Identifying Mom Shame
If you’ve read any of my blogs, you are familiar with the concept I use regarding what Shame means. However, I want to review it just so that we can make sure we are on the same page. The definition that I prefer regarding Shame is typically “that feeling or experience of not being _________ enough and therefore unworthy of connection.” When people experience Mom Shame, they typically feel not valued or not good enough. They suspect that they are somehow defective which is the only explanation they can find why they don’t have a great connection with their mom.
The standard difference between whether someone perceives an experience as Shameful or not is typically how they process it. Some people can experience something as embarrassment. Others can perceive the same event as humiliation. The only real difference between how the same event can be processed differently is if they have a core Shame program running. This is specifically true during those formation years (prior to puberty). Every day I hear countless stories of people whose mom just couldn’t show up for them. They just couldn’t be present for them. They just couldn’t nurture them. They just couldn’t treat them with unconditional positive regard.
I would be remiss if I didn’t spend at least a few words talking about WHY your mother couldn’t do these things for you! I don’t believe for a moment it’s because she doesn’t love you. I really suspect it’s because she hadn’t done the work necessary to heal her own pain, trauma, and Shame issues. Unlike you, she didn’t have me to lead her to healing. She truly was doing the best she could with what she had. That doesn’t let her off the hook, but I want to put it into perspective for you. YOU have the power to heal yourself. YOU have the power to show up for yourself right here right now! YOU have the power to change your relationships with other women.
The rest of this blog I want you to really get a clear picture of what Mom Shame looks like. I want you to be able to read through this blog and see yourself here. I want you to either know with complete certainty that what I am talking about pertains to you. Examples of situations and relationships that create Shame for many people include:
- Addiction: Living in a home (or even just having a parent) who has an addiction installs Shame for various reasons. The children of parents who have addiction typically hold on to the Shame of not being able to control their parents’ addiction, not being good enough to be worthy of their parents stopping the addiction, and the unpredictability that accompanies addiction.
- Neglect: When your mother just couldn’t invest emotionally or physically in your life it leaves you with the sensation that you must be somehow broken. When your mom forgets to show up for activities that you are in, forgets your birthday, doesn’t try to validate your feelings and emotions; you typically will process that as being about you rather than about her. As a result, it translates into Shame quickly.
- Lack of Being Present: When your mom just can’t be present in your life it creates resentment and emotional pain. Typically, the way this manifest is: your mother is too preoccupied with what other people think, it’s too important to make appearances look good (rather than how you feel) and is too involved with other people to notice that you have needs. This is absolutely a cause of Shame in many people.
- Abuse: This one likely seems as if it’s a no-brainer. However, children whose parents are physically, emotionally, or sexually abusive are affected with the long-term effects of Shame. They tend to blame themselves because in their mind, this mom is supposed to love them unconditionally! This mom is supposed to advocate for them! This mom is supposed to fight for them! And when that happens they begin to blame themselves and create more Shame.
- Lack of Vulnerability: Sometimes when we are always trying to be strong and always trying to put on a brave face we create more harm than good! Parents used to believe that their children should never see them cry! They needed to know how strong and brave their parents were. But what happened is they raised children who didn’t know how to access or process feelings and emotions. Which created even more Shame when you just can’t manage your anxiety, depression, stress or worry!
- Too much focus on beauty: Many of the adult female clients I work with can remember when their mother first started Shaming them about their weight or their looks. The majority of women with disordered eating unintentionally pass that on to their daughters. When we don’t love our children unconditionally it sends them a message that there’s something somewhere that is wrong with them! They begin focusing on the external stuff like weight, hair, looks, appearance, and clothing and begin losing sight of how amazing they are internally! This is a breeding ground for Shame.
- You Have a Very Limited (if any at all) Relationship With Her Now: As we begin getting healthy, many of us have had to limit our contact or relationship with our moms. The problem is no matter what our motives, we live in a society that does not typically understand how having a toxic relationship is so much more detrimental than having no relationship at all. Mother’s Day, Christmas, and other holidays are a time when society begins puking the importance of family and cramming it down your throat.
I could literally go on and on about what this looks like and how this begins to take place. Reading through these I hope you understand that I don’t think any of these parents (described above) intentionally created Shame in their children! I don’t think any of the parents wanted to stunt their children’s connection. But I do think they were likely dealing with and coping with their Shame issues as best they knew how!
The month of May is such a difficult time when our relationship with our mothers are built on a foundation of Shame. It’s a challenge to not get bombarded with guilt about not having the perfect (commercial) relationship with your mother. It’s a challenge to find a way to honor yourself when the focus is a million percent on your mom this month!
I’m honored to be able to provide you with some healing and some relief. If you are interested in eliminating the Shame you carry surrounding your relationship with your mom, please click here.
Jenn Bovee is a Shame Busting Coaching who loves empowering people to ditch the shackles of Shame and step into the life of their wildest fantasies. Jenn works with people all over the world to create a solid foundation of self-care and self-love.