad was very grandious as a young man but when they got older, they both assumed a extreme humble persona. My mother has always behaved as a little girl and I used to think that she never grew up because of my dad. However, I see it very differently now after having them live next to me for 11 years. When my dad became a preacher (with no education and only three years as a christian)my dad also, quit working, at 40. They have been living off of someone ever since. First they took all of the money out of the family ranch, sold my grandparent’s home out from under them making them dependent upon the goodness of my grandmother’s sister. They used the money to buy themselves a position in the church and when the money ran out, they were out. So they moved onto the property of a man younger than my dad who had always liked my dad, or really,the false personna that my dad portrayed to him. When they outlasted their welcome there, I was stupid enough to let them move onto my property but in a way, I’m glad I did because it was a real eye opener.

    When I was born, I’m sure my parents saw me as a way to have their needs met, emotionally and physically. They talked about my siblings and I taking care of them when they were old ever since I can remember. When they lived here, my mom was the most obvious in assuming that I should fill all of her needs while my dad was less obvious and manipulative. When I didn’t meet all of my mom’s expectations as daughter, mother, friend, care-giver,taxi service, and home for her “favorite grandchild”, my nephew, she began to complain to my sister about how she seldom saw me (even though I walked with her nearly every morning)and she was successful in breaking my relationship with my sister apart as she wanted each of us to herself.They also, tried to turn my own children against me by filling their heads with all the mistakes that my husband and I made in the past. They wanted them to themselves also, and were dying to see me fail as a parent and bring me down to their own level. I began to see how their irresponsibility and emotional and monetary mooching had hurt me all of my life. When I confronted my mom about how wrong it was for them to move here and then expect us to support them while they were still young enough to support themselves, she said, “Yes, God takes care of me through other people.” I knew then that she though she was entitled to my financial and emotional support and had no gratitude what-so-ever for what my husband and I did for them. In their world, there are no other needs or feelings but their own and the rest of us are only tools by which they get what they feel they need and deserve.

    You’re right, it is putrid and highly toxic. I’m glad I’m out of it because they see themselves as perfect and those who serve them as wanting. They will never do anything to change.


  9. By: Karen B Posted: 2nd November

    Hi Pam,

    I totally understand how awful and inappropriate it feels to have a reversed mothering dynamic with your mother. It feels icky and heavy and sticky and blech – I have also found it hard to explain or describe. My mom would even say things like “I wish you were my Mom,” – she’s say it as though she meant it as a compliment when she was watching me interacting with my kids, but I knew that it reflected a genuine desire to be parented/nurtured/mothered by me. Or she’d go on about how much I reminded her of her mom and then sadly say how much she missed her Mom (her Mom died a few years ago, but was emotionally absent for a long time before that). Those kinds of comments made my skin crawl and I’m not sure why, but Pam it sounds like you totally get it. It just isn’t right somehow.

    I guess it’s because they are trying to get you to give them something that they should be getting elsewhere, and they’re attempting to get it from us without asking for it, and it’s something they shouldn’t be asking us to give them anyway. They are using our relationship to get their needs met in a way that disrespects our boundaries/roles/needs, and being used like that never feels good. Especially when it’s hidden – like my Mom’s pretext that she was coming by to help me, when in fact she was coming by because she was lonely and bored and wanted to follow me from room to room talking to me, or wanted me to take her places and do things with her. I understand loneliness and wanting company, but don’t pretend that your motive is to “help” when it isn’t at all. But knowing how to recognize her own needs and ask for them was not a skill she was ever taught at home or in church or anywhere else. When people aren’t allowed to honor their own needs and trust that they’ll be met, they sometimes learn to steal to get what they need. I understand this now, and even understood it at the time, but it didn’t make the false transaction feel any less yucky. Anyway, Pam, thanks for commenting. It helps a lot to be understood by people who have been through something similar. I don’t know if it’s common or not, but I went along for years assuming I was the only one dealing with this stuff or feeling these things. Maybe that’s just my own unique narcissism! : )


    I appreciate your point about taking care not to diagnose or get hung up on diagnoses. I don’t think that boxing yourself or others into a firm label of what they are is healthy either. But I have found it helpful as part of my healing process to learn these terms to describe patterns of behaviour – it gives me a shortcut to communicate a lot of information in a word rather than a paragraph, to describe what I have experienced or observed. For example, when I learned about “disassociation,” that helped me so much to finally be able to put words to what I felt about my mom and Grandma but could never quite describe. My Grandma was just so unreachable, and I felt certain that it was significant somehow in the story of my family and thus of myself, and to learn what it means to disassociate made so much sense of that.

