An Inquiry: I am a disappointment to my mom. I have had problems with anxiety and depression since I was 15… I’m 31 now and I’m not married… and I live at home… I have terrible self esteem because my mom tries to correct everything I do because it is never good enough. She criticizes the clothes I wear the way I look the way I talk and nothing is ever good enough for her.
How We Would Respond: It is unfortunate that so many of us have unsatisfying relationships with our caregivers. Happy, nurturing relationships with caregivers certainly feel beneficial; unsatisfying relationships however, believe it or not, can also benefit us — but in a different way.
We sometimes respond to unsatisfying intimate relationships by seeking answers to peace, and this search can lead to a quite important, and also liberating, insight: other people do not cause us emotional suffering. We give meaning to our life experiences; and until we ourselves attach a meaning to an experience, and accept that meaning as true, experiences don’t mean anything.
So when you say you have poor self-esteem because of your mother’s actions, that is not true. Your sense of poor self-esteem, as it relates to your mother, comes from the meaning that you give to your mother’s behavior. It doesn’t matter what your mother does; it matters completely how you judge your mother’s behavior, and what you believe your mother’s behavior says about you.
My mother is saying this thing about how I dress and this means that I’m quite disgraceful.
You’re falsely giving your mother the power to affect your emotional well-being. Only your thinking and judgments, and nothing else, affects your emotional well-being.