You may feel inadequate, filled with self-doubt, and don’t know why. This may be stealing your confidence and joy in ways that are hidden to you. You may be so used to living this way you aren’t even aware that life could feel any different. Many daughters carry their mother’s sense of unworthiness into their own lives without knowing it.

Behind many a demanding or controlling mother is an insecure person worrying that she will be found out, or a meek and mild wounded mother who isn’t outwardly critical but drags her daughter down in more subtle ways… never letting her fully live up to her potential.

While on the surface these descriptions may look like two different mothers, underneath it all is a difficult mother’s insecurity. Deep down, mom has little self-worth, and needs her daughter to boost her sense of self. Mom herself may not even be aware of doing this.

Many times the daughter knows, or suspects her difficult mother is narcissistic, borderline, histrionic, depressed, or codependent. She may or may not be right, but what she does know is that she is very attuned to the effect she has on her mother.

Daughters have an almost 6th sense of how mom is feeling about herself. They can and do carry her insecurities into their own lives.

Below are 3 signs that you are carrying your mother’s insecurities into your own life:

    1. You know the phrase all too well: “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” You will do just about anything to keep mom happy. Even if it means making you, your husband or partner, or children unhappy. As much as you hate to admit it, making mom happy comes first.
    2. You try extra hard to be “good” for mom. You are hyper-aware of how your actions make your mother look to others.
    3. You run all of your major life decisions by mom first. If she doesn’t think you should take the job, marry the man, change your hairstyle…you second-guess yourself.

When a daughter, in the role of the Good Daughter feels she owes mom her happiness, neither party is served. This cycle is so insidious and fueled by guilt that many a daughter is unaware that her life has been hijacked by mom’s problems, her insecurities. She may be unaware that her mother’s problems aren’t really hers to solve.

As a psychotherapist to women for over 28 years, I have seen this cycle keep daughters down and tied to their mother in ways that are destructive to both of them. By placing mom first, at your own expense, you may feel anxious and depressed, never fully living for yourself.

Life lived walking on egg shells, trying to make another person happy, not only won’t really work but is guaranteed to make you very unhappy. And living for someone else is no way to live.