    For me, asking and answering the question “WHY?” in response to how my parents treated each other, themselves, and related to us kids was how I coped with a confusing homelife. When I discovered psychology and family studies and eventually anthropology classes in university, it was like a world of perspective and understanding was opened up to me, and finding that other people had observed dynamics and behaviors in human interaction and named them, thus giving them a reality beyond my own experience, helped to validate to me that my sense that something wasn’t right at home was actually correct. I hadn’t imagined it, I wasn’t being over sensitive, and other people agreed with me that these dynamics and behaviors weren’t healthy.

    Also for me, the process of analyzing my family and what makes them tick and what influences have traveled down the family tree has helped in my process of depersonalizing the abuse/neglect I grew up with. It has helped me to understand that my parents had their own bundles of issues that affected their behavior way more than anything I’d ever done. It doesn’t mean I don’t hold them accountable for their own choices and actions, but it has helped me release myself from the burden of feeling like their behavior was somehow my fault or responsibility. For years I felt responsible to make them happy and “help them” understand themselves so they could get well and stop hurting themselves, each other and us. If I could just find the right words to explain to them what they were doing and how it affected them and me, they’d finally hear me and stop doing it! That was the belief that drove me for years. But finally I realized that they were going to do what they were going to do, and it wasn’t my fault or responsibility. So I decided to just pull back (and move away) and let them do what they were going to do. And I decided to be more assertive in setting boundaries if they treated me poorly. That was so freeing, to let that burden of responsibility go. To do that, I needed to achieve a level of understanding about who they are and why the acted the way they did in order to realize that their behavior toward me was really about them, not me.

    Even still though I find it helpful to still uncover clues and put together pieces of our family puzzle as I come accross them. I don’t search for them obsessively as I once did. But I sure appreciate every bit of insight I can find when they show up! THankfully it’s no longer driven by the desire to understand them so I can “fix” them. It’s more about understanding so I can be aware of what I might be doing in my own parenting. And also, in understanding why they did the things they did – it has helped me have compassion for them and move toward forgiveness.

    **I’m not pushing that on others, please let me make that clear! Forgiveness has to come when you feel ready for it – being angry is a huge and very important stage of the abuse recovery process and I spent A LOT of time there. If you’d asked me 3 years ago if I could forgive my mother, I would have been really angry at you for asking me that question. I was so caught up in whatever weird dynamic we had myself that I felt responsible for her/dependent on her and hugely resentful that she wasn’t the mother I needed her to be. Her unwillingness to examine herself and stop herself from being so weird made me so angry. **

    That being said, I really appreciate your caution about taking care not to be too liberal or too rigid in use of diagnosis. My mother had an undiagnosable disorder after her nervous breakdown and through into my 20s, and much energy was spent in my family seeking a diagnosis for her symptoms and a “cure” that did not require any kind of therapy. Personally I think now that she was exhibiting PTSD symptoms, but she refused to consider that option and instead wanted to be diagnosed with physical condition (so that she could prove that it wasn’t “all in her head” and that her disability because of it was not something she could control that the doctors could treat with medication.) Because she lost her job because of her symptoms, she ended up battling for years for her disability benefits, and the rigours of having to prove herself disabled had a huge impact on her sense of herself. She had to internalize that label, of being disabled, and it literally crippled her.

    So, I am also careful not to put too much stock into labels that other people create for us. The mental health (and pharmaceutical) industries are pretty quick to pathologize everything we do that isn’t considered “normal”, and after reading through the symptoms list of the various “pathological” mental states described on the internet, I could easily be diagnosed right now with just about every neurosis condition out there! LOL! In the mental health industry, diagnosis are too often used to imprison people and justify committing all manner of horrors to treat them, which is wrong. So yes, absolutely, diagnosis of any kind by anyone should be handled with care – we should always remain open to the possibility that our or someone else’s assessment isn’t accurate or doesn’t show the whole picture.

    I guess my point is, diagnostic labels and terminology have helped me in my journey of understanding my life, as tools for understanding and communicating. But we should take care, I agree, in how we use those terms/ideas so that we don’t let those definitions create prisons to trap ourselves or other people in.


    PS from here on out I am going to change my name that shows up because it occurred to me that this is a public blog and I want to respect the privacy of my family. So, from now on I’ll be known as…uhm…AnnaLyzza! Yes! LOL!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 2nd November

      Karen, AnnaLyzza and Pam
      Thank you all for your feedback about using diagnosis stuff in my writing. I am going to lighten up a bit and stop worrying about using diagnosis terms in my blog posts. (I have struggled with this issue for the last 2 years ~ afraid to cause people to focus on diagnosis instead of on recovery.) You are right, there is value in knowing the terms and even in communicating with using those terms so thank all.
      Hugs, Darlene

      p.s. Love your new name AnnaLyzza! 🙂

  10. By: Karen B Posted: 2nd November


    Thank you for sharing about how you feel pain and despair when you accomplish things like get good grades in school, how you feel guilty when you do well or when people praise you or give you a compliment. I would like to better understand this because my oldest son, who is 18, has been reacting like this for the past year. He seems to be feeling a lot of shame and self-hatred, and if I say “I love you” or compliment him on something or try to say encouraging things, he gets very angry and has actually gone into rages at me/toward himself on a couple of occassions. We finally had a break-through of sorts a few weeks ago, when instead of trying to reassure him that he was wonderful and worthy of love etc., I just shut up adn listened to him rant about how much he hates himself – he was hitting himself in the head and crying and literally writhing in self hatred. He was wishing he could just be dead, saying that he wished no one would care about him so that he could just disappear, which was very alarming. The way he self-talks to himself is so vicious. He refers to himself as a useless pile of crap. And perplexingly, this intense self hatred and shame and crushing despair is worsened by me treating him lovingly and approvingly. It’s like he just can’t process it, he must fundamentally feel that he does not deserve it, adn maybe he fears he can’t trust it. Maybe after the compliment he expects criticism and for his achievement to be minimized or dismissed so he is pushing it all away. Maybe feelnig the good feelings hurts too much when your experience tells you that those good feeligns are going to be ripped away any second. That no matter how good you are, you are never good enough, so with any accomplishment immediately comes the devestation of failure because no accomplishment is ever good enough for your parents (and in your case, Joy, for the Church/God.)

    Sadly, it was because of my poor parenting that he has learned to think and react this way. I grew up Mormon and was a devout, virtuous, chaste girl who ran into a fellow in college who found my self-professed purity and naivity a challenge, and within 3 months I was pregnant. I didn’t marry the guy, thankfully I had enough sense to get away from him, but I chose to keep the baby despite considerable pressure from an LDS Social Worker who tried every tactic he could to convince me that since I had sinned, I was “unworthy” to keep my son and the only right thing to do in teh eyes of God was to give him up for adoption to a “righteous” couple. I felt a crushing amount of guilt for having violated my faith’s teachigns about not having premarital sex, and I felt like a horrible person for bringing this baby into the world through my selfish,sinful acts. During the whole pregnancy I struggled with all this guilt and felt conflicted about keeping the baby vs. adoption, and many times I wished I would just miscarry. When I found out through ultrasound that the baby would be a boy, I had a huge meltdown because I was so afriad he would look just like his father and that I wiould hate him for it. I beleive that we can feel things and are aware of things while in the womb, so I believe that my son felt my confusion/ambivilence/rejection of him during that time. I believe he felt how unwanted he was, by me and his biological father, and this contributes to his self-loathing now and his desire to just disappear from the earth. : (

    When he was born, I decided I was willing to go to hell if I had to, but I was not going to give up my baby. (Because I loved him and wanted to be a good mother to him despite my fear/pain/guilt…) This began my disillusionment with my religion and over the next several years I lost my faith, which for anyone who has been through that – you know how draining and painful that experience is.)

    Thankfully my parents had been in favour of me keeping my son, and they were very good and loving grandparents to my son despite their own issues (they were in the process of seperating and divorcing becuase my Dad had an affair, all while I was pregnant and having my son and for many years afterward the divorce mess dragged on.) and their issues with me – and there were a lot of those. For the first year of my son’s life, I struggled to bond with him and I am sure he felt fundamentally rejected by me. It breaks my heart now, remembering how I felt and how I sometimes responded (or didn’t) to him. I wish I could go back as the woman and mother I am now and take that baby and raise him over again.

