When a mother needs her daughter to be perfect, this ensnares her in the “good daughter” trap. Golden child, false self, imposter syndrome… are all ways daughters feel the pressure to look good for mom behind a mask of perfection.
Here is how it unfolds.
Thundering applause and you take your bow. An audience of one holds you in her sights. Mom approves! You have gotten into the college of your choice. You’ve scored a promotion or delivered mom’s first grandchild. Beaming proudly, mom has a self-satisfied look on her face. You’ve made her look good and that’s what counts. You’re golden. Success. So why do you feel like a fraud, an imposter, a fake? The sinking feeling in your gut tells you, mom needs you to be perfect… perfect for her.
The way the “good” daughter trap works- When mom lifts you up and puts you on a pedestal -it feels so good. Tentative, but good. You do the thing that makes mom glow. The good grade, the impeccable manners, the flattering hairstyle (according to mom ) or appropriate (again according to mom) outfit. You’re good. Mom’s good. But…it’s hard to live on a pedestal.
Impossible actually. You are always worried about slipping off. It’s confining up there- no room to move and a terrifying drop if you fall. Plus, the prospect of falling is always there. One slip up and down you go…If you are completely honest with yourself, you wish your success didn’t matter so much to mom. You can’t shake the feeling that mom cares too much.
It’s like she is living through you and your successes. Ahhh, yes- that’s it. And, that’s a lot of pressure. The pedestal mom puts you on becomes your prison. Anxiety is your prison guard. You feel anxious you will lose your footing… say or do something that disappoints mom or makes you look less than perfect and you’ll let both of you down.
Mom’s compliments feel more like mandates. In this way, you don’t feel like you can try something out and risk failure. There are no do-overs when you are looking good for someone else. It’s all so tentative. You never know what will make her and her opinion of you crumble. And you wonder deep down that she might crumble if you don’t keep up the show.
Because of her internal limitations, she is living through your successes. Deep down she doesn’t have the self-esteem to stand on her own. You wonder if she could be Narcissistic, Borderline, Histrionic, struggle with an addiction or simply have low self-worth. No matter the reason, this dynamic feels suffocating and confining.
You wish mom’s support was solid and dependable. It doesn’t feel that way. That would give you the confidence to try, fail and bounce back. Instead, you constantly worry you will lose her approval. So winning her approval isn’t really a win. It is a “win for now”. You can’t count on it. You want to be able to make mistakes, struggle, stretch and try your wings without feeling like you will destroy mom if you don’t get it right.
The expectations set for you are sky high.
The very same “good” daughter behavior that elevates you in mom’s eyes traps you in a prison. Here’s how –
Hi, this is Katherine Fabrizio with help for The Good Daughter Syndrome. I’ve been seeing women in psychotherapy for 27 years. I’ve come to identify several things about The Good Daughter Syndrome. One thing I’ve seen, I call The Pedestal and The Prison. The good daughter gets lots of accolades. Mom usually has praise. She has praise, she’s your highest cheerleader and your harshest critic many times. When you come through, when you do something that pleases mom, you’re put on a pedestal. Then when you want to push back, make your own decisions. Set some boundaries because that very pedestal can become a prison. You’re the only person mom can count on. When you’ve reached a level of what you would say is perfection, I don’t like that word, but a certain level. Many good daughters feel like they have to maintain that level. This is exhausting and is not a real way for anyone to live. Working to make your mother look good traps the daughter in the role of the good daughter in an unending cycle that is neither healthy for mother or her daughter. There is a way out and a way home. A way out of the trap and a way home to yourself.
Start here with this healing meditation.
To find out if you are caught in this Good Daughter trap- go here.
This article was originally published by https://psychcentral.com/
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