Being Good For Mom Can Be Bad For Her Grown Daughter

Find out if you are a Good Daughter!


When is “good for mom” bad for you?

Do you work hard to be good for mom, make mom look good or make sure mom is good with you?

Do you seek her approval yet secretly wonder if this is in your best interest? You may feel inadequate, struggle with self-doubt, and not know exactly why?

Could it be that your mother relates to you in a toxic way that undermines your confidence and self-esteem you are so used to it – you can’t see it?

It may seem normal to you that you second guess your every decision and apologize constantly. You aren’t quite sure where you end, and your mother begins. You may be so used to living this way you aren’t even aware that life could feel any different.

What drives a toxic mother/daughter relationship? Underneath many a demanding or controlling mother’s facade is an insecure person who worries she will be found out.  Or the flip side of the same coin,  mom may be a meek and mild wounded mother who isn’t outwardly critical but drags her daughter down in more subtle ways.

Narcissism/Borderline/Histrionic personality disorders or traits of these disorders can be overt or covert. At the root of all of the personality disorders and traits is a desperate insecurity that drives mom to act in destructive ways. 

Good for mom/bad for you works like this-

Deep down, a mother who has little self-worth needs her attuned daughter to boost her sense of self. The daughter, in the role of the “good daughter,” picks this up at the unconscious level. She experiences herself as an extension of mom and without being fully conscious of why she works at being “good” for mom. Many times the “good daughter” knows, or suspects, her difficult mother is narcissistic, borderline, histrionic, depressed, or codependent. What she does knows for sure, however, is that she is very attuned to the effect she has on her mother.

Many a difficult mother plays on the Good Daughter’s eagerness to please. The daughter’s childlike self-has a very hard time telling mom things she knows mom doesn’t want to hear. Even adult daughters have an almost 6th sense of how mom is feeling about herself and may sacrifice themselves for their mother’s well-being by letting mom run roughshod over her boundaries or put mom’s needs first.

Here are3 signs you are being good for mom at your own expense. 

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, 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. You let this dictate much of what you do and say.

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. Mom’s opinions matter way more than they should.


What’s wrong with this?

When a daughter, in the role of the “good daughter,” feels she owes mom her happiness, neither party is served. This cycle can be insidious and fueled by guilt such that many a daughter is unaware that her life has been hijacked by mom’s problems, her insecurities. The Good Daughter buys into the unconscious fantasy that says if she is good enough mom will be O.K. The problem is…she may spend a lifetime, waste a lifetime, trying to be good enough for mom.

And her own daughter will suffer.

Because she is so tied to being good for mom, the adult daughter of the difficult mother has a hard time being an effective mom to her own daughter. She doesn’t know where to set limits with her daughter or how to model valuing herself. Her daughter may see her as a doormat or experience her as chronically stressed and unhappy.

Also trying to make mom happy doesn’t work on an ongoing basis. It can’t work because change, like happiness, is an inside job. You cannot GIVE your mother self-worth.

What can you do?

You can learn how to get out of the good daughter traps set for you. You can learn how to set healthy boundaries, tap into your feminine power, rewire your brain, and parent your own daughter from a place of confidence. There are patterns that are not serving you, once realized, can be healed. By clearing up this toxicity in your relationship with your own mother you supercharge your ability to parent your own daughter.  One impacts the other in powerful ways.

When will you say enough? “I want to clear away the blocks that keep me from being the best mother I can be. The cycle of shame, guilt, and self-doubt stops here.”

Find out if you are trapped in the Good Daughter Syndrome -go here.

Find Your Voice. Raise Awareness. Tweet It Out.

It may seem normal to you that you second guess your every decision and apologize constantly. You aren't quite sure where you end, and your mother begins. Click To Tweet Being Good For Mom Can Be Bad For Her Grown Daughter Click To Tweet You cannot GIVE your mother self-worth. Click To Tweet By clearing up this toxicity in your relationship with your own mother you supercharge your ability to parent your own daughter. One impacts the other in powerful ways. Click To Tweet







Do you have a Narcissistic or Difficult Mother?
Are you the "Good Daughter"? The Rebel? or The Lucky One?
Take the quiz and find out!