    But I can’t, and unfortunately I continued to make mistakes – I had unreasonably high expectations of him, always expecting that he should act older than his age for some reason. And I was way to liberal with “constructive” criticism, so between me and my husband (his step father) who was very much the same if no worse, we did raise this poor kid in a climate of unreachable expectations and constant criticism, and a lack of support to reach our expectations. If he got 80% on his report card we’d say, that’ great BUT what can you do to do better? What was my problem, what was wrong with 80%??? I realize now that I wanted him to do really well in school so that his teachers would think I was a good mother, and so that no one would know how much we were actually neglecting his needs at home, because by this time I had 2 babies with my husband and was tired and overwhelmed and I expected my oldest to just understand that and not bother me with his needs. It breaks my heart to admit that too, that his needs were not as important to me as the needs of my new babies and my husband, and my own needs. I was a narcissist in my own right and my poor son got the brunt of it.

    So it’s no wonder my son is struggling. Right now my focus is on figuring out how to help him and how to undo or at least bring healing to the damage that I have done as a mother. He is such a wonderful young man and he never deserved any of the crap that got heaped on him by me or his step-Dad. That was our crap, our failings, not his. I try to tell him taht every chance I get, but my love and remorse often seem to cause him even more pain, as I mentioned. He’s been doing better since the Prozac made its way out of his sytem – we tried it on teh advice of my doctor and it made him scarily angry and edgy. And he’s done better since I have learned to listen and just sit with him while he proceses his pain. Maybe that’s what he needs most.

    Thank you for providing this forum, Darlene, where we can learn from each other and in my case, have a place to write our thoughts/feelings/share our experiences. It is very therapeutic for me to be able to “talk” about these things here.

    And Joy, thank you for sharing your experiences. You are helping me understand my son and hopefully help him. I’m sorry that you were made to feel that God Himself disapproved of you, by your family and your church – that is such a sinister, horrible, soul-crushing abuse of religion and of God’s name. I understand, I also absorbed this fear of God’s anger/rejection from church teachings, and I was also taught that God made people suffer on purpose to “test” them. I can’t tell you how traumatized I was for years from the story of Job in the Bible. For years I felt that God’s big horrible test was lurking just around the corner – this fed into intense anxiety about my husband and kids’ safety – that God might tear them from me at any moment to make me a stronger person. How awful to teach children that the horrible things that happen to them in life might actually be caused by God, because he’s basically got a bet going with Satan. YUCK.

    Anyway, I can understand why for you, achieving something good or receiving praise would make you feel so terrible. In my church there was a lot of talk about “the sin of Pride” and about how dangerous it is to feel pride in oneself. God values those who suffer, make sacrifices, and who are meek and humble, and too many children, like you, are surrounded by people all too happy to prevent them from becoming prideful by reminding them every second how worthless they are. I’m so sorry you were treated that way by your family and church community. I hope you know how wrong they were about you, and that you can unlearn these painful lessons and learn to feel joy and pleasure and pride in yourself for who you are and everything you’ve accomplished.

    Again, thank you for posting, Joy.

  11. By: Pam Posted: 2nd November

    Karen, Your family diachotomy sounds just like mine, the parents anyway. My parents have that exact relationship and my mom has always looked to me for mothering. When I was in my early teens and she would come to me with her problems, I can’t describe how awful and inappropriate that felt. When they moved onto my property and lived next door for 11 years, it was that way all of the time. She wanted me to be responsible for every move she made. Even calling me before she went out to do simple errands so I’d know where she was at all times…of course that goes the other way when things go wrong. She made me the responsible party so that she didn’t have to bear any responsibility at all.


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 2nd November

      Hi Karen
      Excellent processing here in your comments! Thank you for sharing this here!

      One thing that I want to mention to everyone here is please be careful not to get too caught up in the diagnosis of others or even of yourself. Knowing what was “wrong” with someone else never helped me get closer to healing for me. Even the diagnosis that I was giving for myself was not that helpful in the healing process, although I found it very interesting stuff to read about.

      I love this conversation! Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Pam
      Your comment reminded me of things I have not written about yet! My mother leaned on me in really nasty ways too. She even told me about sex stuff with her boyfriends when I was a teenager. About making someone else responsible, that is such a typical controller / manipulator thing to do. Wow. thanks for sharing!
      Hugs, Darlene

  12. By: Karen B Posted: 2nd November

    I sure appreciate this forum, Darlene – thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences, and thanks to everyone else who posts for your perspective and wisdom.

    I also remember the teenage decision to NOT be like my mother in any way, ever. My mom was a different sort of narcissist than many of the mothers mentioned here – she was never physically or sexually abusive, nor overtly or intentionally emotionally abusive. She was just so damaged, and disassociated I think, now that I know what that means from Fi’s blog links. (Thank you, Fi!) I think she was molested or at least received some unwanted male attention from some of the in-laws in her family – I know her sister my aunt was molested for years by their oldest sister’s husband and my Grandma’s reaction when my aunt told her was “What did you do to make him do that?!” My oldest aunt was my Grandma’s favourite child so the very thought that her husband could be guilty of such a thing was more than Grandma would consider, I guess. So she made her younger daughter (her scapegoat child) pay the price for that. My poor aunt – she suffered for years from crippling anorexia and finally died of pancreantitus. She was a shit-disturber and I adored her for trying so hard to battle her demons and talk openly about her experiences and challenges and to just keep fighting. But ultimately she just couldn’t escape her little girl programming that she was a bad girl and must be a good girl so that her Mommy would love her. (Her husband didn’t help either by treating her like she was a bad girl.)

    By the time I was old enough to really be aware of my Grandma, she was so completely checked out – she floated around in this weird “isn’t everythign wonderful” la-la land that she refused to leave, that my poor aunt couldn’t penetrate to get any resolution. And my aunt was subjected to such horrors from the mental health profession – electric shock therapy and stuff like that. Granted, she would go into the psych wards kicking and screaming like a banshee. A few years before she died the finally figured out she was bipolar. I’m sure because she was a PTSD survivor, but nobody ever figured that one out enough to actually help her. Anyway, I am certain that Grandma was a chronically disassociated abuse victim herself. My mom insists that she doesn’t remember anything like that happening to her, and maybe she doesn’t. But she intensly refuses to critically examine her family of origin in any way, and she has always acted like she is the emotional age of 12 years old, so I feel taht something happened to freeze her there. Anyway, she was always very fearful and anxious and cautious, and the older I got the more passive-aggressively controlling she became. She is also a chronic enabler to my father, letting him treat her like a doormat for years and then playing the victim to the hilt to control the rest of us. She felt like an over-grown child who wanted me to be her mother and put aside my own needs to take care of hers – that was our dynamic. I didn’t have a functional mother for years and years. I don’t know what kind of narcissist that is exactly, but what it boils down to is that her needs were always more acute than mine, and her entire purpose in life was to serve my narcissist father, whose needs also mattered more than anyone else’s, so I grew up feeling responsible for the happiness and well being of both my parents. We all wanted to please my Dad and get his attention and approval, which was hard to do because he was gone so often with church responsibilities and work responsibilities and volunteering and community theatre and other activities and hobbies that he loved – he admits now that he was codependtly addicted to the praise and approval of others – others not including my Mom! My mom drove herself to a nervous breakdown trying and failing to please him by the time I was 7, and from that point on I felt responsible to take care of her because I was convinced she’d die without me. Neither of my parents were sadistic narcissists by any means, just so wrapped up in themselves and in the case of my mom, so broken herself and such a child emotionally and so conditioned to put herself last in order to be a good wife to her husband (that was the religious/family programming she grew up with) that there was just nothing left over for us kids. I felt like I was the adult in the family since I was about 10. And it was so hard to put my finger on what was dysfunctional about our family as I got old enough to investigate it, because there was no overt abuse. It was all subtle and more neglect than abuse. As a teenager, my Dad would confide in me all his resentments toward my mom and ask me for marital advice which he would propmtly ignore – I was his confidante and therapist and his surrogate-wife, which I later learned is called emotional incest. Anyway, I’m so thankful that it was never more than that and that my parents weren’t vicious and abusive and overtly trying to crush my spirit and destroy my sense of self worth. For that I am very grateful now.

    Anyway, sorry to ramble on. My point is that I too made the decision to never EVER be like my mother, who I saw as weak and weepy and emotionally sticky and chronically in denial about teh reality of her marriage and the reality of how unpleasant she could be to her family. I hated the passive-agressive BS that was impossible to confront because she would deny anything you accused her of. Come to think of it, she could be pretty snaky and mean if I tried to confront her about anything. I have grown up terrified of being in conflict with women about anything, because of her. On top of that I’d had years of hearing my Dad’s many complaints about all her failings, and i adored my Dad and wanted his approval more than anything, so I took his rejection of her to heart and rejected any part of me that was like her in any way. (My Dad used to fling out “you’re acting just like your mother!” when I was a teen, you can imagine how that made me feel.) Plus I made the consious decision to NEVER be anything like her at all.

    The consequence of this is that I believe I rejected my entire feminine self, because unconsciously my mother represented the feminine, which I found to be weak and repulsive, and my Dad represtend the masculine which I found to be admirable and strong and more respectalbe than the weak, pathetic feminine of my mom. So I have this split within myself, and a lot of unconscious self hatred when I display any traits or tendencies like my mom. I haven’t really thought about this in a while, though – and Darlene I think it’s a really good question to ask myself right now – what did I limit myself to by pledging to never be like my mother? How is this old conviction still affecting me now? How is this deep-seated rejection of my mother and all she represents to me, affecting me and how I live my life now?

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this.

    PS I want to add that to my Dad’s credit, he has seen a few therapists over the years and actually gave me a book on emotional incest that he got through therapy and apologized for that dynamic between us, and he has tried really hard to change his ways and stop turning to his kids for parenting/approval/the meeting of his emotional needs. He still isn’t perfect but at least he tries which I appreciate a lot. My Mom was a harder case. I believe that she is so disassociated that there truly is a part of her – the “good girl” part, that believes she is always trying her best to be selfless and kind and giving etc., who is completely checked out and unaaware of the behavior of the angry, bitter, selfish, manipulative, withholding, punishing, competitive, jealous shadow-side of herself. So when she acts out of the shadow-side, and I try to call her on it, the shadow-side ducks out of the way and “good girl” steps in and is completely shocked and hurt by the things I’m accusing her of. Good Girl just cannot be held responsible for such things, becuase she herself would never even think of doing such things. I’m not sure what self-preservation mechanism is going on there, but I just have a hunch that there is a big disconnect between her “dark” side and her primary identificatin of herself as a “good girl” She is very black adn white in her thinking and could not see herself as both capable of goodness and badness. She was the “good child” of her family, BTW, always reliable, always willing, always loving and peaceful and obedient. Her mother praised her endlessly for that, and I don’t think she could cope with admitting the possibility that she could be anything else but that. Just like she still can’t admit that her parents were anything less than perfect, saintly, wonderful, and beyond criticism. Oh my mother, she is a fascinating person. Baffling, annoying as hell, exasperating, and I can still only tolerate her in moderate doses, but nonetheless fascinating.

    Anyway, in 2009 we moved away from Alberta to Nova Scotia – I wanted to get as far away as I could from my mother (and my mother-in-law – another story). And that seemed to be a catalyst for some major changes in my mom. I was the last person in her life that she was clinging to to take care of her and be her “good mommy”, and when I left, she at first got very ill for a month or more, then she seemed to snap out of that weird codependent childish state of being and start taking care of herself. She had a health scare that forced her to make some significant changes to her diet and activity level, and she lost a significant amount of weight, started feeding herself properly, and it’s like she suddenly grew up and came into her adult self and became a more functional, happy, autonomous, happy human being. She has actually demonstrated a capacity for self-awareness that I’ve never seen before. She still has her blinders on about a few things but she’s gotten better. I am still flabbergasted by the transformation. Because she also suddenly became a mother to me for the first time since I was a little kid. She suddenly wanted to actually take care of me and help me and be a support to me instead of dropping by my house to “help” which meant that she expected me to entertain her and meet her needs for the day. So, my parents are proof that people can grow and change, and relationships can heal. I’m thankful for that every day.

    That being said, I still have issues to deal with of my own because of my upbringing, and I thank you Darlene for helping me identify an area that probably needs some more focused attention. I’m 41 years old and I should really make sure I’m living life on my own terms and not as an unconscious reaction to my parents any more.

  13. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 2nd November

    Hi Robert
    Thank you for sharing this major victory! I made that vow when I decided to have kids (when I was about 29 ~ prior to that I vowed that I would NEVER have kids)
    I try not to write much about my kids because of the details that I like to use in my writing or I would write a lot more about the differences in my parenting style vs. my parents style. But when they are all older (only 2 of them are no longer minors) I will.
    Thank you for your contribution to this post!!
    Hugs, Darlene

  14. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 2nd November

    Hi Bipolar Bear
    YES! Great comments. That is what this whole website is about! Thanks for your comments and I hope you come back often.
    Hugs, Darlene

    Hi Sophia
    Yes, the process of coming out of “the fog” happens in stages. I have found that one truth led to the next truth and so on as I became (and still become) healthier. My mother was also very concerned with her image in the community and that always came before me. My father was just not emotionally available.. and I guess my mother gets blamed for everything although I do see the part in all that that my father played too and the huge effect that it had on my self esteem and self view/value.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Hugs, Darlene

  15. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 2nd November

    Hi Rise
    Yes! This whole discovery/recovery has made a huge difference to my children. It really was a big thing to “unlearn”.
    Thanks for your comments!
    Hugs, Darlene

    Hi Deirdre
    Yay and thank you for sharing your victory! I love that you said “I’m not backing down anymore!”. When I look back on my life I am amazed by how much I backed down (with so many people) but understanding why I did that is a huge part of how I came to stop doing it.
    I too feel sad that people are so reluctant to support survivors. I suspect that it has to do with their own issues that they don’t want to deal with.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Hugs, Darlene

  16. By: Deirdre Burnside Posted: 2nd November

    Me too, Robert! I remember being about 8 or 9 and telling myself “the buck stops here.” My daughter is super extroverted and loving. Her healthy mind is all that matters to me most days. This has been a very timely post, Darlene. Thanks and keep up the great conversation.

  17. By: robert Posted: 2nd November

    My experience was very similar. The vow that I made at 13 years old was what kept me alive for many years. The vow I made was a little different. My vow was that my children would never experience what I was experiencing. Today, my children are about grown, and they feel good about themselves. Not many people will understand what that took to accomplish. I will die happy because of knowing this, regardless of anything else in my life. I have not accomplished a lot else, but that suffering stopped with me, and I love myself for that. Still, there is a sadness and a longing, that no other human being ever loved me in the same way. But seeing the beauty and goodness that came of the struggle makes everything okay, most days. Thank you for this post.

  18. By: Sophia Posted: 2nd November

    Darlene, again you have spoken clearly about an important issue. I too have been thinking about how my desire to be different from my toxic family actually led me to hurt myself. For me, it wasn’t selfishness I pledged against but their preoccupation with professional success and maintaining a proper “image” in the community, while behind the scenes it was all a chaotic, unloving, unconnected mess. But then, I actually was coming from a place of such low self-respect that I couldn’t distinguish between people with genuine integrity and those who would use me under the guise of acting against a corrupt system. Now, finally, I can see the truth and start acting truly in my best interest AND on behalf of the social and environmental concerns that are very important to me.

  19. By: Bipolar Bear Posted: 1st November

    Having to adjust oneself to a healthy point of view can take a very long time. It also takes steps. What should come “naturally” is not guaranteed to happen at all. Being able to protect oneself while attempting to treat others in the way you think is “right” is a difficult task. When one’s perception of “right” and “wrong” has been altered because of toxic people in one’s life (mainly family and people that one has no choice in having in one’s life,) and their own agendas a person has to extricate themselves from the “reality” they had to grow up in. I had to realize that the truth that I had lived with was a false set of perceptions that I adapted to in order to cope with the abuse and ignorance and selfishness that happened around me. I sometimes picked up on those habits not knowing anything better. Once I felt I was not comfortable maintaining the precepts that those habits supported I abandoned them for other rules that governed what I felt was appropriate. It is sad that many people are so busy unbinding the tethers that keep them in miscommunication and self harm. So much more could be done if everyone had the chance to live in healthy environments.

  20. By: Deirdre Burnside Posted: 1st November

    Yes, I too see myself in your story. Bit by bit I gather the pieces to me to try and put the puzzle of my life together. Reprogramming myself is slow and tedious work. Only this year have I been able to wrap my head around the neglect and emotional abuse I have endured from my mother. It took 2 therapists to get me to understand that she is toxic. I just could not bring myself to believe that my own mother was someone that would inflict pain on me. Surely I deserved it. Her personae is that of a bully. She was physically abusive and verbally abusive. I can hardly stand to be in the same room with her. She also talks in a super loud voice and will make eye contact with strangers while in conversation out in public. I have seen people move to another table because of this. A few of her friends have confided that they can only take her in small doses, which confirms a lot. Overbearing is a good word. Because she is the only mother I had (my dad left) I had nothing else to compare her to, so it has taken me years to get to where I am now.
    I have been under fire for sharing posts about sexual abuse from her as of late. She yelled at me and told me that “her” family did not talk about things like that and that was just the way it was. Well, I yelled back and told her that I was not backing down anymore. I haven’t talked to her in about 2 months and I feel nothing but relief. I do feel awfully alone, however. It is incredibly hard to not have someone to talk to about such things. I can’t seem to be able to find a group that deals with sexual abuse in my area. I don’t think most people are equipped to deal with this conversation. I get silence and blank stares. Like I have leprosy or something. Tonight I was thinking about how people rally for you if it is medical like childhood cancer and such, but sexual abuse is denied the support. So sad about that.


