A brilliant, informative and instructional article for all of us, daughters with unloving mothers. May we find love, may we find strength. May we find the strength to love ourselves. Namaste.
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/tech-support/201603/unloved-daughters-4-tips-make-self-compassion-easier?utm_source=FacebookPost&utm_medium=FBPost&utm_campaign=FBPost#sidr-mainUnloved Daughters: 4 Tips to Make Self-Compassion Easier
1. Spend some time with a photograph of yourself when you were little.
Children whose parents are unloving, hypercritical, disparaging, or authoritarian often become adults who struggle with self-criticism. What is self-criticism? It’s the mental habit of attributing bad outcomes or situations—failing a test, not getting a job offer, having a relationship unravel—not to a series of causes and effects but to generalized, fixed characteristics about yourself.
Self-criticism sounds like this:
“I got a bad grade because I am dumb and worthless and that’s not going to change.”
“I’ll never get a decent job because they’ll see through me and realize I’m a dud.”
“He left me because there’s nothing good or lovable about me. Who can blame him?”
Secure people understand failure and challenge differently and actually use their self-criticism to troubleshoot, asking questions about what they might have done differently and how they could change in the future. This just isn’t true of the insecurely attached child. (From here on, I will refer only to daughters but this applies equally to sons.)
As studies show, self-criticism is the result of a child’s internalizing the harsh and abusive verbal assessments of, usually, a mother, but sometimes from a father. It also grows from the messages conveyed by both actions and inactions (hostile encounters or withheld comfort or support). Unloved daughters with verbally aggressive mothers often report—and I can attest to this from my own experience—that shutting off the tape-loop of self-criticism in your head is surprisingly difficult, even with a therapist’s help. Among the legacies unloving mothers bequeath is the unhealthy default setting of self-blame when life goes south, made worse by the fact that insecurely attached daughters have trouble regulating negative emotions.
It’s been suggested by many, including myself, that self-compassion is a successful strategy for those trying to recover from childhood and who need help stilling that critical voice. Additionally, self-compassion has been shown in studies to bolster resilience from failure and to support self-improvement.
What is self-compassion exactly? Just as compassion involves feeling for the plight of others, and extending caring and understanding to them, self-compassion directs caring toward the self in the same way. According to Dr. Kristen D. Neff, self-compassion requires that you see your pain in the larger context of humanity’s experiences—and as a part of them. It necessitates that you treat yourself with the same lovingkindness your compassionate self would offer to others. (This understanding is drawn from Buddhism, as you probably know.)
What’s important is that self-compassion isn’t anything like self-pity because self-pity focuses on the self as separate from others, and promotes a “poor me” point-of-view that paints the self as worse off than anyone else. It is more self-involved and selfish than not.
Neff describes self-compassion as having three parts, which I’ll paraphrase:
extending kindness and understanding to yourself, rather than judgmental criticism;
seeing your experience as part of the larger human experience; and
keeping yourself aware of your painful feelings without over-identifying with them.
The problem, though, is that all three of these steps are hard for unloved daughters to begin with. Why? The first relies on self-love, which is usually in short supply; the myth that all mothers are loving isolates the daughter and she’s likely not to believe that her problems are like those of other people, as the second step suggests; and finally, most insecurely attached people have trouble managing their negative feelings so the third step is very difficult indeed.
So I thought it might be useful to use Neff’s shorter scale—“How I Typically Act Toward Myself in Difficult Times”—to assess your skill set when it comes to self-compassion. You should answer on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being Almost Never and 5 being Almost Always. You don’t have to score this but can just pay attention to what your answers are. (If you do want to score it, please look at the bottom of the post.)
_____1. When I fail at something important to me I become consumed by feelings of inadequacy.
_____2. I try to be understanding and patient towards those aspects of my personality I don’t like.
_____3. When something painful happens I try to take a balanced view of the situation.
_____4. When I’m feeling down, I tend to feel like most other people are probably happier than I am.
_____5. I try to see my failings as part of the human condition.
_____6. When I’m going through a very hard time, I give myself the caring and tenderness I need.
_____7. When something upsets me I try to keep my emotions in balance.
_____8. When I fail at something that’s important to me, I tend to feel alone in my failure
_____9. When I’m feeling down I tend to obsess and fixate on everything that’s wrong.
_____10. When I feel inadequate in some way, I try to remind myself that feelings of inadequacy are shared by most people.
_____11. I’m disapproving and judgmental about my own flaws and inadequacies.
_____12. I’m intolerant and impatient towards those aspects of my personality I don’t like.
How did you make out? My older self did better than my younger self might have but it’s still clear to me that my self-compassion is—how shall I put this—not precisely a dominant trait. I remain impatient with parts of myself, for example, and I don’t excuse my flaws because most people have them.
So, since research shows that self-compassion really does help people deal with challenging times and stops rumination—another thing most unloved daughters suffer from—how do we build our capacity so we can use it to still the critical voice? Here are a few anecdotal layperson tips, slightly aided by science but informed by experience, which may be of help on the road to self-compassion. As you do these, be sure to use “cool” processing, which has you recalling why you felt as you did, not what you felt. This is important because thinking about what just has you relive the painful moment.
1. Get a photograph of yourself when you were little and spend time with it.
Look at that child (you) and see her as a stranger might. What’s cute and appealing about her? Talk to that little girl and give her some comfort. And while you’re there, ask yourself why anyone would ever think that child was anything less than adorable
2. Focus on one thing you love about you.
It can be a characteristic—the way you smile at people or put them at ease—or a talent or ability, but it should be something you are proud of. Think about the critical voice and how it ignores your positive qualities. Writing about yourself in this way is also helpful.
3. Make self-compassion a goal.
You can work up to being self-compassionate as you would set any other goal, such as saving money, cleaning out your closets, or finding a new job. Keep notes on the progress you’re making by not reverting to that self-critical point of view, and treat yourself to something you like when you succeed. Yes, it’s called positive reinforcement.
4. Ask yourself: Will I show myself compassion?
Studies show that, contrary to popular belief, affirmations don’t motivate as well as questions. Write the question down and pin it up where you can see it. Remind yourself that this is a step-by-step process and that baby steps are fine. It’s getting to self-compassion that matters.
The science suggests that self-compassion may be a useful strategy for regulating our emotions and stilling that internal critical voice. It may simply be that some of us have to work on being compassionate when we look in the mirror before we can make it work for us.
To get your self-compassion score, reverse score the negative items (1,4, 8, 9,11,12,) by making 1=5, 2=4,3=3, 4=2, 5=1), then add, and compute the mean.
Neff, Kristen D.,”The Development and Validation of A Scale to Measure Self-Compassion,” Self and Identity (2003),2, 223-250.
Neff, Kristen D., Ya-Ping Hsieh, and Kullaya Dejitterat, “Self-Compassion, Achievement Gals, and Coping with Academic Failure,” Self and Identity (2005), 4, 263-287.
Breines, Juliana and Serena Chen. “Self-Compassion Increases Self-Improvement Motivation,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, published online 29 May 2012 DOI: 10.1177/0146167212445599
Raes, F., Pommier, E., Neff,K. D., & Van Gucht, D. (2011). Constructionand factorial validation of a short form of the Self-Compassion Scale.Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy. 18, 250-255.
Kross, Ethan, Ozlem Ayduk, and Water Mischel, “When Asking ‘Why’ Doesn’t Hurt: Distinguishing Rumination from Reflective Processing of Negative Emotions ,” Psychological Science (2005), vol. 16, no.9, 709-715.
5 thoughts on “Unloved Daughters: 4 Tips to Make Self-Compassion Easier”
Thank you for sharing this article, and of course I LOVE the photo of my beautiful Samina!
I’m fortunate that my Mom loves me, but she has undiagnosed borderline personality disorder , she has mentally/verbally abused me for years, and it has gotten worse.
I’ve tried to help her over and over again to no avail – borderline is an insidious mental illness. To be honest, I’d rather her have bipolar disorder, as bizarre as that sounds!!!!! (Because at least with a fair amount of people with bipolar they eventually admit they have it but with borderline, a classic reaction by those who suffer with it is total denial of any problem.)
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Here’s to us, the daughters of mothers who could not love us, and to the strength and love in us. I am so sorry to hear she has borderline, I know it is one of the worst personality disorders to treat and to deal with. My mother, no doubt, had narcissistic personality disorder, and didn’t really know what empathy was till very late in her life. We may be more than just Seroquel sisters, my dearest Dyane. Sending you love and lots of hugs.
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This is really great. As someone whose mother wasn’t exactly warm and fuzzy, all of this applies to me. So happy you took the time, effort and energy to put this together. Thank you.
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(((Hugs))) Send you my love, Samina.
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Thank you very much Kitt. And live and hugs for you.
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