My mother criticizes my weight every time I see her. I am overweight, but am well aware. Her comments do not help! How can I deal with her?
Our relationship with our mother can be one of the most complex bonds we have. When the relationship is strong, positive and loving it can be a source of tremendous happiness and validation. When the relationship (or elements of the relationship) are less than ideal it can be a source of sadness, anxiety or even anger.
As children, we are of course reliant on our parental figures for food, caretaking, safety and security. As we become older and independent, we no longer rely on our parents for these basic needs. Despite this, our need for acceptance and validation often remains strong, even as adult children.
As such it can often be difficult to speak directly or assertively to our mothers about difficult topics.
A certain amount of "motherly critique" is a normal part of the mother/child relationship. However, repeat criticisms about weight are both unhelpful and disrespectful, and can be damaging to your self-esteem and confidence.
The best advice is to address your mother's criticisms directly and assertively. Let your mother know that her comments are unhelpful, unnecessary and hurtful. Clearly let her know that you would like her to stop making these comments.
Respectfully state the consequences if her statements don't stop. For example, you could let her know that you need to end your visit with her if she begins to criticize you unfairly. The difficult (but important) part will be for you to follow through with the consequences if her behaviour does not change.
Here are some tips for speaking with your mother in an assertive way:
- Clearly describe the statements she makes that you find hurtful. Be objective, specific, and avoid being judgmental or criticizing her back.
- Express how her statements impact you. Don't assume that she will necessarily understand what the effect has been on you until you tell her.
- Directly state what you need to see in terms of her behaviour change. Tell her clearly that you would like her to stop making comments about your weight.
- Assert the consequences if her behaviour does not stop.
- Express how much you value your relationship with her, and let her know that you are hopeful that things can continue to improve between the two of you.
Remember to be clear, direct and do not make any apologies for establishing boundaries in your relationship with her.
Send psychologist Joti Samra your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.
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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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