Take the quiz!

Do you relate?

Discover – if you have The Good Daughter Syndrome Take the Quiz (It’s Free)

Related Articles

What is The Good Daughter Syndrome & Do I Have It?

What is The Good Daughter Syndrome & Do I Have It?

.The Good Daughter Syndrome- When good for Mom is bad for you. If you struggle in your relationship with your mother, you might wonder...  “Is there something wrong with Mom, or is it me?” If you’re the Good Daughter of a Difficult Mother, that’s a question you’ve...

read more



  1. Angie

    Another really excellent article. Even though I am doing well in my healing from having a toxic mother, I am still very keen to expand my understanding of everything that has happened to me over the fifty years of my life, and I find your articles really help me with this.

    I think I have always been aware that my mother’s treatment of me stemmed from her own deep-seated insecurities. I suggested this to her, when we were heading towards no contact, saying that I understood that she was damaged and as a result, she had damaged me. I had never broached the subject before, despite a life long terrible relationship with her. I thought that maybe we could move on constructively. She was absolutely livid. She stated quite clearly that she was not in any way damaged. The problem was mine alone. This seems to me to fit in with her belief that, from the day I was born, I did not love her enough. Throughout my life, stories were told of this, and subsequent ways in which I had demonstrated my lack of love for her. My most heinous crime was something I said, aged 3 1/2 years, which I was told confirmed her belief in my inherent badness. For her, my behavior showed that she was my victim, from day one.

    If only we could have talked and worked through her insecurities, but I suspect that this was where her narcissism reared its ugly head. She was never wrong and never sorry. Nothing would ever allow her to admit a fault or a weakness, even if the other person said she wasn’t to blame for said fault or weakness. For her, it was too much to risk. Losing the grandchildren she claimed to be so devoted to was a small price to pay to protect her self, but then, I don’t think they really meant anything to her anyway. She was no more capable of loving them, than she was of loving me. I saw how she began to see herself as a victim of her grandchildren as well.

    I am so pleased that people like you are raising awareness of these issues, giving valuable advice and giving daughters like me the chance to tell our story, in the hope that others will break the cycle of abuse, a lot earlier than I did.

    I would like to add that I have (not perfect) but wonderful relationships with my three children. My one daughter is my oldest child and we have a lovely relationship. I am fully aware that in the early days, I regularly treated her like I was treated by my mother. Thank goodness I realised what I was doing and changed. I have admitted my faults to her, she understands and forgives, but is still free to discuss how she felt as a child, with a depressed and traumatised mother. There is no blame. If only my mother and I could have reached this understanding. How wonderful that would have been for both of us. But it was impossible.

    I often wonder why I reached a degree of “enlightenment” whereas my mother did not. Perhaps you have theories around this? It would be fascinating to me.

    Thank you again for hi-lighting this situation.

    • katherine

      Your story is one of great courage and my favorite kind- that of breaking the cycle! By acknowledging and continuing to acknowledge what you now regard as unhelpful ways of parenting you set your daughter free. I think this is what it takes to break the cycle and few are willing ( or able)to do it. I am working on ways to help mothers of young children find ways to break the cycle. To answer your last question – what allows one person become enlightened and another to stay stuck in defensiveness I think the answer is two-fold. 1)Internal factors- at the core a person needs enough security to admit the error of their ways. This breaks down into how strong/unyielding the narcissistic defense 2) external factors- the culture has been hard on women and puts tremendous pressure on them to be sacrificial madonnas with no needs of their own. In my estimation, this makes it extremely difficult for the severe narcissist to admit they are less than the cultural ideal. I hope to address this even deeper on Facebook Live in my Good Daughter Sessions. Please stay tuned and involved. We can use your voice and wisdom.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *