Having a critical mother is linked with various mental health challenges. Setting clear boundaries and practicing positive self-talk are a few ways to heal from the impact of a critical mother.

The mother-daughter relationship is an essential relationship for many girls growing up. Many girls rely on their mothers to provide emotional safety and model how to behave in the world.

Some mothers are critical rather than encouraging. When mothers criticize their daughters, they potentially shape their daughter’s view of themselves. When repetitive criticism happens, daughters may be hyper-fixated on their mistakes or shortcomings instead of their strengths.

Having a critical parent is linked to many adverse mental health outcomes. Critical mothers can view and shape their daughter’s views of themselves and their self-worth. Critical parents may also lead to an increased risk of mental health disorders.

Higher levels of depression

Depression has been linked with parental criticism. A 2021 study found that children who perceived their parents to be highly critical faced elevated depression levels. The study reports that the depression outcomes in children from critical parents were long-term.

Less brain activity associated with gains and losses

Having a critical mother can impact the reward system in your brain. Research indicates that children with critical mothers show less brain activity in response to rewards and losses.

The study suggests that children with critical mothers may disrupt typical responses to environmental cues. If you have a critical mother, this can disrupt the brain’s reward system.

Body dissatisfaction and disordered eating

Mothers who are critical of their child’s body can impact their daughter negatively. Research suggests that girls whose mothers tease or criticize their bodies report high levels of disordered eating and body dissatisfaction.

Perfectionistic attitudes

Critical parents can also instill perfectionistic attitudes in their kids. If parents are prone to high expectations of children regarding academic performance, this can lead to perfectionistic attitudes.

A 2022 literature review found that parental criticism and rising parental expectations are linked to perfectionistic attitudes in children. Additionally, the researchers found that parental expectations of academic performance have increased over time.

High levels of self-criticism

A 2023 literature review that examined the impact of parental rejection and criticism found that it can lead children to be highly self-critical. Specifically, parental rejection was associated with high levels of self-criticism in children.

If you’re unsure whether you’re dealing with an overly critical mother, there are signs to look out for.

If you have an overly critical mother, she might:

  • set unrealistic or high academic expectations for you
  • criticize your looks or comment on your body
  • downplay your accomplishments
  • consistently have negative things to say about you
  • give little or no praise
  • highly criticize mistakes
  • stay silent or not recognize successes
  • name-calling

If you’re dealing with a critical mother, there are some ways you can learn how to cope.

If you have a critical mother, developing coping skills for healing is essential. You may be able to make adjustments on your own, or you may need the assistance of a mental health professional.

1. Set healthy boundaries

If you’ve dealt with a critical mother, learning how to set boundaries with her is essential in coping with her criticism. If you grew up with constant criticism, you can remove yourself from it as an adult.

For example, if the critical behavior continues, consider:

  • leaving the conversation
  • taking a break from speaking or visiting
  • asking your mother not to speak to you in a certain way

If you’re unsure of how to set healthy boundaries, you might consider seeking the help of a professional.

2. Develop self-compassion

Finding compassion for yourself on those hard days when your mother’s critical voice may be in your head can help you deal effectively. Self-compassion may look like implementing positive self-talk or giving yourself space to make mistakes and learn from them.

Self-compassion develops over time, so don’t give up if it initially seems like a challenging concept. Practicing self-compassion is a process.

3. Utilize positive affirmations

Positive affirmations are reminders of how strong and capable you are. Saying these can help improve your self-image.

Some examples of positive affirmations include:

  • “I am strong.”
  • “Just because I messed up doesn’t mean I’m a failure.”
  • “I can handle what life throws my way today.”
  • “I believe in myself.”

It’s vital that you find self-affirmations that resonate with you for them to work.

4. See a therapist

Seeking professional help can assist you with coping with the impact of a critical mother. Because critical mothers are linked with difficulties in self-esteem, and there is the potential impact of depression or other mental health challenges, seeing a therapist can help.

A therapist will implement techniques and strategies to help you cope effectively with the criticism. They can also help you sort through perfectionistic attitudes and help you create more realistic expectations of yourself.

Critical mothers can affect their daughters in many ways. If you grew up with a critical mother, you may have to work on your self-talk and learn to set healthy boundaries with others to heal.

If you need additional support, contacting a mental health professional can help. A mental health professional can assist you with:

  • learning boundaries
  • improving self-esteem
  • working through healing relationships

You can find a therapist near you using the FindCare Tool. You can also use Psych Central’s resource page for Finding a Therapist.