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50 Ways Daughters of Emotionally Absent Moms Can Love Themselves

After struggling with depression and anxiety most of my life, I'm now dedicated to becoming a stronger person who lives life to the fullest.

I'm the daughter of an emotionally absent mother. I wear that label like a badge of honor. It took me years to finally figure out that's what my dysfunctional childhood was all about, and I'm now moving forward, nurturing myself in ways I missed as a kid. I'm no longer operating from a place of deficits—always trying to fill the whole in my heart with food, always battling feelings of anger and despair, always being tired and not having enough energy to make it through a day.

Daughters of emotionally absent mothers often lack confidence and don't take care of their needs. Exercise is one important way to feel powerful and make yourself a priority.

Daughters of emotionally absent mothers often lack confidence and don't take care of their needs. Exercise is one important way to feel powerful and make yourself a priority.

In discovering this about myself, I met a whole sisterhood of women who share a similar history with me. We bonded over our heartache, found humor in our misery, and discovered delight in the simplest pleasures. These sisters of mine who chose to rise above their sad beginnings mean the world to me, offering inspiration with their perseverance. I also mourn the sisters we left behind, those who chose to stay mired in their unresolved past and make it their identity. I hope they'll someday find the strength to move on and join us.

Which Path Will You Choose—Moving Forward or Travelling in Circles?

Discovering you're a daughter of an emotionally absent mother marks the beginning of your journey, not the end. There's a fork in the road and you have to decide which path to take. Some choose the one in which they acknowledge their past and become determined to make up for the love they missed by nurturing themselves. Others choose the one in which they hold on to their childhood for dear life, trying to fix it and make it right. They try to squeeze the love from their mothers like blood from a stone. While the first path leads one forward to a whole new world of gratitude, beauty, and possibility, the other just loops around and brings you back to the exact same spot where you started. I looped around that one many times before I switched to the other path, never looking back.

Why Is There a Hole in My Heart and a Hole in My Sense of Self?

After decades of struggling with depression and social anxiety, taking anti-depressants and going to therapy, I found the answers I needed by reading Jasmin Lee Cori's The Emotionally Absent Mother. It spoke to my experiences growing up like no other book had, and I felt tremendous relief knowing I wasn't alone in having a remote parent. It opened my eyes to what I experienced as a kid and how it still affects me today as an adult. Cori explains that having an emotionally distant mother not only leaves a hole in our hearts where our moms are supposed to be but leaves a hole in our sense of self. Many of us are lost—not knowing who we are. We lack confidence, don't trust people, struggle in relationships, and treat ourselves poorly.

Inspired by this book, I started mothering myself. It helped me break away from my painful childhood and reclaim my life. I took deliberate steps each and every day to nurture myself. In the past, I had only done that in one way that proved to be extremely detrimental—overeating. I tried to fill that hole in my heart by stuffing myself, but it didn't work. I just became fat and felt even worse. When I stopped doing that, I discovered a whole new world of pleasures that involved moving my body, soothing my soul, stimulating my mind, and enhancing my spirituality. My mantra became, "food is not love."

Why Don't I Take Good Care of Myself?

When I understood my past, I looked around at other women and saw them taking care of themselves in such beautiful ways without thinking about it, without feeling guilty, without believing they're undeserving. They had self-esteem, pride, and dignity instilled in them as girls by loving and attentive parents who told them they mattered. Some of us, though, never had that so we struggle to treat ourselves right.

We need to be very intentional at being kind to ourselves and not slipping back into our old ways of putting everyone else first. Now that we're adults, not dependent on a mother and a father, we're in charge. There's nothing stopping us from doing what's right for us. With this in mind, here are 50 ways daughters of emotionally absent mothers can nurture themselves each and every day:

If You Experienced Emotional Abuse or Neglect as a Child, You'll Relate to This Video

1. Take a walk in nature.

2. Buy yourself a bouquet of fresh flowers.

3. Go to a farmer's market.

4. Write down 5 things for which you're thankful in a gratitude journal.

5. Drink water with a slice of lemon.

6. Read a novel.

7. Visit a bookstore.

8. Lift free weights.

9. Do a puzzle.

10. Listen to a favorite podcast.

11. Color in an adult coloring book.

12. Make yourself a salad.

13. Do yoga.

14. Meditate.

15. Plant a garden.

16. Walk on a treadmill while listening to music.

17. Make yourself a fruit smoothie.

18. Take a nap.

19. Phone an old friend.

20. Sip a cup of tea.

21. Play a board game.

22. Make a watercolor painting.

23. Read poetry.

24. Take a bubble bath.

25. Join a gym.

26. Go roller-skating.

27. Visit a nursery.

28. Take a hike.

29. Make an inspiration board from magazine pictures.

30. Go to a movie.

Recognizing the Emotional Neglect You Endured as a Child Lets You Move Forward and Embrace Life

31. Go to the beach.

32. Spend time with a dog.

33. Go to a concert.

34. Write your thoughts and feelings in a journal.

35. Put faith in a higher power.

36. When you're spreading yourself too thin, say "no."

37. Write a letter to someone who made you mad or sad. Then tear it up.

38. Create a mantra for your day (e.g. I'm strong and powerful and in charge of my life...Life is wonderful and I want to enjoy its beauty).

39. Be fully present in your day's activities.

40. Contemplate your life's purpose.

41. Voice your opinion.

42. Think outside the box.

43. Practice unconditional love.

44. Have faith.

45. See God in others.

46. See God in yourself.

47. Daydream.

48. Give someone a compliment.

49. Give yourself a compliment.

50. Slow down.

Meditating Helps You Heal, Understand, Forgive, and Move Forward

Nurture Yourself and Break the Bad Habits

For so many years, I wondered what was wrong with me—why I lacked confidence, struggled in relationships, and suffered from depression and social anxiety. When I started reading about emotionally absent mothers, it all came together and made perfect sense. So much time had been wasted and I didn't want to waste any more. I didn't want to go back into therapy and re-examine the past; I wanted to move forward.

Each and every day I did between 5 and 10 things on this list. Between teaching kindergarten, commuting, and dating, it was challenging, but I was determined. By doing these kinds to nurture myself, I began to change. I started to like myself more and wanted to stop the self-destructive behaviors in my life: overeating, not getting enough sleep, not making enough time for play, and worrying too much about work.

Become the Architect of Your Life

I started to say no to a lot of stuff I didn't want to do but felt obligated. I became the architect of my life and didn't let others take away my control. I said no to friends who wanted to go out drinking and eating. Instead, I invited them to do healthy, empowering activities with me. Most of them declined but a few said yes. Together we built a relationship on making one another stronger and better and holding one another accountable for eating right and exercising. For the first time in my life, I had a support system and it felt fantastic. I no longer felt alone in the world but connected and loved.

© 2018 McKenna Meyers


McKenna Meyers (author) on February 22, 2018:

Thanks, Dora. I used to do nothing on that list and now I do many each day.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 22, 2018:

Thanks especially for your to-do list on self-nurture. They're practical.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 21, 2018:

I love everything about this. It is so empowering and that is what life is all about....excellent pieces of advice from the voice of experience.

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