  21. By: Risé Posted: 1st November

    Darlene ~ I so get that! I went through the same thing … going to the other extreme only to get used by people. My husband was the one who had to help me to see that it’s okay to say, ‘no’ to people and that its okay is someone doesn’t like you. It took me a really long time to see that. It took me a really long time to to be able to value myself enough to put myself first sometimes – and what I mean by that is caring for myself.

    How can I be a good and healthy mother if I don’t take care of myself, by putting my self care first? Like you, my mother taught me how to treat myself. I would beat myself up with unkind words, etc., just like she did. It took some doing to reprogram my thinking and I often still struggle with it – but it is getting better. Changing my name helped a lot, believe it or not, by helping me to not see or treat myself the way my mother did. She taught me how to treat myself … and I had to unlearn that.

    It really helps being and seeing the true reflection of yourself through the people who do really love you – that is where we will find the ability for healthy self love and acceptance.

    Great post!!

  22. By: joy Posted: 1st November


    Thanks..sometimes its discouraging…sometimes.. i think am too tangled but I will keep pulling on piece..eventually i will get it all unraveled.. thank you for everything. all your encouraging words;)


  23. By: Welshie Posted: 1st November

    Thank you for your article. I see so much of myself in there. Very good at looking after everyone else and neglect myself. I’m losing my teeth and cant even be bothered to bath half the time. On anti depressants but they arent helping much. I pretend everything is fine and always look happy and joke about, but thats not what is on the inside. Should sort myself out, but dont know where to start.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 1st November

      He Welshie
      Welcome to Emerging from Broken
      I didn’t know where to start either and it was when I looked at just one untruth about my feelings about myself, that I made my beginning. Read some of the other articles in this site and you may find your starting point too. There is freedom on the other side of broken! We all deserve to have it!
      Hugs, Darlene

  24. By: Pam Posted: 1st November

    Hi Darlene,
    I’m glad you’re back and I hope you got the rest you needed.

    I really relate to this post as the biggest mistakes I’ve made in my life was in running in the oposite direction of what my parents were and did. Balance is the key.


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 1st November

      Hi Joy
      Yes, it is interesting that it is drilled into us to be selfless, by people who are not acting in that way themselves; people who have a selfish motive; people who seek to be obeyed and served by us. How convenient that they teach us that we put ourselves last. For me, all the things that you are talking about got so much better when I did the sorting out work in my belief system. When I did the fog busting! Keep going forward!
      Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Pam,
      I am glad to be back!
      Balance is key, yes, and balance is something that I continually have to tweek!
      It was not so easy to achieve balance at all when the belief system was so strongly wired in place wrong! It is much easier now that I can see things through a more truthful grid!
      Thanks for sharing,
      Hugs, Darlene

  25. By: joy Posted: 1st November

    Wow Darlene. I can see why you are always so selfless in your giving to others now that I read your vow.. I admire that you could do so much .. but never knew the deeper meaning behind all your giving..so glad that you are taking care of you while still giving to others..

    I think my resolve is very similar to your..and I run into the same problems of giving and not taking care of me. Of course I was taught by the belief system I had embraced at the time..that you are to forget yourself..deny yourself..take up your cross…etc.. ..

    It was drilled into me that it was selfish to think of self. .by the church..and why they drilled that into me. mom was telling me I was nothing.. i had no value . .my only value came from the fact that I was allowed to be in their house with them..

    So what a mess.. I was told I was nothing by mom and all there and told I should think Iam nothing by the church.. so I grew thinking am nothing and should never think I am nothing..

    When I started to get good grades.. I would cry .. because I felt somehow . .doing good .. was not right..after all I was nothing.. Even now.. in my studies.. I find it hard to be happy .. that I do well in school .. some inner fear that somehow that isn’t right.. am suppose to be nothing. .those grades belong not to me but to someone else..

    It’s hard for me to think I can do well. or can accomplish anything. .if I do .. I feel guilty . .if I feel in any way it’s me.. so when people say something nice about what I do . .or tell me I am smart I am afraid to accept it..

    I know it’s all the bad things I have been told.. playing back each time something nice is said to me.. I have to get rid of all those old tapes.. somehow.. so I don’t feel guilty …for thinking nice of me.. .. or that others think nice of me..

    I have no problem seeing others as nice. .or doing for others..but its very hard for me to do nice things for me or to think the nice things I accomplish are me..

    Hope I get to that healing where I get this all straightened out.


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